Romeo calls himself

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Jessica Basi: English Literature Coursework                  September 2004

Romeo calls himself “Fortune’s fool”. Do you agree? Discuss the role that fortune and fate play in “Romeo and Juliet”.

“Romeo and Juliet “ is a play more generally known for being a love story, exploring how the passion between two people can over come the complications of political disagreements between their families. However, fate is undoubtedly involved in their meeting and falling in love, and is a pivotal part of the story. The playwright, William Shakespeare, makes this apparent from the very beginning of the play in the chorus. He does this to create a sense of expectation from the audience, which makes us feel more involved in the play, as we develop a sense of pathos for the two lovers, Romeo and Juliet.

The play begins with a chorus in the form of a sonnet. Shakespeare deliberately chooses to summarise the play in this way to illuminate two of the main themes that run throughout, and to allows the audience to identify subtle details in the dialogue later on in the play, which otherwise may have gone unnoticed, increasing our understanding of the dramatic irony within it. In traditional Greek tragedies, a person would narrate to the audience at appropriate intervals to explain exactly what was happening. In contrast, a sonnet, aside from being a concise method of telling the story, is stereotypically a poem based on love. Therefore, the audience become aware that the play is a tragic love story.

Line six of the sonnet “A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life” shows how Romeo and Juliet’s lives are governed by destiny, as we associate the phrase “star cross’d” with astronomy, and fortune telling, the idea that they are not in control of their lives but that they are already written in the stars. The repetition of the word “death” in lines eight and nine “Doth with their death, bury their parent’s strife…The fearful passage of their death mark’d love” enforce the fact that only the death of Romeo and Juliet can put an end to the feud between the two houses of Capulet and Montague which is destroying the society of Verona (the town in which the play is set). This is stated again in line eleven “Which but their children’s end, nought could remove”. The word “nought” suggests a finality about the tragic situation of the two lovers, and reinforces the reality that there is no alternative event that could finish their families’ feud. This surely means that these two children were born to die. This is a complex and most unjust idea, which Shakespeare uses to force the audience to accept the iniquitous nature of the feud and that the sacrifice of Romeo and Juliet, although distressing, may be necessary to end it. This creates a sense of dramatic tension.

The idea of using Romeo and Juliet as a sacrifice does have religious connotations which is built upon in Act 1 scene 5 when Romeo uses many references to light (which we associate with angels) when describing Juliet. The fact that Romeo and Juliet are portrayed in such a pure and innocent way increases our sense of loss and tragedy, as well as our anger at the lack of control that they have on their actions.

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Shakespeare uses chance to great effect throughout the play in order to support the points he made in the Chorus, saying that fate meddles in the lives of Romeo and Juliet. The events leading up to the meeting of the lovers at Capulet’s party in Act 1 scene 5 are clearly structured and follow a clear progression, each coincidence being linked to the next. This leads us to believe that some sort of greater force is carefully planning everything that goes on in their lives to ensure that they meet and fall in love. This is plainly demonstrated in ...

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