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The Role of Fate in Romeo and Juliet

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    Most of Shakespeare’s plays are conceived around a foundation in either tragedy or comedy, this polarity of themes allowing him to experiment with the full range of human emotions. Typically, an integral part of a Shakespearean tragedy is love, which is frustrated by a breakdown in order, or the character of the hero, due to some human limitation. The play Romeo and Juliet has all these typical characteristics. However, the resultant conclusion of events for the characters in this tragedy is adversely affected by the hands of fate, and not solely the product of human limitations.

    Fate in fact has a decisive role in the events of the play; it is a series of rapid coincidental events, which lead to the final tragedy. Romeo and Juliet are described during the prologue as “a pair of star-crossed lovers” The play Romeo and Juliet was one of the most famous love tragedies ever written. This love story unfortunately had a fatal ending. Many people argue over why the lovers had died, was it over Free Will or Fate? The death of Romeo and Juliet was partially because of free will. The fact that Romeo and Juliet got married knowing that there was a bitter feud between their families, the Montague and Capulet’s.

    This feud brought on many problems, such as the murder of Tybalt by Romeo. Juliet knew that this might be a problem for Her and Romeo. Juliet had said: “What’s in a name”? Which explains her ill fate of being a Capulet and Romeo being a Montague. When Romeo tells his servant “ Ay, mine own fortune in my misery”. Is there anything in this world which can occur anytime, anywhere, anyway to anyone? unexpectedly? Yes, it is the change of fate. Everyone in their life have their own fate and everyone in their life experience fate in different manner.

    Some could have positive result and some could have negative result. As Napoleon Bonaparte said “there is no such thing as an accidents; it is fate misnamed. ” This refers to the novel, and a play of Romeo and Juliet written by William Shakespeare, the two young lover’s life began and ended with misfortune. The most remembered lovers of all times became the helpless victims of fate. Tybalt’s aggressive nature, Friar Lawrence failed attempted to send an important message to Romeo, and Romeo’s impulsive decision to commit suicide let to the unfortunate and tragic end of the story.

    In the novel Tybalt’s aggressive nature influenced his own death, which led to the tragic end of the two young lovers, Romeo and Juliet. At the feast when Tybalt sees Romeo he is determined to kill him, as Romeo sees Juliet and falls in love with her. Scholars are divided on the role of fate in the play. No consensus exists on whether the characters are truly fated to die together or whether the events take place by a series of unlucky chances. Arguments in favour of fate often refer to the description of the lovers as “star-cross’d”.

    This phrase seems to hint that the stars have predetermined the lovers’ future. John W. Draper points out the parallels between the Elizabethan belief in the four humours and the main characters of the play (for example, Tybalt as a choleric). Interpreting the text in the light of humours reduces the amount of plot attributed to chance by modern audiences. Still, other scholars see the play as a series of unlucky chances—many to such a degree that they do not see it as a tragedy at all, but an emotional melodrama.

    Ruth Nevo believes the high degree to which chance is stressed in the narrative makes Romeo and Juliet a “lesser tragedy” of happenstance, not of character. For example, Romeo’s challenging Tybalt is not impulsive, it is, after Mercutio’s death, the expected action to take. In this scene, Nevo reads Romeo as being aware of the dangers of flouting social norms, identity and commitments. He makes the choice to kill, not because of a tragic flaw, but because of circumstance. As critic Bertrand Evans points out: “Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy of unawareness” more so than any of Shakespeare’s other plays. Fate, or Heaven, as the Prince calls it, or the “greater power,” as the Friar calls it, working out its purpose without the use of either a human villain or a supernatural agent sent to intervene in mortal affairs, operates through the common human condition of not knowing. Participants in the action, some of them in parts that are minor and seem insignificant, contribute one by one the indispensable stitches which make the pattern, and contribute them not knowing; that is to say, they act when they do not know the truth of the situation in which they act, this truth being known, however, to us who are spectators. (The Brevity of Friar Laurence, 850) The idea that Fortune dictates the course of mankind dates back to ancient times. Those writers of the medieval world incorporated the goddess Fortune into Christianity and made her God’s servant, responsible for adding challenges to our lives so that we would see the importance of giving up our tumultuous earthly lives to God. The most influential treatise on the theme of Fate was The Consolation of Philosophy, written by the scholar Boethius (A. D. 475-525).

    Written while he awaited execution, it is a dialogue between himself and his guide ‘Philosophy’, who explores with him the true nature of happiness and fate, and leads him to hope and enlightenment. Here is an excerpt from Book IV: |To human acts alone denied | |Thy fit control as Lord of all. | |Why else does slippery Fortune change | |So much, and punishment more fit | |For crime oppress the innocent? |Corrupted men sit throned on high; | |By strange reversal evilness | |Downtreads the necks of holy men. | |Bright virtue lies in dark eclipse | |By clouds obscured, and unjust men | |Heap condemnation on the just… | |Look down on all earth’s wretchedness; | |Of this great work is man so mean | |A part, by Fortune to be tossed? |Lord… Make stable all the land’s of the earth. (Book IV) | Boethius’ work, specifically his concept of “Fortune’s wheel”, made an enormous impact on the work of Chaucer and Dante and, less directly, Shakespeare. Fate’s impact on Romeo and Juliet is made clear from the outset of the play. The Chorus tells us that the lovers are “star-cross’d”, and thus hindered by the influence of malignant planets (note that Renaissance astrologers used the planets to predict plagues and other such calamities, in addition to predicting the outcome and quality of individual’s lives) .

    Throughout the play Fate’s role is reaffirmed as the lovers sense its interference. Romeo, just before he attends Capulet’s ball, has a premonition: |My mind misgives | |Some consequence, yet hanging in the stars, | |Shall bitterly begin thisd fearful date | |With this night’s revels, and expire the term | |Of a dispised life, clos’d in my breast, | |By some vile forfeit of untimely death: | |But he that hath the steerage of my course | |Direct my sail! 1. 4. 106) | Romeo later cries that he is “fortune’s fool” (3. 1. 141), and Juliet exclaims that she has an “ill-divining soul” (3. 5. 52). Moreover, their predictions extend into their dreams, as Romeo says “I dreamt my lady came and found me dead” (5. 1. 6). So in keeping with tradition set down by the likes of Seneca and Boethius, Fate controls Shakespeare’s doomed lovers. And “[t]he intent of this emphasis is clear.

    The tale will end with the death of two ravishingly attractive young folk; and the dramatist must exonerate himself from all complicity in their murder, lest he be found guilty of pandering to a liking for a human shambles. He disowns responsibility and throws it on Destiny, Fate. ” (Charlton, Shakespearean Tragedy, 52). This reliance on the motif of Fate in the play is the most representative of Shakespeare’s dramatic deficiency. It is not the lovers’ flaws that lead them to ruin; the tragedy does not spring from their own weaknesses.

    As a result, there is little growth of character and no profound analysis of the complexity of human nature. Thus, despite the lyrical beauty of the play and the endearing qualities of Romeo and his Juliet, (which have secured its place as one of the great dramas), it fails to rise to the level of Shakespeare’s other tragedies that explore the inner failings of humankind. Fate is the dominant theme throughout the play Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. The word fate generates a bit of confusion, and can have many different connotations.

    Fate is an inevitable and often adverse outcome or condition; destiny. The destinies of these two lovers was not revealed to the reader at the start of the story, but every event brought Romeo and Juliet closer to their inevitable fates. Romeo and Juliet, the two lovers, shared the unfortunate fate that they were from feuding families. The two of them were a perfect match, and were completely in love with each other, and the odds that one was a Montegue and one was a Capulet are incredibly slim.

    They both showed their grief when they learned that the other was from the opposite family. “O dear account! my life is my foe’s debt. ” (A-1:Sc5:ln 132), and “My only love sprung from my only hate. ” (A-1:Sc5:ln 152) were the two expressions that Romeo and Juliet exclaimed, respectively. Juliet had the right idea when she showed her frustration with the feud, and its influence on R relationship, in her soliloquy on the balcony, and said, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other word would smell as sweet… ” (A-2: Sc2:ln 41-52)

    Besides the fact that they probably would have never been able to live a peaceful life, none of the tragedies would have occurred had they not met in the first place. This scene, where the Montegues find out about the play is another twist of fate. The servant of Capulet, who happens to be illiterate, was given the job of telling people about the party, but only those specifically on a list written up by his master. Since he could not read, he was forced to ask two strangers to explain it to him. Those two people could have been anyone, but they just happened to be Romeo and Benvolio.

    Another ironic fact is that Romeo went to the party because he was madly in love with Rosaline. Hypothetically, if Rosaline had been there, and she returned Romeo’s love, then all the following suffering would have never occurred. Romeo was completely in love with another woman going to the party, and only found out about it in the first place, through an adverse twist of luck. Although Romeo and Juliet were responsible for their own physical deaths, but fate played a big role in getting the two into a suicidal mindset. The first and most obvious example was the quarantine in Mantua.

    Friar Laurence’s plan was that Juliet would be laid in the tomb, appearing to be dead, and when she woke up, Romeo would be there to meet her. The Friar was to send a message to Mantua, where Romeo was banished to, and inform the anxious boy about the scheme. This is a seemingly perfect plan, and gives the readers a sense of hope, but it is squashed when the they discover that there was a quarantine in Mantua, and Romeo was unable to get the letter and, even right to the very end, fate was still rearing it’s ugly head because if Juliet had woken up seconds earlier, these two wouldn’t have ended up like they did.

    Shakespeare had countless times where he could have saved both of them, but he does not. He gives the reader a little hope that the two will survive, but with each event, that hope is squashed. Although Romeo and Juliet did not have to kill themselves, none of the tragedies would have occurred, had it not been ‘written in the stars’. Truly fate is the most dominant force in the play, and is most responsible for the deaths of Romeo and Juliet.

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