There are so many factors to figure in to the deaths of Romeo and Juliet that it’s difficult to pinpoint just one. The entire play leads up to their deaths, suggesting that their deaths are the effect of a cause. Two or three causes really; the first being their age, their youth, their hormones if you will, and their inability to control themselves; secondly, the society in which they live; one that does not tolerate their actions. Being the most studied of Shakespeare’s plays, it is also the one that gets misinterpreted the most.
That’s not to say that any specific interpretation is wrong, just inaccurate at times.
The story of Romeo and Juliet is widely studied as some sort of romantic love story. And while that’s not entirely false, the focus is not the love story. Rather, the love story emphasizes the message the play is sending; that young love is impetuous, foolish, and dangerous. People seem to forget that Juliet is around 14 years old in the play, and Romeo 16 or so.
Most parents or adults would agree that those ages are far too young to be involved in such a serious relationship as the one portrayed in the play. So just keep that in mind, and think about the events that take place in the play.
At the beginning of the play, Romeo is getting over his last infatuation, Rosaline, whom of course is described as being very beautiful, so why wouldn’t Romeo be infatuated with her? What Romeo’s specific involvement with her is unclear in the play, but it’s enough to get him depressed, which shows that Romeo is led by his emotions, or even his hormones, and not his brain.
This is again reinforced when he immediately becomes infatuated with Juliet just upon seeing her. Juliet is not much different in being led by her hormones. Here is a young teenage girl that has been sheltered by her family, and happens to see a cute boy at a party.
Anyone who has been a teenager needs no explanation as to why Juliet is immediately attached to Romeo. Now this is where the distinction between a romantic and tragic love story, and what the play really is, becomes foggy to people. Probably the most inaccurate assumption about Romeo and Juliet is that courting and marriage at their age was a normal practice for Shakespeare’s time. Oh, how very wrong that is. For anyone whose been taught that in school, let me tell you now that that is a misconceived stereotype brought about by the play itself.
In Shakespeare’s time, people were encouraged to wait until around their early Thirties, or at an age where they were financially secure, much like our society today. And there is the other factor responsible for their deaths; the society they happen to be living in. All of Shakespeare’s plays take place in 16th century England, no matter where the setting of the play is. That means that Romeo and Juliet’s society is the same as Shakespeare’s, and his audience would have found Romeo and Juliet’s romance just as disturbing as anyone today would think of two teenagers of the same age being so hot for each other.
So in the end, when they are denied each other through a miscommunication, they kill themselves. Not the most intelligent of decisions. Instead of Romeo realizing that he will just be infatuated with the next beautiful girl that comes along, he kills himself. And instead of Juliet realizing what an idiot Romeo was and that there will be other cute boys, she does the same thing. The deaths of Romeo and Juliet are mostly theirs to blame, and theirs alone. The play “Romeo and Juliet” contains a great number of tragic events, all of which were influenced by different characters in the text.
The leading characters Lady and Lord Capulet, the Nurse and Friar influenced the main character’s suicide’s in some way. Romeo and Juliet’s death is the main tragedy in this play, and all characters directly influenced this. Lady and Lord Capulet were extremely distant in their daughter’s life, but this does not mean that they did not influence her. Neither of the parents showed their daughter any love – Lord Capulet tells his wife once told his wife that they had “a curse in having her” [Juliet] (III. 5 line 167).
Juliet’s primary caregiver, her nurse, boldly tells Capulet “You are to blame, my lord, to rate her so” III. 5 lines 168-169), questioning his upbringing or lack of it – of the child. Though Lady and Lord Capulet had little time for their daughter they still had a plan for her life the arranged marriage to Paris. This marriage was not out of love for their daughter but for their own benefit, for Paris was related to royalty which would bring the family a greater social reputation. The Capulet parents forced their daughter into disobedience – which morphed into love and eventually suicide – by using her to achieve their own desires. The Capulet parents were the root of the tragedy
As Juliet’s primary carer the Nurse had many opportunities to influence her decisions. The Nurse often acted as the messenger between Romeo and Juliet, saying to Romeo that her “young lady bid me inquire you out” (11. 4 lines 159-160) showing that her allegiance to the Capulet family did not lie with the parents but the child. As an adult the Nurse had the ability to stop the events at any time. Instead of allowing them to act as adult, and even at times encouraging them to do this, she should have stopped the events from progressing.
Only after Romeo is banished does she seem to find a sense of guilt for her actions, telling Juliet, “I think it best you married with the County [referring to Paris]”(III. 5, line 119). The Nurse cannot be blamed for all the tragic events, for she merely added to the problems the Capulet parents caused, but as Juliet’s mother figure she is certainly culpable. The Friar was a spiritual father and friend to both Romeo and Juliet, something which he took far too lightly. Though he was a priest, the text implies that he had great trouble distinguishing between helping and harming.
When the Friar is first introduced, he casually comments on the good uses that comes from nature and how they can be “strain’d from that fair use Revolts from true birth, stumbling on abuse” (II. 3 lines 19-20). As a priest, one would hope that the Friar would not abuse nature yet he does so. As an escape route for Juliet, the Friar offers her (most unwisely) a poison for her to drink. The text goes on to explain that Juliet, though doubtful, takes the Friar’s poison because he had been tried “a holy man” (IV. 3 line 29).
It must be said, however, that while Friar Laurence influenced the character’s actions, he cannot be held solely responsible. Romeo and Juliet viewed him as perfect, and although he was a priest he could never live up to this description. Still, Friar Laurence’s misuse of power paved the path for the teenager’s decisions. Romeo and Juliet must take most of the blame for the tragedy. While it can be argued that their actions were simply the product of those around them lack of discipline, foolish encouragement and advice from adults – the text suggests another possible interpretation.
It is true that these factors added to the tragedy, but it was ultimately Romeo and Juliet’s actions that lead to their own deaths. After Romeo heard of Juliet’s ‘death’ he was not told to kill himself, in this matter he given no council yet he did so. Likewise, when Juliet awoke in the tomb to find her dead lover, she was not instructed to kill herself. Rather, the Friar, who was with her, warned her by saying, “Stay not to question… Come, go, good Juliet” (V. 3, lines 158-160). Nevertheless Juliet stayed in the tomb and committed suicide.
The decisions made in the text were always in control of the teenagers, and though they were influenced by others they were never dictated. Romeo and Juliet’s actions led to their tragic deaths, and for that death they must take most of the blame. The text suggests that Lady and Lord Capulet, the Nurse and Friar all contributed to the tragic deaths of Romeo and Juliet, but it can not be ignored that Romeo and Juliet made their own decisions. For this reason I hold them responsible for their tragic deaths There is plenty of blame to go around for both Romeo’s and Juliet’s death.
While both young people ultimately took that last plunge into the abyss, the question is whether they had any choice in the matter. Certainly, Shakespeare’s most famous play is a warning against haste, rash decision-making, and over-heated passion. Still, there were so many variables involved in their untimely death, most specifically fate, that the young lovers had no real chance at all. Did they even have a choice? Based on the actions and reactions of Juliet’s family, Romeo’s friends, and timing itself, the answer is no.
The Prologue not only foretells the story’s events, it gives the audience all of the information needed to make this decision. If fate is written in the stars, we know their fate is star-crossed, tangled, confused. We know thefamily feud is going to be a determining factor, “from forth the fatal loins of these two foes/ a pair of star-crossed lovers take their life. ” The Montague-Capulet feud is toxic, and a punishment on the next generation, a Biblical concept. Also, every act and almost every scene in each act is replete with references to the stars.
As Juliet lies waiting for her new husband on their wedding night, she says she would like to cut him out in little stars. Romeo, smitten by Juliet’sbeauty, compares her eyes to the stars. Stars, stars, stars, fate, fate, fate. Yes, Romeo drank the poison and Juliet besmirched her perfect bosom, but if their friends and adults had acted in measure, Romeo’s and Juliet’s hot-headed passion might have been tempered and cooled until Fortuna’s wheel turned in their direction.
Wasn’t it Friar Lawrence who married the two against his better judgment? He noted that “these violent delights have violent ends. He knew better, and yet he married them in the thin hope that their love would end the families’ feuding. What if Friar Lawrence had simply required a day or a week to counsel the two? In our world today, most ministers require premarital counseling before a marriage (in the Catholic church it is four months). It was Friar Lawrence’s plan to conceal Juliet from Paris via the sleeping potion. Note, Friar Lawrence did not try to assist Juliet in meeting Romeo in Mantua which seems far less drastic. And what about those letters Friar Lawrence tried to send to Romeo.
Some might argue fate prevented the letters from reaching Romeo; some would say Friar Lawrence should have hand delivered such news of import. Clearly, Friar Lawrence’shands are bloody. The Nurse is the good friar’s female counterpart. She helped to arrange the marriage when clearly it was inappropriate, especially for their time. Yet, when Juliet’s father threatened to throw Juliet into the streets, something akin to a death sentence, the good Nurse did not back up her charge. Nurse would rather see Juliet enter into a bigamous relationship than stand up to Capulet.
Banishment was neither within Romeo’s will nor power to prevent, but Friar Lawrence and the Nurse conspired to ensure the lovers consummated their marriage, again putting Juliet in a no-win situation when Romeo left for Mantua. In turning her back on Juliet, the Nurse left the child bride to cope on her own. By virtue of her age and station, Juliet is a drama queen and acts as such. Ultimately though, the two might have survived if Fate had not turned such an ugly hand.
Romeo tried to resolve the conflict with Tybalt, “Tybalt, I have more cause to love thee… but Mercutio stepped in the way. In a blood feud, would a young man of that day let such a blow ride without revenge? No. Romeo was blinded with rage when he killed Tybalt, but it wasn’t what he wanted, and he seemed almost possessed at this point in the play. Call it temporary insanity. Neither did Romeo wish to die, but life without Juliet was no life at all. If only those letters had reached Romeo! How ironic considering Balthasar was able to enter Mantau, despite the quarantine, and give his friend the wrong information.
Also, had the apothecary acted by conscience instead of by greed, Romeo would not have had the means to so quickly kill himself (“Thy drugs are quick. “) Finally, Romeo was unable to read his lover’s face and discern life. He noted but did not understand when he said, “Death’s pale flag has not advanced here. ” He saw her red lips, her rosy cheeks and still believed she was dead. But then again, why would he think otherwise? How many live people are lying around in tombs? Let’s be reasonable. We know the end. Juliet awakened (surrounded by death in a tomb) just a few seconds too late to save Romeo.
If she had lived, what would her future be? Not even Paris survived. The body count was staggering, just as in a tragedy. It is tragic, except when viewed through the lens of Fate. The lovers were preordained to love one another eternally, and eternally they do live and love forever in Shakespeare’s pages and in the heavens. Their conception was the bitter medicine that cured embedded hatred that threatened Verona’s citizens. Romeo and Juliet define passion and romance and love, and these are things that no one can prevent, not even the lovers themselves.