To what extent is Romeo a tragic hero?

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To what extent is Romeo a tragic hero?

“The fearful passage of their death-marked love” Even from the beginning of the play we know that the lovers are doomed to be struck by tragedy but to what extent is Romeo a tragic hero? Is he even one at all? In this essay I will explore the reasons why I do and why I do not think that Romeo is a complete tragic hero.

        There are many things that make a tragic hero. He is an individual of some high rank or status. Romeo comes from a high status family, the Montagues who are at daggers drawn with a rival family the Capulets, the family that Juliet is from. The two families are both of equal status “Two households both alike in dignity”. We can tell that Romeo is from a high family because of a number of things. Firstly Romeo’s family have a number of servants, which suggests that they have money and power. You can also get clues from looking at Juliet’s family. Juliet is laid in the Capulet vault. A vault is something that only people of a high status would have to be the final resting place of the generations of the family. “The same ancient vault where all the kindred of the Capulets lie” It is therefore expected that Romeo’s family would have one too. Also Juliet has been raised by a nurse and it doesn’t seem like Lady Capulet has had much to do with it as she can’t cope with Juliet on her own “Nurse come back again”. Only people of high status could do this and as the two families are of equal status, Romeo must be an individual of high rank. He fits into this characteristic of a tragic hero. This makes him tragic, as it seemed that he could have anything, money, servants except a peaceful married life to Juliet. It is partly because of his status and family that it ends like it does. If he had been from another family would this have happened? It is his family name that helps cause the tragedy “Tis but thy name that is my enemy” You cannot help the family that you are born into and neither can Romeo alter the fact that he is a Montague but that name does not change who you are. “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose would by any other word smell just as sweet.”

         Romeo is still very young and so has not made a mark on Verona yet. This makes him more tragic because he has not had a chance to and will never get a chance to make his mark. His early death makes the audience feel more pity for Romeo.  We can empathise with the characters because they are real people with good noble characteristics, but they are proved to be human as Romeo has a flaw in his character which is shown so many times in the play. For example he lets his emotions overcome him and does not think of the consequences. An example of this is when he kills Paris and Tybalt. Romeos’ flawed character and the tragedy in his life makes the audience  feel sad for him, and feel his pain.  It inspires us and we are moved by the hero’s plight as it feels like they can identify more with the characters pain. This is an example of catharsis, which is a characteristic of a tragic hero.


Throughout the play Romeo displays another trait of a tragic hero, he moves from happiness to disaster.  The action moves towards catastrophe, all through the play we are given ominous signs that it will end in tragedy.  The prologue tells you that the play will end with death “a pair of star-crossed lovers take their lives”.  You also find out that the two families have been feuding for so many years, “from ancient grudge break new mutiny” that the love between the children of these families will find it hard to survive and it will end badly.  This is tragic because even before the first page you know that the lovers are doomed and do not have a chance of it ending well. Everything is against them. Things seem to be going well as he has just married Juliet and is happy but then Tybalts death sparks off a chain of disasterous events.

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        All throughout the play religious imagery is used especially when Romeo and Juliet speak to each other “this holy shrine the gentle sin is this”, “good pilgrim”, and “dear saint”, This religious imagery makes the two lovers seem innocent and also makes it much more serious and also is quite ominous as thinking about religion has a connotation with death. It is not a good sign that the language used throughout the play, particularly when they first meet, conjures images of death.  Juliet also says “my grave is like to be my wedding bed”.  This is ironic and tragic because ...

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