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Death plays a key role in Romeo and Juliet. During the story, six deaths occur that fashion Shakespeare’s publication into the calamity that’s known around the world. Each death pushes the story forward continuously, leading to the finale where the two lovers die due to love and hate from both feuding families.
Mercutio, the joker and comic relief of the play, dies first and foremost. Tybalt spies Romeo at Lord Capulet’s extravaganza and vows to continue his fighting match by saying:
“I will withdraw; but this intrusion shall,
Now seeming sweet, convert to bitt’rest gall” (I, V, 93-95)
Determined to duel with Romeo, in Act Three, Scene 1, he challenges the Montague but Romeo declines fighting with his brother-in-law, saying:
“I do protest I never injured thee,
But love thee better than thou canst devise” (III, 1,67-68),
His statement means he doesn’t want to cause Tybalt any harm but would rather leave the scene. Mercutio steps in for Romeo, Romeo comes between them, and Tybalt’s sword stabs Mercutio when Romeo was holding Mercutio back. As Mercutio lays wounded and waiting for a surgeon, he blames Romeo for his injury saying,
“Why the devil came you between us? I was hurt under your arm.” (III, I, 103-105)
Soon following, Romeo learns that Mercutio is dead by Benvolio who says:
“O Romeo, Romeo, brave Mercutio is dead!
That gallant spirit haths aspired the clouds,
Which too untimely here did scorn the earth.” (III, I, 118 – 120)
Romeo, enraged at the killing of one of his dearest friends, challenges Tybalt to a fight for revenge, saying:
“Now Tybalt, take the ‘villain’ back again
That late thou gavest me; for Mercutio’s soul
Is but a little way above our heads,
Staying for thine to keep him company.
Either thou or I, or both, must go with him.” (III, I, 127 – 131)
Tybalt takes up the challenge and the Capulet falls to the ground, dead by Romeo’s sword. Benvolio tells everyone including the Prince what has happened later saying:
“There lies the man, (Tybalt) slain by young Romeo,
That slew thy kinsman, brave Mercutio.” (III, I, 146 – 147)
With Romeo banished and Juliet acting as if she was dead in the Capulet family tomb, Paris comes to her grave to mourn the loss of his fiancee. On the path of the family tomb, he spots a torch and puts his own out to listen the stranger, saying:
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To cross my obsequies and true love’s rite?
What, with a torch? Muffle me, night awhile.” (V, III, 19 – 21)
Romeo doesn’t know that Paris is near him, but he dismisses Balthasar to leave him alone and not return. The angry Paris interrupts Romeo’s plan to open the tomb and kill himself so Romeo lie next to Juliet forever. Paris thinks that the killing of Tybalt by Romeo killed his beautiful Juliet, so he wants to avenge Juliet by killing Romeo. He challenges Romeo by saying:
“Stop thy unhallowed toil, vile Montague!
Can vengeance be pursued further than death?
Condemned villain, I do apprehend thee.
Obey, and go with me; for thou must die.” (V, III, 54 – 57)
Romeo bids Paris leave as he was going to kill himself, but Paris continues to provoke Romeo by calling him a felon. Angered, Romeo decides to fight by saying:
“Wilt thou provoke me? Then have at thee, boy!” (V, V, 70)
Paris is killed by Romeo and asks one favor, saying:
“O, I am slain! If thou be merciful,
Open the tomb, lay me with Juliet.” (V, III, 72 – 73)
For the first time, Romeo sees his dueler and discovers it is Paris. He lays Country Paris into the tomb besides Juliet.
As Romeo sees Juliet, he remembers her beauty and how he loves her so much that he can’t live without her. Romeo wants to be with her eternally in the tomb. Taking the apothecary that he had gotten previously out, Romeo drinks it quickly, saying:
“Come bitter conduct; come unsavory guide!
Thou desperate pilot, now at once run on
The dashing rocks thy seasick weary bark!
Here’s to my love! O true apothecary!
Thy drugs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die.” (V, III, 116 – 120)
His guilt for the deaths of Mercutio, Tybalt, and Paris makes him want to give his to life to pay them back with “a life for a life” attitude. Romeo’s sorrow for Juliet was stronger than anything, and not even life itself could stop it. All of these factors contribute to the choice of suicide for Romeo.
Juliet wakes from her tomb bed and finds Romeo dead by her side and Paris deceased and in the tomb as well. Upset how the plan didn’t work how she wanted it to and her one true love dead, Juliet finds the dagger next to her. As she hears the “watch” coming, she plunges the dagger into her heart and kills herself, saying:
“Yea, noise? Then I’ll be brief. O happy dagger!
This is thy sheath; there rust. And let me die.”(V, III, 169 – 170)
As the rest of the Montague and Capulet clans show up at the tomb, Lord Montague sadly explains the death of his wife, saying:
“Alas, my liege, my wife is dead tonight!
Grief of my son’s exile hat stopped her breath.
What further woe conspires against mine age?” (V, III, 210 – 212)
The families learn of the death of their children, and the six deaths that had happened over the past few days puts the families into a state of shock and sadness.
The Prince points out the central problem of Romeo and Juliet clearly at the end of the story by saying to the families:
“See what a scourge is laid upon your hate,
That heaven finds means to kill your joys with love,” (V, III, 292 – 293)
The hatred between the two houses of Montague and Capulet that was initiated so long ago that know one remembers why the other family hates the other one was so strong that many innocent lives were finished. The only children and offspring, Romeo and Juliet, saw past the hate and loved each other with such a burning passion that nothing could come between the pair, not even death. Hatred is brought to sorrow, and then to love from the families towards one another as they both try to get through the tragedy as the story brings to a close. The conflict is solved with the Montagues and Capulets resolving their differences as the Prince says:
“A glooming peace this morning with it brings.
The sun for sorrow will now show his head.
Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things;
Some shall be pardoned, and some punished;
For never was a story of more woe
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.’ (V, III, 305 – 310)