Romeo and Juliet loved each other, but they knew that it wouldn’t be possible to have a relationship because of their feuding families. Their deaths were tragic, as it was mainly the people around them that made them so unhappy. They were so in love with each other that they took risks to be together, which lead to their unfortunate deaths. Romeo is a Montague. He falls in love with Juliet the moment he sees her at a Capulet ball. Juliet is just under 14 years old, and a Capulet, whose family are bitter enemies of the Montagues. As the prologue explains, “From forth the loins of these two foes A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life”.
The words “star-crossed lovers” suggest that fate is an important element in the events in the play, but the personalities of those involved, particularly Romeo, play a vital role in the tragedy. I think that Romeo should not have killed Tybalt, as the result of Tybalt’s death was Romeo’s banishment. He could have left Tybalt to the Prince’s justice; he had decreed that if anyone disturbed the peace their “lives shall pay the forfeit”. I do think that Romeo can be excused for killing Tybalt though, as Tybalt killed Romeo’s best friend, Mercutio, and Romeo was blind in a heat of passion. Although Romeo, at the start of the play, may come across as a peaceful, loving character, all six deaths in the play are linked to him in one way or another. After Romeo killed Tybalt he blamed the stars because he didn’t want to accept responsibility for what he had done. Romeo’s recklessness is much to blame: “O, I am fortune’s fool”.
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He had tried to act as a peacemaker between Tybalt and Mercutio, but his well-meaning interference led to Mercutio being stabbed “under (his) arm”. Romeo comes across with the attitude that he is not afraid to take risks. Romeo and Juliet are both very rashes and quick-thinking people; they do something and don’t care about the consequences their actions could have. For example, Romeo took a risk in getting caught in the balcony scene, as Juliet said, “The orchard walls are high and hard to climb, and the place death, considering who thou art If any kinsmen find thee here”. He took another much greater risk when he was in Juliet’s bedroom on their wedding night and Lady Capulet almost caught him. This attitude plays a big part in the events leading up to their deaths. Another example of this attitude is that they both rushed into getting married, even though they had only known each other for a very short period of time.
I also think Romeo was too hasty in rushing back to Verona after hearing the news about Juliet’s death. If he had stayed in Mantua longer then both Romeo and Juliet would have lived. Also, if he had a more ‘ easy-going ‘ personality, maybe he would not have killed himself so quickly when he was in the Capulet vault. Romeo seems to have a premonition of his own death, before the Capulet ball he says, “I fear, too early: for my mind misgives Some consequence, yet hanging in the stars, Shall bitterly begin his fearful date With this night’s revels, and expire the term Of a despised life closed in my breast, By some vile forfeit of untimely death.” This is a very grim prophecy for a youth who has only been rejected by his first love, Rosaline and has been encouraged to visit the party to seek some other girl. He seems to believe his life and love are doomed before he even meets Juliet – perhaps his sudden love for her springs because he wants to make life difficult for himself because he has a “despised life”.
Friar Lawrence must also take some responsibility for the deaths in the play. He married the couple, knowing Romeo had previously – only a day or so before – been ‘in love ‘ with Rosaline. Perhaps he was looking for credit as the person who united the feuding families. When things go wrong, he arranged a plan for Romeo and Juliet. Juliet was to take a potion on the eve of her wedding to Paris to make her appear dead for 42 hours on her wedding day. She would then be taken to the Capulet vault. Friar Lawrence would send a letter to Romeo telling him the plan, and Romeo would come back to Verona to be with Juliet. This way, the Capulets would think that Juliet is dead, so she could run away with Romeo, or when they discover she is alive, they would be reconciled. Juliet was pleased with this idea, despite its obvious horror to her.
I think Friar Lawrence is put under too much pressure by Romeo and Juliet, which forces him to make decisions he isn’t quite sure of. For example, he agreed to wed them without their parents’ permission. I think he gets too involved, which gives him a lot of responsibility, so he has to make sure things go to plan. He had the important responsibility of making sure Romeo got the message about the plan. I don’t think he realized how serious everything could get. On the other hand, he didn’t think his plans through very well before carrying them out. Even though he did wrong by agreeing to wed Romeo and Juliet, as he knew that they had only met a matter of days beforehand, he was just trying to bring the households together. This was another plan that didn’t turn out as expected, because Romeo kills Tybalt, and is therefore banished.
Friar Lawrence made a big mistake in leaving Juliet by herself in the Capulet vault. If the Friar had stayed just a bit longer, maybe he could have stopped Juliet from committing suicide. He shows his cowardice when he hears the Watch coming and says, “I dare no longer stay”. I think that Friar Lawrence is one of the main people to blame for the deaths, as it was his plans that went wrong through poor planning. I think that Friar Lawrence must have felt some guilt for what he did, as he said that he would die for what he had done: “Miscarried by my fault, let my old life Be sacrificed some hour before this time, Unto the rigour of severest law.”
Tybalt could also be to blame for the tragedy. He is well known for his fighting skills as he is “the Prince of Cats”. He has a very fiery temper and is always trying to show off with his ‘macho’ behaviour, which eventually gets him killed. His view of the Montagues is shown very clearly when he is talking to Benvolio: “What, drawn and talk of peace! I hate the word As I hate hell, all Montagues and thee” Again, at the Capulet ball, when he finds out that Romeo is there, he is angry. He wants to fight Romeo but is luckily stopped by Lord Capulet, who has a surprising change of character, and tells Tybalt that he does not want a fight to break out, so he lets Romeo stay. He humiliates Tybalt, which directly leads to Tybalt’s challenge to Romeo, which Mercutio answers for him. I think Tybalt should take some blame for the tragedy because he killed Mercutio, however, he might not have done so had not Romeo intervened.
I do not feel that Mercutio bears much blame for the tragedy. He is Romeo’s best friend. He tries to cheer Romeo up when he is upset about Rosaline. One way of trying to cheer him up was to go to the Capulet ball, as he thought that maybe Romeo could meet someone new and forget about Rosaline. I think it was fate that made Peter ask Romeo to read the invitation to the Capulet ball for him, because if Peter had asked anyone else, Romeo would never have met Juliet. Mercutio can be seen as a joker and a troublemaker, but he is only trying to have some fun and cheer up Romeo. I don’t think he can be blamed for Romeo and Juliet’s deaths because he had no real involvement, other than the fight with Tybalt, which might not have been to the death without Romeo’s attempt to part them.
When Juliet first sets eyes on Romeo at the Capulet ball, she immediately falls in love with him, but she does not know at the time that he is a Montague. “Go ask his name. If he is married, My grave is my wedding bed”. This is an example of dramatic irony foretelling the tragedy to come, which the audience, but not Juliet, are aware of. Both Juliet’s parents become very unkind and cold towards her; for example, they force her into marrying Paris, even though she does not love him. Before the ball, Lady asks Juliet if she wants to marry Paris: “How stands your dispositions to be married?” and Capulet wants “two more summers to wither in their pride” before Juliet should “become a bride”. However, there is an extreme change in their attitudes, particularly Capulet’s when Juliet opposed his wish for her to marry Paris. Juliet’s parents should have paid more attention to what Juliet wanted to do, instead of forcing her into making decisions she didn’t want to make.
They were only interested in Juliet marrying Paris because of his wealth and status. Her father is extremely angry when Juliet says that she does not want to marry Paris. This shows that her parents let her have little or no say in what happens in her life. Capulet says he will disown her and cast her off. The Nurse must carry responsibility for the tragedy. She is one of Juliet’s closest friends. She is very loving and fond of Juliet and only has her best interests at heart. This might be because the Nurse’s daughter died when she was young, so she sees Juliet as her child. The Nurse and Friar Lawrence seem to have quite a bit in common in their involvement in Romeo and Juliet’s situation. The Nurse takes on too much responsibility and doesn’t warn Juliet of the trouble she could get into by getting married to Romeo. In fact, the Nurse actually eggs on Juliet to go ahead with the Friar’s plans in some parts of the play. She also acted as a go-between in making the arrangements.
I think the Nurse was a bad influence on Juliet, encouraging her to go behind her parents’ backs and marry Romeo. At first, the Nurse admires Romeo, but her view of Romeo changes when he kills Tybalt. After Tybalt’s death, she turns against Romeo, “Shame come to Romeo” because Tybalt was friends with Nurse. When Juliet needs the Nurse most as her parents tell her that she must marry Paris, the Nurse lets her down by simply telling her to forget Romeo and marry Paris. “Oh, he’s a lovely gentleman. Romeo’s a dishcloth to him; an eagle, madam, Hath not so green, so quick, so fair an eye As Paris hath.” I think that the Nurse was partly to blame, but I don’t think she realized what could happen if things went wrong. The Nurse meant well but the plans just didn’t turn out as she had expected. She underestimates Juliet’s love for Romeo and what she is prepared to do to be with him.
I think Benvolio has no involvement in Romeo and Juliet’s death. Benvolio is clever because he thinks ahead, and thinks about the consequences that actions could have, such as when he tries to stop Mercutio from starting another street fight. He is a pacifist, therefore doesn’t believe in fighting. He is very forward-thinking and I think he is more of a peacemaker than anything else, however, he did encourage Romeo to look elsewhere for a love, so encouraging him to go to the Capulet ball. Another character that cannot be blamed much for the tragedy is the Prince. The Prince tries to stop the families from fighting, but his attempts fail. He tries to establish authority in his threats but does not carry them out. We know this because he had the chance to sentence Romeo to death, as promised, but didn’t, he instead just banished him. If the Prince had tried harder to prevent the quarrelling and carried out more of his threats, the feud might not have carried on to the point where these two lovers died for each other.
He blames himself for this, for, “Winking at (their) discords”. At the end of the play, he is angry that the families let the fighting go on this long. He is upset that it took the death of these two lovers to bring the families together. Shakespeare took the idea of this play from a long poem written by Arthur Brooke, written in 1562. This itself came from an older Italian story. Shakespeare added some scenes and changed the storyline slightly to make it more dramatic and more of a tragedy. For example, the poem was based over a period of nine months, but Shakespeare shortened the time span to just 5 days. This makes the play much more interesting to watch on stage.
I do not think there is just one person alone that is to blame for the deaths of Romeo and Juliet, but Friar Lawrence and Romeo both play a large part in the tragedy, mainly because of the Friar’s poor planning, which simply did not work out as he hoped. Romeo did not receive the letter, so when he heard the bad news from Balthasar about Juliet’s death, he believed Juliet was really dead. I don’t think that Friar Lawrence should have wedded Romeo and Juliet without thinking about the consequences it could have. I think that fate might have played a small part in the events in the play because it is all very coincidental that two people met, married and died for each other all in the time span of 5 days, but I think fate didn’t play a big role. It was too easy for Romeo to blame fate when he should have been less impetuous himself.