How does Shakespeare present the hand of fate in his play ‘Romeo and Juliet’?

“A pair of star-crossed lovers take their lives” Shakespeare’s play ‘Romeo and Juliet’ was very fate inspired and fate relying play of two lovers who believed that everything that happened, happened for a reason with a bigger power/force (God) directing the paths and courses that each and every person would take. Implying that they had no control over what was to occur, everything was already laid out and predetermined. Shakespeare incorporated a lot of situations to help the viewer or reader of the play understand it more deeply, and in his play, Shakespeare used multiple ways to do so. This essay will talk about some of the ways he communicated fate in his play ‘Romeo and Juliet.

The first way Shakespeare communicates the idea of fate in his play ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is through his prologue. Shakespeare has written the prologue to give the viewer a quick overview of what is to happen during the play that they are about to watch before it begins. In the prologue, the idea of fate that Shakespeare is trying to be understood is throughout the whole thing, it is fate because no matter what happens in the play, those points will occur and the characters can’t do anything about it, they just have to play their part. Shakespeare also uses Metaphors to help get his idea of fate across.

In his play ‘Romeo and Juliet’, along with using the prologue to develop an understanding of fate, another way Shakespeare helps the reader/viewer is by using metaphors. This helps to develop the characters ideas and inner thoughts. In Act 1, Scene 4, just before Romeo goes to the party at the Capulet household, Romeo, who is part of the rival family, Montague, says: ” … He that hath the steerage of my course direct my sail!” When Romeo says this he is describing himself as if he were a ship and will let the captain choose his course. In this case, Shakespeare is implying that the captain who Romeo is referring to when he says this is God. We can tell this because he has written the word ‘He’ in capital letter which is only done when referring to God. Shakespeare extends on this further on in the last scene of the play before Romeo takes the poison that kills him, he says “Thou desperate pilot, now at once run on the dashing rocks thy seasick weary bark.” This suggests that Romeo’s faith in God’s guidance has not worked out for him and has led to his destruction. This relates to fate as Romeo is giving up control of his life to a higher power, God. 

Metaphors give good examples of fate but by cleverly adding coincidences in throughout his play ‘Romeo and Juliet’, Shakespeare has been able to expand on the idea of fate through the plot of events. An example of a coincidence through the plot of events is in Act 1, Scene 2, when a servant from the Capulet household asks Romeo and Benvolio in the street “… I pray, sir, can you read?” The servant is giving out invitations for a party at the Capulet’s household but can not read. Romeo and Benvolio take advantage of this situation and invite themselves to the party. This is fate because if they had not been asked by the servant to read the invitations, they wouldn’t have attended the party and further more, Romeo would never have gotten over Rosaline and met Juliet which is what Shakespeare’s play ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is about. In this situation this was a bad thing as they didn’t know that they were enemies. During the play, both Romeo and Juliet experience premonitions.

Coincidences help when understanding fate and Premonitions in Shakespeare’s play ‘Romeo and Juliet’ also help to show the act of fate as it directly gives the characters a quick view of something that is predetermined in their lives. An example of this is in Act 3, Scene 5, Juliet says “O God, I have an ill-divining soul. Methinks I see thee now, thou art so low as one dead in the bottom of a tomb. Either my eyesight fails, or thou looks pale.” This line suggests that Juliet thinks Romeo looks dead and very pale. Also at the end of the play Juliet has another vision of Romeo looking pale. This is fate trying to let the characters know that something like what Juliet saw is going to happen, to warn them. Even though fate tried to warn them, Juliet and Romeo ignored the indications from the premonitions when they could have avoided their deaths altogether. To help the viewer/reader to understand the premonition, Shakespeare has used dialogue.

Throughout Shakespeare’s play ‘Romeo and Juliet’ there are a lot of direct references to fate, luck, fortune, death and consequences through dialogue. In the prologue, when the Chorus says: ” … a pair of star-crossed lovers take their life”, This is a  direct reference to death because it is saying that Romeo and Juliet are star-crossed lovers who will end up taking their lives. Also in the prologue Shakespeare extends this idea of fate by writing ” … The fearful passage of their death marked love”, again talking about how their love is branded with death and is bound to take place sometime in their lives. When Romeo travels back to Verona to see Juliet one last time, he does kill himself. This is fate as the prologue had predicted it. Another example of this which refers to fate is when Juliet’s mother says “I would the fool were married to her grave.” when she says this she is talking about Juliet not wanting to marry Paris and this can be looked at as fate because Juliet never ends up marrying Paris but dies which is like she is marrying her grave to her parents because they didn’t know that she had secretly married Romeo.

In conclusion, Shakespeare’s play ‘Romeo and Juliet’ was very fate based and incorporated a lot of situations to help the viewer or reader of the play understand it more deeply, and in his play, Shakespeare used multiple ways to do so. By using a variety of different situations and examples he was able to show how the characters believed that everything happened for a reason with a bigger power/force (God) directing the paths and courses that each and every person would take. Implying that they had no control over what was to occur, everything was already laid out, predetermined. 

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  1. This is progressing really well, Libby. You’re explaining your ideas and sequencing your writing with clarity and precision. You’re also using quotations effectively.

    In the paragraph under the subheading ‘dialogue’ you’ve made reference to a range of further metaphors. I’d suggest you re-arrange things a little and keep that together with your other discussion of metaphor (It’s perfectly legitimate to carry on analysing further examples of this) and then when you think about dialogue – I’d concentrate more on things the characters directly say that are references to fate – like when Lady Capulet says she “would the girl be married to her grave”, for example. Cece has some saved examples on her blog of this.

    Nice work so far!

    CW

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  2. Reading: 6B
    Writing: 5A

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