The Role of Fate in Romeo and Juliet

2097 words 9 pages
Most of Shakespeare's plays are conceived around a foundation in either tragedy or comedy, this polarity of themes allowing him to experiment with the full range of human emotions. Typically, an integral part of a Shakespearean tragedy is love, which is frustrated by a breakdown in order, or the character of the hero, due to some human limitation. The play Romeo and Juliet has all these typical characteristics. However, the resultant conclusion of events for the characters in this tragedy is adversely affected by the hands of fate, and not solely the product of human limitations. Fate in fact has a decisive role in the events of the play; it is a series of rapid coincidental events, which lead to the final tragedy.

Romeo and Juliet are
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|Corrupted men sit throned on high; |
|By strange reversal evilness |
|Downtreads the necks of holy men. |
|Bright virtue lies in dark eclipse |
|By clouds obscured, and unjust men |
|Heap condemnation on the just... |
|Look down on all earth's wretchedness; |
|Of this great work is man so mean |
|A part, by Fortune to be tossed? |
|Lord...Make stable all the land's of the earth. (Book IV) |

Boethius' work, specifically his concept of "Fortune's wheel", made an enormous impact on the work of Chaucer and Dante and, less directly, Shakespeare. Fate's impact on Romeo and Juliet is made clear from the outset of the play. The Chorus tells us that the lovers are "star-cross'd", and thus hindered by the influence of malignant planets (note that Renaissance astrologers used the planets to predict


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