Fate in William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

Fate in William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

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Fate in William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet


Before starting to decide to what extent fate was responsible for the
deaths of Romeo and Juliet, I should first decide what is fate?
According to the dictionary, fate is the 'inevitable destiny or
necessity destined term of life; doom.' This basically means, that
fate can be described as a pre-planned sequence of events influencing
ones life. In Romeo and Juliet, it is obviously true to say that fate
was a contributor to the deaths of the young couple, but could it have
been the sole contributor?

From the beginning of the play it is clear that Romeo and Juliet are
doomed to die, They are considered victims of circumstance but the
question is did they have responsibility for their fate? Could things
have been different? Was it a bad series of events, was it a
coincidence that fate was against them, were outside forces against
them, It is not just a coincidence the language used in the prologue
'star-crossed lovers' and 'death-marked love' shows that it was all
meant to happen from the beginning of the play, the words
'star-crossed' refers to an astrological outlook on destiny that was
widely accepted in the period the play was written in, reference to
this so early in the play creates a sense of anticipation for the
audience and from the start they know what is going to be the outcome
of the play but the question left on their minds is 'Why?' and 'How?'
these are answered as the play progresses. There were many outside
forces against them a main one being characters in the play who
intensely manipulated the tragic path of Romeo and Juliet, these
characters being apart from Romeo and Juliet themselves, Mercutio, The
Nurse, Tybalt and The Friar.

Mercutio, being one of Romeos friends, is very influential in the
decisions he makes he was a firm supporter of the Montague household
and it was him who encouraged Romeo to attend the Capulet families
gathering where he met Juliet, if Romeo had not attended he would have

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never met Juliet and the couples deaths would have been avoided. But
was it Romeos destiny to meet Juliet would he if not through the dance
met Juliet some other way? It was again Mercutio's doing that Tybalt
was killed; Romeo would have never murdered Tybalt if Mercutio had not
taunted him in the street and therefore Romeo would have never been
banished, but then again was it Romeos destiny to be exiled?

The Nurse was a very influential character towards Juliet, Juliet
trusted her nurse and seemed more of a mother figure to her, The Nurse
acting for what she thought the best for Juliet went behind her lord
and ladies back to be a messenger for Juliet to Romeo, without the
Nurses help the marriage would have probably never taken place, but
then again this is not a certain option and it is possible that even
without the nurses help the doomed marriage still may have gone ahead
and they would have once again met the same ending.

Tybalt, a member of the Capulet family and cousin to Juliet, was a
sworn enemy to the Montague family, influenced the course of events by
fighting Romeo in the streets and causing the death of Mercutio, If
Tybalt had not brawled with Mercutio, Romeo would have never fought
Tybalt and would have therefore again avoided banishment.

The Friar was another clear contributor to the death of Romeo and
Juliet, Starting with the agreement to help Romeo and Juliet wed, If
the Friar had refused to marry the young couple, it is possible that
Romeo and Juliet would have given up on the idea of marriage and the
couples deaths would have again been adverted, but then again Romeo
and Juliet may have been fated to marry and would have therefore found
another way to be married even without the help of the Friar. The
Friar then again influenced the play be suggesting his dramatic plan
to Juliet, the result may have then led to Romeo and Juliet never
meeting again but would have prevented the deaths, But then perhaps if
Juliet could not have faced the idea of never seeing Romeo again she
may have rather have committed suicide than live her life in
depression, so again the couple may have been fated to die no matter
what influence the friars decisions had on them.

Romeo was of course a sole contributor to the deaths of himself and
Juliet, If he had not acted so hastily throughout the play then the
deaths many have been prevented, for example if Romeo had not suggest
marriage so soon after meeting Juliet the result may have been
different, Romeo should have also not acted so hastily at the news of
Juliet's death and should not have rushed back to Verona but should
have waited for news from the Friar. Romeo again acted without
thinking when he killed Tybalt and then later Paris, maybe therefore
if Romeo had thought a little before he acted then the deaths may have
again been prevented.

Juliet is another obvious sole contributor, If she had not deceived
and disobeyed her parents wishes as she did then the death of the
couple would have almost certainly have been prevented, this was a
very strange thing for a daughter to do in the period the play was
written in, it would have been expected in Juliet's case for her to
respect her parents decision and be happy and thankful at the choice
of a husband, but this was not so in the play.

Other contributors to the death of the couple were the disorder,
brawls and fighting brought on by the feud between the two households,
the feud is an old disagreement referred to in the prologue

'From ancient grudge break to new mutiny

Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean'

The feud was always going to play a very large part in the
consequences of the relationship; it was always going to be against
Romeo and Juliet and was always going to be part of the reason for the
tragic ending of the couple.

There are numerous parts in the play when the characters are
predicting their own deaths and are referring to fate, even though the
characters do not see the connection in this it Is clear to the
audience what is happening, the first example of this is when Mercutio
is trying to convince Romeo to attend the Capulet family dance, when
Romeo finally agrees he is still feeling uneasy:

'Consequence left hanging in the stars'

Here Romeo seems to be foreseeing his own death, He calls upon the one
'that hath the steerage' of his 'course'-he who guides the path of his
life-to direct him to safety. The sea is often used by Shakespeare as
a symbol of the powerful and unpredictable forces of fate and the
audience already knows that Romeos fate is fixed for he is
'star-crossed'.

This shows that Romeo was never too happy about attending the Capulet
family dance in the first place, if he had trusted his first thoughts
and not attended the deaths of the couple may have been prevented, the
quotation is suggesting to the audience that the destiny of Romeo and
Juliet was, in fact, fated. The scene in which this occurs ends with a
sense of foreboding.

Fate is then brought up by Juliet after the Capulet dance when
realising that Romeo is a Montague

'My only love sprung from my only hate!

Too early seen unknown, and known too late!

Prodigious birth of love it is to me,

That I must love a loathed enemy'

Hear Juliet is suggesting that the meeting of the couple was too
strange to purely be based on coincidence. By including these lines
Shakespeare is increasing the tension for the audience by giving clues
and hints on how the couple will meet their end.

Fate is again remarked by from Juliet to her Nurse just after finding
out about Romeos banishment

'Alack, alack, that heaven should practise stratagems

Upon so soft a subject as myself!'

This statement shows Juliet's anger after hearing of Romeos
banishment, She remarks upon 'heaven's stratagems', hear she is
referring to fate, hear Shakespeare is creating a sense of sadness in
the audience for the couple especially Juliet but is also showing that
the couples unhappy fate cannot be changed.

Friar Lawrence refers to fate when hear hears of the news that Romeo
has not received his letter

'Unhappy fortune! By my brotherhood,

The letter was not nice but full of charge

Of dear importance…'

This quotation shows the worry Friar Lawrence experiences when he
relies the consequences that could arise from this. Shakespeare could
have worded this quotation differently to express the blame on the
messenger instead he expresses it through the fault of fortune; this
is a good example of the beliefs concerning fate in the period the
play was written in.

A final example of reference to fate is again Friar Lawrence talking
to Juliet shortly before she stabs herself

'A greater power than we can contradict

Hath thwarted our intents'

The 'greater power' Friar Lawrence is referring to is again fate, but
his statement does not make any impact on Juliet cause she then
commits suicide, hear again Shakespeare chases to lay the blame on a
higher power then on a individual, showing the audience that no one
person or thing was to blame for the deaths of the couple but it was
the fate of them to die.

After reading the play as to how far fate was to blame for the death
of the young couple I have reached the conclusion that fate was to
great extent responsible. After the countless references to fate and
fortune it is the obvious conclusion. It seems to me that Shakespeare
wanted his audience to see the happenings of the play as influenced by
some higher power, and it seems that he wanted the audience to really
believe that fate controls everything about our lives, so it is
sensible to assume that the actions and outcomes of the characters in
the play were fated.
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