2/11/2013

How did shakespeare show the inevitability of Romeo and Juliets love ending in tragedy?

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“Tragedy, then, is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude”, translation by S.H Butcher. Aristotle tells us that drama is shown by drama, not told in narrative and is more philosophical than history because history tells us what has happened rather than tragedy dramatizing what may happen.

Events that have happened may be subject to coincidence or accidents, and may not have a clear cut cause and effect chain that reveals what may happen at any time and place because it is the way that the world operates, meaning they have little relevance to other people. Because of this, tragedy not only arouses pity but also fear, because the audience can envision themselves inside this cause and effect chain.

Katharsis is an Aristotelian term. It has caused a lot of debate. The word itself means “purging,” and Aristotle seems to be using a medical metaphor�tragedy arouses the emotions of pity and fear in order to purge away their excess, to reduce these passions to a healthy, balanced proportion. Aristotle also talks of the “pleasure” that is proper to tragedy, meaning the aesthetic pleasure people gets from thinking about the pity and fear that are caused through an intricately constructed work of art.

The purpose of the Romeo and Juliet is to provide entertainment on several different levels. For instance there are the so-called “ Penny Pitter’s “ who paid a penny to see the play and stood up in “ pits “ near the stage, who did not appreciate the more complicated works of Shakespeare such as the 14 line rhyming sonnets and liked the play for its crude sexual references instead. As a contrast to this, there were also the richer classes who paid vast amounts of money and sat up in the “ Gods “, where they could better listen to and appreciate the beauty of Shakespeare’s work.

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It can also be said that there is also a large message about love embedded in the play, showing not only the tragic consequences of love but the good things it can bring i.e. the joy and happiness of Romeo and Juliet at the beginning of their Romance, and the union of the two families at the end of Romeo and Juliet, whilst grieving over their lost loved ones.

All throughout the play there are several references to the stars, moon, darkness and light and higher, supernatural powers. At the time lots of people would believe in their fate being determined by astrology, so it would have had relevance to them. These prophecies give the audience hints to the twist in the play and the tragic outcome.

The first prophecy appears in the prologue. There are several references to fate and the lover’s romance ending in tragedy. Romeo and Juliet are referred to as “ star-crossed lovers,“ indicating their Romance was a work of fate. Their love is also referred to as “ death marked.” This gives the impression that their love was fated to end in tragedy from the start.

In the first scene a conflict is played out between the Montagues and Capulets. This scene makes for an effective opening to the play because it sets up the idea of the vicious feuding and hatred between the two rival houses. From the very first scene the audience is given the impression of how unusual and dangerous Romeo and Juliet’s love because of the strong bad history between the two families. In this scene you also see the princes warning to the two families that if they fight again they will pay with their lives. “ If you ever disturb our streets again, your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace.” This has a large part to play later on in the play when Romeo is banished for slaying Tybalt.

After this there is a very long section of the play that shows the audience Romeos longing for the love of Rosaline. Romeo becomes very depressed with this, “ bid a sick man in sadness make his will, a word ill urged to one that is so ill. In sadness, cousin, I do love a woman”. The fact that Romeo loves Rosaline so much without even really knowing her gives the impression that he is more in love with the idea of being in love rather than actually properly falling in love with someone. This is reinforced later on in the play because he supposedly falls in love with Juliet as soon as he meets her. Maybe this plays a part in the Romance ending in tragedy because they’re so blinded by this they don’t think reasonably and take snap, rash decisions. This scene gives the audience a good impression of Romeos character and his views on love.

The deception of several characters has a large part to play in the tragic ending of the play. Deception runs strong throughout the play, starting with Romeo gate-crashing the Capulet ball in disguise, going somewhere he knew he was not welcome. After the ball Romeo also sneaks back to the Capulet mansion to try and see Juliet, and does the very dishonourable act of eavesdropping on Juliet speaking of her feelings, “ Shall I hear more, or shall I speak at this? “. Romeo knows he should be honest and make his presence known but instead waits until he has fully heard Juliet’s opinion of him. Friar Lawrence, although his intentions were good went behind both Capulet and Montague’s back and married Romeo and Juliet, knowing their families wouldn’t approve. This is very surprising as he is a holy man he is expected to be honest and good. Friar Lawrence does not only marry Romeo and Juliet without their parents consent he does not tell the families afterwards and keeps the deception up until the very end of the play, also formulating the devious plot of faking Juliet’s death to prevent her marriage to Paris.

Juliet also had a large part to play in the deception of other characters in the play, such as when she forced the Friar into formulating the plot of Juliet’s fake death by stating in Act 4 Scene 1, “ If in thy wisdom thou canst give no help, do thou but call my resolution wise, and with this knife I’ll help it presently. “ She willing accepts the offer of this deceitful plan, choosing it over the option of coming clean with the rest of her family about her marriage to Romeo. In the act of faking death Juliet also deceives her father as she earlier consented to the marriage, and pretends to be pleased about her forthcoming marriage to Paris and tells her father, “ I met the youthful lord at Lawrence’s cell, and gave him what becomèd love I might, “ which takes place after Juliet visits Friar Lawrence, meaning Juliet lied to her father knowing full well that she would not be marrying Paris and had no intention of ever loving him.

A large amount of the blame for Romeo and Juliet’s death can be placed on their own characters, rather than the interference of other characters and fate. Both Romeo and Juliet are young an inexperienced and are obviously unable to deal with strongly stressful situations that they are not used to. Romeo does not only seem to have a deep capacity for love but for all emotions, and doesn’t seem to be able to control and moderate them. For instance Romeo sneaks into the Capulet mansion just to catch a glimpse of Juliet in Act Scene , and kills his wife’s cousin in a recklessly passionate and pointless duel when Tybalt slays Mercutio. Whilst Romeo knew of the Prince’s warning and knew he should have been slain, he then complains to Friar Lawrence when he is let off lightly and banished so he can no longer see Juliet (Act Scene ). If he had waited a mere day after hearing the news of Juliet’s death to kill himself the play could have ended happily.

Romeo seems to be very immature in the way he acts, and rushes into a marriage when he barely even knows Juliet. On several occasions Romeo gets a feeling of doom but ignores it, such as in Act 1 Scene 5 Romeo claims he had a dream that he is weary of, and when his friend Benvolio claims they will arrive at the Capulet’s ball too late, Romeo says he fears they will arrive too early because his “ mind misgives some consequence yet hanging in the stars shall bitterly begin his fearful date “. Romeo does know that his feeling of dread is justified, and going to the party sparks off the relationship that will end in his death. “ Consequence hanging in the stars “ is also another reference to their fate being controlled by the stars and planets, a theme that runs strongly throughout the play. Romeo receives a dream just before hearing of Juliet’s death, of Juliet kissing his lips whilst he is dead not knowing this is a vision of the future, and maybe even a warning of the cruel trick fate is about to play on him. This quote is also sadly ironic because after this the kisses “ breathed such life that I revived and was an emperor, “ when in reality he remains dead and Juliet kills herself immediately afterwards by his side.

Although these qualities do contribute strongly to the outcome of the play, Romeo also has some very good qualities that appear. Amongst his friends Romeo seems witty, clever, well-liked and very loyal. It is obvious that it was intended for the audience to like Romeo.

At the beginning of the play Juliet appears to be a very obedient, sheltered and naïve child. Juliet does not seem to have thought about marriage, and when confronted with the idea of Paris she responds she will try to see if she can love him. This seems like a very childlike and ignorant conception of love. There is no mention of any friends Juliet’s own age, and she seems uncomfortable talking about sex as you can see in Act 1 Scene when the Nurse goes on about a sexual joke at Juliet’s expense. Despite this Juliet also seems to be stubborn, passionate and very determined. When her relationship with Romeo begins she races head-on into adulthood. She loses some of her previous childlike qualities such as her obedience, and openly defies her father in Act Scene 5 when she hears of her upcoming marriage to Paris, “ I will not marry yet, and when I do, I swear It shall be Romeo, whom you know I hate.” Here Juliet does not merely openly disobey both her parents but also try to put more emphasis on it by stating she’d rather marry the murderer of her cousin, almost trying to anger her mother in a show of defiance. This is a complete turnaround of how we saw Juliet’s character at the beginning of the play.

Although Juliet is deeply in love with Romeo, she does not blindly follow him and is still sometimes able to think logically. After Romeo slays Tybalt, Juliet seems to almost turn on Romeo and refer to him in Act Scene 4 as, “ A damned saint, an honourable villain! “ Upon the news of Tybalt’s death Juliet seems so grief stricken that she changes her opinion of Romeo, but when the Nurse puts shame upon Romeo Juliet seems to change her opinion again completely, seeming to be brought to her senses immediately by hearing shame put upon him. “ O what a beast I was to chide at him! “. This also suggests Juliet’s judgement is still affected by her passion. After this, Juliet seems to make a thought-through and heartfelt decision that Romeo must be her priority, and essentially makes a decision that cuts her from the rest of her family and the Nurse, a life long companion. When Juliet awakes from her death-like sleep to find Romeo dead, she does not commit suicide out of feminine weakness, rather than this she kills herself out of the intensity of her love, just as Romeo did. Also, her method of suicide took much more nerve than Romeo’s. Whereas he merely drank poison, Juliet immediately summoned the courage to stab her self through the heart.

This characterisation is very unusual as stereotypically the female would mentally be weaker than the male, but here Juliet thinks things through logically more often than Romeo does and is stronger willed than him.

The actions and expectations of Juliet’s parents seem to effect the choices Juliet makes and in turn effect the outcome of Romeo and Juliet’s relationship and its tragic ending. Lord Capulet, although appearing to be giving Juliet the option whether to Marry Paris or not, soon turns angry and aggressive when she refuses, “ Ill give you to my friend; and you be not, hang, beg, starve, die in the streets. “ This pressure on Juliet for an arranged marriage merely hastens her into the idea that her love for Romeo is true, pure love. If there was no feuding between the parents of Romeo and Juliet there would never have been need for secrecy of the relationship and there would never have been such a tragic outcome. The parent’s attitude towards this relationship forces Romeo and Juliet into secrecy, which is a main cause of the tragic end to the play.

Not only are the biological parents of Romeo and Juliet to blame, but also their “ surrogate “ parents have a large impact. Juliet’s nurse arranges the marriage between Romeo and Juliet, knowing full well that their parents would never approve and there would be bad repercussions. The Nurse also offers absolutely no solace to Juliet when she finds out she will be forced to marry Paris, and even changes her opinion of Juliet’s relationship with Romeo. “ I think it best you married with the County… Romeo’s a dishclout to him, “ was the nurse’s advice to Juliet after Juliet’s row with her father over her arranged marriage in Act Scene 5. This would have given Juliet the feeling of having nobody to confide in and seek advice from. This would also have a negative effect on Juliet’s relationship with the nurse, making her feel as if she has no friends in her own household and therefore no reason to stay there, putting strength in her resolve to be with Romeo.

Friar Lawrence acted as a surrogate father to Romeo, giving him advice and letting Romeo tell him things in confidence from the beginning. The Friar has one of the largest influences on the outcome of the play out of all the characters. It was his decision to marry Romeo and Juliet in secret knowing their parents wouldn’t approve, even if it was in a bid to restore peace to Verona and end the feuding. The Friar panics after Romeo is banished and Juliet threatens to end her life, and comes up in the plan to fake Juliet’s death in haste, without thinking. This in turn caused both Juliet and Romeo to lose their lives. These two acts are two of the biggest causes of the tragic end to the play. Friar Lawrence tries to provide advice to Romeo and Juliet and control the situation as best he can, but ends up making it worse by not thinking through his actions first. Despite these faults Friar Lawrence does give one good piece of advice, “ These violent delights have violent ends…therefore love moderately. “ Friar Lawrence warns Romeo that loving with such blind passion will cause the relationship to end badly, but the advice is ignored and the ending rings true to the Friars prediction.

All throughout the play Shakespeare gives hints of the outcome of the play. Many of the lines of several characters are extremely ironic, giving several references to fate and death, not knowing that there is more meaning in them than they had originally intended.

In Act 1 Scene whilst talking to a servant Romeo claims that he can read “ mine own fortune in my misery. “ This is obviously untrue as Romeo has no idea the twists and turns fate has in store for him later on in the play. Two scenes later Romeo makes a statement about love, “ Is love a tender thing? Is it too rough, too rude, too boist’rous, and it pricks like thorn.” This is very ironic because Romeo does not know the extent of the injury the love will deal him. Also, just one scene later Romeo completely changes his view on love, forgetting what he has just said, after meeting Juliet, he believes that his new love for Juliet is the greatest thing that has ever happened. Romeo does not know that his original idea was the correct one, and does not realise this is later on when love pricks him more than he thought it could.

Later on in the play during Act Scene where Romeo sneaks into the Capulet mansion to see Juliet, Romeo blesses the night, “ O Blessed, blessed night! “ This is ironic because Romeo has no idea he is blessing the night that eventually causes his own death and that of the person he has just fallen in love with.

After Romeo’s banishment and return to Juliet to have their honeymoon, Romeo tells Juliet “ I must be gone and live, or stay and die “. Romeo is again being ironic without knowing it because he does go, but returns and that is the cause of his death. In his next section of speech Romeo seems to jokingly accept death, “ Let me be tane, let me be put to death… Come death and welcome! Juliet wills it so! “ Romeo says this as a joke, tempting fate, now knowing that he will die soon afterwards.

Juliet claims she would rather be dead than marry Paris in Act Scene 5, “ make the bridal bed in that dim monument where Tybalt lies. “ She does not know that she will get her wish, not marry Paris and instead die in the very same monument where Tybalt lies. In the same scene Juliet tells the friar “ If all else fail, myself have the power to die.” Juliet keeps to her word and kills herself when all else does fail.

At the beginning of Act 4 Scene Juliet bids farewell to her mother and nurse, saying, “ God knows when we shall meet again, “ not knowing that the Friars plan would fail and indeed it would be the last time she would see either of these people. Immediately after this Juliet gives a whole list of scenarios where the Friars plan would fail and she would end up dying, but she misses out the one scenario that does come true and results in her death.

On two occasions in the play Romeo blames fate for the unfortunate events in the play. After slaying Tybalt in a fit of passion Romeo declares, “ O I am fortunes fool! “, implying that he is at the mercy of fates cruel whims and he is a puppet and none of the previous events were his own fault. Also, after receiving the false news of Juliet’s death Romeo shouts, “ I defy you stars! “, saying again that it was fate that has brought about these events and Romeo is not going to be victim to them anymore. This is sadly ironic because in doing this,“ defying “ fate and travelling to Mantua he accidentally causes both his and his lovers deaths.

“ My grave is like to be my wedding bed.” Juliet makes an ironically accurate prediction about her relationship with Romeo very early on, immediately after finding out his identity, but is quick to forget this when her love for Romeo blinds her.

It seems in several points throughout the play Romeo and Juliet both seem to tempt fate, not knowing the severity of these actions and the outcome.

Part of the reason for the tragic outcome of the play was also just consequence, which almost seems unrealistic in places. For instance the Friars letter not being able to reach Romeo because of the Friars brother not being able to enter Mantua but Balthasar is able to. Added to this the fact that Juliet awakens immediately after Romeo commits suicide.

The blame for the tragedy is shared out into many factors, the actions and character of Romeo and Juliet, their families, their surrogate parents, fate, and coincidence. There isn’t anything that can be said is the single cause of Romeo and Juliet’s death.

Shakespeare uses all of these factors all throughout the play to show the outcome of the play, and almost make it unavoidable. With all of these factors working against their Romance, Romeo and Juliet were doomed almost from the moment they met. Shakespeare utilises his own writing style and the characters personalities and backgrounds to tell the audience of the tragic outcome of the play, leaving them wondering if love is really strong enough to combat fate and the reality of the world, making the audience laugh and then become afraid at an astonishing speed.



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