Fate's misfortune in Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet"

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In modern times, and in the Elizabethan era, fate plays an

important role in people's lives. Many people believe it to be written

in stone, and unchangeable. Many others believe it to be controlled

by a person's own actions. In Romeo and Juliet, fate is one of the

main themes, described as having power over many of the events in

the play. Fate is often called upon, wondered about, and blamed for

mishaps. However, where fate is blamed in the play as the ultimate

cause for a mishap, there is always an underlying action, or

combination of them, on the part of human beings that decides the

consequences. Human weakness, the loss of self-control, is always

the direct cause of a bad choice or mishap, and not fate itself.

One of the most noted instances where fate is blamed for a

mishap is when Romeo cries out the he supposedly is fortune's fool.

He claims that fate has brought on Mercutio's death, and has lead

him to kill Tybalt in revenge.

In Act 3, Scene 1 of Romeo and Juliet, Romeo is seen to be

upset at Mercutio's death and predicts that the "days black fate on

more days doth depend." (III, I, 118) Tybalt then re-enters and

Romeo becomes more upset that Tybalt is triumphant with Mercutio

being dead (III, I, 121). As Romeo becomes overwhelmed with

Mercutio's death and Tybalt's joy over it, he suddenly declares that

either he or Tybalt must die with Mercutio (III, I, 128). Tybalt

responds predictably and threatens Romeo (III, I, 129). Romeo takes

the threat, then fights Tybalt until Tybalt is finally killed. When Tybalt

dies, Romeo suddenly comes to grips with what he has done, and,

unable to believe that he did this of his own will, cries out that he is

fortune's fool (III, I, 135).

While many people may say that Romeo's grief caused him to

kill Tybalt, this still places no responsibility on fate. Romeo, being a

peaceful individual, should have kept as much of his cool as possible

when dealing with the situation. Leaving was a choice that Romeo

had, and would most likely have spared Tybalt's life and the

consequences of his death. Benvolio also had the choice to take

Romeo away while he was in despair, and so it was in part Benvolio's

choice not to that led to the tragic results. Romeo's comment on

black fate is a thought that foreshadows ill events in the future. Since

he realizes that these events will take place, he should try to control

them as much as is possible by keeping a cool head and not letting

his emotions rule him, as is seen to be the case. This would give

Romeo control over his future, taking away the element of fate.

Capulet is viewed as a man who enjoys control. His decision to

have Juliet marry Paris is the reason for Friar Laurence's plan to fake

Juliet's death. In his plan, the Friar tells Juliet to go back to her

father and allow herself to marry Paris (IV, I, 89-90). While fate is

viewed to have played an important part in Juliet's death, it is instead

Capulet's weakness in loss of control, and the Friar's weakness to

stay true to the cloth that causes her death.

Act 5, Scene 2 introduces the event that is perhaps viewed as

the greatest indicator of fate in the play. The scene starts with Friar

John entering to see Friar Laurence. Friar Laurence is happy to see

that his aide has returned, but is soon disappointed to learn that the

letter to Romeo that he sent with the aide did not make it because

Friar John had taken up added duties along the way and had been

suspected of becoming ill. When Friar John tells that he went to visit

the sick first (V, II, 7-12), Friar Laurence realizes the grave

consequences of what may happen. As a result of Romeo not

getting the Friar's letter, Romeo comes to believe that Juliet is dead

and then kills himself.

While at first it seems as though Romeo missing the letter is

pure misfortune, it is...
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