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“Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health, still-waking sleep, that is not what this is” (Shakespeare 1.1. 179-180). A string of contradictions explain the love story of Romeo and Juliet, a contradiction. Some critics consider this story a tragedy because Shakespeare once wrote; “the fault is not in our stars but in ourselves”. While others say it does not follow the standard Aristotelian form of tragedy (Krims 1). Romeo and Juliet can not be a tragedy because no flaw causes them to fall, the lovers, could not have controlled fate, and family and friends assisted them to their deaths.
Shakespeare emphasizes Juliet’s age, fourteen, many times through out the play. She, like many fourteen-year-olds, is very susceptible to getting caught up in the temptation of a forbidden passion (Asimov 479). Now some might consider these fantasies as a flaw, since she gives into them, but since it is so heavily emphasized, it is not likely.
Walter Kerr says that Romeo’s flaw is furry (84). To argue human emotion as a flaw is ridiculous. If we consider these characters as real people, most people in love do not think logically. Romeo avoided confrontation, not encouraged it. Romeo and Juliet, blinded by love at first sight, reacted to their emotions for each other, unable to see any harm in their love.
Fate determined the lover’s outcome in more than one instance. Romeo and Juliet’s fate is determined before you even get into the story “A pair of star-crossed lovers take their lives” (Shakespeare 1.1.6). An illiterate servant delivers the guest list for the ball and asks Romeo to read the list, coincidence…probably not (Asimov 480). Towards the end, the Friar sends someone else to deliver the message to Romeo but an infectious pestilence occurs and a quarantine of the city ordered that prevent the message from ever arriving. Also, at the very end the friar arrives two minutes too late to save Romeo from committing suicide (497). No matter how hard anyone might have tried fate would still ultimately win.
Not only fate helped Romeo and Juliet to their deathbeds, their family and their friends pushed the already delicate situation. When Romeo tells his friend he does not want to go to the party and speaks of a dream he had of his death, Mercutio turns his dream into nonsense and drags Romeo to the party.
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The Friar played an extensive part of Romeo and Juliet’s fate. Even though the friar did not approve of the marriage, he married them anyway in hopes to end the feud. And when Juliet goes to the friar for help after being told she was going to have to marry Paris, the friar could have gone to talk with her parent and explained the situation but instead he gave her a drug to appear dead (495). and at the very end instead of helping Juliet cope with the death of Romeo, he runs away in fear (498).
When Tybalt dies and Romeo is banished, Juliet weeps profusely, her parents instead of consoling her in a time of pain yell at her and her own mother tells her that she wants nothing to do with her. The nurse, also knowing of the secret marriage, says nothing when Capulet forces Juliet to marry Paris, instead she tells Juliet to just commit bigamy (495).
Two kids fell in love and with the help of fate, friends, and family, paid their lives. The lovers had no flaws, not any more than the rest of us. The story of Romeo and Juliet could have ended many ways but it ended tragically. It ended in death. A tragic ending, unmistakably, but deceptively, not a Shakespearean tragedy.
Asimov, Isaac. Asimov’s guide to Shakespeare. New York: Crown Publisher, 1970.
Kerr, Walter. Tragedy and Comedy. New York: Simon and Schuster Publishing, 1967.
Krims, Marvin. “ Romeo’s Childhood Trauma.” Psychological Study of the Arts. 26 Nov. 1999.
Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet. To be announced publishing, and date.