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Who is to blame for the tragic deaths of Romeo and Juliet?

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Introduction

Who is to blame for the tragic deaths of Romeo and Juliet? There is no specific individual who is entirely to blame for the deaths of Romeo and Juliet; therefore it is necessary to distribute the blame amongst a number of the characters. The role of Fate in the play must also be considered, as Shakespeare's repeated references to this force infer that it too played its part in forcing the two lovers to commit suicide. The way in which characters behave is influenced by the rigid conventions of Seventeenth Century society, contributing to the reasons why Romeo and Juliet felt it necessary to take their own lives. The history of the two families; the Montagues and the Capulets, affects the characters' behaviour, as Romeo and Juliet found it impossible to be together in an ordinary way because of the ancient feud that divided them. Romeo is introduced in Act One as a solitary individual who is acutely sensitive and susceptible to depression when disappointed in love. Whilst Romeo is besotted with Rosaline, Montague informs us that his son spends all day locked in his room. ...read more.

Middle

Considering Juliet's tender age and the fact that the law states a girl's father should choose her husband, this decision seems irresponsible. The young lovers could not have married without the Friar's assistance, so ultimately we could blame him for the marriage and hence the tragedy. The Friar's desire 'to turn your two households' rancour to pure love' suggests that he is politically ambitious, wanting to attract status and praise by resolving the ancient feud. This is a selfish agenda and I feel he should have thought of the consequences before making the decision. However, the audience does feel some sympathy for him. The line 'It strains past the compass of my wits' proves how difficult the situation is for him. He may have been wrong to marry Romeo and Juliet, but he is not wrong to give Juliet the potion, as she may have killed herself anyway, 'I long to die, if what you speak speaks not of remedy'. The Friar is just trying to offer her a way out of the situation and it is Juliet's parents who force her to turn to him. ...read more.

Conclusion

Many of Shakespeare's Seventeenth Century audiences believed that fate controlled one's destiny. Shakespeare in the Prologue establishes fate as a major cause of the tragedy when he describes the lovers as 'star-crossed'. Coincidences stalk the play. Romeo, in particular has an awareness that fate is working against him 'some consequences yet hanging in the stars'. When Balthasar brings news of the tragedy to Romeo Fate is working against him, as Friar Laurence's messenger has to be held in quarantine due to plague, hence Romeo finds out the wrong news, resulting in his death. Romeo himself explains in Act Five Scene One 'I defy you stars' acknowledging that fate seems to be against him and that he plans to control his own destiny now. In the Seventeenth Century there was a great debate as to whether fate or one's own character controlled events. Shakespeare concludes Romeo and Juliet by suggesting it is a mixture of the two and that perhaps character and fate cannot be separated. After analysing the role of each character I still believe, as the Prince says, that 'all are punished'. However, I also believe that everyone is responsible for their own actions, so most of all I blame Romeo and Juliet themselves. Clare Cannon 07/01/03 1 ...read more.

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