How do the characters add to the tragedy of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet as laid out in Act 5, Scene 3?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One way the characters add to the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet that is unfolded in the final scene of Act V is through their irrational and impulsive choices. Romeo is a prime example of a character who makes irrational and impulsive decisions in this final scene. When he first sees Juliet in the tomb, he observes that she still looks beautiful, that her lips and cheeks still look rosy and that her skin has not yet paled, as we see in his lines:

Thou art not conquer'd [by death]. Beauty's ensign yet
is crimson in thy lips and in thy cheeks,
And death's pale flag is not advanced there. (V.iii.94-96)

Had Romeo had his wits about him, rather than allowing himself to be governed by his irrational emotions, he might have quickly observed that it's illogical for Juliet to still look rosy in death. If he had been able to make the logical connection, even after failing to receive the message from Friar Laurence, he would have been able to figure out that Juliet is not truly dead, which would have prevented him from making the rash, impulsive decision to commit suicide. Friar Laurence was on his way to the tomb, had Romeo taken a step back away from the situation and observed, all truth would have soon been revealed to him. Had Romeo relied on his rational mind rather than making rash, impulsive decisions, he would have spared both his life and Juliet's. Hence, Romeo's emotional, irrational, impulsive reaction to what he thinks is Juliet's death, although evidence says the contrary, is one thing that ironically leads to the final tragedy of the play.

Another way in which the characters Lords Capulet and Montague add to the play's tragedy is that they willingly accept their own ironic fault in the tragic end. The irony in the tragic end is that it is Lords Capulet and Montague's hatred for each other that separates Romeo and Juliet's love, leading to Romeo's and Juliet's deaths. Prince Escalus explains Capulet and Montague's guilt best when he says, "See what a scourge is laid upon your hate, / That heaven finds means to kill your joys with love!" (303-04). When Lords Capulet and Montague finally realize what their own wrongdoing has caused, they make amends, join hands, and finally lay to rest their longstanding feud, offering to make golden statues as monuments of each other's children. However, the irony is that had they laid to rest the feud much earlier, they never would have lost their children, and the great tragedy would have never taken place.

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Romeo and Juliet

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