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Who is to blame for the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet?
Who is to Blame for the Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet?
The tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, a play that contains much controversy around the issue ‘who is to blame for the couple’s deaths?’ In this world we are always so willing to place the blame with one person but in this play, when you look deeper into the language and meanings, it becomes clear that there are a variety of people, and indeed things, that can be blamed. Why blame an individual when the bigger picture becomes clear? I will be studying the play of Romeo and Juliet and this essay will report on each person or thing that has affected the tragedy.
Romeo and Juliet, the core characters, are often blamed for their deaths. For one thing they are physically responsible as they killed themselves, there was no murder of either character, they both committed suicide. It was Romeo’s fault as he purchased the poison, which he drank to die, and Juliet’s fault as she stabbed herself. However, away from the physical factors there are many views as to why the couple felt they had no other way to be together. As I mentioned earlier, it is impossible to blame one thing.
Being young, headstrong and passionate the couple appeared to be emotionally attached and in love. This is one influence in their demise. Had they never fallen in love, the deaths would not have occurred. However, this would also mean that there would be no play so perhaps it would be more suitable to say that they should have been less headstrong and slower in their relationship. After all, the play does take place over a five day period and in that time they meet, fall in love, get married, get separated and kill themselves! We know that they were impulsive due to the haste of their marriage:
‘If that thy bent of love be honourable,
Thy purpose marriage, send me word tomorrow,’
Bearing in mind that this quote is taken from their second meeting it is clear to see that they were rash. Juliet is unaware of Romeo’s fickleness in love but the audience know about his earlier obsession; He was infatuated with Rosaline the day before! This suggests that Juliet is foolish as she rushes into the relationship without getting to know him properly. It is also a good demonstration of how Romeo is both hasty and fickle in love.
Another example of when Romeo is rash is when he kills Tybalt because Tybalt slayed Mercutio.
‘O, I am fortunes fool’
can be looked at in two different ways. Some think that Romeo is being irresponsible and this would show that he could not handle his actions, perhaps hinting at future events. However, others think that Romeo feels as though he was not to blame and that fortune/ fate triggered the murder.
Having looked into the blame that Romeo and Juliet can be held accountable for it is now time to investigate some of the other characters and their liability for the tragedy.
The Capulet’s and Montague’s are both to blame for similar general reasons but do both have their individual fault. The first point is that the two families were responsible for the feud;
‘From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,’
This shows that it is a longstanding conflict that has developed into a new rebellion. Although we are aware of this ‘ancient grudge’ Shakespeare never tells us what began the feud so it is left to the viewers to decide. Perhaps it was a petty disagreement that grew? If this was the case then the families could be held more responsible as they never really had anything to fight about. The fact that the families agree to end the fight at the end of the play so quickly could be used to support this point:
‘O brother Montague, give me thy hand,’
However if the feud was really important then the families could be given less accountability for the tragedy.
The feud was the reason that Romeo and Juliet’s marriage needed to be kept secret. If they could have told their families then they would be able to love freely without the need for discretion or lies. It would have also meant that Juliet would not need to resort to the ‘fake death’ to stop the marriage to Paris:
‘O bid me leap, rather than marry Paris,’
Her father, Lord Capulet, can be blamed more than the other senior characters as he forced her into the marriage. Juliet seemed fine before he told her that she was to marry Paris. This knowledge spurred her to drink the poison because she would rather die a faithful wife than live unfaithfully:
‘And I will do it without fear or doubt
To live an unstained wife to my sweet love.’
Juliet could clearly see no other way out and all because of her father:
‘ I tell thee what: get thee to church a’ Thursday,
Or never after look me in the face.’
Lord Capulet clearly cares more about being in control of his daughter than he does of her feelings. This is the point in the play where it becomes most apparent.
The next character due for examination is Friar Lawrence. He was responsible for marrying the couple although he had his doubts right from the beginning. In the end he only agreed to it in the hope that it would end the feud between the two families:
‘For this alliance may so happy prove
To turn your households’ rancour to pure love.’
The Friar is a
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