How Far is it Appropriate to describe Romeo and Juliet as a “Tragedy of Errors”

At the end of Romeo and Juliet the audience is left wondering what the real cause of the tragedy is. Are the lovers foolish and rash, are they under the influence of bad advice from those whom they trusted, are they “writ…in sour misfortune’s book” and ill-fated right from the start of the play, or is it really a “tragedy of errors”.All through the play Shakespeare makes the audience feel that there are various factors which result in the deaths of Romeo and Juliet. The play begins with a prologue which reveals to us the “ancient grudge”. This first part of the sonnet leads us to believe that the double tragedy takes place because both Romeo and Juliet have come “from the fatal loins of these two foes” not because they make rash decisions.The feud seems to be the ultimate cause of the tragedy, as, if the feud did not exist, Juliet’s “only love” would not have been “sprung from [her] only hate”. The lovers’ would have been openly accepted and the match would be a perfectly plausible for the time as both families are “alike in dignity”.However, further on in the sonnet, another cause is placed into the viewers’ minds. The idea of a “greater power than [they] can contradict” is brought up with phrases such as “star-crossed lovers” and “death marked love”. These phrases imply that the lovers are doomed, no matter what course they choose to pursue.The ideas of fate are echoed throughout the play by many of the characters. This indicates a continuous belief in something greater than human control. However, many of these emerge from those characters who are directly involved in the tragedy and could in some way or the other be blamed for it. Friar Lawrence alludes to fate in Act 5 Scene 3 when he states that “a greater power than we can contradict/ Hath thwarted our intent”. This can be seen as trying to shift the blame as he is scared of the consequences of his involvement.Also, both Romeo and Juliet refer to fate when things seem to start going wrong. Romeo, after killing Tybalt, says “O I am fortune’s fool”. Juliet also expresses her views about fate’s role in their lives when she says “O fortune, fortune, all men call thee fickle”. Both of these characters feel that they have been let down by fate.Although fate may have played a large part in the tragedy that befell the lovers, there were many small “errors” and miscalculations along the way which also helped pave the path to destruction. Mercutio’s death acts as a major turning point in the play, and it catalyses the tragedy, if not causes it. This in itself is caused by an “error” of one kind. This is because Mercutio “was hurt under [Romeo’s] arm”. If Romeo had not intervened, it is possible that Mercutio would not have died.Mercutio’s death may be seen the cause that incites Capulet to force Juliet into the marriage with Paris. Although this is not a direct cause of the tragedy, it may be regarded as the “error” which may be the trigger which causes the rest of the plot to follow as it does.A very obvious “error” occurs in the very fact that the two meet and fall in love as they are both from families who are mortal enemies, as Juliet says he is her “only love, sprung from [her] only hate”. Romeo should not really be at the ball, and his presence can be described as an “error” which has a very significant role in the tragedy. However, when Juliet learns of Romeo’s true identity, she tries to blames fate for the fact that she falls in love with Romeo, describing her love for Romeo as “prodigious”. She sees their love as doomed, because he ought to be her “loathed enemy” when in fact she has fallen in love with him.The most frustrating of these “errors” is the mistiming of Romeo’s death and the waking of Juliet in “Capel’s monument”. Each of these happen at just the wrong moment, but only, it seems, by milliseconds. If Juliet wakes up minutes earlier, she would escape with Romeo to Mantua, and all would be well. The tragedy of the mistiming of the potions is emphasised by the arrival of Friar Lawrence with the words “how oft tonight/ Have my old feet stumbled at graves”. He too, enters the scene a fraction too late, and so is unable to stall the calamity that occurs.Another fatal “error” in the play is the failure of Friar John to deliver the letter which is “full of charge/ of dear import”. His failure to deliver the letter is the reason why Friar Lawrence’s “desperate” plan falls apart, as the plan hinges on the ability to communicate the exact details of the plan to Romeo, and this is the link that breaks, causing the entire scheme to go amiss.Although there may be some involvement of fate or other factors, both Romeo and Juliet are in some way responsible for the tragedy. The most obvious way is that they both consciously make the choice of taking their own lives. They are not forced to, and they do it of their own free will.Also, throughout the course of the play, they make rash and impetuous decisions and promises. This is one of the greatest factors which leads to their downfall. They can be seen as typically youthful in the way that neither of them think about the consequences of their actions. The speed at which they move forwards with their love is astounding, if not foolhardy and reckless. They move from being strangers to being man and wife within the space of twenty four hours. Juliet changes from a very tactful and obedient, “It is an honour that I dream not of” to rebellious and disregardful of her family and her duty to them; “I will not marry yet, and when I do, I swear,/ It shall be Romeo”.Romeo also expresses his youthful emotions in his reaction to the Prince’s decree of exile as he tries to “sack that hateful mansion”. If he had not been stopped by the Friar and Nurse, he would have killed himself on impulse. It is through this rash nature that the plot escalates to become such a tragedy.Romeo, upon hearing from Balthasar that Juliet’s “body sleeps in Capel’s monument”, does not wait for any confirmation of the news, but immediately goes out and buys a poison which “would dispatch [him] straight”. If he had waited in Mantua for even fifteen minutes, the tragedy would have been easily averted.There are many bad decisions made during the course of the play, many are made by Romeo and Juliet, but some are made by other characters such as Friar Lawrence and Nurse. The plan that Friar Lawrence devises is extremely risky, and it is surprising that such a seemingly stupid plan is suggested by a character we have learnt to respect and think of as wise.His lack of knowledge about the real world is also a cause of the tragedy as he seems to think that the marriage between Romeo and Juliet will turn their “households rancour to pure love”, which although it does happen, it is not due to their marriage, but their deaths. His acquiescence to their request to be married can in itself be seen as insanely irresponsible and also quite impulsive.There are many factors which contribute to the final culmination of the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, but it seems that it is quite appropriate to describe it as a “tragedy of errors”. This is because many of the major causes of the tragedy seem to be sparked by the “errors” that occur throughout the play, such as Juliet’s marriage to Paris, which could be fuelled by Romeo’s intervention in the fight.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *