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An essay considering whether 'Romeo and Juliet' is a tragedy or whether the protagonists are victims of fate

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Introduction

An essay considering whether 'Romeo and Juliet' is a tragedy or whether the protagonists are victims of fate Robert Smith - 10X1 'Romeo and Juliet' was a play written by William Shakespeare in 1595. William Shakespeare died on St. George's day, 23rd April, 1616, making 'Romeo and Juliet' one of his earlier plays; written in what is now described as his second period, from his joining the Lord Chamberlain's men in 1594 to the opening of the Globe Theatre in 1599. The diversity of Shakespeare's work included comedies, histories and tragedies as well as poetry. 'Romeo and Juliet' comes under the category of a tragedy, tragedy meaning an event in which something dreadful occurs, or in a theatrical sense a serious play with a tragic theme, often involving a heroic struggle and the downfall of the main character. This definition of tragedy relates to 'Romeo and Juliet' because it is a play in which both the principal characters die in preventable circumstances at the close of the play. The downfall of Romeo and Juliet occurs by the fact that both characters start as young, beautiful descendents of powerful families and find themselves fleeing the city of Verona in fear of their lives and their relationship - both banished by the authorities or their own households. However, an alternative view could be developed by looking at the perception of the word tragedy when the play was written; in the late 16th century. People of the time were of the view that if something tragic were to happen it must happen to a person of innocence, otherwise it is not technically tragic. Romeo is not an innocent person because he takes the life of another person on more that one occasion, with the murders of Tybalt and Paris. Even though there is the argument that these crimes were a consequence of his obsessive and at times over-enthusiastic love for Juliet, they are still actions that take away his virtuousness. ...read more.

Middle

Throughout the play there are many, seemingly small, events that by themselves are quite meaningless, but when thought about in the context of the play, actually have the effect of causing the catastrophic climax. For example, if it was not for the interventions of Friar Lawrence when he suggested the idea of Juliet feigning suicide amalgamating with the falsely delivered letter that Romeo would not have committed suicide. Also if the prince had not banished Romeo then he would not have been misinformed as to the health of Juliet. In addition to the opinion of Bradley, Harley Granville-Baker blamed the plays events on, "tragedy of mischance." Harley Granville-Baker lived from 1877 to 1946. He was an English author, actor, and producer, who was instrumental in bringing 20th-century ideas and concerns, such as social criticism, to the English stage. He echoed the ideas of Bradley by blaming the events on mere unfortunate occurrences which in turn led to their deaths. Both Bradley and Harley Granville-Baker believed that Romeo and Juliet were not fated; meaning that their destiny was not a pre-fabricated map of which they had absolutely no control, but it was determined by actions which they or other characters in the play had complete control over. Harley Granville-Baker's theory fits directly into 'Romeo and Juliet' because there are many examples of unfortunate events that could be conceived as 'mischance' such as the failed delivery of Friar Lawrence's important letter to Romeo, "I could not send it, here it is again." This is a quotation from a conversation between Friar John and Friar Lawrence. The fact that the letter could not be delivered, was something misfortunate to say the least. However, there are many contrasting views to this matter. One example of someone who believes that fate is to blame for the events in 'Romeo and Juliet' is a prolific English novelist and poet by the name of Thomas Hardy, who lived from 1840 to 1928. ...read more.

Conclusion

The characters conducting these actions could not have known the consequences of them even though they could all individually be blamed for the mortality of the ending. Take the letters sent from Friar Lawrence to Romeo that never reached Romeo because they were incorrectly delivered. In effect this means Friar Lawrence could have been blamed for their deaths. However as Friar Lawrence could not have possibly known about what his actions would cause he cannot, it is just fate causing unforeseeable consequences. Furthermore we know that the play writer himself, William Shakespeare intended the play to be understood as a play based around the idea of fate. Proof of this statement is provided by quotes from the play such as, "Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven," a description of Romeo and Juliet which uses imagery of stars, objects associated with death and the prediction of the future: otherwise known as fate. Also, "But he that hath the steerage of my course, direct my sail: on lusty gentlemen," is further evidence to my point. Romeo uses the word 'he' to imply God. He is therefore saying that God is 'steering' the course of his life; his life being the ship on which he talks about the sail. William Shakespeare uses the imagery of ships to symbolise life because people of Shakespearean times would be able to relate to it. The fact that somebody else, God, is determining the course of his life means that he is totally out of control of it himself which in turn shows us how Shakespeare wants us to understand 'Romeo and Juliet'. I believe that nobody can be individually blamed for Romeo and Juliet's deaths; they were made to suffer by a vicious feud between two households that, along with many other small interventions, caused the dramatic, brutal and sadistic climax to the play. I believe that Romeo and Juliet were victims of fate. Page 1 ...read more.

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