The Motif of Astrology in William Shakespeare's Play Romeo and Juliet

Beginning with the prologue, Shakespeare informs the readers about a longstanding conflict between the two main families, the Montagues and the Capulets. This issue becomes multi-dimensional when Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet meet, and subsequently fall in love. Therefore, the rift between the two households becomes an overarching conflict within the narratives of the two lovers. To fully express the challenge of Romeo and Juliet’s future relationship, Shakespeare reveals “From forth the fatal loins of these two foes/ A pair of star- crossed lovers takes their life.

” Referencing the commonly held belief that astrology could determine a person’s fate; Victoria Bladen elaborates on how it was used during the sixteenth century. “Hithere was widespread belief in the influence the planets and stars exerted over individuals. Many people believed that the particular configuration of the stars in the sky… determined the events that would occur in their life”.

Adding in Bladen’s quote, Shakespeare is pitting Romeo and Juliet not just against their feuding families, but against fate itself.

There is question whether “star»crossed lovers” suggests that their paths are meant to cross or their stars will not allow them to be together. Maurice Charney in her novel “Shakespeare on Love and Lust” discusses her view on the verse, “‘Star»crossed’ means astrologically fated or unlucky; it does not imply that there is anything wrong with the lovers or that they do anything to incur disastrous consequences. According to the chorus, the death of the lovers is necessary to end the feud between their families” (p.

Get quality help now

Proficient in: Fiction

4.7 (657)

“ Really polite, and a great writer! Task done as described and better, responded to all my questions promptly too! ”

+84 relevant experts are online
Hire writer

87). Her perspective suggests that Romeo and Juliet acted as sacrifices to end their parents‘ feud, that their story was orchestrated to end before it even began. The concept of “written in the stars” is a huge factor in Shakespeare‘s plays specifically Romeo and Juliet.

As early as the prologue, Shakespeare uses celestial imagery to give the reader a much deeper insight into Romeo and Juliet. When astrology is not used to describe their love> or describe each other, it is used as foreshadowing to their fate. Multiple characters cite this ill-boding feeling throughout Romeo and Juliet but the first to mention it is Romeo in act one scene four. Mercutio, a fellow Montague and Romeo‘s friend, has convinced Romeo to sneak into the Capulets‘ ball. This is ultimately where Romeo and Juliet first meet but Romeo has had an auspicious dream. He confides, “mmy 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” (p.67-68). Unbeknownst to Romeo and Juliet, the audience already knows how the tragedy is going to unfold. In a manner, Shakespeare has casted the audience into the role of fate by watching Romeo and Juliet act out the scenario that the audience knows is going to happen. Shakespeare also allows the audience to become the two lovers as well.

Even though the audience is aware to the ending of the story, they have no more power to stop or change the ending. The audience is subject to the will of fate just as Romeo and Juliet are. Romeo is not the only character who senses a dangerous vibe. Juliet in act three scene five, discovers that she is to be wed to Paris and is begging her father to reconsider. “[SIC] My husband is on earth, My faith in heaven; / Now shall that fate return again to earthmAlack, alack, that heaven should pratise stratagems/ Upon so soft a subject as myself” (R 211). Again, Shakespeare references the power and control that the heavens have over his characters This is a major theme throughout the play that Shakespeare uses celestial imagery to raise the question; do human beings really possess freewill and choice over their lives, or is life predetermined and ‘written in the stars’? Most likely one of the most recognizable scenes in Romeo and Juliet would be the balcony scene in act two, scene two.

Romeo is calling out from the garden for Juliet, who is up in her room, so that he can see her again after their first meeting earlier that night. Both Romeo and Juliet exchange monologues that include multiple celestial references but in this scene, they are used to describe, instead of to warn or inform. For example, the line quoted from the prologue is intended to inform the audience of Romeo and Juliet’s fater In this scene, the stars become an adjective that Romeo uses in his monologue to describe Juliet. ”Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven,/ Having some business, do entreat her eyes/ To twinkle in their spheres till they return/ What if her eyes were there, they in her head?/ The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars” (P. 95). Romeo is comparing Juliet’s eyes to stars, but ultimately rationalizing that she surpasses the stars, her beauty would “shame those stars.” Bladen theorizes that the celestial imagery overall, “allocates Romeo and Juliet‘s love on a higher plane, and presents it as something ethereal and celestial, transcendent yet destined to be brief“.

Shakespeare’s celestial references create the analogy between Romeo and Juliet and the stars themselves, As a shooting star shines brilliantly across the sky, it is also temporary and fleeting; Romeo and Juliet’s love burns passionately but ultimately burns out quickly. Here, Shakespeare is ultimately suggesting that love has no qualifications; it is not determined by time, or age, and is certainly not stopped by a household feud. Between these two young people, Shakespeare offers his own shooting star romance by reusing celestial images in relation to Romeo and Juliet, placing them among the stars. Lastly, as astrology was used in the introduction of the play, it’s throughout the conclusion as wellt In the suicide scene, act five scene three, Romeo believes that Juliet is actually dead, because he doesn’t know she’s been given a sleeping potion, so he commits suicide so he will not have to live without her.

Juliet then wakes up and sees Romeo is dead beside her, so she commits suicide too As Romeo is about to kill himself, he delivers a monologue about each sense being his last. He declares, “0, here/ Will I set up my everlasting rest,/ And shake the yoke of inauspicious stars/ from this world wearied flesh” (Pl 282). Romeo finally comes to the conclusion that the “inauspicious stars” have been against the couple from the very beginning, even before they met. This is his final realization; he has come to know what the audience has known all along Juliet does not have the opportunity to know this because she dies too quickly but Shakespeare has still made his point, As passionate as Romeo and Juliet’s love was, they too could not escape the cold hands of fate. Shakespeare‘s use of celestial imagery creates excellent continuity throughout the entire play of Romeo and Juliet. He manages to make the audience hope for a positive ending for the two lovers, all the while knowing that there is none.

He‘s inspiring his audience to live like Romeo and Juliet, like shooting stars, because no one knows just how long they’re on Earth, The audience knows that Romeo and Juliet’s’ lives will be cut short because that information was shared in the prologue, but for everyone else, life is a mystery so why not live with passion. Throughout Romeo and Juliet there are many analogies, comparisons, and overarching references to the stars, During the sixteenth century when Shakespeare‘s plays were being performed, the informal practice of astrology was commonplace. Shakespeare used this to reach a more diverse audience, from the very poor [0 the wealthy eliter The use of celestial images is critical in Romeo and Juliet because the main conflict is the two are “star-crossed lovers” who ultimately, “take their life.” Shakespeare raises the main question of the play through celestial imagery and ‘written in the stars‘ themes, do human have freewill or is life determined by fate? By creating the analogies and references; a much greater understanding of the plot, the philosophy behind it, and a quick look into the mind of Shakespeare is presented through celestial imagery in Romeo and Juliet

Cite this page

The Motif of Astrology in William Shakespeare's Play Romeo and Juliet. (2022, Nov 12). Retrieved from

Let’s chat?  We're online 24/7