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What role does fate play in Romeo and Juliet?

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liliey | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 7, 2007 at 9:38 AM via web

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What role does fate play in Romeo and Juliet?

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Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted June 7, 2007 at 9:45 AM (Answer #1)

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Fate is one of the predominant themes of the play. As the analysis here at eNotes indicates, Shakespeare places relies heavily on the "Elizabethan concept of Fortune or Fate."

For example, "upon learning of Mercutio's death, Romeo exclaims, "This day's black fate on more days doth depend, / This but begins the woe others must end" (III.i.119-120). In Act III, scene v, Juliet addresses Fortune (or Fate) and implores its aid.

O Fortune, Fortune, all men call thee fickle;
If thou art fickle, what dost thou with him
That is renown'd for faith? Be fickle, Fortune:
For then I hope thou wilt not keep him long,
But send him back.
(ll.60-64).

Fortune (or fate) is fickle: it is improbable that so perfectly matched a couple should be barred by a senseless family conflict (the cause of which is never mentioned and cannot be recalled); it is only through mischance that Romeo takes his own life in the mistaken belief that his love is dead, causing her to follow suit."

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bmadnick | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted June 7, 2007 at 10:29 AM (Answer #2)

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References to "fortune" and the "stars" throughout the play see Romeo and Juliet as helpless victims of fate. The Prologue to Act I refers to them as "star-crossed lovers". Other examples include Romeo's inability to stop the fight between Mercutio and Tybalt and Friar John's delay in being able to get the Friar's message to Romeo. Even the way the couple meets could be considered fate. Romeo crashes the Capulet party to see Rosaline; instead, he meets and falls in love with Juliet.

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blacksheepunite | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted June 7, 2007 at 2:10 PM (Answer #3)

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Perhaps "fate" is contrasted with "faith" to reveal something about the nature of the love between Romeo and Juliet. As Jamie notes, Juliet addresses fate, or fortune asking for help:

O Fortune, Fortune, all men call thee fickle;
If thou art fickle, what dost thou with him
That is renown'd for faith? Be fickle, Fortune:
For then I hope thou wilt not keep him long,
But send him back.

I wonder whether an Elizabethan audience might see this as yet another example of misplaced faith. If Juliet had as much faith as her love, would she not request help from God or even Romeo's god, Love? This passage seems to suggest that she thinks Fate (and not Love) is in control of their lives. Perhaps in devoting themselves to one another, and making each other the gods of their idolatry, they have become pagan and subject to pagan gods and pagan rules (one of which is that fickle fortune's wheel will turn).

If this is the case, then the "star-crossed lovers" are star-crossed in every sense of the word. Their love has blinded them and left them vulnerable.

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sera11 | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 4, 2007 at 10:39 AM (Answer #4)

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What role does fate play in Romeo and Juliet?

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