‘Romeo and Juliet’ is one of the most world renowned plays by William Shakespeare; it is still performed, read and watched all around the world for many different purposes. The play deals with destiny, fate, rivalry, conflict, status and of course love. All the events take place within 72hours. The aim of this essay is to show who is responsible for the tragic deaths nearing the end of the play. Hopefully with all the analysis and evidence that will be collected about the characters that I have reason to chose, I will be able to make a fair conclusion.
As in any story there is always a complication and then solution without this the story would not be interesting and would be straight forward. In Romeo and Juliet this sequence of tragedy and rejoice carries on throughout the play many times with many people taking responsibility for their actions.
I have also ranked the characters which I believe where responsible for the out comings.
The first person that I am going blame is Romeo Montague; there are many reasons to why I have chosen him as the most responsible. In Act 1 Scene 1 we find out that Romeo is a fool for love, because the text says that Romeo is divested that he Rosalind, his cousin that he loves, does not love him. He feels that his fate is in the stars, as quoted “I feat too early, some consequence in the stars”. Benvolio takes Romeo to a party which will be held by the Montague’s enemy, the Capulets, as quoted in the script “Examine other beauties” By fate Romeo is overwhelmed by the beauty of Juliet and instantly falls in love again, this is fate or destiny because this is where the story begins, you may call it love at first sight.
So you could say that if Romeo had not accepted the offer to attend this party, knowing that it was held by the Capulets and that it could be dangerous, he still went through with it, if he had not then Romeo and Juliet would not have met meaning that he might have not been responsible for the tragic deaths at the end. We also see that this proves Romeo is a person that falls in and out of love, as quoted “did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight! For in ever saw true beauty”. As Juliet sighs out of love from her balcony, Romeo being the love sick puppy he is, jumps over the gate and approaches Juliet’s balcony, if this romantic scene had not occurred then Juliet would not have proposed, but you cannot be certain that if they had met again then the story might have been different, because they have only just met.
Knowing that both their families would never agree and be happy to this relationship Juliet proposes to Romeo, and he accepts. I believe it is Romeos fault for causing Juliet to propose because she has fallen in love, the fact that Romeo had come to Juliet’s balcony had triggered the tragic events, so Romeo is responsible, he should have gone straight home rather than ponder. Although, in the times of Romeo and Juliet people where expected to marry at a young age but they where not given a choice on who to marry, the parents decision was final. The next day Romeo confesses to Friar Lawrence of this relationship and he accepts to going through with this marriage. Romeo should have had longer to think about the situation instead he ran head first into getting the marriage arranged, which means he initiated first contact regards proposal through love at first sight and marriage arrangements.
Overall more time should have been spent on thinking about the relationships future as a replacement for speed of agreement. It is now a very hot afternoon and while looking for shade, Tybalt comes to Romeo determined to start the fight. Romeo tries to stop this because he knows that as he is married to a Capulet, Tybalt is family. The actions that occurred next where pivotal moment in the play and followed the sequence of ‘problem then solution’, the solution to Romeo not feeling so good was getting married to Juliet and now a problems follows after this as: Tybalt kills Mercutio by accident, which instantly causes Romeo to seek his own honour resulting in the death of Tybalt his cousin, and Romeo then realise what he has done then quotes “O’ I am fortunes fool”. Here shows that Romeo is responsible for the death of Mercutio and Tybalt because if he had not gone to the party in the first place he would not have to fight Tybalt and so Mercutio would not be killed. Taking revenge for someone death was the honourable thing to do even in this situation.
As Prince Escales hears of this news he then banishes Romeo. The nurse arranges for Romeo to meet up with Juliet and then they have sexual intercourse, although both their families know that nothing is going on. 400 years ago, young women were expected to be virgins on their wedding day, Virgins were highly valued and as Juliet was not a virgin anymore, partly Romeos doing, there would be more problems for Juliet. If Romeo had just waited outside Verona, then maybe Juliet could have run away to him, instead of faking her death and resulting in a tragic end; the sexual intercourse is partly Romeos fault and he is responsible for any outcomes from that.
While Romeo waits at Mantua, his servant tells him that Juliet is dead, not knowing that this was part of the Friars cunning plan, he buys poison so that he may kill himself because he has nothing to live for. If Romeo had waited only second later to take the poison, actually if he had waited in Mantua he maybe would have received the letter that the Friar had sent informing him of the plan, but he didn’t wait and as he takes the poison only seconds later he would have seen Juliet wake up from her fake death. So if Romeo had not acted so hasty and took things slow then the story would have been completely different and maybe they would have lived happily ever after.
Juliet, the lover of Romeo, is the second person that I am going to name responsible for the events in the story. Juliet is almost 14 years old and has received a marriage proposal from Paris, the Princes son. Young girls got married at a very young age in those times. In the family ball a man comes to Juliet and she falls in love with him, she then enquires to her nurse to who this man is the nurse replies that he is Romeo, a Montague. Juliet knows that any relation with Romeo would result in great disagreement with both families; she didn’t try once to forget him because of the problems that this would occur. Lord Capulet had arranged the ball so that she could meet Paris. If she had just ignored Romeo then nobody would have died at the end and then she would not be responsible for leading on Romeo as the story prevails.
When the ball is over Juliet is in her room, she sighs out for her new love little realising that Romeo is present. They talk and soon Juliet suddenly asks him “if thy bent of love be honourable, thy propose marriage, send me word tomorrow…” Juliet is responsible for the marriage and its outcomes, because she knows that her family will never accept to this, she also knows that she has already got a proposal of marriage from Paris and this was a decision made too quickly without time to think about it, however she still goes through with this marriage without doubt and severe consequences follow after this action including the tragic ending to her death.
Juliet returns to her house eagerly waiting for her husband so that they can make love. She knows that after they have had sex, it cannot be undone; she will not be virgin anymore and virgins where highly valued and her father thinks that she is a virgin and that is why the proposal from Paris agreed, if Juliet is found out not to be a virgin she might be exiled from the family because she did not obey her parents and because she has got married to a Montague, she would be treated like a whore, the marriage can still be annulled. The nurse enters and informs her that Romeo has killed her cousin Tybalt, nevertheless she still loves Romeo. Juliet still goes through with the arrangements and for that she is responsible, the loss of her virginity is mostly her fault because she could have said no, avoiding the tragedy at the end.
As dawn arises Romeo has to leave and while he climbs down Juliet sees a vision and the audience knows that this is a symbol of bad fortune, she sees him “as one dead in the bottom of a tomb”, Romeo dies saying “adieu, adieu!”. This is a bad sign and one to which Juliet ignores, but the fortune unravels itself, she could have acted to avoid the bad luck. Meanwhile, the marriage between Paris and Juliet is being arranged, the news is shortly told to Juliet however she hesitates and Lord Capulet is furious and tells her that if this marriage does not go through she will be thrown out “out, you green-sickness carrion! Out you baggage! You tallow-face!” She then turns to her faithful nurse who says that she should marry Paris and forget Romeo. This is the consequence of disobeying her parents decision, if in the first place she had listened to her parents non of this would have happened, her family would have had power and money, her father had found the best possible marriage possible so that the Capulets could arise in their status, but Juliet refused and sought her own way which in the end is the wrong way.
In those days marriages where arranged, the parents looked for the best man or woman so that the family could become richer or have more power, in this case if Juliet marries Paris, the Capulets would then be related to royalty. Juliet is still young and not fully capable of making he own decisions, so she should have asked for advice, primarily listen to her parents. Juliet then seeks for advice from the Friar who makes a plan which consists of taking a potion that makes you appear that you are dead, the affects of this is temporary. Juliet goes with the plan and heads to her father to tell him that she will go through with the wedding, with such good news her father decides to change the wedding day which was not on the plan. Although she is frightened that that Friar might be lying to save himself and the potion might actually kill her but she continues to drink it because it is her only hope, it quotes “what if it be a poison that the Friar subtly hath ministered to have me dead…” in the morning the nurse finds Juliet lying dead and a wedding is then turned into a funeral.
When Romeo hears of this news, he comes and kills himself. As Juliet wakes from her death she sees Romeo dead and realises that she has done wrong and that she is responsible, and I think that because she knows that it is her fault she kills herself. This tragedy could have been avoided right from the moment when she was told to leave; Juliet could have left and joined Romeo in Mantua where they would have lived together with their unhappy families behind them in Verona, or should could have avoided it form the very start when she realised he was a Montague, she should not have Proposed, she is not old enough to make her own decisions. 400 years ago a Friars job was to give advice to people, he made decisions based on truth and faith, he does not meddle in peoples affairs, he promotes peace and most of all did what was right. Friar Lawrence followed most of these principles, except one, he did not do what was right when.
Romeo came to the Friar asking him to marry Romeo and Juliet in secret, the Friar agrees because he thinks that this love that they have might break the feud between the families, as quoted “in one respect ill thy assistant be: for this alliance may so happy prove to turn your households rancour to pure love”. Breaking this principle of not getting advice and doing what he thinks is right means that afterwards a chain reaction of events unfolded. If the Friar had said “no”, because it was the right thing to do, then Mercutio would not have died, Juliet may have thought that he does not love her and she would move on, Paris would not have died and maybe Romeo would may have fallen in love with another girl, but of course we don’t know if this might have happened because it didn’t happen.
The first mistake that the Friar made was to marry Romeo and Juliet hastily, he should have consulted someone, and he should have asked Romeo and Juliet to ask their parents, he maybe should have got a second opinion. The second mistake the Friar made was making a very risky plan without thinking it through with Romeo and Juliet in the same room, he gave her the potion. Romeo on the other hand was sent a letter informing him of the plan, but he never received it on time, it was because maybe a town nearby Mantua was infested with the plague and that was the only way through, so the person carrying the letter would be told that he could not pass, in case he spreads the disease resulting in him to receiving valuable mail. The friar should have waited to see if a reply comes from Romeo before starting with the plan, although instead of sending the letter via another personal, he should have delivered the message himself, meaning that if he could not send the message he could come back and change the plan.
As the Friar had made many mistake which could mean the end of his career, he had a chance to come clean, he could have put poison into the potion that he gave to Juliet, but even the Friar was not that cold blooded. In act 5 scene 3, when the Juliet wakens she asks the Friar as to where her love is, the Friar explains and then tries to cover up involvement by asking Juliet “…come, I’ll dispose of thee among a sisterhood of holy nuns.” but Juliet refuses and the Friar runs away “I dare no longer stay.”, if the Friar had waited until someone had arrived he would have prevented he from killing herself. But even better, if he had stayed with her all the time while in her fake death, he could have greeted Romeo and then inform him of the plan, then the plan would have worked despite the plague barrier. Above all the Friar did not do his job properly and therefore he is responsible for these mistakes and tragedies.
Juliet’s Nurse is an affectionate person whose only desire is to please. She has breast fed Juliet and since then looked after her, you could say that she knows her better than her own mother. In those days families had a nurse to suckle and look after the baby if the mother couldn’t or didn’t want to do it. As the nurse is very close to Juliet she knew about the affair between her and Romeo. Firstly she was responsible for encouraging romantic ideas to Juliet. This means she influenced the romance when she should have stopped it because, yes her interest is in Juliet’s life, but the nurse should report to the parents because they are the head of the family. She also knows that Romeo is a Montague so she should have made the point that this was unacceptable very clear.
She is also a woman that changes her mind very quickly, because she first found out about this love that they had in the family ball when Juliet asks her as to whom the man is and she replies “his name is Romeo, and a Montague, the only son of your great enemy.” Then Juliet confesses her love, the nurse is surprised “what’s tis? What’s tis?” she could have stopped this by warning Juliet of the consequences, but she doesn’t.
As the love story continues and Juliet proposes to Romeo, they both decide to have the nurse as their messenger. The nurse could have simply refused. She then returns to Juliet who is eagerly waiting, at this point in the book we see the nurse has a sense of humour when she mocks Juliet as quoted “lord, how my head aches!… my back a’t’other side-ah, my back, my back…”. What the nurse should have been doing is advising and taking care of Juliet rather than encouraging her, she is still very young. This is not a humorous event because it is wrong, She is still aware that Romeo is a Montague, but still has not acted or advised upon the situation. Her laid back attitude may have cost Juliet her life.
After the marriage, the nurse helped arrange the wedding night even though Romeo had been banished. The marriage was a behind the back of the parents, but bringing Romeo back after he is banished is behind the back of the Prince, if they had found out about these arrangements then the nurse would have been severely punished. The next day Juliet’s family are very cross that she has hesitated in the marriage proposal from Paris, Juliet then turns to the nurse who says ” faith, here it is: Romeo is banish’d … I think it best you married the County. O, he’s a lovely gentleman!…” this shows even the nurse is afraid of the parents, and finally she abides by them which she should have done in the first place. The right thing to do at this point in the story would be to help Juliet, she has already married Romeo and therefore stay with him, the nurse should have helped her escape and then run away with Romeo, and in someway make her look innocent. If this had happened then there would not have been so many deaths at the end.
Overall the nurse was like the middle person but if she had refused then none of this love would have continued. As the nurse is close with the family, she should have informed the parents and in that way they could have looked after Juliet and do what is best. The scene in which Romeo and Juliet meet for the first time and where the love and tragedies starts is the fault of Benvolio, Romeo close friend. If Benvolio had just left Romeo and never had thought of his cunning plan in which Romeo could meet other women, then the whole story would not have unfolded as it did. So the most responsibility could be dropped on the head on Benvolio for taking Romeo to a ball which is hosted by the Capulets, the enemy of the Montague’s. Benvolio must have known this but still goes ahead with attending this event. As it quotes “at this same ancient feat of Capulet’s … compare her face with some that I shall show…”
Romeo then agrees what he does not know is that Benvolio is right and that in the ball Rosalind will be forgotten and he will find someone who will resemble the difference between a crow and a swan. While at the ball Tybalt is watching and this means that there will be a consequence to this action that Benvolio has arranged. Tybalt is the cousin of Juliet and is a Capulet. He resembles the hatred between the families. He is embedded with pride and honour as it says in the story that he is a great swordsman. He sends a letter challenging Romeo in a duel, as quoted: “Tybalt the kinsman to old Capulet, hath sent letter to his fathers house”. These events were normal in the time of Romeo and Juliet, if you were dishonoured, you then would declare a duel. Pride, honour, status, power and wealth was the key to surviving, if you didn’t have these qualities then you were lower class, servants, you were at the lowest. Tybalt had so much pride that it was the reason he died.
I think that if Tybalt had not started the fight then Mercutio would have lived, both of the families might have gained peace, while Romeo and Juliet would still be in love. In the story Tybalt represents the pride and the grudge between the families. Tybalt had no effect on the arrangements of marriage, because Romeo and Juliet still had sex, this killing should have mattered and evidently postpone the meeting. Apart from Romeo and Balthazar, the Montague family is not mentioned very much in the story, the only scene that they are mentioned is in act 1 scene 1 where a fight breaks loose. Boys where not looked after as much as girls 400 years ago. Although if they were looked after more then Romeo would not have been love sick, and seeking attention, this would have eased the effect of the first meeting of Romeo and Juliet and they could have ignored it due to the Circumstances.
The Capulet family on the other hand were mentioned in the play many times. Firstly, Lord Capulet wishes to raise his family’s status and climb the social ladder of his society, and the only way to do this is to arrange a marriage between Paris (a nobleman) and his only daughter Juliet as quick as possible before Paris spies another beauty! But we as the audience know that Juliet has just married Romeo, has lost her virginity and does not wish to marry Paris, this refusal of marriage from his daughter makes Lord Capulet very angry and he then threatens Juliet by telling her that she will be thrown out of the house to live on the streets. The children had to obey their parents especially the men, meaning that when it comes to marriage, the parents made the final decision so that the family could gain social status. Women/girls had no say or freedom they were expected to do what they were told. It was a patriarchal society.
So Lord Capulet has to take some responsibility because he should have done what his daughter wanted and not do what is best for him, love is more valuable than status. If he had not insisted on the marriage then the deaths at the end would not have occurred and in time he could have agreed to the marriage of Romeo and Juliet meaning that both families would have peace. So Lord Capulet kept the feud alive when he could have stopped it and he did not pay attention to his daughter, he only cared about honour, pride and social status. Nearing the end of the story we read that Balthazar, Romeos servant sees Juliet dead, he then informs Romeo, causing Romeo to go to the apothecary to get some poison so that he could kill himself because his only love has died. Balthazar could be responsible because he saw that Juliet was lying dead without confirmation or any information, so if he had got the information then the deaths at the end would not have occurred.
But he cannot be blamed of the death because he did not know of the plan that the Friar and Juliet had schemed, this is the first time we hear of Balthazar throughout the play. This is an argument that can be strongly decided from both points of view. Personally I think that he could not be blamed because even if he stayed to get the information, the only person that knew that Juliet was in a fake death is the Friar and Juliet, but again Balthazar does not know this so he cannot be held responsible. In the time of Romeo and Juliet people believed in Fate and destiny and this story shows why, it was fate and destiny that brought them together, and it was fate and destiny that killed them. I personally don’t believe in coincidences because I believe that everything happens for a reason. It was fate that an illiterate servant should ask Benvolio of all the people, to read a guest-list for him; it was destiny that Romeo and Juliet died at the end.
Romeo and Juliet are described in the prologue as “Stars-crossed lovers take their life” which somehow sums up the story. ‘Stars-crossed lovers’ meaning fate/destiny has brought them together and ‘take their lives ‘meaning they die. But overall you cannot hold fate and destiny responsible because it is a substance; it is philosophical and therefore cannot be blamed. In conclusion, to answer the essay query, in my own personal view, I think that fate and destiny is responsible for the tragic deaths at the end of the play; however fate and destiny is like religion you do not know if it exists and that is why you have to trust reality and evidence. Therefore in reality I would blame the families, the behaviour and perspectives of the people at that time.
Romeo and Juliet show that there is more to life than pride, honour and status; and life without love is useless and not worth living because all it causes is hurt, towards the end this is truth is revealed and the audience know that from then on life will be peaceful for both families. If in the beginning people cared more about other people than themselves then none of this would have happened. As we see in the opening scene, a battle between the families representing the anger and feud they had for each other. The right thing to do would be to hold a truce, meaning that they should act like mature people and sit down and talk about this rather than try to kill each other.
If there was peace between the families from the start then none of this would have happened. Romeo and Juliet may have fallen in love and both families would have agreed because they would have loved their children so much that they would do what was right. Tybalt may not have been killed, the marriage may not have been prepared in secrecy, the Friar would not have been in the situation were he might loose his career, Juliet would not have had been threatened of being thrown to from her home to live on the streets, Mercutio would not have died, Romeo would not have died and of course so wouldn’t Juliet.
They would have lived happy knowing that their parents are happy too. but as I have mentioned in the beginning of this essay, a story without a dilemma then a solution would not be an interesting story, it would be dull, people in the time of Shakespeare did not want to come to the globe theatre to watch a sissy love play, they want to see blood, they want to see pain, suffering, fighting, romance, betrayal and humour, these all make a great story and Romeo and Juliet has nearly all of them. That is why it is so successful. Finally, I strongly believe that the perspectives of all the people at that period of time, mainly both the family leaders are responsible for the deaths of Romeo and his wife Juliet at the end of the play.