Destiny, Fate, Free Will and Free Choice in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

Destiny, Fate, Free Will and Free Choice in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

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Do you believe in fate? To answer the question, you must first have a correct idea of what fate is. A definition of fate would be the power that is supposed to settle ahead of time how things will happen. Could there be such a power that rules our lives, and if so, why? Romeo and Juliet, the two young lovers in William Shakespeare' s Romeo and Juliet, ended up becoming a large part of what could be called "fate". Fate seemed to control their lives and force them together, becoming a large part of their love, and the ending of their parent's hatred. Fate became the ultimate control power in this play, and plays a large part in modern everyday life, even if we don't recognize it. Maybe we don't recognize it because we choose not to, or don't have faith like we used to, but the fact remains that fate controls what we do throughout all of our lives.

 

A large part of the beliefs for both Romeo and Juliet involve fate. They believed in the stars, and that their actions weren't always their own. Romeo, for example, 1.4.115-120, he says, "Some consequence yet hanging in the stars...by some vile forfeit of untimely death. But he that hath the steerage over my course Direct my sail." He's basically saying to his friends that he had a dream which leads him to believe that he will die young because of something in the stars, something that will happen. He ends with "...he that hath steerage over my course..." which implies that he does not have control over his life if he looks to another power above himself to direct him. He does not feel that he is the one who makes decisions, it is all a higher purpose, a different power. We're all sort of like the puppets below the puppeteer. He's asking for that puppeteer to direct his "sail," or his life, in the right direction.

 

Fate directs us all like the puppets on the end of it's string, and I believe strongly in it. It is, in many ways, the mystical power that controls who and what we become, and it explains that which can not be explained. Romeo was looking to this power, asking of this power to direct him, not to an untimely death as he foresaw in his dream, but to just steer him, because that is the control which he knows he does not have over himself.

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Nonetheless, fate still managed to weave Romeo into a twisted web of it's power's and plan's. It did this by starting with a few simple emotions and actions. Romeo had a crush on Rosaline, who did not return these feelings. Next, an illiterate servant of the Capulet's was sent to invite people on a list to a party that the Capulet's were throwing. While Romeo babbled on about his life with Benvolio, his cousin and kinsmen, Romeo bumped into this servant who asked him to read the list, with Rosaline's name, which got Romeo to agree to go after the servant invited them. This sets everything up for the two lovers. They meet at the party, Romeo memorized by her beauty, and her simply memorized by him. They realize later their identity, but they are in love and won't let their names get in the way of that strong emotional bind. If fate didn't put all this together, then what or who did? What were the chances of all of this happening to two loathed enemies? It would probably be a million to one. Fate set up their love, their love already predestined, as well as their suicides, which they both foresaw.

 

Romeo and Juliet throughout the play have dreams or visions of their deaths. Juliet for example in 3.5.55, she says, "Methinks I see thee, now thou art so low, as one dead in the bottom of a tomb." She sees Romeo dead in a tomb, which is where he eventually ends up in the end of the play, beside her. This why she talks about Romeo being so low in a tomb, he's dead, and she has foreseen it, before it has even happened. How could she have seen the future if it wasn't already decided for her? The answer is, she probably couldn't have.

 

I'm very superstitious and believe in dreams and powers beyond us, that in the end everything can amount to some good, and some bad. It's a constant balance that keeps working throughout life and nature which we can't stop. Dreams or experiences often hint to things or have a meaning. In the case of Romeo and Juliet, it showed them what was going to happen, not exactly what would take place on that night, but it did show them both that Romeo would die.

 

Believing in fate and trusting dreams such as these is believing in the idea that a stronger power and force controls us, and in the case of such a strong love as the love between Romeo and Juliet, that there is one person out there destined for everyone. It's romantic, and Romeo and Juliet were lucky enough to find each other, even if their love eventually led them to their deaths. In this case, however, fate may have been trying to do more than bring the two together. On 5.3.317, The Prince says, "A gloomy peace with it brings..." after they two are discovered dead and their marriage revealed by the Friar. The hatred and feud between the two houses was causing so many to loose their lives. The Prince was fed up with them and their brawls, such as on 1.1.90-100, "...By thee, old Capulet, and Montague, have thrice disturbed the quiet of our streets...If ever you disturb our streets again, Your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace." He's saying that the feud is causing many problems on his streets, and the next time he needs to break them up or people get involved in a rumble, he will kill them to end the chaos that is sweeping through Verona.

 

The peace may have been the final part in this grand scheme which seems so perfectly plotted, bringing together two lovers and two families full of hate. The Friar so predicted the marriage might do, 2.3.98, "For this alliance may so happy prove To turn your households' rancor to pure love." He agreed to marry them, seeing such a noble event bringing the two families together and ending the hatred, and then turning it to true love.

 

In the end, the hatred was ended, and their love was as true as it could have been. Even if their lives were ended by it, like Romeo says 2.2.83, "And, But thou love me, let them find me here. My life is better ended by their hate Than death prorogued, wanted of thy love." He would have preferred to die then to have lived without Juliet, or not to have Juliet's love and be left only with hate. He so proves the strength of such a conviction when he kills himself, and, in turn, Juliet kills herself.

 

During this part of the play, after Romeo has killed Paris and himself but before Juliet has done the same, the Friar comes rushing in, trying to persuade Juliet out of the tomb before more arrive. He says to Juliet 5.3.159, "A greater power than we can contradict hath thwarted our intents." It can be interpreted that he is talking of fate, telling Juliet that a power beyond their control has spoiled their plans. This power must be fate. They couldn't contradict it, how would you? How do you beat the power that spins out lives and creates our futures in the same manner that it is has created our past and present. You can't. Their story, as sad as it may be, was meant to happen. The good and the bad are a balance that even fate must recognize and accept.

 

Some people say that the lord works in mysterious ways, which I think is a way of saying that sometimes the bad things are blessings, and they may just work to the greater good. The same could be said about fate, and it's role in this play. Yes, two people died. Is this a worthy cause and a lesser number than those who may have died if their hatred had not been resolved? I would have to say yes, their deaths may have been to the greater good, as tragic as it was. It turned hate to love.

 

This play, as well as fate works in it, isn't the only thing fate plays a role in. Fate affects everything and decided much of the world and it's destiny. What happens happens, why fight it? We all end up were ever fate wants us, one way or another. Everybody we meet, everything that affects us and makes us see things from different views and other sides, they all affect who we become and develop into, which, ultimately, is fate. As much as we would like to deny it. Some things just can't be explained unless you look to the higher reasoning and to the higher cause, and sometimes the good out of the bad is visible.

 

I heard a quote from a movie that is coming out in awhile that struck me and stuck with me. It goes, "...fate can only take you so far, the rest is up to you." Fate got Romeo and Juliet together, and it set everything up, but in the end, I do believe we have some say in how we turn out. Fate can make things happen, such as the case in Romeo and Juliet, but it was also the love between them, the deep emotions that ran through their hearts mixed with the scorn and hatred driven in by their parents. Their actions may have been predestined, but they were their own. They may not have realized the consequence of their love, but even if they did, they didn't care. Things happen because of fate, and actions happen because of things. It's a never ending circle of power and feeling, destiny and actions. Each depends on the other, yet each has the power to affect everything on it's own. Fate needs the action of it's "puppet" just like the puppet needs the puppeteer. One can't exist without the other. People's hearts will run freely, and fate simply will lead them, but the rest is up to them to achieve, even if fate is guiding them, the power to stop fate lies simply in a strong gesture where the "puppet" has the power to become the "puppeteer."

 
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