Death is an elusive concept that binds and connects a series of themes and issues that occur in Romeo and Juliet. To discuss whether Romeo and Juliet are responsible for their deaths, one must analyse various causes of this tragedy. This essay will explore the following reasons: family feuds, love, passion, and fate.
First, it is important to understand the characters. Romeo we know is the only son and the main character in the story. It starts with him thinking he is in love with Rosaline (a lady whom we never see). It is not long before we discover the idea of being a lover appeals to him, as he is impulsive and passionate. This is when he quickly forgets Rosaline when he meets Juliet and within moments of time marries her. His impulsive actions are also displayed when Juliet’s cousin kills his friend and Romeo avenges the murder. He then has to face the punishment of being banished from the city of Verona and consequently no longer see his beloved Juliet, without the risk of being caught
Juliet is also the only child. She is loved by her parents and is very precious, as she is the only child born to the Cupulets that survived. Juliet is almost fourteen years old and has never thought about marriage, but prepared to obey her parents and look with favour on the man they have chosen for her husband, the County Paris. Nevertheless, when she meets Romeo, Juliet instantly falls in love with him and acknowledges Romeos act of romance.
“You kiss by the book”
Romeo’s family, the Montagues, are quite different from the family of Juliet. They are far more loving and caring. Juliet on the other hand faces forceful decisions being made by her parents about her life, with little consent from her.
“She shall be married to this noble earl”
The deaths of Romeo and Juliet could however be their own fault, maybe if they had both been more patient and thought about things, this tragedy could have been avoided. Romeo is a passionate, impulsive, impatient young lad; his immaturity and passion could be the motive for his death. Juliet, who is similar to Romeo, also shares these common characteristics of being passionate and a true lover (there similarities could easily be the bond of their love), if these characteristics were non-existent amongst the characters, the story may not have ended in a tragedy.
Passion is a very important theme leading to the deaths of Romeo and Juliet. It is involved throughout the play, from beginning to end. For example at the beginning, the servants feel it as a duty to fight each other as an act of passion, on the other hand Tybalt makes a mockery of this concept, as he is always bursting with aggression and picking fights (there you have a complete contrast in just fighting and fighting with passion).
Passion affects Romeo significantly, his love for Rosaline, his love for Juliet, the rage that makes him kill Tybalt. We learn Romeo is a very passionate character and evidently it shows how deep his passion and love really is, even right from the beginning when he meets Juliet and displays his act of romance.
“O then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do!”
After having observed the theme of passion in the play, it is not hard to notice how this may be the cause of the tragedy. Romeo and Juliet were very passionate to each other; their passion alone does justify their deaths. It is significantly portrayed how the feuds between the two families are also an act of passion, which add to the intensity of their hatred
“Here’s much to do with hate”
If there was no passion and no feud the deaths may not have occurred, so passion is an arguable cause of their deaths.
As well as passion, the key reason could be love. Love flowers throughout the play, it plays a significant role, and without love, there would be no Romeo and Juliet. Love is extreme throughout the story and was the reason why Romeo and Juliet met. It therefore appears in many different forms; at the beginning, Sampson and Gregory speak of love like immature children and react by laughing. Love is talked about in different ways, for example when Mercutio and the nurse mention it; they talk from a bawdy point of view. On the other hand, the love of Romeo and Juliet is so strong and deep that it is more powerful than hatred or death.
Romeo and Juliet were quite young and maybe it was adolescent passion, or young love which made them unaware of the consequences, and lead them to this tragedy. Perhaps Romeo and Juliet thought killing themselves was the only possible way, as if one of them were to survive, how were they to live. Who were they to love? Death seemed the only answer to these questions.
Friar Lawrence plays a significant role in the play; his good intentions in fact precipitate the tragedy, when he decides to come up with a plan that immediately involves him. It was a natural human error, and in bid to hurt no one. Friar Lawrence meant no harm, but quite the opposite, he wanted to favour Romeo and Juliet, so we cannot say it was intentional or it was directed.
In Scene 3, Friar Lawrence takes control of the situation; first, he is trying to calm Romeo down, preaching the virtue of resignation to fate and pointing out that things might be worse. Romeo is condemned to banishment, not to death. Nevertheless, for Romeo, banishment from Verona means separation from Juliet; and we learn this is worse than death. When the nurse tells him of Juliet’s grief, Romeo is ready to kill himself. However, it is then, when Friar Lawrence suggests a plan.
If Friar Lawrence had not come up with such a cunning plan, then the tragedy may well have been avoided. Friar Lawrence’s failure relies greatly on time. Now time is another major notion contributing to the tragedy.
The play seems to go very fast, ideas are often repeated and the rushed time everything happens in is of significance. From the meeting of Romeo and Juliet, everything is rushed. This is largely due to the impatience of Romeo and Juliet.
“I stand on sudden haste”
Proves the impatience manner Romeo uses.
Juliet is the same as she to resorts to impatient behaviour when she is talking to the nurse about the whereabouts of Romeo,
“Here’s such a coil! Come what says Romeo?”
Romeo and Juliet impatiently rush into marriage, within twenty-four hours of meeting each other. Romeos impulsive killing of Tybalt is another indication of things happening to quickly without thought.
Time is principal throughout the story, it binds with the act of impatience. Only a matter of seconds when Juliet woke up and found Romeo dead.
This leads me to conclude that I believe the main reason for the deaths of Romeo and Juliet was due to the intensity of the family feuds, the strong passion that influenced the actions of hatred. The whole concept of feuding is so strong and vividly depicts the fears of Romeo and Juliet, but it was their love kept them together. The passion of the feuding was matched when Romeo and Juliet were married. This whole movement of passion is portrayed in different ways but it was the strong influential passion that caused this tragedy, the passion of the two lovers and the passion of the families.
It can be a work of fate, as we learn it was only a matter of seconds after Romeos death and Juliet woke up. Shakespeare included this very suspenseful ending. It could be that it was written in their fate to die in this way.
However, if the intense feuding were non-existent, Romeo and Juliet would not have to resort to such extreme plans to be together. Therefore, if the families did get on and understand each other for the sake of their children, there would be no element of fate involved.
The passionate adolescent love was what kept them together. Romeo starts to use different language in the play, which aids his maturity and shows his love compared to Juliet then of Rosaline. Maybe their parents didn’t take their love serious enough, they thought it wasn’t that extreme, maybe if extreme passion was in some way portrayed earlier in the play, other than death, this might have made the families understand.