The Tragedy of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

The Tragedy of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

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Romeo and Juliet is a play by William Shakespeare. It takes place in
Verona, Italy during the renaissance. The play is about two rich
families during a long feud. Their children, Romeo and Juliet, fall in
love and eventually take their own lives. Unable to marry each other
in the open, they marry secretly. They only have a little time before
things go wrong, and they are separated for eternity.

As with many things it is difficult to lay the blame on one specific
occurrence as even the slightest mishap, especially in the story, can
amount to something far worse than ever expected. The question I would
like to answer is where the audience would perceive the blame to lie
and personally I feel the answer to that question lies greatly with
whom the audience actually is. A modern day audience compared to an
Elizabethan one would have vastly different opinions, as would a
teenager and his or her parents, nevertheless, right from the first
page in the play it becomes apparent that this story isn't going to be
black and white. The two families' 'ancient grudge' is the first
insight of many more under-lying occurrences to come. Each one having
a small yet significance influence on the end result of the story.

A sensible approach to this question would be to firstly try and
narrow down the main suspects. This inevitably leads us to fate. The
prologue describes Romeo and Juliet as "A pair of star-cross'd
lovers", as though their fates had already been mapped out by the
stars. Just these few words state the extent that fate will play,
possibly giving the audience a biased opinion right from the very
start.

The next notable indication of fate occurs when capulets servant
approaches Romeo and asks him to read an invitation. A less than
sensitive audience may disregard this point, although it paves the way
forward for the tragedy to occur. This holds a great deal of blame but
if the audience does not pick up on it then that blame is

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unrecognised. Perhaps Mercutio's would be seen to be the blame. Three
times he chants, "A plague O'both your houses" which may be seen by
the audience to condemn all hope for the two lovers.

Following this is Friar John's unbelievable misfortune as he finds
himself trapped in a house of plague on his way to Mantua. The letter
is never received which allows balthasar to unknowingly ruin the
'plan', by telling Romeo of Juliet's death. Each of these aspects of
fate play an important role leading to the story's conclusion, but
without the actions of other characters their contribution would be
meaningless. The well-meaning Friar for example. He disregarded all
sense and agreed to the couple's marriage in a last bid for peace. His
actions may have been with good intentions but, ultimately had he used
common sense and said no to begin with, the tragedy may never have
occurred.

It is arguable however the amount of blame that can be placed on this
decision for if the couple really felt that strongly they could always
have eloped. Either way, it is the Friar's actions from this point
onward that really condemned him. Knowing full well of the dangers
involved he presents Juliet and continues to describe its effects…"The
roses in thy lips and cheeks shall fade, to wanny ashes; thy eyes'
windows fall, like death when he shuts up the day of life…" (Act 4,
Scene 2, 99-101). A potion strong enough to cause apparent death must
have phenomenal risks attached, but still he obviously decides to take
that chance.

Although the Friar's actions were wrong, one thing that can be said
for him is that they were with good intentions, only this is not true
of all cases. In one of the last scenes of the play, for the first
time Friar Lawrence selfishly thinks of himself. When Romeo was dead
and Juliet was beginning to regain consciousness in the Capulets tomb,
had the Friar stayed there, at least her life could be spared. Instead
the Friar runs away to save his skin, leaving Juliet to take her on
life. His deeply felt guilt becomes clear when he comes clean to the
end. "…Miscarried by my fault, let my old life, be sacrificed, some
hour before this time, unto the rigour of severest law." (Act 5, Scene
3, 267-269) The Friar feels that he is to blame, he would not feel
guilt otherwise. After hearing the Friar's confession I think the
audience would blame him too.

There is also another character in the play that the audience may seek
to be a main culprit, and that person is Tybalt. The 'fiery' Tybalt is
aggressive and quick-tempered, he despises the Montague's with a
vengeance. A firm believer in the 'grudge', he hates any talk of
peace. "…Peace? I hate the world, as I hate hell, all Montague's and
thee…" (Act 1, Scene 1, 62-63) At the capulets ball he spots Romeo
gate-crashing.

"…What, dares the slave come hither …" (Act 1, Scene 5, 54-55) He says
clearly aggravated. Tybalt then alerts his uncle to the problem and is
astonished by Capulets calm response. "Content thee, gentle coz, let
him alone…" (Act 1, Scene 5, 65) but Tybalt will not accept it and is
adamant he will have his revenge, "…I will withdraw, but this
intrusion shall, now seeming sweet, convert to bitterest gall." (Act
1, Scene 5, 90-91)

The next day Tybalt challenged Romeo to a duel, which ultimately
results in the death of Mercutio and Tybalt himself. Mercutio's death
can be partly blamed on himself. He is a source of comedy and a witty
person but his sense of fun can quickly become something a lot more
serious. For example after playfully teasing Tybalt for no reason he
says, "…Here's my fiddlestick, here's that shall make you dance.
Zounds, consort!" (Act 3, Scene 1, 44-45) and they begin to fight.
Although the fight was not meant to be serious it still resulted in
Mercutio's death, that being the reason why Romeo intervened and ended
up getting himself banished.

Possibly a young audience, favouring Juliet's point of view, would
blame the parents. The heartless Lady Capulet turns her back on Juliet
when she needs her the most "…I would the fool were married to her
grave." (Act 3, Scene 5, 140) This possibly being a premonition of
what is yet to come. Had she listened, then Juliet would not have had
to turn to the Friar for help.

Then there is her father, he forces her into a marriage she's not
ready for. Juliet is little more a child not yet thirteen summers have
passed and to begin with, Capulet himself was against the marriage
"…Let two more summers wither in their pride, Ere we may think he
pride to be a bride." (Act 1, Scene 2, 10-11) Yet, his light
personality soon changes its mind, which as a result despites Juliet
to despair.

Presumably if the audience were trying to find the source of the
problem, then some blame could actually Benvolio. It was his idea to
go to the ball to try and stop Romeo pining over Rosaline. "…Go
either, and with unattained eye, compare her face with some that I
shall now, and I will make thee think thy swan a crow." (Act 1, Scene
3, 85-87) As a result Romeo and Juliet meet.

Looking even further back, if we remove Rosaline from the play, would
there still be a story to tell? No Rosaline, no love sick Romeo. Once
again this is an arguable point as Romeo's character is such that if
he did not like Rosaline he would probably be lovesick over someone
else. This brings me onto the blame that Romeo himself retains. He and
Juliet rushed things, in a matter of days of meeting they were
married. They deliberately disobeyed their parents, got themselves
into strife, and then relied on the Friar to save them. Perhaps if
they had used some degree of common sense their deaths could have been
prevented.

There are many factors that could be blamed for the tragedy of Romeo
and Juliet that separately have little consequence. It is only when
these factors are all put together that results like this one can be
achieved. Although there are many aspects to the story that hold
blame, some elements retain more of it than others do. It is these
'larger' factors that the audience is most likely to notice, and so
blame, the largest of all, this being their families and fate.
Condemning the lovers right from the very beginning, fate plays a role
all the way through. The terrible luck unfortunate timing, Mercutio's
curse, even the slight premonitions that keep appearing insinuating
that fate was not on their side. Considering the time the play was
written, fate was obviously considered to be very important in life.
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