William Shakespeare was born on 23rd April in Stratford-upon-Avon. Shakespeare as he was better known was England’s greatest poet and play writer of all time. He started play writing in 1595 and produced 38 plays in his lifetime. These include titles such as Twelfth Night, Hamlet, Macbeth and A Midsummer Nights Dream. However this essay is focusing on the play of Romeo and Juliet.
Romeo and Juliet was one of the earliest plays produced by Shakespeare. It is the tale of a love affair between two children in rival families the Capulets and the Montagues.
The two children Romeo (a Montague) and Juliet (a Capulet) met at a Capulet ball and instantly fall in love. They secretly marry in Friar Laurence’s cell but their relationship is cut short when Romeo kills Tybalt in revenge for him killing his friend Mercutio. For this Romeo is banished from the streets of Verona to Manuta by the Prince Escalus.Meanwhile the Capulets have arranged for Juliet to marry Paris.
However Juliet refuses to marry him and in a desperate attempt to prevent it going ahead she drinks a potion, which makes her ‘dead’ for 24 hours. When Romeo hears of her ‘death’ he rushes back to Verona to see her. When he sees her in the vault he kills himself in a bid to join her in heaven. Then when Juliet wakes up and sees Romeo dead she stabs herself with a knife so they can be joined together again.Tragedy is a main factor in the story of Romeo and Juliet. Many problems occur during the play and it seems to the audience that the problems are easy to overcome. However the characters do not seem able to realise the simplicity of this. This leads the audience to think, ‘if only…’ This sort of situation is called dramatic irony.During the Elizabethan times marriage was arranged by the father of the house. In this play Lord Capulet arranges for Juliet to marry Paris. As Juliet refuses to marry him Capulet threatens to throw her out. This was very common during this time. Capulet’s intent is shown here,”Graze where you will, youshall not house with me.”With parental permission boys were allowed to marry at 14 and girls at 12. However many people considered this too young. This can be related to Romeo and Juliet. They were both really young and had never experienced true love before. They were ready to rush into things when they should have stopped and thought about the consequences.Fate is mentioned very often throughout the course of the play. It was a major factor in the lives of Romeo and Juliet and brought them together. It appears as early as the prologue. It says that their love is ‘death marked’ and they have no control over what happens. This quote backs up what I have just said,”A pair of star-crossed lovers take their loves.”It is necessary to consider fate, as this is another main factor in the play. There are many things that can be used to describe fate. However I feel that the best definition of fate is that it is a power, which is supposed to settle how things will happen ahead of time.Many people believed in fate during the Elizabethan times and it has a major effect on the story of Romeo and Juliet. Many people believe that the death of Romeo and Juliet was down to fate. However there are many other factors which could have had and effect on their tragic deaths. These include Friar Laurence, the feud between the Montague and Capulet families and the youthful passion between the two lovers. But who is really to blame?Firstly I will look at their youthful passion. Romeo and Juliet were 14 and 13 respectively. In many peoples opinion this was considered too young to get married. Even Capulet felt that Juliet was not ready. In response to Paris asking for Juliet’s hand in marriage Capulet quotes,”My child is yet a stranger in the world,She hath no seen the change of fourteen years,Let two more summers wither in their pride,Ere we many think her ripe to be a bride.”He is saying that Juliet has not experienced really love and that she needs two more years until she is ready for marriage. In the quote he uses a metaphor. The metaphor uses a fruit. Shakespeare’s use of metaphor has a powerful affect on the audience. He uses it to say that Juliet needs to ‘ripen’ like a fruit until she is ready. Capulet uses this as a sexual reference in order to emphasise her young age. Shakespeare is effective in reminding the audience of Juliet’s innocence. This is a very clever way of writing used by Shakespeare.Neither Romeo nor Juliet had really experienced true love before. However they were prepared to rush into marriage even though they knew what problems it could cause. This quote shows how they are prepared to rush into the marriage,JULIET: “What satisfaction canst thou have tonight?”ROMEO: “Th’ exchange of thy love’s faithful vow for mine.”JULIET: I gave thee mine before thou didst request it;Would it were to given again.”This quote tells me that they are ready to get married although they have only just met. It is love at first sight and the idea of getting married at such a young age raises doubt in the readers mind.However later on in the passage we can see that Juliet is acting in a more mature manner in contrast to her earlier speech. This quote describes her feelings on their agreement,”I have no joy of this contract tonight,It is too unadvised, too sudden: too like lightening.”It tells me that Juliet feels that they are rushing into the marriage. She wants to get to know him better. This shows how the attitude and behaviour of teenagers change so rapidly.Romeo was a very gentle and loving man. Unlike the majority he was not interested in fighting but in love. Here are some of Romeo’s thoughts,”Alas that love, whose view is muffled still,should without eyes she pathways to his will.Where shall we dine?O me, what fray was here?Yet tell me not for I have heard it all”However Romeo acted very hastily throughout the play. In Act One scene One Romeo is grieving over Rosaline not returning his love,”Out of her favour where I am in love.”This tells me that he loves Rosaline and in the same scene he is expressing his love for her to Benvolio,”A word ill urged to one that is so ill.In sadness cousin I do love a women.”However in Act One Scene Five Romeo sees Juliet for the first time and he instantly forgets about Rosaline.Here Romeo is describing the beauty of Juliet,”O she doth teach the torches to burn bright.It seems she hangs upon the cheek of nightLike a rich jewel in Ethiop’s ear.Beauty too rich for use for earth to dear.This is an example of love and first sight. He is saying that Juliet helps the torches to burn bright. Here Shakespeare is using a metaphor again. The metaphor is showing what effect her extreme beauty has on people. Also during this quote Romeo is talking in rhyme.When someone is speaking in rhyme it draws the attention of the audience. It is easy to listen too and is audiosly attentive to the audience. During this play it is mainly the posh people who talk in rhyme. This style of writing is called iambic pentameter. This is another example of Shakespeare’s different writing methods. When people are talking in rhyme it is often associated in love and this can be applied here. It shows that although Romeo has just met Juliet he is already talking of his love for her. Here is another quote form Romeo describing Juliet,”For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night.”From this quote I am left wondering how his feelings have changed so quickly. Only earlier that same day he had been saying how he loved Rosaline so much but now it is obvious that he has forgotten all about her.Juliet also acts hastily during the play. In Act One Scene Three Juliet and her mother are talking about marriage. Juliet says that she has never thought about getting married and does not want to rush into anything. In answer to Lady Capulets question Juliet quotes,”It is an honour that I dream not of.”However in Act Two, Scene Two Juliet contradicts herself by agreeing to marry Romeo,”I gave thee mine before thou didst request it;And yet I would it were to give again.”At the beginning she seems very sensible and grown up. However it is evident here that she is actually quite young and vulnerable.Nevertheless this may have something too with her mother, Lady Caplet. She often neglected Juliet when she was younger leaving the nurse to bring her up and care for her. Therefore their relationship was never very close and this probably made Juliet feel insecure.Another example of hastiness by Romeo and Juliet is evident in Act One Scene Five. When they discover that they are from the two enemy families this threatens to destroy their relationship. This quote shows Juliet’s anguish at finding out the news,”My only love sprung from my only hate,Too early seen unknown and known too late!Prodigious birth of love it is to me,That I must love a loathed enemy.”However they ignore the possible problems, which could face them and decide to proceed with the marriage. In this situation they should have stopped and thought about the possible consequences which may face them. They should have known that their marriage would have never been accepted but their love for each other made them ignore this problem. This once again shows how young and vulnerable they both are.Romeo’s hastiness to get married is questioned by Friar Laurence. When Romeo asks him to marry him and Juliet he questions him over his love for Rosaline. This quote justifies my statement,”Holy Saint Francis, what a change is here!Is Rosaline whom thou didst love so dear,So soon forsaken?”He quickly denies his love for her and says that him and Juliet are in love. He pleads with Friar Laurence to marry them and he gives in. His haste to get married is evident in Line 93.”O let us hence, I stand on sudden haste.”Romeo also shows haste later on in the play. When he finds out about Juliet’s death he rushes back to Verona without thinking about the consequences. This shows him making his rash decision to go back to Verona,”And hire those horses: I’ll be with thee straight.Well, Juliet, I will lie with thee tonight.”This tells me that he really loves Juliet. Even though she is supposedly dead he wants to go back so he can be with her. However his haste to be reunited with her proves fatal. When he finds Juliet in the vault he kills himself so he can join Juliet in heaven. If he had not been so hasty in this decision then Juliet would have woken up and they would have been reunited anyway.Both characters were very young and vulnerable. It is possible to see that if they were older and more mature they might have thought things over more carefully but in the end their haste and youthful passion helped lead them to their deaths.Another issue, which needs to be considered, is what affect the feud between the Capulets and Montague’s had on the deaths of Romeo and Juliet. For centuries these two families were sworn enemies. However in this play their grudge turns into a new mutiny,”From ancient grudge break to new mutiny.”They were the wealthiest families in Verona and both wished to gain control over the city. Their feud is evident right at the start of the play when the bitter enemies have a fight in the street causing much damage and disturbance to the citizens of Verona. In response to this the Prince warns them that if such fighting was to be seen again then they would be punished for their actions,”If you disturb our streets again,Your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace.”These fights and quarrels helped the feud to continue. This immense rivalry and hatred helped cause the death of Romeo and Juliet. Many members of each family could be blamed for their part in the deaths.Tybalt was one of the main aggressors in the fighting. He, more than anyone kept the feud between the two families going. He was always looking for trouble. For example at the Capulets ball when he noticed Romeo he instantly told Capulet of his presence. However Capulet ignored him and scolded him for wanting to pick a fight. This just made Tybalt more angry and determined to get revenge over the Montagues. This quote shows his intent,”Patience perforce with wilful choler meeting.Makes my flesh tremble in their different greeting.I will withdraw, but this intrusion shall,Now seeming sweet, convert to bitterest gall.”This sort of behaviour and thinking by Tybalt is one of the main reasons why the feud continued. He was always ready to pick a fight.On the other hand Benvolio was very against fighting. He felt that the feud had gone on long enough and wanted to put an end to it. He tries to put a stop to the fight at the start,”Part fools,Put up your sorwds, you know not what you do.”However he was the one who told Romeo to go to the ball. This quote justifies my statement.”By giving liberty unto thine eyes.Examine other beauties.”This quote has a big affect on the play because if Romeo had not taken Benvolio’s advice then he would have never met Juliet.Then there was Mercutio. He behaved in the same manner as Tybalt. He enjoyed getting into quarrels and saw the feud as a game. Benvolio tried to discourage him from fighting Tybalt. However Mercutio was determined to fight,Men’s eyes were with you sir, here comes my man.I will not budge for no man’s pleasure, I.”This self-centred attitude of Mercutio eventually led to his death and Romeo’s banishment form Verona. Romeo was not really a violent man and did not enjoy fighting but in revenge for Mercutio’s death he killed Tybalt leading to his banishment. If he had stayed in Verona he could of carried on with the Friars plan but as he was in Mantua he did not get the message.It could be that Lord Montague and Lord Capulet were partly responsible for keeping the feud going. Their attitude towards the fighting was very negative. They could have stopped the quarrelling but both acted quite childish. They were both very selfish as they put their pride and feud between the Montagues before the people of Verona and their own family. This is one of the reasons why Juliet was so vulnerable. They could have ended the feud and Romeo and Juliet would have been free to get married.The behaviour of Lord Capulet and Lord Montague was very immature and did not send out a good example to the other family members. For example when they arrive at the fight at the start of the play they want to join in but it obvious that they are too old. They are both very foolish. These quotes show their foolishness and hatred for each other,CAPULET: What noise is this? Give me my long sword, ho!LADY CAPULET: A crutch, a crutch! Why call you for a sword?CAPULET: My sword I say! Old Montague is come,And flourishes his blade in spite of me.MONTAGUE: Thou villain Capulet! Hold me not, let me go!”However at the end the two families realise what they bitter rivalry has caused and feel guilty about it. If only the had done something early then it could of helped prevent the deaths of Romeo and Juliet.The Nurse played a big part in the marriage. She encouraged Juliet to find her true love. When she hears of Romeo she acts as a messenger for Juliet. She helps set up the marriage. As the Nurse she should have not become so involved. By doing so this she was supporting Juliet in her unadvised problem and being unfaithful to the Capulet family.I now need to consider Friar Laurence’s part in their deaths. In many peoples opinion he was to blame for the tragic deaths. Firstly he agrees to marry them even though he feels that their hasty marriage may lead to a catastrophic outcome. He feels that it is too sudden and unadvised and thinks that it might end as quickly as it started. This quote shows his thoughts on the matter.”This violent delights have violent endsAnd in their triumph die, like fire and powder,Which, as they kiss, consume.”It was very unwise of the Friar to marry them under such circumstances as proved later. He knew what he was doing was wrong but he went ahead with it anyway. He felt that he could help solve the problems between the two families but it only made matters worse. This quote shows the Friar’s change of heart,”In one respect I’ll thy assistant be,For this alliance may so happy proveTo turn your household’s rancor to pure love.”As the Friar was a religious and holy man he always saw the good side of things. However this could sometimes be the wrong action to take as proven here. The Friars good intentions led to bad results.The Friar was also a very selfish man. When he heard of the news that Juliet was to marry Paris he felt guilty. This is because he would be committing a sin if he married them as Juliet was already married to Romeo. Romeo and Juliet would also be committing a sin if the marriage was to go ahead. I feel that this was one of the reasons why she did not want to marry Paris. Therefore out of guilt Friar Laurence gave Juliet the potion so she could appear dead and not go through with the proposed marriage. This quote shows the Friar given instructions to Juliet,”Let no the nurse lie with thee in thy chambrer.Take thou this vial, being then in bed.”However I feel that this was the wrong decision to make. It was very rash decision and just complicated things. To me it was the potion more than anything else, which led to their deaths. If he had realised the possible consequences and faced up to his sins then their deaths could have been prevented.Another example of his guilt comes near to the end of the play. When Juliet wakes up the Friar tells her that Romeo is dead and his whole plan is abolished. He tells Juliet to escape with him,”Come, I’ll dispose of theeAmong a sisterhold of nunsStay not to question, for the watch is coming.Come, go, good Juliet. I dare no longer stay.”Juliet refuses to leave but full of guilt the Friar does for fear that he will be in trouble for his involvement in the deaths. If he had stayed then he would have been able to take the dagger out of Juliet’s hand and prevent her from killing herself.Finally Friar Laurence fails to send the letter telling Romeo of the plan. By this time he has become so involved and is not thinking straight. He should have known that the message would not arrive before Juliet’s death. This was the most critical part of the play. If Romeo did not get the message then the chances where that the story would end in disaster. This quote shows Friar Laurence’s disgust at the letter not being delivered to Romeo,”The letter was not nice, but full of chargeOf dear import: and the neglecting itMay do much danger.”By this stage the Friar had realised what he had done. He was worried and scared as he actions later proved. The failure of Romeo not receiving the letter had a big impact on the play. If he had known of the plan then he would have not killed himself but be reunited with Juliet instead.Due to this and the other points made early the Friar had a lot to do with the deaths of Romeo and Juliet. He became too involved and every time he tried to do something good he just made the situation worse. Although he had good intentions he shouldn’t have got so involved.So finally I come to the theory of fate. Could this really have killed Romeo and Juliet? Well fate is mentioned several times throughout the play. In fact it can be seen as early as the Prologue. Here it says that their love is ‘death marked.’ This tells me that their love was destined to end in tragedy.Fate drastically affected the lives of Romeo and Juliet. Destiny led Romeo to bump into the servant and consequently discover the staging of the Capulets party. He went to the ball in order to find Rosaline and compare her to other beauties and fate led him to Juliet.Juliet is also hit badly by fate. She goes to the ball to see Paris but fate leads her to Romeo and they instantly fall in love.Fate was very common in the Elizabethan time as many people believed in it and the effects it had on the world. Romeo is a good example of one of these believers. He more than anyone tempted fate. In Act Two Scene Two he compares Juliet to the sun, stars and heavens.”Two of the fairest star in all the heaven,Having some business, do entreat her eyesTo twinkle in their spheres till they return.”This talk of the Gods and the Stars make the audience think about bigger things, which are in control of our lives. He also blames the death of Juliet on the stars,”Is it even so?Then I defy you stars.”However Romeo is not the only who tempts fate. Friar Laurence also talks about how the heavens blessed their marriage. This quote shows him tempting fate,”So smile the heavens upon the holy act.That after-hours with sorrow chide us no!”This quote tells me that he thinks because the marriage has the blessing of the heavens that nothing will go wrong. However in making this statement he is very wrong as proved later.Romeo is so in love with Juliet that he tempts fate over his future life,”Then love – devouring death do what he dare.It is though I may but call her mine.”In this quote he is saying that he is not worried about death. He is only interested in the present. This is an example of his predetermined death.The Friar warns Romeo about people who act impulsively often have negative and destructive consequences. However Romeo ignores this advice and continues to tempt fate. The consequences of Romeo constantly referring to fate are that he is banished from Verona for killing Tybalt. He is being punished for thinking that he and Juliet would be together forever.However Juliet also tempts fate. When she drinks the potion she quotes,”Romeo! Romeo! Romeo! I drink to thee.”Here Juliet is tempting fate because she feels that her and Romeo will be reunited. This is silly of her as there are many things that could have gone wrong after she had taken the potion.Romeo has a dream foreshadowing his future. His dream was that Juliet found him dead and kissed him to bring him back to life. This is once again fate showing what is going to happen before the time of the event.Juliet also talks about fate in Act Three Scene Two. She asks,”Can the Heavens be so envious?”Here Juliet is deeply sad that their marriage cannot be accepted.She is referring to heaven as a person who is jealous of the love Romeo and Juliet have for each other.We see later on in the story how fate is once again not on their side. When Friar Laurence sends the plan regarding Juliet’s ‘death’ to Romeo it never reaches him due to a quarantine. Due to the power of fate Romeo arrives too early and finds Juliet asleep. He mistakenly thinks she is dead and consequently kills himself. Then Juliet wakes up moments later only to find that he has killed himself.In Act Four Scene Five the Friar talks of fate.”Heaven and yourself had part in this fair maid,now heaven hath all…”He is suggesting that the heavens planned for the death of Juliet. Here I think he is feeling a bit guilty and nervous that the plan will not work.The list of things showing the affect of fate on the play is long. Due to the repetitive association with fate the audience is left to think, if only.In conclusion to this section destiny in the form of fate destroyed the love between Romeo and Juliet. Everything was against them. It took over them and consequently led them to their deaths.Now I need to come to a conclusion. Who was, really to blame for the deaths of Romeo and Juliet?Was it Romeo and Juliet themselves? Well they were both young and silly. Neither of them had experienced true love before. However because they were so young I don’t think they really understood what they were getting themselves into. They were both hasty with their decisions but this was only to be accepted of two young lovers at their age. At the end of the day they were in love and they felt that nothing could get in the way of their happiness. They got married regardless of their feuding families and felt so strongly for each other that they killed themselves so they could be together in heaven. To me this was just two children enjoying their youthful passion. They did not intend for it to end this way.Secondly I looked at Friar Laurence. Yes, he did make many mistakes, which led to the deaths of Romeo and Juliet. However everything he did had a good intention behind it. For instance he agreed to marry Romeo and Juliet, but only because he thought that it might stop the Montagues and Capulets from fighting. His willingness to take risks for his friends is another example of how he only had people best intentions at heart. An example of his willingness to take risks is evident when he gives Juliet the potion. This could have aroused many problems but the Friar was willing to take this risk and he thought that it was for the best. Although the Friar was slightly selfish during times in the play he realised that he had done wrong and asked for forgiveness. This quote shows him asking for forgiveness.”And her I stand both to impeach and purgeMyself condemned and myself excused.”This underlines how he was only trying to do his best for everyone concerned.Finally I come to talk of fate. Was fate really to blame for their deaths? Well I think not. Although fate was tempted many times during the play I don’t believe it caused their final deaths. Yes fate did bring them together and made them marry under the difficult circumstances. However fate did not tell Romeo to kill Tybalt. It was his anger, which caused him to get revenge. If he had not got banished then he would have been able to stay with Juliet and persuade her not to drink the deadly potion. If these events had not happened then they could probably have not died in the same fashion as they did. This brings me onto the really people to blame for the deaths of Romeo and Juliet.In the end it came down to the Family feud. Quite simply, if both families were in harmony with each other then there would have been no problem with Juliet and Romeo getting married. They would have been accepted by both families and been able to live a normal life. However this was not the case and they had to keep the marriage secret. Nevertheless it was not only Lord Capulet and Lord Montague who was to blame. Other members of each family were involved in the deaths. Tybalt was the main culprit. He provoked Romeo into killing him and therefore Romeo was banished. However the innocent Benvolio also played his part. He was the one that told Romeo to ‘examine other beauties.’ He encouraged him to go to the Capulets ball where he met Juliet. If he had not given him this advice then he would probably have never seen Juliet and fell in love with her. So in my opinion Benvolio however innocent his advice might have been was as much to blame as anyone else from the two families.Although I think that the family feud is mainly to blame for the deaths of Romeo and Julie nobody can be blamed entirely. It was a number of small things that contributed to their deaths not just one thing. Everyone that I have mentioned played their part.