Tragic Heroes or Victims of Fate?

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Essay Topic: Are Romeo and Juliet true tragic heroes or victims of fate?

According to the Webster’s New Millennium Dictionary of English, a tragic hero is a literary character who has a fatal flaw that, combined with fate and external forces, brings on a tragedy. Romeo and Juliet obviously do not fit the criteria as their flaws of youth and impetuousness can hardly be considered fatal. Instead, their deaths are brought about by a series of circumstances over which they have no control. Both characters frequently describe strong feelings of foreboding, and the characters’ births into opposing families cause much angst. Many events conspire against them which seem too coincidental, rather than the result of choices made by Romeo and Juliet. Therefore, although the downfall of the two lovers is made out of both characters’ free will, the events leading up to their downfall renders them victims of fate.

From the beginning, Romeo and Juliet’s births into feuding families cause many events over which they have no control. The feud, the cause of tension between the Montagues and Capulets, puts the characters into situations that occur because fate steps in. Romeo is put into one such situation when his closest friend Mercutio is killed by Tybalt. In a fit of blind rage, Romeo is “forced” to kill Tybalt out of loyalty to Mercutio, not something he originally planned to do: ‘I do protest I never injured thee,/ But love thee better than thou canst devise’ (III, i, 65-66). This leads to his banishment. In desperation, the lovers turn to Friar Lawrence for help. But things do not go as planned and Romeo and Juliet kill themselves. Romeo believes that ‘there is no world without Verona’s walls’ (III, iii, 17), and no world without his Juliet. Thus, although they took their lives out of their own free will, the love brought upon by fate overpowered rational thinking. Preferring death to life apart, Juliet declares: ‘Prodigious birth of love it is to me,/That I must love a...
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