In Romeo and Juliet, does Romeo face and accept death with honour?Romeo and Juliet William Shakespeare    

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Circumstance and chance underscore the concept of fate in William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.  In Act V, Scene 1, Romeo has a premonition in the form of a dream that he dies and Juliet comes to him.

If I may trust the flattering truth of sleep, My dreams presage some joyful news at hand. My bosom's lord sits lightly in his throne, And all this day an unaccustom'd spirit Lifts me above the ground with cheerful thoughts.(5) I dreamt my lady came and found me dead (Strange dream that gives a dead man leave to think!) And breath'd such life with kisses in my lips That I reviv'd and was an emperor. Ah me! how sweet is love itself possess'd,(10) When but love's shadows are so rich in joy!

And, earlier in the play, after Romeo has killed Tybalt in Act III, he exclaims, "O I am Fortune's fool!" Clearly, he senses that his life is dictated by fate, and Romeo feels that his actions are controlled by circumstance, for he declares his defiance of this fate:  "Then, I defy you, stars!" (5.1.24). It is then that Romeo purchases poison from an apothecary so that he can join Juliet in her tomb and perhaps realize his dream of being united with his love.  However, this action is not noble or honorable.  Rather, it is rash and impetuous without thought of his family. In fact, Romeo calls himself "desperate" and a "madman."

When he reaches the tomb of Juliet, it is this desperate Romeo who faces death as he faces the catacombs of the Capulets,

Thou detestable maw, thou womb of death,(45) 
Gorg'd with the dearest morsel of the earth, 
Thus I enforce thy rotten jaws to open, 
And in despite I'll cram thee with more food.

Then, with his characteristic impetuousity, Romeo kills Paris when he encounters him at the tomb and drags him inside.  When he sees Juliet, who appears to be dead, Romeo determines that he will join his love,

Here, here I will remain
With the worms that are your maids. O, here
I will set up my everlasting rest,
And shake off the bonds of unlucky stars
From my world-wearied body. Eyes, look your last!
Arms, take your last embrace! And, lips, O you
The doors of breath, seal a timeless bargain
With death, who will take everything, with a righteous kiss!
Come on, bitter escort. Come on, unsavory guide!
You desperate sea captain, now run your sea-sick weary ship
Onto the dashing rocks all at once!
Here's to my love! [Drinks.] O, Pharmacist, you told the truth!
Your drugs are quick. So, I die with a kiss.

It is impulsively that Romeo reacts to the sight of Juliet; it is impulsively that he dies beside her after having noticed that her lips are yet warm. And, it is impulsively, not honorably, that Romeo reacts to the tragic forces of what he feels is fate.


kate1993 | Student

I'm not sure if I would exactly use the word "honor".  He faced death because of the love that he had for his Juliet.  Romeo definitely didn't complete this task reluctantly though.  Little did he know was that Juliet really hadn't died.  She was still very much alive, and when she had woken up, it was depressing for her to find her dear sweet Romeo dead... her true love.

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Romeo and Juliet

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