How does timing play fate in Romeo and Juliet?
Timing is everything in Romeo and Juliet. The Capulet servant happens to run into Romeo in Act I, scene i to tell Romeo of the Capulet party that evening. In Act I, scenes ii and iii, the idea of marriage is proposed to Juliet, however Lord Capulet has not yet committed his daughter to anything. This leaves her open to the thought of marriage and allows her room to fall in love with Romeo. In Act IV, scene ii, Capulet moves the marriage of Paris and Juliet from Thursday to Wednesday. Because of this, Juliet has to take the potion a day early. This complicates the situation for Friar Laurence when he finds out that the letter never gets to Romeo but has no time to send it again. (If Juliet had gotten married on the day originally scheduled, Friar Laurence would have had more time to get word to Romeo again) Timing plays fate again in Act V, scene iii when Romeo decides to take the poison just as Juliet is about to awake.
Timing plays such a huge role in Romeo and Juliet that it no doubt became frustrating at points for the audience to watch. There are so many "perfect timing" moments that lead up to the eventual tragedy that it would lead the viewer to believe that the titular characters were indeed fated to meet their miserable end.
First, there is the uncanny timing of the outbreak of plague that causes Friar John to become quarantined. With Friar John indisposed, the letter informing Romeo of Juliet's plot with the sleeping potion cannot be delivered. Because of this, Romeo believes she truly is dead. Lord Capulet also moves the day of Paris and Juliet's wedding a day earlier, compelling Juliet to take the potion earlier. Finally, and most cruelly, Romeo decides to take the poison upon seeing what he thinks is Juliet's corpse. However, with uncanny timing, he ends his own life mere moments before Juliet wakes up.
As the other answers have noted, timing at least seems to be everything in this play. The tragedy that kills the two lovers appears to have been caused as much by the ill-timed sequence of events as by the feud dividing the two families.
It is a case of if, if, if. If only Juliet's wedding had not been moved up, forcing her to take the sleeping potion earlier than planned; if only Romeo had gotten word of the plot so that he would have known Juliet was not really dead; and if only he hadn't immediately and impulsively killed himself, all would have been well—at least potentially. Of course, we learn in the Prologue that the lovers are fated to come to a tragic end, so we have to believe that if this series of mishaps had not ruined their chances, something else would have.
Of all the issues of "timing" in Romeo and Juliet, the most essential one is Romeo's arrival at Juliet's "tomb" before the drug simulating death has worn off. Romeo enters the tomb, sees his beloved newly dead (as he believes), and carries out his intention to join her in death, rather than live without her.
Shortly after his suicide by poison, Juliet awakes, finds him dead, and ends her own life. Neither of these deaths would have been necessary if only Romeo had been delayed just a little longer.
However, Shakespeare, basing his play on a much older story, is intent on writing a tragedy, and fate, or "timing," often plays a large role in his tragedies, as he wrestles with the issue of exactly how much control we actually exert over our lives.
In many ways. The three I think are most important are the servant running into Romeo in Act I (it is a big coincidence that this servant runs into them, no?), that Friar John was unable to go to Mantua (and contact Romeo, letting him know Juliet is not dead), and that Romeo gets there just before she wakes (if she woke earlier, it wouldn't be necessary for everyone to die).