Choice in Romeo and Juliet

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Romeo and Juliet didn’t have a choice… or DID they?

In the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare, choice plays a big part in the dramatic ending. Even though some of the reasons for Romeo and Juliet’s deaths are out of their control, I believe that fate, or chance, is not the biggest reason for their deaths. Making choices brings consequences. There is no over-seeing factor that controls these consequences; and while much of the focus of the story is put on fate, what really plays the biggest part in the story, are the poor decisions by Romeo and Juliet.

There are several instances where Romeo could have made choices that would have changed the outcome of the story. “I fear, too early. For my mind misgives some consequences, yet hanging in the stars, Shall bitterly begun this fearful date with this night reveals and expire the term of a despised life, close in my breast, by some vile forfeit of untimely death” (I. iv. 11). This shows that Romeo knows that there could be consequences for his actions. Romeo is also aware that his family and Juliet’s family hate each other. Yet he still goes to Capulet’s party, fully knowing what could happen as a result. “Then plainly know my heart’s dear love is set on the fair daughter of rich Capulet. As mine on hers, so hers on mine”. (II. iii. 61). Even when Romeo realizes that Juliet is a Capulet, he pursues after her. Romeo should have known that both their families would STRONGLY disapprove of them being together, and would prevent them from seeing each other. It would have been just as easy for Romeo to head home instead of going to see her. Instead, he chooses to go to her balcony where he meets Juliet. During this scene, Romeo shows a complete disregard for likely consequences of his actions. He could’ve been infatuated/love-stricken, or he might have just been immature about his decisions; but by making these sorts of choices, he sets everything up for the problems at the end of the book.

Even though Romeo was the one who woos Juliet, she could have just as easily resisted. “My only love sprung from my only hate! Too early see unknown, and known too late! Prodigious birth of love to me that I must love a thoathed enemy” (I. v. 15). This is where Juliet should’ve realized what was to come if they kept seeing each other. Juliet, fully aware of the possible consequences, foolishly continues to see Romeo. Marrying Romeo was also a MAJOR decision that proved to be very troublesome. When he wanted to get married with her, she could have simply said “No”. She could have married Paris, like her father wanted. “Romeo, Romeo, Romeo! Here’s drink. I drink to thee.” (iv. iii. 5). Romeo was not forced to drink the potion, she chose to. She could have run away with Romeo, away from Verona. Not only that but they could have decided to just be honest and tell their parents. No matter how mad or angry their parents got, it would have certainly been better than death. Another possible solution would be for Juliet to leave Verona with Romeo; but by choosing to drink the potion, she brings chance into the picture.

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In the final scene, Romeo and Juliet take their own lives. When Romeo hears of his love’s suicide, he rushes to her side and kills himself so that he could be with her “Well, Juliet, I will lye with thee tonight”. (V. i. 7). This choice was Romeo’s alone, nobody made him kill himself. Romeo chose to buy the poison, and ultimately chose that he would rather die than live without Juliet. The circumstances that stopped Friar Lawrence’s assistant from delivering his message also helped cause the deaths of the lovers but really isn’t the cause of it. The poor decisions leading to this scene put them in the position where chance can come into play. There

were many opportunities for Romeo and Juliet to make decisions that would keep them from this predicament. Even at this stage of the story, the suicide of Romeo and Juliet still could have been prevented. Juliet could have left and lived with Romeo away from Verona. Juliet could have made sure Romeo knew about the plan before they went ahead with it. Yet, none of this happens due to poor decision making. So when Juliet finds her husband dead, she too chooses that she would rather die than live with Romeo “Yea, noise? Then I’ll be brief. O, happy dagger, This is thy sheath. There rush, and let me die” (V. iii. 174).

Elements from chance, fate and choice all played a factor in deciding the outcome of the story. It’s true that things out of their control contributed to kill their suicide; but they made the decision to pursue each other and left openings for these events to happen. So I believe that choice was the real undoing of Romeo and Juliet.

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