Essay on Fate in William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet

Fate, for better or worse, interrupts everyone’s daily life, whether he/she chooses to acknowledge it or not. Thinking about fate conjures up different feelings for different people; some people believe strongly in it, some people think of fate as ridiculous, and some do not care one way or the other. However, in many instances, such as in William Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, far too many coincidences occur to be strictly coincidental. Fate creates a powerful effect throughout the entire play, starting in the prologue, continuing as Romeo and Juliet meet and fall in love, and tragically ending in the lovers’ deaths. In the prologue, Shakespeare makes it undoubtedly clear that Romeo and Juliet are subject to fate. The audience is first introduced to Shakespeare’s ideas of fate when he describes Romeo and Juliet as “star-cross’d lovers” (I. Prologue. l. 6). Shakespeare chooses to refer to the lovers as being “star-cross’d”, meaning that they are doomed from birth because of the position of the planets at that time. This conveys to the reader that no matter what actions Romeo and Juliet take during the course of the play, their destinies remain doomed. Farther along in the prologue, Shakespeare continues to interpolate fate into his play, referring to the love of Romeo and Juliet as “death-mark’d,” (I. Prologue. l. 9) another word describing fate. By using this specific word, Shakespeare informs his audience that the love of Romeo and Juliet is destined to end in death. Because of the use of two very strong words describing fate, “star-crossed” and “death-marked,” a reader easily sees that Romeo and Juliet possess little control over the events that eventually lead to their deaths.

After the initial dose of fate in the prologue, Shakespeare continues to utilize fate as Romeo and Juliet meet and fall in love. As Romeo and his cousin, Benvolio, stroll down a street near the Capulet’s house (I. ii), an illiterate servant with a list of invitees to the Capulet’s party approaches Romeo asking, “I pray, sir, can you read?” (I. ii. l. 57). These few seemingly unimportant words help set off fate’s spiraling journey. Unaware that by reading the list his life will dramatically change, Romeo reads the list, and the thankful servant invites him to the prestigious…

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…an run away together. Fate, however, intervenes causing Romeo to take his life before Juliet awakens, thus also resulting in the suicide of Juliet. Tracing back to before Romeo receives news of Juliet’s supposed death, one can see more clearly where fate definitely acts as a factor in the deaths. While waiting for Balthasar, Romeo delivers a small soliloquy in which he recalls a dream he recently had: “I dreamt my lady came and found me dead” (V. i. l. 6). Romeo’s dream, perhaps a warning, predicts the future, as only fate can accurately do. Too many coincidental events occur, altering many lives, and many people search for answers, but the real answer lies somewhere deep within.

However one accepts fate to be taking place in The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, clearly certain events are taking place, and they do not occur as a result of direct conscience decisions by the characters. These events of fate have an immeasurable effect on the characters and story, ranging from the prologue to the very end. Among the lessons of love and hate in this play, this message, that we cannot always control what happens to us, proves to be very important and relevant.

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