The Tragedy of Love in Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare



Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is one of the most iconic pieces of literature of all time. Everyone knows how the tragic love story ends, but who is really to blame for the famous couple's death? Many people have different views about this subject, but in reality there is no one person to blame for this incident. However, there are certainly characters who influenced the affair more than others. Friar Lawrence, Tybalt, and even Romeo himself are most responsible for the tragedy.

Friar Lawrence, the kind, old Clerc and mentor for both Romeo and Juliet had nothing but good intentions for their relationship, but he is responsible for their deaths nonetheless. To start, the fact that Friar Lawrence marries Romeo and Juliet in the first place is evidence that he should be held accountable. The Friar was fully aware of the consequences and severity of marrying the two and yet he still decided to do so. In Act 2, Scene 3 Romeo approaches Friar Lawrence and tells him how he has moved on from Rosaline and is now in love with Juliet. “I’ll tell thee as we pass, but this I pray: That thou consent to marry us today. Holy Saint Francis, what a change is here! Is Rosaline, whom thou didst love so dear, So soon forsaken? Young men’s love then lies. Not truly in their hearts, but in their eyes” (2.3. 60-70). Friar is clearly shocked by Romeo’s exclamation of love and he knows marrying too quickly can have many negative outcomes for the lovers, and he could get in a lot of trouble if the two families find out he married them. This is not the only reason proving Friar Lawrence’s recklessness with Romeo and Juliet’s relationship; since he allowed the two lovers to eventually get married, their devotion to each other grew dramatically, giving them even more of a reason to kill themselves in the end. The last major reason that Friar Lawrence is to blame is that he irresponsibly tells Juliet to take the sleeping potion without properly executing the plan. The Friar should have put deeper thought into his plan, so it would not fail so terribly. Because of the ill-thought-out scheme, Friar Lawrence was not able to get a servant to Romeo to explain that Juliet’s death was fake. With no knowledge that Juliet was not actually dead, Romeo drank the poison in order to be with Juliet. “Ah, dear Juliet, Why art thou yet so fair? Shall I believe That unsubstantial death is amorous And that the lean abhorrèd monster keeps Thee here in dark to be his paramour? For fear of that, I still will stay with thee, And never from this palace of dim night” (5.3. 110-115). If Friar would have sent out multiple servants at different times or just went himself to ensure that Romeo would get his message then Romeo would not have died. Friar Lawrence should have made better decisions during the play to stop the tragedy from happening, which is why he holds partial responsibility for Romeo and Juliet’s deaths.

The next character to blame for Romeo and Juliet’s death is Tybalt. Tybalt Capulet is Juliet's cousin in the play and is Romeo’s rival. Tybalt is a very prideful man and he participated in many fights throughout the play, initially stirring up conflict between the two families. If it were not for Tybalt’s stubborn personality there may have been less hatred between the Montagues and Capulets, which would have caused Romeo and Juliet's relatio his PAGE) Fetch me my rapier, boy.— What, dares the slave Come hither, covered with an antic face, To fleer and scorn at our solemnity? Now, by the stock and honor of my kin, To strike him dead I hold it not a sin” (1.5. 50-55). Tybalt is saying since Romeo is a Montigue it will not be a ‘sin’ to kill him. If Tybalt was less close-minded and was able to realize that Romeo was not meaning any harm to the Capulet family, then he would not have caused future events leading up to Romeo and Juliet’s deaths. Tybalt threatens Romeo at the party and sparks the tension between himself and Romeo leading to Mercutio's death. Tybalt killing Mercutio is the biggest reason why there is blood on his hands; Mercutio’s death caused Romeo to get banished from Verona. When Romeo sneaks into the Capulet’s party with Mercutio, Tybalt takes notice and becomes very angry. “This, by his voice, should be a Montague.— (tished from Verona not allowing Romeo and Juliet to visit each other. The separation between them strained their relationship and caused them to act even more desperately. If Tybalt hadn’t killed Mercutio, Romeo would not have killed Tybalt and gotten himself banned from Verona, Juliet wouldn’t have faked her death, and both Romeo and Juliet would still be alive.

Romeo himself is also at fault for his and Juliet’s death. This might seem obvious because he was the one to intentionally drink the poison but it is not as simple as that. Firstly, Romeo, acting through his heart and not his head, foolishly decided to go to the Capulet's party to spy on Rosaline which (as mentioned in the previous paragraph) triggered Tybalt.  Going to this party uninvited can also be seen as another mistake on Romeo’s side because if he would not have gone he would not have met Juliet in the first place, which would have prevented all the events leading up to their death. One can also blame Romeo for his and Juliet’s deaths because Romeo decided to avenge Mercutio by killing Tybalt. Romeo should have tried harder to hold his anger against Tybalt and not kill him but, once again, Romeo acted on his heart. Because of Romeo’s banishment, he leaves Verona and Juliet. Romeo’s departure causes much pain to Juliet and this is when she decides to fake her death and be with Romeo; this by itself should show the dedication the two had to their love. This all leads up to the consequences of the last Act when Romeo comes upon Juliet’s tomb, filled with despair Romeo was not able to get over the fact that his love had died. If Romeo had been able to hold his anger and not kill himself then Juliet would not have taken her own life. In the end, if Romeo would have acted more with his head and less with his heart it would have saved a lot of lives. “JULIET: Go, get thee hence, for I will not away.— What’s here? A cup, closed in my true love’s hand? Poison, I see, hath been his timeless end.— O churl, drunk all, and left no friendly drop To help me after? I will kiss thy lips. Haply some poison yet doth hang on them, To make me die with a restorative” (5.3. 175). Upon waking up from her faked death Juliet sees Romeo’s dead body with this, Juliet decides that she wants nothing more than to be with Romeo and kisses his lips in hopes to consume any remnants of poison. When Juliet does not die from that she takes Romeo’s dagger and stabs herself. In conclusion, Romeo is responsible for his and Juliet’s deaths because if he had not killed himself he and Juliet would be living happily together.

Some might believe that Juliet’s Nurse also played a part and is responsible for Romeo and Juliet’s deaths but that is not the case. Although certain events could have influenced Romeo and Juliet’s relationship, the Nurse was a very helpful character to the couple especially to Juliet. The Nurse cares greatly about Juliet, and because of her affection for her, she meets with Romeo and Mercutio to see if Romeo is decent enough to marry Juliet. “NURSE: If you be he, sir, I desire some confidence with you” (2.4. 64). The reason readers often blame Juliet’s Nurse is because of how involved she is in making their relationship work; by meeting with Romeo in Act 2, the Nurse is defying Juliet’s parents’ orders and she does this again at Romeo and Juliet’s wedding night so that they can see each other. Although defying orders would cause more conflict between the Montague and Capulet families if caught, what the Nurse did to make Romeo and Juliet’s marriage work helped Romeo and Juliet stay out of more trouble. It is clear to see how passionate the two are to each other; Romeo or Juliet would have taken drastic measures to see each other if the nurse hadn’t helped them. The Nurse’s motherly affection towards Juliet strengthened the relationship between Romeo and Juliet in a healthy way, which is why she cannot be blamed for their deaths.

At the very end of the play when Romeo and Juliet are discovered dead, their family members gather around to discuss the situation. Prince Escalus says “A glooming peace this morning with it brings. The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head. Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things. Some shall be pardoned, and some punishèd. For never was a story of more woe Than this of Juliet and her Romeo” (5.3. 320-330). He expresses the great sadness that everyone is feeling and exclaims how the two cannot just die without punishing those responsible. When someone close dies it is very hard for everyone they once knew. People often find themselves wondering about what they wish they had done or said before that close person passed away. The Prince explains if there is a known person responsible for the death of that loved one then they should be punished. In Shakespeares’s Romeo and Juliet there were many decisions characters made that lead up to the deaths of the couple and one can not help but wonder how the play would have ended if those decisions were different. But just like in real life, when something is done, it's done and there is nothing else to do except hold those responsible accountable for their actions.