Cause of Tragedy Romeo and Juliet

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Romeo and Juliet is widely known to be a tragedy, but what caused the atrocity for which it is so renowned? Some may argue fate was to blame for Romeo’s and Juliet’s deaths, that the situations these young lovers faced were depicted as being out of their control. Could Romeo have refused to attend the Capulet masque? Was Romeo destined to duel the raging Tybalt? Did Romeo and Juliet truly have to kill themselves? If one considers the specific circumstances and causes of these situations, the fact that all scenarios are the result of choice rather than chance, and the notion that the characters were never left without options, only one conclusion can be determined. It was unarguably the decisions made by characters, not those made by fate, that were responsible for the tragedy in Romeo and Juliet.
To fully comprehend how fate and destiny had no role in the tragic deaths of Romeo and Juliet, the terms “fate”, “destiny”, and “tragedy must first be understood.

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Fate can be defined as being “a power that determines and controls everything that is or happens,” (Newfeldt (Ed.) p.431) while destiny can be described as “what is predetermined to happen in spite of all efforts to change or prevent it.” (Newfeldt (Ed.) p.321) Therefore, fate is the entity that decides all that will occur, and destiny is the decision made by fate.

Tragedy can be defined as the dramatic representation of serious and important actions that turn out disastrously for the main character. This indicates that the tragedies in Romeo and Juliet were the deaths of Romeo and Juliet, and to say fate and destiny were not responsible for these tragedies, is to say the characters of the play, rather than some intangible force, were aware and in control of the actions that caused Romeo’s and Juliet’s deaths.

Of all the events that preluded to the joining and eventual deaths of Romeo and Juliet, Romeo’s attendance at the Capulet masque was paramount, with all other events being derived from this choice. This occurrence was not destiny; it was the contemplated decision made by Romeo to do something irresponsible. Upon being presented with the opportunity to go to the party, it can be seen that Romeo foresaw his demise when he said:

I fear, too early; for my mind misgives
Some consequence, yet hanging in the stars,
Shall bitterly begin his fearful date
With this night’s revels, and expire the term
Of a despised life closed in my breast
By some vile forfeit of untimely death. (Romeo and Juliet 1.4.106-111)

However, even with this knowledge that he would die as result of going to the masque, he consciously decided to venture out and disregard his safety.

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