In Romeo and Juliet, could the forcefulness of love be blamed for the deaths of Romeo and Juliet?

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The Prologue of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet directs the audience toward the concept of the power of the love between the "star-crossed lovers" as it makes mention of their "overthrows" and death-marked love."  Then, in Act II, Juliet declares her 'true love's passion" to Romeo while he does likewise, stating that he will stand beneath her balcony, "Forgetting any other home but this."

Certainly, there is a violence connected to the love of Romeo and Juliet, a violence mentioned in the Prologue and against which Friar Laurence warns,

These violent delights have violent ends
And in their triumph die, like fire and powder,
Which, as they kiss, consume. (2.6.9-11)

Indeed, the love of Romeo and Juliet for each other is intense. And, it is at the heart of other intense and powerful emotions.  In Act III, after they are married, Romeo inadvertently immerses himself in a violent situation with Tybalt and Mercutio.  Once she learns of the death of Tybalt, Juliet reacts with such intense emotion that her parents decide to have her marry Paris in order to lessen her pain; however, Juliet impetuously decides that she will take the potion offered her by the friar, thus generating violent emotions on the part of her parents, who mourn her loss.  Then, when Romeo hears the rumor that she is dead, he contemplates suicide, rushing to the Capulet catacombs.  Having arrived too late, Romeo discovers the lifeless body of Juliet and with violence to himself, he dies for love.

Violence begets violence in Romeo and Juliet. The intense attraction, followed by the passion of Romeo and Juliet sets in motion other passions, such as those of hate and love that clash in Act III with Romeo's tragic killing of Tybalt. This violent act of passion, in turn, effects Juliet's impassioned act of taking the potion in Act IV, as well as the subsequent passionate incident in Act V of Romeo's suicide, which precipitates Juliet's self-violence and death.  Truly, the fatal attraction of Romeo and Juliet for each other with its accompanying passions and "violent delights" precipitated the violence associated with their love

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accessteacher's profile pic

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

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This is a massive area of debate for critics of the play. Really, when we examine the plot in detail, we could argue that the cause of the tragedy has a number of causes, of which the forcefulness of love is certainly one of them. As romantic as their union is, we cannot help but feel that if they had been wiser and if they had carried things out differently, the tragedy could have so easily been avoided. If we look at the language that they use in Act II scene 1 together, we can see that they are anything but restrained in their feelings towards each other:

My bounty is as boundless as the sea,

My love as deep. The more I give to thee

The more I have, for both are infinite.

Both push each other towards vowing to marry each other a few hours after they have laid eyes on each other for the first time. They certainly let their feelings run away with them.

However, as much as we could blame the impetuousness of love, at the same time, we need to recognise that the play makes it clear a number of other factors come in to play: destiny, the Friar's decision to try and keep their union a secret rather than anouncing it clearly, the feud between their families and the way that Lord Capulet insists Juliet marry Paris. When we look at the play from this perspective, we can see the forces that are ranged against the young love of Romeo and Juliet succeeding, and we can perhaps understand that their tragedy is a result of all of these separate factors rather than any one in particular.

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