“Explore the causes behind the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet”

Romeo and Juliet is a tragic love story written by William Shakespeare. The play is based around two lovers, who commit suicide when their feuding families prevent them from being together, set in Verona, in northern Italy.The play is generally involving love and family honour, in the days when the play was written, parents expected to be obeyed-they even decided who their children should marry. Romeo and Juliet go against their parent’s wishes and the feud when they fall in love.There are many reasons as to why the final tragedy may have occurred. Some of the main characters contribute to it; the pace of the play leads to it; fate also plays a role.Friar Lawrence plays the role in the play as a priest, and also to many almost an agony uncle, he’s an advisor and likes to help with good intentions, mainly known to do so with Romeo, the Friar refers to him as ”pupil mine”(act2 scene3)When persuaded to take part in risky decisions by Romeo and Juliet, such as agreeing to marry them both, he did so with good intent to bring the two feuding families together, perhaps one of the most vital decisions he made in the play.My impressions of the Friar are that he’s very independent, and likes to take control of situations in order to sort things out, as he automatically takes on the load of getting peace between the two families. This happens as soon as Romeo and Juliet fall in love, and he doesn’t fully agree with the speed of their decision.Romeo: ”O let us hence! I stand on sudden haste.”Friar Lawrence: ”Wisely and slow. They stumble that run fast.” (Act2 Scene4)I feel this sentence almost sums up why most things went wrong; perhaps if the Friar had taken his own advice, and if Romeo and Juliet slowed down and thought about their decisions, the outcome could have been different. However at the time the Friar was thinking of reuniting the families, rather than other circumstances.The Friar influences the play’s outcome dramatically by his decisions; he marries Romeo and Juliet; what if he refused to marry them? Would it end up differently? Or were they destined to die?After Romeo and Juliet get married, they are separated, as Romeo killed Tybalt and is banished. In order to prevent Romeo from committing suicide, the Friar made a promise to Romeo, he also arranges Romeo and Juliet to consummate their marriage. Later when Juliet is also threatening suicide (to avoid the arranged marriage with Paris) the Friar uses one of his medicines to fake Juliet’s death.The Friar’s intervention fails, and they both end up dead. His message to Romeo of the current circumstances is not delivered, so Romeo is unaware that Juliet wasn’t truly dead, and as a result commits suicide. However what if The Friar didn’t give Juliet the medicine?-she may have committed suicide or would she have married Paris, and Romeo Rosaline? Or was their deaths the destined end?I feel Shakespeare portrays Friar Lawrence as involved in causing the final tragedy, even though his intentions were of a good nature:”To turn your households’ rancour to pure love”Although he had a feeling that not all would be fine;”These violent delights have violent ends”he still continued with them, his decisions were not thought through, and rushed, and from his own words:’Wisely and slow. They stumble that run fast.”The Friar didn’t take his own advice, and failed to slow things down, and surely enough, stumbled.Towards the end of the Elizabethan period, the Renaissance was a huge intellectual activity (a big social development). The Friar is portrayed by Shakespeare as in the old generation; his lack of thinking through, his errors of judgment, may be seen as Shakespeare’s criticism of these old ways.Another point that has to be brought up is that Romeo and Juliet relied almost entirely on the Friar, so that the minute he lets them down, all goes wrong.Towards the end of the play the Friar, in so many words, blames himself for the events, though excuses himself.”I am the greatest, able to do least,yet most suspected, as the time and placeDoth make against me of this direful murder.And here I stand, both to impeach and purgeMyself condemned and myself excused.” (Act5 scene3)He basically says, ‘ I’m the biggest suspect due to circumstantial evidence, and I’m the most powerless. I stand here to both accuse and clear my name.’Therefore I think it’s fair to say that the doings of the Friar contributed in many ways to the final tragedy, unless the couple have been doomed regardless of the Friar’s decisions.Another character I feel could be linked to why the final tragedy occurred is the nurse-Juliet’s committed servant, who treated her as if it was her own daughter, not particularly clever, quite imprecise and unfocused, and with a tendency to go off on tangents in conversation, which is often very frustrating. This can be seen in Act 2 scene 5, when all Juliet wants to know is the new on Romeo and the wedding:”Your love says, like an honest gentleman, and acourteous, and a kind, and a handsome, and, I warrant, avirtuous-Where is your mother?She changed the course of events by going behind Lady and Lord Capulet’s back, by acting as a messenger between Romeo and Juliet, and failing to direct Juliet in the right directions (following her parent’s wishes), failing to advise Juliet that entering a relationship with a Montague will cause conflict. She fails to take on a serious attitude, in Act 1 scene 3, the nurse consistently talks of random nonsense, bringing up various subjects, even in the presence of Lady Capulet; for example a strange story she tells a story about her weaning Juliet on the day of an earthquake, and refers to her dead daughter.and when Lady Capulet brings up the subject of Paris marrying Juliet, she finds it very amusing. However the nurse is very fond and caring towards Juliet; she recommends her to Romeo:”Well sir my mistress is the sweetest lady” (Act2 Scene4)She also warns Romeo to care for her:”…if ye should lead her into a fool’s paradise, as they say, it were a very gross kind of behaviour…”The nurse appeared to make no real effort to warn Juliet of a relationship with a member of the Montagues, and actually takes a shine to him. However this all changed in Act3 Scene 2, after Tybalt’s death, she turns against Romeo:”Shame come to Romeo”And finally when Juliet needs the nurse the mostJuliet: ”Comfort me, council me”After being told she must marry Paris, however the nurse just tells her to forget about Romeo, and marry Paris. The situation became difficult, and the nurse took the easy route out, and in the society she’s in, rebelling is certainly not accepted by servants (the nurse). Its at this point, Juliet felt the Nurse has let her down and tells herself to no longer trust her, but trust the Friar instead. ( Act 3 scene 5)”…I’ll to the Friar to know his remedy…”Another three main characters I feel can be linked with the final tragedy are, Mercutio, Benvolio, and Tybalt, for the following reasons:Mercutio, the name derived from Mercury, a metal found in two states liquid and solid, and very much undefined, rather like Mercutio himself, however is he as toxic as mercury, and caused the tragedy? Mercutio, Romeo’s friend, he is neither a Capulet nor a Montague, and really has no side, however as he is friends with Romeo he is more associated with the Montagues. His language is very powerful and imaginative. He is constantly playing on words. Romeo once described him as” A gentleman…who loves to hear himself talk”His ”wacky” personality is shown at its best in his Queen Mab speech in act1 scene4. There are two points as to why I feel Mercutio is linked to the tragedy and they are, Mercutio convinces Romeo to attend the party at the Capulet’s house, where he met Juliet. Romeo was very reluctant to go, and was very insecure, and showed feelings as to how the night may end.”I fear, too early, for my mind misgivessome consequence yet hanging in the starsshall bitterly begin his fearful datewith this night’s revels and expire the term…”He was persuaded mainly by Mercutio:”…we must have you dance.”The second reason why Mercutio’s character contributes to the tragedy is it is Mercutio’s death that sets of a chain of events that leads to Romeo’s banishment. As Tybalt murders Mercutio, due to his constant teasing and clever back chat to Tybalt., Romeo is so outraged that he kills Tybalt.Mercutio’s play of words irritates Tybalt to a point where he murders him, on many occasions in Act 3 Scene 1 Mercutio does this. Mercutio’s playing on the word ”consort”, meaning a group, but also suggesting a sexual relationship. He uses Tybalts name to taunt him:”Tybalt, you rat-catcher, will you walk?”Instances such as this, made Tybalt more outraged, and more eager to fight. When Tybalt kills Mercutio, the attributes of a comedy die with him, from then on, the play becomes a tragedy. He has never been so serious, and expressed any views on the two houses, until just before he dies when he said,”A plague on both your houses!”Tybalt, the cousin of Juliet, and enemy of the Montague household, contributed to the tragedy, by challenging Romeo to a duel. A quote from Mercutio, which I feel really sums his views is:”What, drawn, and talk of peace! I hate the word,as I hate hell, all Montagues…” (Act 1 scene1)Tybalt is always looking for trouble. At the Capulet party, when he spotted Romeo, he went straight to Capulet, however Capulet wasn’t bothered, which outraged Tybalt. He tries to make fun of Romeo, and get on his nerve:”Romeo, the love I bear thy can affordno better than this-thou art a villain” (Act3 Scene1)I think Tybalt should partly carry blame for the endings, as it is his actions that killed Mercutio, which in turn led to his own death, and Romeo’s banishment.Romeo and Juliet are easy to blame for their own deaths, for many reasons. Romeo acts too hastily throughout the play, what with asking Juliet to marry him, after hours of meeting her. His doesn’t think about his actions and consequences, and fails to blame himself for his doings, but instead on many occasions blames fate;”O, I am fortune’s fool.”Right after killing Tybalt, although with his own hands, he prefers to blame the stars.”…some consequence yet hanging in the stars…”Juliet is some what different than Romeo in the fact that she does not blame fate for the events that go wrong, but prefers to blame her birth;”Prodigious of love is to me,That I must love a loathed enemy.” (Act1 scene 5)Juliet shouldn’t have disobeyed her parents, and as like Romeo, she was too hasty in marrying Romeo. She is very loyal to Romeo, and refuses to let him go, even though he killed her cousin Tybalt. In the balcony scene you can see how she looks out to him;” The orchard walls are high and hard to climbAnd the place death, considering who thou art,”We have to remember Romeo and Juliet were young, and fickle, too young to think things through, and slow down with decisions.It’s easy to blame characters for their wrong decisions and choices, and this is what it appears to the audience, however Shakespeare also suggests strongly, what if there was a force beyond their control that was responsible for the final tragedy. Fate and unfortunate coincidence.This is a typical view at the time the play was written. Many people believed that life had a set path, that no matter what you did, it can not be changed. It would be people with this opinion that would say Romeo and Juliet were destined to die. And everyone who we thought were the main contributors to the final ending were simply all puppets, in fate’s show. This concept also allowed the characters to have premonitions about what was going to happen.Fate is defined as, ”the supposed force, principle, or power that predetermines events” Throughout the play, fate has come up in many circumstances, mainly when something has gone wrong, many characters choose to blame it on the stars, or coincidence.The first example of a reference to fate is in the prologue, at the very start of the play:”From forth the fatal loins of these two foesA pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life;Whole misadventured piteous overthrowsDo with their death bury their parents’ strife.” (prologue)Shakespeare is saying that, two children born to these rival families have an ill-fated love for each other, suggesting the couple were doomed from the very beginning. ‘star-cross’d’ refers to astrological outlook on destiny, which was very popularly accepted by the people at the time the play was written. By including this reference at the very beginning of the play, Shakespeare creates a sense of anticipation in the audience. It leaves you thinking, why does this happen? And how? Focusing the audience’s attention on the events.When Mercutio tries to persuade Romeo to attend the masquerade, Romeo refers to fate:’ …my mind misgivesSome consequence yet hanging in the starsShall bitterly begin his fearful date…” (Act 1 Scene 5)Romeo is saying that he’s worried about going, as something in his destiny is going to be set in motion tonight-and he thinks it will end badly. He has a premonition, and with dramatic irony Shakespeare is referring to meeting Juliet, and the bad ending, their deaths. If only he trusted his instincts.”Oh I am fortune’s fool!”When he has tried to avoid the duel with Tybalt, but has been forced into it by Mercutio’s intervention.In Act 5 scene 1, again blames fate, as news came to him that Juliet was dead.”Is it e’en so? Then I defy you, stars!In act 3 scene 5, Juliet talks to the nurse, after finding out about his banishment, she too turns to the skies: and asks “why are you picking on me?” Which she very rarely does:” Alack, alack, that heaven should practise stratagemsUpon so soft a subject as myself!”She feels that she is being punished for something she shouldn’t be punished for.Using this line, makes the audience pity the couple, however we know what’s coming from the prologue, so we know there’s nothing that could change the events that continue.Friar Lawrence also refers to fate in conversations, when he is told that Romeo didn’t receive the letter.”Unhappy fortune! By my brotherhood…”The Friar had two chances to deliver the letter, the first being sending it through Romeo’s man ”Balthasar”, and the second with Friar John. Timing was important in both circumstances, and he chose to send it with Friar John. Shakespeare manipulated the plot here so the final outcome occurred, and as a result Romeo received the wrong information.The Friar is outraged to hear the news that Romeo didn’t receive the letter, and the consequences that could occur. The obvious person to blame would be the messenger for not doing his job, or informing the Friar earlier, however he blames fortune, fate. The key beliefs of those in the 16th century.The friar also refers to fate in act 5 scene 3 while he is talking to Juliet, as she wakes up from her deep sleep:”A greater power than we can contradictHath thwarted out intents.”The greater power he refers to is fate, or God’s will, which has caused his plans to go wrong.Shakespeare again chooses to place the blame on another power rather than the individual, signifying his will to come across to the audience that he wants no character to be blamed for the events, but this uncontrollable power, fate. However, there are far too many mistakes and choices made by the main characters to be solely blamed on fate, and this complexity of the causes of the tragedy keep our attention.”A sequence of events that although accidental seems to have been planned or arranged” is known as a coincidence. This happened on several occasions throughout the play, and which also contributed to the final tragedy.The Friar has proved himself to be a brave man, as he married Romeo and Juliet behind their parent’s back. However acted out of character, and left the tomb when he heard a watchman, which gave Juliet the opportunity to kill herself with the dagger. If the Friar hadn’t fled, could he have talked Juliet out of it, as he did Romeo in Act3 Scene3?In Romeo and Juliet’s time Verona, Italy, a fair sized city, ”bumping” into an acquaintance would certainly be a coincidence.During Act 1 Scene 2, Romeo and Benvolio were stopped by a Capulet servant, who had a list of invitees to the Capulet party, which they attended, mainly because Benvolio wanted Romeo to move on from his infatuation to Rosaline. Which meant Romeo met Juliet.After the masquerade, after meeting Romeo, Juliet thought it too good to be true;”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.”Juliet suggests that their meeting was extraordinary, is it a coincidence that her ”only love” is born from her ”only hate”?At the time Shakespeare was writing, too, the renaissance period, fixed ideas like fate were being questioned. If Romeo and Juliet’s deaths were only caused by fate, perhaps there would be less interest in the play. The way Shakespeare makes other characters involved, and manipulates events, means that we are never quite convinced that it is all down to fate. And another factor contributes to the tragedy-the pace and structure of the play.The structure of the play, I have notices it doesn’t follow a routine path, it’s not concrete.The first thing we are presented with is the prologue, with the use of heavy language, a sense of doom. Why are we presented with such a gloomy position? It makes you wonder what Shakespeare was feeling at the time to be using such a tone, and in fact in the Elizabethan times, there was no heir creating a sense of pessimism about future, and he also wrote it after his son had died. There are many ominous words/phrases in the prologue: “civil blood”, “take their life”, “death”, and “death-marked love.”The play begins about the feud between the two houses, this is the given situation we are presented with.At the beginning of Act1 Scene 1, the characters each have very short lines, a maximum being three lines, the tone is very light, relaxed, informal (servants used), and humour is used:Sampson: My naked weapon is out. Quarrel, I will back thee.Gregory: How, turn thy back and run?However further on in the scene when the Prince makes an entrance, he raises the profile, and in contrast from the minimal speech, the prince gives a speech of twenty-three lines. A dramatic change in the tone that was evident before, he uses words/phrases in his speech that prove this: “pain of death”, “your lives shall pay the forfeit”, “cankered hate”, “fire”, “rage”, and “beasts.”* Pain of death* Your lives shall pay the forfeit* Cankered hate* Fire* Rage* BeastsHis edict sits like a dark cloud on the entire scene.Straight after the mayhem of that, what with 12 people on stage at once, tension, we are then presented with Romeo talking to Benvolio about his love for Rosaline. The stagecraft went from busy mayhem, changes in tone, to slow down, one-to-one talking, Romeo very depressed. The change in stagecraft, so suddenly, creates a sense of haste: Shakespeare crams two scenes into one.Similarly in Act 1 Scene 2 a lot of events occur, in such a short space of time; Paris wants to marry Juliet-but her father, Capulet is cautious. Capulet’s having a party that night. In the same scene, Romeo finds out, and is persuaded to go. Everything going on in such a short time, adds to the sense of haste.When Paris makes the proposal, there’s another change in tone, calm and considerate when talking to Capulet. Tension is present, as the audience still have it in their minds what the prologue said, creating dramatic irony-the audience knows what’s going to happen; however, the characters are in the dark.The use of servants at the beginning of scenes being busy creates a bustling atmosphere: I counted about five scenes in which this occurred.The stagecraft in Romeo and Juliet is immensely complex; it’s this complexity that adds to the tension, which builds up to the final tragedy.The use of catalysts adds to this tension. A catalyst is often used in science, something that speeds up a reaction, in this case increases the pace of the play.The catalyst in Romeo and Juliet is initially the Prince’s edict on pain of death (Act 1 Scene1). He has laid down the law, which brings out a whole new border to the play, because the next time they come to fight, the edict will have an effect on the characters.The second catalyst is Romeo and Juliet’s love for each other from different houses, causing hate, and conflict, the solution finally being the tragedy.After examining the length of the play using character referrals to the time anddate, I found out the play is in fact five days long (Sunday-Thursday), which is a huge shock considering everything that has happened, has done in three days! Referring to the original poem Romeo and Juliet was derived from it took place over three months, Shakespeare’s contraction to five days suggests he means this to be an important factor.Why has Shakespeare chosen to do this? I don’t think this is an accident. He makes a point of referring to time through the characters Even including scenes such as (Act 3 scene 1) where we start of with a climax of a lot of people, a fast pace, then the pace slows down and less people appear on stage. I think a fast climatic scene is followed by a slow paced one, just for the audience to take in all the drama.The whole play combines huge conflicts, emotions and events in such a short space of time, creating a sense of haste. There’s never a feeling of characters standing back and trying to prevent the tragedy and I feel it’s for this very reason that the theme of haste contributes to the final tragedy.Overall I don’t think there is just one factor we can pin-point to blame the tragedy on; I think this is one of the reasons Romeo and Juliet remains a popular play. The deaths of Romeo and Juliet are announced at the start of the play, but we become caught up in their story. It keeps the audience guessing, what/who is really intended to be blamed for the deaths of Romeo and Juliet?

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