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Romeo and Juliet - "A pair of star cross'd lovers...." To what extent was the tragedy a result of bad luck or destiny? To what extent was it brought about by the people involved?

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Introduction

"A pair of star cross'd lovers...." To what extent was the tragedy a result of bad luck or destiny? To what extent was it brought about by the people involved? Romeo and Juliet's tragic death comes as a climax of a tale of passionate love. Raging in the background is an even more passionate family feud that thwarted the "star-crossed lovers". To what degree is sheer bad luck, or destiny, or the freedom of choice of the title characters themselves, to blame? The answer must begin with the examination of the play's three central themes. I will examine each in turn, and see to what extent it contributes to the young lovers' demise. I must however say at once that as the play progresses, Shakespeare succeeds to knit the key themes so subtly together that it is difficult to unravel them. That is to say luck is so closely bound to destiny, destiny to choice and choice to bad luck. Let us begin with chance or its synonym, coincidence. Chance is a wavering factor which is often overlooked. However, the prologue hints at it: "misadventur'd piteous overthrows". Chance creates many of the unfortunate circumstances throughout the play, while misfortune directs how events unfold. ...read more.

Middle

After this, the couple decide to marry and so the countdown to their deaths begins. The Prologue highlights fate or destiny. One of the central themes in this tragedy, destiny is a predetermined path of life over which you have no control. In other words, the Elizabethan understanding of the word is bound to the Fateful Sisters, Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos. They controlled the birth, life and death of all men. The "star-cross'd lovers" seem aware of how destiny casts its shadow over their love. Romeo is more conscious of it and constantly wrestles with it. On his way to the masque, he fears for: "Some consequence yet hanging in the stars Shall bitterly begin his fearful date". He begs for mercy and rather strangely asks for destiny to guide him: "But he, that hath the steerage of my course, Direct my soul." He again tries to challenge fate when he believes Juliet to be dead and cries, "I defy you stars". This exclamation is one of a man who is trying to outwit fate by choosing to be with his beloved even if it is in death. Juliet experiences similar premonitions: "Prodigious birth of love it is to me, That I must love a loathed enemy." ...read more.

Conclusion

Shortly before he killed Tybalt, he muses of: "Tybalt, that an hour hath been my cousin." Perhaps if he were more thoughtful, he and Juliet would have lived. In short, it is difficult to be absolutely certain that fate, chance or people's choice, each by itself contributed to the tragedy of the "star-cross'd lovers". It is more convincing to hold that these factors are influential in part, or at least part of the time. Overall, they have acted in concert. Indeed, the tragedy will be meaningless if it were hung solely on one peg called fate, or another peg called chance or yet another peg called human nature or for that matter free will. As one critic has said: - "Romeo and Juliet is unmatched in Shakespeare ... the subtle outrageousness of (his) drama is that everything is against the lovers: their families and the state, the indifference of nature, the vagaries of time, and the regressive movement of the cosmological contraries of love and strife." "What is left on the stage at the close of this tragedy is an absurd pathos: the wretched Friar Lawrence, who fearfully abandoned Juliet; a widowed Montague, who vows to have a statue of Juliet raised in pure gold; the Capulets vowing to end a feud already spent in five deaths - those of Mercutio, Tybalt, Paris, Romeo, and Juliet." ...read more.

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