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Fate in Romeo and Juliet

 

      In modern times, and in the Elizabethan era, fate plays an important

role in people's lives.  Many people believe it to be written in stone, and

unchangeable.  Many others believe it to be controlled by a person's own

actions.  In Romeo and Juliet, fate is one of the main themes, described as

having power over many of the events in the play.  Fate is often called upon,

wondered about, and blamed for mishaps.  However, where fate is blamed in the

play as the ultimate cause for a mishap, there is always an underlying action,

or combination of them, on the part of human beings that decides the

consequences.  Human weakness, the loss of self-control, is always the direct

cause of a bad choice or mishap, and not fate itself.

 

      One of the most noted instances where fate is blamed for a mishap is

when Romeo cries out the he supposedly is fortune's fool. He claims that fate

has brought on Mercutio's death, and has lead him to kill Tybalt in revenge.

 

      In Act 3, Scene 1 of Romeo and Juliet, Romeo is seen to be upset at

Mercutio's death and predicts that the "days black fate on more days doth

depend." (III, I, 118)  Tybalt then re-enters and Romeo becomes more upset that

Tybalt is triumphant with Mercutio being dead (III, I, 121).  As Romeo becomes

overwhelmed with Mercutio's death and Tybalt's joy over it, he suddenly

declares that either he or Tybalt must die with Mercutio (III, I, 128).  Tybalt

responds predictably and threatens Romeo (III, I, 129).  Romeo takes the threat,

then fights Tybalt until Tybalt is finally killed.  When Tybalt dies, Romeo

suddenly comes to grips with what he has done, and, unable to believe that he

did this of his own will, cries out  that he is fortune's fool (III, I, 135).

 

      While many people may say that Romeo's grief caused him to kill Tybalt,

this still places no responsibility on fate.  Romeo, being a peaceful

individual, should have kept as much of his cool as possible when dealing with

the situation.  Leaving was a choice that Romeo had, and would most likely have

spared Tybalt's life and the consequences of his death.  Benvolio also had the

choice to take Romeo away while he was in despair, and so it was in part

Benvolio's choice not to that led to the tragic results.  Romeo's comment on

black fate is a thought that foreshadows ill events in the future.  Since he

realizes that these events will take place, he should try to control them as

much as is possible by keeping a cool head and not letting his emotions rule

him, as is seen to be the case.  This would give Romeo control over his future,

taking away the element of fate.

 

 

Capulet is viewed as a man who enjoys control.  His decision to have Juliet

marry Paris is the reason for Friar Laurence's plan to fake Juliet's death.  In

his plan, the Friar tells Juliet to go back to her father and allow herself to

marry Paris (IV, I, 89-90).  While fate is viewed to have played an important

part in Juliet's death, it is instead Capulet's weakness in loss of control,

and the Friar's weakness to stay true to the cloth that causes her death.

 

      Act 5, Scene 2 introduces the event that is perhaps viewed as the

greatest indicator of fate in the play.  The scene starts with Friar John

entering to see Friar Laurence.  Friar Laurence is happy to see that his aide

has returned, but is soon disappointed to learn that the letter to Romeo that

he sent with the aide did not make it because Friar John had taken up added

duties along the way and had been suspected of becoming ill.  When Friar John

tells that he went to visit the sick first (V, II, 7-12), Friar Laurence

realizes the grave consequences of what may happen.  As a result of Romeo not

getting the Friar's letter, Romeo comes to believe that Juliet is dead and then

kills himself.

 

      While at first it seems as though Romeo missing the letter is pure

misfortune, it is actually Friar John's choice not to go directly to Mantua, as

ordered by Friar Laurence (IV, I, 123).  Whether or not Friar John's choice was

for better of worse has no bearing on the fact that it was his choice, and

weakness not to carry on as directed, and not an act of fate that resulted in

Romeo missing the important letter.

 

      Perhaps the final element of supposed fate surrounding the deaths of

Romeo and Juliet is in the Capulet family tomb when Juliet awakens.  Friar

Laurence is with her at the time.  As Juliet regains consciousness and asks for

Romeo, the Friar hears the approach of the watch and leaves Juliet on her own.

"I dare no longer stay" were the final words from the Friar before he left.

Obviously the Friar feared what might happen to him if the watch found him

there.  The Friar is a holy and respected man and should have stayed with

Juliet, knowing that she was in no condition to deal with Romeo's death. Thus

his weakness caused him to choose to leave, with no help from fate, and the

death of Juliet.

 

      The play Romeo and Juliet brings out a theme of fate, which turns out

only to be surface deep.  Behind each instance of ill fate is an underlying

weakness on the part of one or more persons that dictate the results.  Finally,

almost all of the 'ill fated' instances are easily traced to Friar Laurence,

who himself represents the idea that fate does not exist, giving the conclusion

that human weakness, the loss of self-control, is the force behind ill mishaps,

not fate.

 

Work Cited

 

Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet. Roy, Ken. Toronto.

      Harcourt Brace, 1987.

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