The Webster’s Dictionary defines “fate” as “Predetermined and inevitable necessity; that power which is thought to determine one’s future, success or failure, etc.” In William Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, his pair of star-crossed lovers (Juliet and Romeo) are fated to meet, fall in love, and take their lives. But does their predestined demise have an equally as important purpose? And, if so, should the Prince’s final edict be carried out, and should any of those involved be punished?
Romeo and Juliet’s inevitable future is stated at the beginning of the play, in the prologue. However, there are still aspects of foreshadowing that futher convinces the reader of the importance of the aspect of fate in this story. One such example is shown here, when Juliet asks the Nurse to find out who Romeo is: “If he be married, My grave is like to be my wedding bed.” (1.5.148-9). By this, Juliet means: if Romeo is already married, then she will be so depressed that she will die instead of marrying him, or anyone else. The audience knows that Romeo is not married, and this passage serves as a hint to Juliet’s future, in conjunction with her marriage to Romeo. After realizing who Romeo is (the son of her family’s greatest enemy), Juliet says:
My only love sprung from my only hate!
Too early seen unknown, and known too late!
Prodigious birth of love it is to me
That I must love a loathd enemy. (1.5.152-5)
By this, Juliet means to say: If only she had known who Romeo was before falling in love with him;
What an ominous sign that she should love the only son of her family’s greatest enemy. This proves that Romeo and Juliet were indeed fated to fall in love, for if either Juliet or Romeo had the choice, neither of them would have chosen to fall in love with someone completely unaccessable.
The death of Romeo and Juliet is as well predestined, for it brings the families together and peace to Verona’s streets. This is shown in the following excerpt from the prologue:
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life;
Whose misadventured piteous overthrows
Doth with their death bury their parents’ strife.
The fearful passage of their death-marked love
And the continuance of their parents’ rage,
Which, but their children’s end, naught could remove, (Prologue.5-11)
This passage means that the children of these two feuding families were fated to fall in love, and die, and their unlucky and pitiful demise would serve as grounds for the families to curb their fighting. When Romeo first tells the Friar about his love for Juliet, he is angry that Romeo abuses love, and is so fickle. The Friar realizes, however, that their love could bring the Capulets and Montagues together, peacefully. This is shown in the following excerpt:
Thy love did read by rote, that could not spell.
But come young waverer, come, go with me.
In one respect I’ll thy assistant be;
For this alliance may so happy prove
To turn your households’ rancor to pure love. (2.3.95-9)
The Friar is basically sayingthat he will help Romeo, but only because his marriage to Juliet could help to bring peace to the two warring families. This is as well a form of foreshadowing.
In conclusion, no one is to blame for the death of Romeo and Juliet, for it is clearly stated in the play, that their misfortune was predetermined, and none could stop it. The outcome of this tragedy serves as a lesson to the families, the town, and the audience. However, in conjunction with the Prince’s final edict, “Some shall be pardoned, and some punishd” (5.3.319), only those who do not apply the lesson which is taught shall be punished.