The Idea of Fate in Romeo and Juliet

An enduring message in society is that all actions, big and small, have consequences. William Shakespeare's esteemed tragedy, Romeo and Juliet, is one in which these eminent words undoubtedly hold-true. From the opening lines, Shakespeare depicts fate to carry the blame for the heartache in the play, with references to astrology and celestial imagery consistent throughout the text. However, rather than fate, it is the impetuosity of the protagonists that is ultimately responsible for the harrowing events in Verona. Not only do the young lovers behave impulsively throughout the story, resulting in tragedy, but their perilous actions endanger both their own lives and the lives of others.

Throughout the play, both Romeo and Juliet are faced with adversity as a consequence of their reckless behaviour and youthful immaturity. The haste in which the events occur, combined with their foolish choices and tendency to resort to desperate measures, results in the audience's doubt concerning the catalyst behind their untimely end. In particular, the audacious behaviour of Romeo and Juliet confirms that it is their own actions which lead them into hardships. This is clearly demonstrated when Romeo risks his life to see his new paramour, climbing into enemy territory after only meeting her mere hours ago. Even Juliet expresses her shock and unease at his reckless actions: "If they do see thee, they will murder thee" [ll.ii.74], directly revealing the impetuosity of his behaviour. Furthermore, the rapid progression of their relationship distinctly illustrates their youthful immaturity. While they claim it to be love at first sight, the teenage couple express signs of intimacy before they are even aware of the other's true identity. Friar Lawrence, Romeo's spiritual confidant, warns the capricious young nobleman of the consequences that may arise due to the haste of his sudden relationship, stating "These violent delights have violent ends...Therefore love moderately; long love doth so; too swift arrives as tardy as too slow" []. However, disregarding Friar Lawrence's advice and ignoring the ancient grudge between their families, the teenage lovers foolishly decide to marry within twenty-four hours. In addition to this, the young couple resort to desperate measures when their relationship is threatened. Distraught over her arranged marriage to Paris, Juliet threatens suicide in response to adversity, exclaiming "Twist my extremes and me this bloody knife shall play the umpire...I long to die" [], clearly behaving immaturely. Similarly, upon hearing that that his teenage bride, Juliet, lies dead in Verona, Romeo plans to "lie with thee tonight" [], allowing himself to be dominated by his emotions. Undoubtedly, the ardent behaviour and conspicuous lack of deliberation of both characters is responsible for the tragedy in the story.

Over the course of the play, both Romeo and Juliet consistently place themselves and others in extreme danger as a result of their reckless actions. The futile bloodshed unwillingly caused by jeopardous behaviour, followed by their tragic suicides ends in heartache for all. In particular, it is Romeo's vengeful murder of Tybalt, later followed by Paris, that opens the floodgates to the stream of tragic events to come. Distraught over Mercutio's death, Romeo recklessly allows his emotions to overpower his judgement and never pauses to think of the repercussions: "Away to heaven, respective lenity, and let fire eyed fury be my conduct now", This clearly reflects his impetuous nature with his actions resulting in fatal consequences, for had he let the law avenge Mercutio, his banishment would have been prevented, sparing his own life as well as Juliet's. In addition to this, Juliet's dangerous role in the Friar's foolhardy plan to reunite the young couple, distinctly illustrates her impetuous decisions in reaction to adversity. In a desperate attempt to prevent her marriage to Count Paris, Juliet foolishly accepts the Friar's sleeping draught: "Rome I come! This I do drink to thee" [ii.ii.78], placing herself and Romeo in grave peril. Furthermore, the harrowing ending of the play comprises of the tragic suicides of both protagonists, ending in sorrow for all. After Friar Lawrence's imperative message to Romeo fails, it is not long before the young nobleman hears the rumors surrounding Juliet's death. As a result, he resorts to desperate measures, using poison to end his life: "O true apothecary! Thy drugs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die []. Most tragically, Juliet awakens mere minutes after the death of her beau, exclaiming "O happy dagger! This is thy sheath. There rust, and let me die" []. Not only does this end in misery for the young lovers, but it also leaves and enduring impact on other characters, particularly the warring families, who must suffer the loss of their loved ones. Evidently, the impetuous nature of the protagonists is seen through their perilous decisions, which undoubtedly leads to their untimely end.

In Romeo and Juliet, the audience is led to believe that the fate of the young lovers is preordained. However, the heartache in the play is a result of immature impetuosity. Throughout the story, the couple make foolish decisions in reaction to adversity, while also placing themselves and others in danger as a result of their reckless actions. From these instances it can be suggested that Shakespeare's esteemed tragedy serves as a reminder to all teeneragers, then and now, that actions have consequences.


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