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Are Romeo and Juliet tragic heroes or victims of fate?Are Romeo and Juliet tragic...

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camaro | Salutatorian

Posted March 23, 2011 at 9:41 AM via web

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Are Romeo and Juliet tragic heroes or victims of fate?

Are Romeo and Juliet tragic heroes or victims of fate?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 2) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 23, 2011 at 3:28 PM (Answer #3)

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In the Prologue to Romeo and Juliet, fate is certainly mentioned with reference to the "star-crossed" lovers.  And, it is clearly out of their control that Romeo and Juliet come from families that have such antipathy for one another. Then, too, Romeo has not come to the Capulet party with any intentions other than to comply with his friend, Benvolio's advice to entertain himself and look around.  However, when Romeo learns Juliet's name, he should not have pursued her by climbing her orchard walls.  Herein, then, the fault lies in Romeo and not in the stars.  Likewise, their deciding so impulsively to marry is of their own choices. 

All the subsequent actions that follow are colored by the paths that Romeo and Juliet have chosen, save one:  the plague that strikes Mantua.  Yet, had Romeo made better choices earlier in the play, he would not have been banished and, perhaps, he and Juliet could have spoken to the feuding parents.  Indeed, their final tragic acts indicate that the "fault is not in the stars," but in themselves; it is in their impulsiveness that cries out, "Fate I defy you!"

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

Posted March 23, 2011 at 8:47 PM (Answer #4)

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While they suffer a terrible fate, I too agree that they are tragic, not fated characters.  Tragic heroes have inherent flaws, and sometimes those flaws are really only flaws in certain circumstances, but nonetheless, those flaws cause their downfall.  For example, Romeo is intensely loyal, but that loyalty to family and honor drive him to avenge Mercutio's death and set in motion all of the rest of the events of the play. 

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted March 24, 2011 at 6:22 AM (Answer #5)

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Even though the Prologue states that they are "star-crossed" indicating that they are fated, I must also agree that they have free will and choose their fate.  Romeo and Juliet both know that their families have been feuding forever, and that if caught, they will suffer the consequences.  They choose to forgo this, and continue to see each other.  They choose to keep their love secret and to bring the nurse and friar into their little secret.  Romeo chooses to avenge Mercutio's death, thus facing banishment.  Juliet chooses to fake her own death, and Romeo chooses to purchase the poison which, in the end, kills them both. 

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ask996 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted March 26, 2011 at 9:24 AM (Answer #6)

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Yes he says they're "star-crossed", however, he also indicates enmity between the families is "new mutiny." They are tragic heroes in the truest sense. A tragic hero is one who has a tragic flaw that leads to his downfall. Romeo's nature seems to be mercurial. Don't forget that just prior to meeting Juliet he was in "love" with the fair Rosaline. Even the priest makes comment and chides Romeo about this. Had he not been so impetuous things might have developed differently.

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brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted March 27, 2011 at 10:40 AM (Answer #7)

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Perhaps both.  Victims of their family names and the restrictions it placed on their lives and associations.  But the story is overwhelmingly and obviously a tragedy, so if I had to pick between the two, I'd say it is that.  Not just because of the tragic end, but because of their repeated struggles and extreme lengths they go to to avoid personal tragedy, and it catches up with them anyway.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 28, 2011 at 4:54 AM (Answer #8)

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I think that they are both. Whilst I dislike the idea of fate myself, it is clear that there was so much going against Romeo and Juliet and so much that was out of their hands. They couldn't have predicted the way that fate interfered in Juliet's plan to escape marriage to Paris and the tragic end that they both receive, for example. Therefore, I do think that fate is an important component that cannot be ignored.

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rskardal | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted March 31, 2011 at 8:22 AM (Answer #9)

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While I can see both sides, I'm also inclined to say "tragic." These are clearly characters with fatal flaws, and they're warned of them time and again. The tension that the audience feels is generated as much from the R&J's flaws as it is from any sense of fate(l) intervention.

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mrs-nelson | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted April 1, 2011 at 12:23 PM (Answer #10)

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I say "victims of their own choices".  I don't think they were tragic heroes or victims of fate.  When I teach this play,  students do wonder why anyone would feel sorry for this pair or call them heroes.  Many students can clearly see the consequences of poor choices (by R&J and the adults in the play).  There are several situtations led by fate as Shakespeare would have it, but most of these situtations would not have occurred if bad choices did not precipitate them. 

This is a great question though, and leads students to in-depth discussions about their views.  As long as you can support your opinion with evidence from the play - you are usually right, even if the person behind you has the opposite view!  This is what makes English more of an art than a discipline (and why most English teachers love it). 

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sblatnick | High School Teacher | eNoter

Posted April 3, 2011 at 4:50 PM (Answer #11)

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Are Romeo and Juliet tragic heroes or victims of fate?

Are Romeo and Juliet tragic heroes or victims of fate?

 

A tragic hero is an individual who has a character flaw.  No matter how hard he tries to overcome this character flaw, he cannot and it brings about his tragic end. (the catastrophe)  Romeo's flaw is impetuousness.  He acts without thinking about the consequences to his actions.  He must have what he wants  immediately, instead of stepping back and looking at the choices he has before him. Juliet also emerges as having this flaw of impetuousness.  They are both quick to act in an "all or nothing" manner. Does Romeo let Mercutio and Tybalt settle their dispute in the manner of the time period (duel to defend honor, in which neither meant to kill the other)? No, he jumps in and causes the death of Mercutio by defraying a sword thrust and making it fatal. Does Romeo wait to hear from Friar Laurence?  No- he rushes off to buy poison.  Does Juliet take her father at his word and decide to no longer dwell in his household if she refuses Paris?  No she runs to the friar threatening to kill herself if he has no plan.  They are definitely tragic heroes!

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clarendon | College Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted April 3, 2011 at 7:17 PM (Answer #12)

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As hinted at in several posts, this topic seems to set up a false dichotomy. According to Aristotle, the most important part of a tragedy is the plot. In this play, it is clear that Shakespeare sets up a tragic plot in such a way as to take advantage of the characters' mistakes (although it is important to note that the first half is comedic). He announces it when he calls Romeo and Juliet "star-crossed" and shows it such moments as when Friar Laurence's letter cannot reach Romeo due to the external factor of the plague. The real question isn't if the two lovers are victims of fate--of course they are--but rather if they actually qualify as tragic heroes. To that end, an analysis should focus on anagnorisis since their role in society militates against the point. For my part, what is significant about the play is the seeming inevitability of the catastrophe along with the steadfastness of will in the two lovers, especially is ones so young. That said, they are pipsqueaks compared to the great tragic heroes; that Shakespeare would go on to create Hamlet and Lear less than fifteen years later is incredible.

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sharon73 | High School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 10, 2011 at 9:39 AM (Answer #13)

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I'm not sure they fit smoothly in either catergory. On one hand, they fall victim to fate and bad timing, however, much of the downfall was caused by choices made by them.

Although it is considered one of Shakespeare's most famous tragedies, I don't think it is one of his best. Yes, it's a great story, but not a great tragedy.  If it is accepted in the literary world that tragedy is measured by Aristotle's poetics, then "Romeo and Juliet" falls short.  Where is the denounemt/ realization? Where is the tragic flaw?  If we say the tragic flaw is youth, then doesn't everyone fall victim to that? If that is their flaw, then there is no time in the course of the play for them to realize their flaw and understand the the tragic events were caused my them. At the end of the play, they are still young. And, can we say that all the events are brought on because of them?  I don't think we can.  Perhaps, although minor characters, the parents would fit the role of tragic heroes better.

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dancer4life15 | Student , Grade 11 | Honors

Posted April 14, 2011 at 12:53 PM (Answer #14)

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I think they can be seem as both.  Throughout the play there is many references to fate and destiny and stars influencing their lives.  However I don't see how they can be viewed as heroes.  This is because in my opinion they kill themselves to avoid living without the other.  This is just taking the easy way out, there is no reason why they had to end their lives.  So Romeo and Juliet are some where in between that classification

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yankovelikov | Student , Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 5, 2011 at 6:07 PM (Answer #15)

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They are tragic heroes they are constable for their own characteristics they want to have a thing between them named love, but the families of capulet and montegues, do not allow that so they basically suicide and live happely after, in the heavens.

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multitasker-97 | Student , Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 14, 2011 at 7:52 AM (Answer #16)

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Are Romeo and Juliet tragic heroes or victims of fate?

Are Romeo and Juliet tragic heroes or victims of fate?

They are tragic heroes because they both died for each other in the name of love and they were young teens which says even more that they are tragic heroes.

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multitasker-97 | Student , Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 14, 2011 at 7:57 AM (Answer #17)

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Romeo and Juliet are tragic heroes because:

  • they died for each other in the name of love:
 they were young when they did this they were secretly married and loved each other enough to go behind their parents' backs Romeo snuck into Verona to see if his one true love,Juliet, was really dead although Romeo killed Juliet's cousin,Tybalt, she still loved him.
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lsumner | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted May 15, 2011 at 10:53 AM (Answer #18)

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I believe Romeo and Juliet are tragic heroes.  It is tragic that their two families cannot get along.  It is tragic that the two of them found each other.  There deaths are the result of a deliberate argument between two families.  Fate is not involved.  I don't beleive it was fate that led them to one another.  I believe it was a meant to be love story that will never be copied in the same fashion.  No other two loved so deeply until one could not live without the other.  These two, Romeo and Juliet, are two people who became tragic heroes because their deaths brought about triumphant change.  The two families recognized the error of their ways in the death of their loved ones.  If Romeo and Juliet had lived happily ever after, they would not have overcome evil with good.  Because of their love for one another which ultimately ends in death, they become heroes--tragic heroes who change the way two families look at one another.  Thank goodness their deaths were not in vain--now that would have been tragic.

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 15, 2011 at 6:31 PM (Answer #19)

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I don't see Romeo as a tragic hero based on Aristotle's requirements. He may be, but I'm not sure what his tragic flaw is: inexperience and youthfulness aren't flaws. I don't see Juliet as a hero either. Though she seems more grounded than Romeo, I also don't see a tragic flaw in her, and I thought tragic heroes were men...

Both young people defy the norms of their society and live, and die, on their terms, even though there is an element of the Friar's plan—which doesn't have a contingency for a change in the plan. Based on what they know and see, and how they feel about each other, the young lovers choose their love of the other and death, rather than living without the one he/she loves.

As victims of fate, we know from the prologue that the two are "star-crossed lovers." Based upon what the audience believed (and Shakespeare), they are fated to die, and no one can escape his/her fate. In this way, I guess they are victims of fate.

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lhc | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted May 17, 2011 at 5:53 PM (Answer #23)

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A cynical view might be that Romeo and Juliet were victims of youthful naivete and overactive hormones!  The play opens with Romeo moping around brooding over Rosaline; however, within moments of sighting Juliet, Rosaline is ancient history, and now he has found his true love!  One has to credit Shakespeare with creating this early version of a soap opera, even as he was writing a tragedy that has stood the test of time.  The two made choices that they knew were risky, but one hallmark of youth is the inability at times to foresee the possibility of dire consequences related to one's choices.  Thankfully, there were no motor vehicles to operate during that time period, as neither Romeo nor Juliet could probably be trusted with sound judgement and decision making!

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stutin | High School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 21, 2011 at 1:17 AM (Answer #24)

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Romeo and Juliet neither were tragic heroes nor victims of fate, as I truly believed that the two matured individuals could have made better decisions for their life. Often it is human tendency to blame it all on fate, but often the situations or circumstances in life occur due to either poor decision making skills or hastiness that ruins our aims for life. However, because this play was scripted it was in control of the writer Shakespeare to tune the play as it was suppose to.

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nainpreet | Student , Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 22, 2011 at 11:04 PM (Answer #25)

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Well, for me they were neither... coz i belive in fate of our own hands so one can never be a victim and they became a heroic couple because od sakespere, as we can find thousands of lovers in this era whom  no one cares to have look.... yes i can say that i liked reading it....

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study1234 | Student , Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 26, 2011 at 12:42 PM (Answer #26)

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Most  definitely victims of fate!

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anilbnandy | Student , Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 9, 2011 at 3:55 PM (Answer #28)

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tragic heroes

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dup | College Teacher | eNoter

Posted July 25, 2011 at 1:58 PM (Answer #72)

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they are the tragic heroes

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yugsfuysg | High School Teacher | eNoter

Posted August 7, 2011 at 12:26 PM (Answer #85)

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cheezea | Student , Grade 10 | Valedictorian

Posted September 10, 2011 at 7:17 PM (Answer #111)

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i believe they are neither... Everyone can choose whether or not to accept fate or make their own choices. In this case, they chose to do whatever they did for the one they love, so, as #10 says, they are victims of their own choices

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tuto1996 | Student , Grade 9 | eNoter

Posted September 20, 2011 at 12:59 PM (Answer #112)

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In class I read this play and both of the options were discussed widely. My opinion is that they were both because fate was what made them die, whereas they were also tragic heroes, as a result for their extreme love types (see taxonomy of love)

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ib-survive | Student , Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 28, 2011 at 1:10 AM (Answer #113)

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I would say both although I do not believe in fate myself but there were many cross and direct refrences to fate taking control of their destiny

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samantha96 | Student , Grade 11 | Honors

Posted October 1, 2011 at 3:57 PM (Answer #114)

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In the prologue at the beginning of the play Shakespeare makes a reference to Romeo and Juliet being 'star-crossed lovers'. During this time fate was based on astronomy and reading the stars to predict furures. This could be implying that Romeo and Juliet went against fate, by saying that they crossed the stars predictions.

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riot174 | Student , Undergraduate | Honors

Posted October 19, 2011 at 6:29 AM (Answer #115)

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I do not feel they are heros in any way.

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likhithchitneni | Student , Grade 10 | eNoter

Posted October 31, 2011 at 4:12 AM (Answer #116)

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They went with thier choices that made what they are today in our minds!

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 23, 2011 at 12:24 PM (Answer #2)

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I'll go with tragic heroes.  I don't really believe in fate and I don't think fate is necessary to the play, even if Shakespeare does call the two of them "star-crossed."

I think they're tragic heroes because they are making their own choices and their choices are noble, if somewhat rash and hurried.  They want to pursue their own lives and their own love rather than just being controlled by their families' hatreds.

So I don't think they're controlled by destiny.  I think they are making their own choices which are noble but which end up in tragedy.  Therefore, they are tragic heroes.

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