Lady Capulet is partially responsible for the tragic ending because she just stood by while her husband married off her daughter to a perfect stranger, and it was the marrying off of her daughter that caused her daughter’s premature death.
We know that she was thinking about marriage and even mentions Paris early on. She asks Juliet what she thinks about it.
Marry, that ‘marry’ is the very theme
I came to talk of. Tell me, daughter Juliet,
How stands your disposition to be married? (Act 1, Scene 3)
She tells her daughter that “ladies of esteem” younger than her have already been married, and really seems to push the idea on her. She is a fourteen year old girl! Why push her? Why is she in such a hurry to marry off her daughter? Maybe if she hadn’t pushed so hard, her daughter would still be alive. Maybe if she had not been so interested in the other ladies, she might have saved her daughter.
Juliet’s mother asks her, “Can you love the gentleman?” She gives her a very flowery speech. Does she give Juliet a chance to get to know Paris? No. Does she give Juliet a chance to choose her own husband? No. Perhaps if she had, her daughter would still be alive.
Lady Capulet’s biggest mistake, perhaps, was in what she did to Romeo. She accused him, openly. Even though she did not know her daughter’s situation, this might have contributed to the tragedy.
I beg for justice, which thou, Prince, must give.(185)
Romeo slew Tybalt; Romeo must not live. (Act 3, Scene 1)
Romeo’s banishment is an important part of the problem here. Because he was banished, Juliet was forced to marry Paris. She couldn’t marry Paris, because she was married to Romeo. So she faked her death, and then Romeo found her and killed himself, and she woke up and killed herself. So really, Lady Capulet should not have been so rash here. She sealed her daughter’s own fate!
She even goes so far as to tell Juliet she is going to have Romeo killed.
I'll send to one in Mantua,
Where that same banish'd runagate doth live,
Shall give him such an unaccustom'd dram
That he shall soon keep Tybalt company;
And then I hope thou wilt be satisfied.(Act 3, Scene 5)
Lady Capulet could have left well enough alone. It seems that she is not content with Romeo’s banishment, but she wants him dead too! She has no idea that Juliet is not just crying for her cousin Tybalt’s death, but for her husband Romeo who killed him. It seems that Lady Capulet is just as rash as Tybalt, and just as harsh.
Furthermore, Lady Capulet continues to be at fault when she does not intervene in Lord Capulet’s incredibly hasty marriage plans for Juliet. He wants to marry his daughter quickly. She buys Juliet only ONE MORE DAY! What kind of mother does that?
No, not till Thursday. There is time enough. (Act 4, Scene 2)
She does nothing to intervene when her husband is threatening to disown Juliet for not marring this man she hardly knows, only asking for one more day for poor Juliet. Then, when Juliet is found “dead” she reacts by saying Juliet is her life.
O me, O me! My child, my only life!
Revive, look up, or I will die with thee!
Help, help! Call help. (Act 4, Scene 5)
If Juliet is so important to you, you should do more for her, Lady Capulet! You are certainly one of the players to blame for this tragedy! You are not the only one, however.
Friar Lawrence is also to blame, because he contributed to the unusual circumstances that made the tragedy particularly legendary. Without the friar they would not have been able to get married in secret, and Juliet would not have been able to fake her death.
First of all, Friar Lawrence was fully aware that Romeo was head over heels in love with Rosaline only a day before.
Holy Saint Francis! What a change is here!
Is Rosaline, that thou didst love so dear,
So soon forsaken? (Act 2, Scene 3)
He knew that Romeo was hot with his passions, and perhaps he should have advised the boy to slow things down a bit? Maybe if the Friar had been a little less interested in bringing the peace between the households, using Romeo and Juliet as pawns, and a little more interested in preserving the young people, he could have saved their lives.
Instead, Friar Lawrence went along with it.
O, she knew well(90)
Thy love did read by rote, and could not spell.
But come, young waverer, come go with me.
In one respect I'll thy assistant be;
For this alliance may so happy prove
To turn your households’ rancour to pure love. (Act 1, Scene 3)
Friar Lawrence agreed to marry Romeo and Juliet in secret.
So smile the heavens upon this holy act
That after-hours with sorrow chide us not! (Act 2, Scene 6)
That was hardly the beginning of the end of his mistakes in the matter. He also counseled Paris, even though he knew that Juliet was already married!
You say you do not know the lady's mind.
Uneven is the course; I like it not. (Act 4, Scene 1)
He then helped Juliet fake her death, actually recommending it. He tells Juliet he has a cure for her problem, if she is brave enough to use it. He can take care of it! He can help her! All she has to do is use this potion!
If, rather than to marry County Paris,
Thou hast the strength of will to slay thyself,
Then is it likely thou wilt undertake
A thing like death to chide away this shame,(75)
That cop’st with death himself to scape from it;
And, if thou dar'st, I'll give thee remedy. (Act 4, Scene 1)
Of course, he failed to get word to Romeo on time.
Romeo: News from Verona! How now, Balthasar?
Dost thou not bring me letters from the friar? (Act 5, Scene 1)
When Paris and Capulet find out, he basically tell them it’s fine, because
But she's best married that dies married young. (Act 4, Scene 5)
After all, he knows that she’s not really dead. He just doesn’t want them asking too many questions, or looking too closely. He is basically saying, yes, she’s dead, oh, well, better off in Heaven, as they say, let’s get her in that tomb lickity split.
Juliet wonders later whether the Friar tricked her, as she takes the potion, she asks herself if she is indeed killing herself.
What if it be a poison which the friar(25)
Subtly hath ministr'd to have me dead,
Lest in this marriage he should be dishonour'd
Because he married me before to Romeo? (Act 4, Scene 4)
Finally, Friar Lawrence himself actually takes the blame. When the gruesome sight of Romeo and Juliet’s bodies (and that of Paris) is found at the Capulet tomb, he takes full responsibility.
I am the greatest, able to do least,
Yet most suspected, as the time and place(235)
Doth make against me, of this direful murder;
And here I stand, both to impeach and purge
Myself condemned and myself excus'd. (Act 5, Scene 3)
Friar Lawrence is the only one who knows from beginning to end everything that is going on. He is the one who secretly married Romeo and Juliet. He is also the one who gave Juliet the poison and counseled her to fake her death to avoid marrying Paris. Romeo had no idea she was doing this. Friar Lawrence was going to send a letter to Romeo to tell him about this, but the letter never got to Romeo so he never found out. Therefore Friar Lawrence alone knew that Juliet was not dead. Romeo broke into the tomb and found her asleep but thought she was dead, and killed himself then and there. Juliet woke up, horrified, and found Romeo dead, and killed herself, and Friar Lawrence knew exactly what happened when he found them.
Juliet could be blamed for some of this, of course. When asked what she thinks about marriage, she is cagey.
It is an honour that I dream not of. (Act 1, Scene 3)
Does she mean she does not consider herself worthy of marriage, or she is too young to marry, or she does not want to marry? The minute she sees Romeo, she seems ready to marry. She sees him at the ball, falls in love at first sight, and the next thing you know, she is talking about marriage, again, in terms of honor.
Three words, dear Romeo, and good night indeed.
If that thy bent of love be honourable,
Thy purpose marriage, send me word to-morrow,(150)
By one that I'll procure to come to thee,
Where and what time thou wilt perform the rite (Act 2, Scene 2)
It seems that for Juliet, marriage and honor are very closely connected. She wants an honorable companion, and an honorable marriage.
Let’s return them to that meeting. It seems that Romeo swept her off her feet very quickly with some pretty words, which she was more than happy to reciprocate.
Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
Which mannerly devotion shows in this;
For saints have hands that pilgrims’ hands do touch,
And palm to palm is holy palmers’ kiss.(Act 1, Scene 5)
The next thing you know, Romeo is climbing over orchard walls to see her, and she is bemoaning what’s in a name and wishing he wasn’t her enemy. Love is blind, I guess. They marry quickly, in secret, and things get even more complicated. He kills her cousin.
Shall I speak ill of him that is my husband?
Ah, poor my lord, what tongue shall smooth thy name
When I, thy three-hours’ wife, have mangled it? (Act 3, Scene 2)
This is not the first time Juliet has had to face the fact that she was in love with her family’s enemy. She did think about this before falling in love. Sort of.
My only love, sprung from my only hate!
Too early seen unknown, and known too late!
Prodigious birth of love it is to me
That I must love a loathed enemy (Act 1, Scene 5)
So was Juliet to blame, since she is the one who decided to fall head first for Romeo? If Juliet had decided not to give in to Romeo, and had ignored him, after all, that would have solved everything. No one would have died, and there would have been no tragedy. On the other hand, she is the youngest participant, so it does sort of seem like a cop-out to blame her.
As the two guardians of Juliet, spiritual and physical, both Sir Laurence and the Nurse are, perhaps, the most culpable for the events leading up to her death. And as Romeo's spiritual guardian Friar Laurence is equally accountable for his untimely death.
- Friar Laurence
The above post has well accounted for the friar's errors, but there is one more incident which may need clarification and which strongly indicates his lack of integrity and failure to accept his responsibility in the events of this tragedy.
In Act V, Scene I, Friar Laurence's failure to inform Romeo's servant Balthasar that Juliet is really alive is the cause of Balthasar's erroneous report that Juliet is dead when he finally reaches Romeo. This error, of course, affects Romeo so profoundly that he purchases poison and hastens to Juliet's tomb. Then,in Scene 2,when Friar Laurence is in Juliet's tomb to be present when Juliet awakens, he has good intentions,
Now must I to the monument alone;
Within this three hours will fair Juliet wake:
She will beshrew me much that Romeo Hath had no notice of these accidents:
But I will write again to Mantua,
And keep her at my cell till Romeo come
however, when he enters and shortly thereafter hears the watchmen outside, he remarks, "Fear comes upon me" when he discovers Romeo has killed himself, and becomes cowardly. Although he urges Juliet to depart with him, she refuses. But, instead of forcing her to accompany him, knowing that she is in an extremely agitated state over the sight of her Romeo dead he flees--"I dare no longer stay."
The Nurse is a poor family member who is given shelter and, in return, is the nursemaid and, later, guardian and confidante of Juliet. As an adult in whom the care of Juliet is entrusted, she acts irresponsibly as a liasion between Juliet and Romeo [Act II, Scene 4]; furthermore, as a relative of the Capulets, she fails in her duty to them. For, she should not have acted as an accomplice in Romeo and Juliet's secretive marriage as she aids the couple in the consummation of this marriage [Act III, Scene 3: "I'll find Romeo /To comfort you], nor should she have encouraged Juliet to go ahead with a marriage to Paris, knowing full well that Juliet has already become a wife. In this respect, she has suggested that Juliet commit mortal sins in violating the sacrament of marriage and in the act of bigomy, as the family is obviously Roman Catholic--
Romeo is banished, and all the world to nothing (the odds are overwhelming)
That he dares ne'er come back to challenge you....
Then, since the case so stands as now it doth,
I think it best you married with the County.
Oh, he's a lovely gentleman! [Act III, Scene 5]
This foolish advice leads to Juliet's desperate run to Friar Laurence's cell where he devices the plan of her pretend death.