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Romeo and Juliet: A Tragedy or Simply Tragic?

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Romeo and Juliet: A Tragedy or Simply Tragic?

There are many tragedies to be found in literature, but only a few are like Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. It is a story of forbidden love in which a young couple are torn apart by their families’ feud in Renaissance Italy; the play’s tragic ending has both main characters die. Many aspects of this play have sparked a heated debate: is Romeo and Juliet a tragedy or is it simply tragic? Some critics claim that the play lacks elements that are necessary for a tragedy. Yet Aristotle explicitly states the essential components of a tragedy in his Poetics, and Romeo and Juliet meets those requirements. Romeo and Juliet can be considered an Aristotelian tragedy because of Romeo’s impetuousness, Juliet’s loyalty to Romeo, and the play’s peripeteia.

The first reason why the play is a traditional tragedy is that the hero, Romeo, possesses a major flaw which leads him into much trouble and eventually his demise: his fiery, impetuous nature. In one of the many brawls between the Capulets and the Montagues, Romeo displays his rashness. In this encounter, Tybalt and Mercutio, Romeo’s best friend, joke around as they are dueling, but the duel takes a turn for the worse when Tybalt kills Mercutio. Romeo, devastated by the death of his best friend and hell-bent on avenging it, challenges Tybalt to a duel. Romeo kills Tybalt out of anger and is banished from Verona, separated from his love Juliet. The punishment does not fit the crime, but it cannot be denied that Romeo brought it upon himself. He acknowledges his own rash behavior by saying, “Oh, I am fortune’s fool!” (III, i, 99). If he could have controlled his temper, the whole fight would have been avoided. Not only is Romeo impulsive in battles...

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...Romeo and Juliet’s “intention” was to live a happy life of love, but things take a dramatic turn when Romeo kills a prominent member of his lover’s family and is banished. The lovers ultimately both die. This change of tides in the play make the drama an Aristotelian tragedy.

To conclude, Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy due to the tragic elements of Romeo’s thoughtlessness, Juliet’s attachment towards Romeo, and the plot’s dramatic turnabout. The play has both main characters tragically take their own lives, but there is much controversy whether it should be considered a tragedy or just a tragic story. Aristotle’s Poetics clearly outline all of the necessary parts to a tragedy, and Romeo and Juliet fill in those requisites. Despite all controversies, the one agreement everybody can come to is Romeo and Juliet is one of the world’s most beloved work of literature.
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