A Predestined Doom

Like Romeo had predicted, he and Juliet were doomed the moment they met each other.

Why is this, one may ask? Critics and readers alike have debated endlessly over this Shakespearean conundrum. There is not one acceptable answer, but many. To veraciously assimilate what caused their deaths, one must consider many factors. In the play Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, two individuals from hostile families fall in love at first sight. The pair of ‘star-crossed’ lovers get inextricably entangled within this enmity; eventually, both Romeo and Juliet were forced to commit suicide. Although every character contributed to their untimely deaths, it is evident that the true reason for this tale of woe lies within the personalities of Fate, Romeo, and Juliet.

Indeed, the most powerful force in the universe, fate, has dictated the lives of Romeo and Juliet. Destiny cannot be changed; it is simply just there. From the opening scene, readers know about Romeo and Juliet’s eventual future. It is written, “From forth the fatal loins of these two foes / A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life” (ROM prologue.5–6). Readers are told that two children of enemy families commit suicide because of their parents’ strife. Examining these sentences further, one can ascertain that the word ‘star’ is evocative of kismet. This motif of ‘star’ comes up sporadically throughout the play to emphasize fate’s role in all characters’ decisions throughout the play. More indicative than this, however, is Shakespeare’s ingenious juxtaposition of words and phrases. In the context of this play, Shakespeare is fate; he is the one who so eloquently conjures a telling tale. In Act III he writes, “For this alliance may so happy prove to turn your households’ rancour to pure love” (ROM II.iv.91–92). In the very next act, he also writes, “What if it be a poison, which the Friar / Subtly hath minister’d to have me dead” (ROM IV.iii.24–25). The probability of every event happening the way it did is so small. Even one change in this sequence could alter the future significantly. Carefully analyzing these sentences reveal that Shakespeare starts his sentences with suggestive phrases. The use of ‘for’ and ‘what if’ clearly demonstrate this idea of fate — what is destined to happen, shall happen.

Besides fate, there is no one more to blame for the deaths than Romeo himself. If Romeo had never been infatuated with Rosaline, or if he had never met Juliet, a different outcome could have transpired. Throughout the entire play, Romeo’s impulsive behavior becomes steadily more apparent. One example of this impetuousness is when Romeo kills Tybalt. As a result of this, he is sent into exile. Consequently, Romeo is forced to face another slew of obstacles; this only makes it harder for him to maintain a sustainable marriage with Juliet. Because of a miscommunication, Romeo goes to Juliet’s tomb to kill himself. Before the deed is done, Romeo comments on how death had not taken away Juliet’s beauty. He says, “Death, that hath sucked the honey of thy breath / Hath had no power yet upon thy beauty / Thou art not conquered. Beauty’s ensign yet / Is crimson in thy lips and in thy cheeks” (ROM V.iii.92–95). Ironically, Romeo said the truth himself; without realizing the implications of his actions, Romeo’s compulsiveness caused him to want to join his lover in death. Once Juliet had woken up, she killed herself as well, thus making Romeo the direct cause of both their deaths.

Juliet, too, is culpable for her death and that of Romeo’s. Juliet’s reckless behavior is seen several times during the course of the play; she is the one who falls for Romeo even though she is a Capulet, and he is a Montague. To make matters worse, Juliet is ready to give up herself for Romeo. In the balcony scene she says, “And all my fortunes at thy foot I’ll lay and follow thee my lord throughout the world” (ROM II.ii.48). At first, she does not want to rush their love; a couple moments later, she contradicts herself and asks Romeo to marry her as soon as possible. She says, “It is too rash, too unadvised, too sudden / … If that thy bent of love be honorable, / Thy purpose marriage, send me word tomorrow” (ROM II.ii.118, 143–144). Without knowing anything about Romeo she willingly consented to a marriage. Later, after Romeo kills himself, Juliet is dismayed and says, “Yea, noise? Then I’ll be brief. O happy dagger, / This is thy sheath. There rust and let me die” (ROM V.iii.168–170). Juliet has such intense feelings of love, that without Romeo, she feels her life is devoid of happiness and is a floccinaucinihilipilification. Her emotional maturity, or lack thereof, is prevalent throughout the course of the play and eventually leads to her demise.

Although a case about who caused the couple’s’ deaths could be made for every character, it is clear who the main culprits are — Fate, Romeo, and Juliet. Fate is written by the very same hand that wrote the story, William Shakespeare. For the duration of the play, Shakespeare utilizes sentences that are representative of the future. Furthermore, his sentences clearly portray certain characteristics Romeo and Juliet possess. Romeo is characterized as an impulsive boy, whereas Juliet is seen as a reckless girl. Their irrational actions were at the fault of their immaturity; as Prince Escalus puts it — “For never was a story of more woe / Than this of Juliet and her Romeo” (ROM V.iii.309–310).