How does William Shakespeare explore the idea of fate in his play Romeo and Juliet?

Many people believe that whatever happens during the course of their lives is inevitable and every event is laid out before them like a road map to life, in other words, fate. Willliam Shakespeare conveys this idea in Romeo and Juliet, where two young lovers take their lives because of the ancient dispute between their families “which but their children’s end nought could remove,”. Fate plays a big part of events in the story. William Shakspere shows this throughout the play by showing that the events are out of the characters control. He uses many techniques to present fate including in the prologue, metaphors and plot.

The prologue sets the scene for the tragedy by presenting Romeo and Juliet as the victims of fate, whose lives are taken. Shakespeare uses this style of writing to give hints to the reader of whats going to happen but lets the audience see for themselves how this strife ends in death, how they fall in love and why their families have a feud. Throughout the Elizabethan era, many people believed that their life was set out for them as it was written in the stars. In the prologue of the play, Shakespeare mentions “A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life” what he is trying to indicate is that Romeo and Juliet are lovers who were brought together by fate. He uses the metaphor “starcrossed” as in the Elizabethan era the stars were apart of the Chain of Being. When one part of this chain is upset it it causes the chain to disorder. So when the stars are taken out of their order, things go away and fate changes the order of things. He refers this back to Romeo and Juliet meaning that when their stars are taken out of order and “crossed,” they become fated lovers. Shakespeare uses many more metaphors to show the trouble causing factor of Romeo and Juliet’s love.

William Shakespeare uses metaphors in Romeo and Juliet to heighten the emotion and the dramatic stakes of the play, he uses metaphors to make sure the reader gets a clear idea of what he is trying to portray in the scene. For example, in act 1, scene 4, Romeo explains a nightmare he had the previous night about attending the Capulets party. He asserts this by saying something bad would happen that night that would lead him to an “untimely death”. He refers to this by saying “He that hath the steerage of my course, Direct my sail.” Shakespeare has used this metaphor by having Romeo referring to himself as a vessel which is being captained by God who directs his course of decisions. This is where Romeo realises fate is in play with him. Romeo brings up this metaphor again in act 5, scene 3 where he finds Juliet “dead” in the capulets tomb he says “Thou desperate pilot, now at once run on The dashing rocks thy seasick, weary bark” meaning that God is the pilot steering him to death and he has been trying to run away from fate, but there was no way he can escape it. “Now at once run on the dashing rocks thy seasick, weary bark” is him meaning that his vessel has crashed on the rocks he says this to refer back to his own life meaning he is sick of life “seasick” and has come to an end. Throughout the play, Shakespeare refers back to Romeo and Juliet’s love as God has laid their lives out for them.

Shakespeare communicates the idea of fate and god to show Romeo and Juilets, unfortunate love. The main reason Shakespeare conveys this idea is to let the reader know that Romeo and Juliet’s life is set out for them. Fate is first shown at the beginning of the prologue saying that their love is “death-marked,” and they have no control over there life, what happens and how they can change it. The first major event where fate occurs is in act 1, scene 4 where Romeo and Benvolio come across the servant with invitations to the Capulets party. It happens to be that the servant can’t read and he asks Romeo and Benvolio to help him.  Since they did this good deed the serving man invited them to the party, this is where Romeo first met Juliet. The fate and coincidence of this scene is that the servant can’t read and Romeo happens to be there to help him. “O, I am fortunes fool” Romeo uses this quote in act 3, scene 1 after Tybalt stabs Mercutio and Romeo chases after Tybalt and kills him. Shakespeare uses this phrase unmistakenly to reiterate what has already been said at the start of the play about Romeo and Juliet being “star-crossed lovers” who are “from the fatal loins”. What Shakespeare is conveying in this metaphor is that Romeo does not believe his actions were performed entirely of his free will, and fate set him out to kill Tybalt. Sounds a bit like a coincidence?

In Romeo and Juliet, the idea of coincidences is displayed throughout the play. The coincidences that happen normally led to an unfortunate outcome. For instance, its a coincidence that Romeo and Juliet just get married and then Romeo kills Tybalt and the Prince decides to banish Romeo. If Romeo had not killed Tybalt he would have never been banished and then Romeo and Juliet might have had a chance to find a way of being together.  After Romeo got banished Capulet believed that Juliet was grieving because Tybalt’s death so he organised for Juliet and Paris to get married, as Juliet was already in love and married to Romeo she hated the idea of having a forced marriage with Paris so she turned to Friar Lawrence for help and came up with a plan to drug herself so everyone thought she was dead. If her father had not tried so hard to make her happy, or did not try to force a marriage on her, then they would have had time to think of a logical solution to the problem and Juliet and Romeo might have been able to find a way to stay together. The coincidence of Romeo and Juliet’s death was that Friar Lawrence sent a letter to Romeo in Mantua telling him of the magic potion and the effects that it had on Juliet. On the way to Mantua the letter got held up and could not be delivered to Romeo, and now Romeo is unaware of Juilets fake death. As a result of Juilets death, Romeo didn’t see any point living without her. If that letter got to Romeo, Romeo would have got to the tomb to retrieve Juliet. Looking back on the storyline of Romeo and Juliet it is obvious to say that the events leading up to their death were due to unfortunate consequences.

Throughout Romeo and Juliet, the theme of fate and coincidence is repeatedly shown. Shakespeare uses this technique to cause suspense in the audience. As shown Shakespeare conveys the idea that the characters lives are set out for them and their decisions weren’t entirely performed of their free will. What if fate has shaped your life and the way you make decisions, has your life been planned for you?







One Comment

  1. Reading: 7B – Detailed and insightful exploration of language and dramatic effects with sophisticated reflection on their impact on the audience.
    Writing: 6A – Strong, well-organised writing, moving towards confident, with a clear voice – secure in the more nuanced analytical material.


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