How do rational decisions fit into Romeo and Juliet?

How do rational decisions fit into Romeo and Juliet?


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mercut1469 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Many of the decisions in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet are made out of passion or in fits of rage: servants of the Montagues and Capulets brawl in the street over insulting gestures; Romeo and Juliet impetuously fall madly in love despite knowing their families are mortal enemies; Mercutio challenges Tybalt to a fight when Romeo backs down; Lord Capulet viciously berates his daughter when she asks him to postpone her marriage to Paris; Romeo vows suicide after a message from his servant and goes out of control, killing first Paris and then himself.

Rational decisions are few and far between, but three instances of clear thinking are evident. First, in Act I, Lord Capulet's suggestion that Paris win Juliet's heart before approving their marriage is prudent. He rightly considers his daughter's feelings in the matter and insists that she be happy before he promises her to Paris, even though the match would make social and political sense. Second, it could be argued that Friar Laurence's decision to marry Romeo and Juliet is initially a good idea. He hopes such a marriage will turn the Montague's and Capulet's "rancor to pure love." Given the hatred between the families, one might think the Friar was crazy, but it could also be claimed that his solution was not without merit and, had it worked, would have solved a long-standing feud. Finally, the Friar's advice to Romeo after the deaths of Mercutio and Tybalt is, as the Nurse puts it, "good counsel." He tells Romeo to be patient, go see Juliet, then journey to Mantua and wait until tempers have died down:

Go, get thee to thy love, as was decreed.
Ascend her chamber. Hence and comfort her.
But look thou stay not till the watch be set,
For then thou canst not pass to Mantua,
Where thou shalt live till we can find a time
To blaze your marriage, reconcile your friends,
Beg pardon of the Prince, and call thee back
With twenty hundred thousand times more joy
Than thou went’st forth in lamentation.
This solution may have worked if not for the unfortunate circumstances involving Capulet's pledge to marry Juliet to Count Paris. At any rate, it was another example of rationality in a play which is full of the irrational.
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Romeo and Juliet

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