The Role of Fate and Coincidence in William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

The Role of Fate and Coincidence in William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

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The Role of Fate and Coincidence in William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet


Introduction

Fate and coincidence is a dominant theme throughout the play Romeo and
Juliet. The word fate generally creates confusion when used with the
word coincidence. The definition of fate is "Power supposed to
predetermine events ahead of time," and coincidence, "Remarkable
concurrence of events, apparently by chance." Therefore these two
words are similar; however, many people believe that there is no such
thing as fate, others think there is no such thing as coincidence
though in this essay they are both treated as true.

Astrology uses the positions of stars and planets to predict people
future and their fate. This has been used for thousands of years, the
Ancient Greeks and Egyptians used it and it is still in use today and
can be found in newspapers, televisions, internet and even through the
phone.

The Bible on many occasions forbids the knowing of your fate and
future: in the old testament, Deuteronomy 18, Verses 10-11 " There
must never be anyone among you who…practises divination, who is a
soothsayer " the Bible also forbids the knowing of the future in
Samuel and in the new testament in Acts.

William Shakespeare expresses the dangers of fate in his play
"Macbeth" where Macbeth kills his king Duncan as a result from the
prophecy of the three witches Banquo, Macbeth's friend, warns him
about the knowing of the future "But tis strange and often times to
win us to our harm, the instruments of darkness tell us truths, win us
with honest trifles to betray us in deepest consequence." Fate is
referred to here as the "instrument of darkness"

Shakespeare also uses the idea that gods are in control of our fate in
King Lear: "like flies to wanton boys are we to the gods, they kill us
for their sport." He says to Gloucester after he had been rudely
blinded. As Shakespeare used fate and coincidence in many of his plays
it must have been a dramatic role that involved his audience then and

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still does today.

In this essay I am going discuss the use and effect of the role of
fate and coincidence which occurs frequently. Shakespeare uses it to
involve the audiences' emotion, tension and feelings.

Romeo and Fate

There is a good deal of evidence throughout the tragedy to support the
idea that fate plays an important role. For example at the beginning
of the play Mercutio persuades Romeo to come with his friends to the
Capulet's party only for the Capulet's family and friends even though
they are uninvited. Romeo speaks his thoughts out loud to Benvolio. He
seems to feel a sense of fore boding about the future although there
is no reason for it at this time. Recently Romeo had seemed to be in
"love" with Rosaline though she was not returning his love, causing
him to feel very miserable. So Romeo's friend thought it would cheer
him up to gatecrash this party. Never-the-less Romeo says, "
consequence yet hanging in the stars" already predicting something bad
will happen. This is backed up as Romeo later says when he meets
Juliet that somehow coincidence will lead to his "untimely death"
which gives the audience a sense of doom hanging over Romeo.

As Romeo and his friends enter the party and before they are noticed
by Tybalt, Romeo's eyes are immediately caught by Juliet. So amazed by
Juliet's beauty he completely forgets about Rosaline for whom he has
been "love-sick" for a very long time. In the soliloquy when he sees
Juliet he remarks that her beauty is far too beautiful and valuable
for this world: "Beauty too rich for use, for earth to dear." Romeo
seems to predict her fate here as we know Juliet dies at the end of
the play

Again Romeo mentions their fate without realising it when he is in
Friar Lawrence's cell waiting for Juliet to arrive so they can marry
in secret. No others know of the marriage because of the family feud.
As Romeo is waiting he mentions that love consuming-death can do
whatever it needs once they are married: "Then love devouring death do
what it dare. It is enough I may call her mine." This can be seen as
almost a challenge to fate to do its worst. This personification of
fate here is a powerful dramatic device to help the audience's picture
the doom threatening the "star crossed lovers".

Later Romeo has a dream about his own fate which he mentions in the
soliloquy in a street in Mantua, where he has been banished from
Verona for killing Tybalt, who for killing one of Romeo's best
friends, Mercutio. Romeo dreamt: "that my lady came and found me dead"
But she gave him the kiss of life and he was revived: "and breathed
such life with kisses in my lips that I revived" Shakespeare cleverly
adds a twist as it is Romeo who finds Juliet dead, gives her a kiss
but she did not revive. This twist will involve the audience when at
the end of the play the events in the tomb are similar.

Juliet and Fate

Romeo is not the only one that mentions the sense of fate. There is
evidence that Juliet is influenced by a sense of her fate. Juliet has
just met Romeo who had gate crashed her parent's party and they both
fell deeply in love. In their first meeting, Juliet is called away by
the nurse as her mother needs to speak to her. Juliet asks the nurse
to ask Romeo's name and whether he is married, if he is she says "my
grave is like to be my wedding bed" This turns out to be her fate
because, the only wedding bed they will have forever is when they both
die in the Capulet's tomb.

Again Juliet mentions the possibility of Romeo's fate. When he climbs
over the wall of the Capulet house into their garden, she warns him if
he is found on Capulet property, by any of her relatives; it will be a
place of death for him: "And a place of death, considering who thou
art". This is prophetic as he at the end of the play the place of his
death is in the Capulet's tomb.

Furthermore Juliet then seems to have a vision of Romeo's fate, when
she and Romeo are by her window and he is about to leave and go to
Mantua. She sees Romeo, in a vision, at the bottom of a tomb "I have
an ill-divining soul! … as one dead in the bottom of a tomb" which of
course we know is true.

After Romeo leaves she calls out: "All men call thee fickle… I hope
thou wilt not keep him long, but send him back." With these words we
can see again the role Shakespeare creates for fate in the play, how
it is evil and intent on destroying the "star crossed lovers."

Coincidence

Finally coincidence plays a dramatic role in Romeo and Juliet.
Coincidence is the tool of fate in that it causes a sequence of events
which doom the lovers. The coincidence of Romeo's two love affairs is
that the first 'love' of Romeo Rosaline, isn't true, he is only in
love with the idea of being in love. When he falls in love with Juliet
it is true, however he only discovers Juliet when trying to get over
his previous love, Rosaline. Romeo's friends try to cheer him up by
taking him to the Capulet's party. If Romeo had not fallen in love
with Rosaline, he would not have gone to the party and the whole
tragedy might never have happened. But by coincidence he did and
discovered Juliet because of it.

Another example is Paris arrives at the Capulet house and by
coincidence, helps cause the party, where he hopes that Juliet will
fall for him. Instead she falls for Romeo. If there were no party
Romeo would not have met Juliet that evening and would still have been
"in love" with Rosaline.

Most importantly, when Friar John goes to deliver Friar Lawrence's
message to Romeo, he gets caught up in a house infected by the plague
and therefore is unable to go to Mantua. If he hadn't have been stuck
in the house he probably would have reached Mantua before Balthazar to
give Romeo Friar Lawrence's letter with the details of Juliet's faked
death. This would have stopped Romeo visiting an apothecary to buy
poison to kill himself at Juliet's side, consequently meaning the
tragedy would not have happened.

Finally in the Capulet family tomb, the two "Star crossed lovers" take
their life. This is very tragic as neither of them needed to die. If
Paris had not challenged Romeo outside the tomb he would not have died
either. When Romeo dies Juliet wakes up, if he had not had poisoned
himself for another couple of minutes, Juliet would have woken to find
him still alive so neither of them would have died. Coincidence plays
its most tragic role at this scene. Shakespeare uses coincidences them
very wisely so he can affect the audience emotions. The role of fate
and coincidence is so important to the play as without just one of
these coincidences many lives would have been saved

Therefore Fate and Coincidence plays a dramatic role in the tragedy,
causing tension, surprise and tragedy. Without the role of fate and
coincidence in the play Romeo and Juliet would not be such a dramatic
tragedy.
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