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Who or what is responsible for the deaths of Romeo and Juliet?

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Introduction

Who or what is responsible for the deaths of Romeo and Juliet? 'Romeo and Juliet' is a play written by Shakespeare about a pair of "star-crossed lovers"-Romeo and Juliet. It's a tragedy, where Romeo the son of the Montague family and Juliet the daughter of the Capulet family, fall in love, but everything goes wrong for them and they kill themselves. Prologues, like the one used at the beginning of Romeo and Juliet, were very popular in Elizabethan times. The prologue tells us that the death of the 'star-crossed lovers' is the only way their 'parents rage' will end. We see that they are always struggling to be happy and learn that fate and fortune will determine their future and fail in their hope for love. The prologue is in sonnet form, which is often used with love poetry. Shakespeare may have taken the story of Romeo and Juliet from the poem, the tragical history of 'Romeus and Juliet', written in 1562 by Arthur Brooke. Although it could have been derived from the Greek, Xenophon. The play was published in Quartos form in 1597, so it was probably written by Shakespeare a couple of years before. The plays were sold for sixpence and were called Quartos because of the page size. Many people in the Elizabethan era would have put the tragical deaths of Romeo and Juliet down to fate and fortune. Although many people would now say that it is the family feud that leads to the deaths of the lovers. I think the reason for their deaths is either just chance or the contribution of all the characters. In the play, there is an on-going feud between the family of the Montagues and that of the Capulets. The rivalry between the two families has been going on for such a long time that no one can remember how it started. There is an 'ancient grudge' between the two families. ...read more.

Middle

Romeo often seeks advice from him, as he is intelligent. He marries Romeo and Juliet as he hopes to turn the 'households' rancour to pure love'. Although this does happen, it also leads to the deaths. When Romeo is banished the Friar sends him a message with the plan of the sleeping potion. But it is too late as Romeo has heard that Juliet is dead and plans to buy poison in order to kill himself. He examines Romeo's reasons for abandoning Rosaline in favour of Juliet with some rigour, and is quick to point out the inconsistencies of behaviour. Nethertheless he is persuaded that what Romeo had felt for Rosaline was not love but love 'read by rote that could not spell'. He shouldn't have married them, as he knows that Romeo is rash. He advises Romeo to slow down. The Friar's apprehensions about the suddenness of Romeo and Juliet's love, 'violent delights' which have 'violent ends', remind us of the Prologue. Their deaths are partly his fault and in order to feel important he develops complex plans, which end up not working. He does this as he wants to be in control and as he feels it up to him to end the feud between the two families. His plans don't work, which puts him partly at fault for their deaths. He comes forward at the end to reveal the truth. We expect a dire punishment to follow, but the prince excuses him with 'We still have known thee for a holy man'. It is a rather gentle punishment. Yet Friar Lawrence's real punishment is that he has to live with the consequences of his own actions for the rest of his life. As the Nurse betrays Juliet, she is left with no option. 'Thou and my bosom henceforth shall be twain', Juliet says and then turns to the Friar. Like other characters, the prince is a victim of circumstances. He is always just too late to do anything other than react. ...read more.

Conclusion

Whilst the Prince echoes the sentiment in his final rebuke to the families that 'heaven finds means to kill your joys with love'. Capulet and Montague shake hands to signal the end of the feud, securing what the Friar had always sought to achieve, 'To turn households' rancour to pure love'. In Greek and Roman mythology, there are three goddesses who determine human destinies, and in particular the span of a person's life and his amount of misery and suffering. From the time of the poet Hesiod (8th century BC) on, however, the Fates were personified as three very old women who spin the threads of human destiny. Their names were Clotho (Spinner), Lachesis (Allotter), and Atropos (Inflexible). Much later, some fanciful writers assigned different tasks to the three goddesses: Clotho spun the "thread" of human fate, Lachesis dispensed it, and Atropos cut the thread (thus determining the individual's moment of death). In my opinion I think the fault lies more with chance than anything else. Although I think there were many mistakes made by people in the play, they didn't want to end with Romeo and Juliet dying and that it is just chance that it ended up that way. If I were to put the blame on any characters, it would be on Romeo and Juliet as no one forced them to take their own lives. I think if it were the Elizabethan era now, I would have put it down to fate and fortune. Another possible idea is that Romeo and Juliet die as a direct consequence of the hatred from the society in which they find themselves. Their deaths show the power of love, which comes through between them. Their love is now destined to symbolise forever the waste in any divided society. Their deaths are the inevitable outcome, so the play is a tragedy in a looser sense than a strict interpretation of Aristotle's definition would indicate. Aristotle was the Greek philosopher who analysed tragedy and defined the characteristics of tragic drama. ...read more.

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