How can this grade 10 honors class essay on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet be improved, regarding the prompt, "Discuss the role of chance or coincidence in the play. How did it affect the ending of...

How can this grade 10 honors class essay on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet be improved, regarding the prompt, "Discuss the role of chance or coincidence in the play. How did it affect the ending of the play"?

     “What must happen will happen”-(Juliet), Romeo and Juliet is a masterpiece created through ideals and emotions. Shakespeare, believed the fate and destiny were inevitable and one could not change his or her fate. The play has evolved through the scenes due to this fact. Chance has twisted the intentions of the two lovers, and it is due to chance that we have a tragic ending.

     To begin with, chance plays a major part in the play. Perhaps, if there was no chance of Friar John taken for quarantine, the two lovers may have been able to live together for much longer. Romeo has met Juliet by chance, he had no intention of falling in love with her, and this is before he lays his eyes on her. If the two had not met, had they not fallen in love, their untimely deaths would most likely not have occurred. Moving on to the next time they meet, it is by chance that Romeo happens to be right below her balcony and eavesdrop on her. If this “meeting” hadn’t occurred, they would not have been able to set their wedding plans. If the wedding plans were not set, the two may have lived because Romeo may have received the news of Friar’s drift. A third example, as well as the most important, is the death of Tybalt. The whole scenario was coincidental: Romeo appearing as Tybalt looks for him, and Romeo jumping in front of Tybalt, trying to protect Mercutio, but later being one of the causes for his death. This scene plays a major role in the outcome of the play. Romeo is angry at Tybalt, and Tybalt decides to come back. After his death, Romeo has killed his wife’s cousin. He also violated Prince Escalus’ law, and therefore is banished. This banishment complicates the plot and adds extreme tension to the end of the play. Had Romeo not arrived to where Tybalt was; Mercutio not have fought; Romeo not have jumped in front of Mercutio; Tybalt not have come back—Romeo may not have been banished. Due to this banishment Romeo is separated from his love and is no longer able to know her plans. Juliet, learning of Romeo’s banishment threatens to commit suicide, thus the Friar impulsively creates a plan. There are many events that happen by chance during the end of the play. First, Capulet moves the day of the wedding up one day, thus the timing that was set between the Friar and Juliet is now slandered. Secondly, Friar John is not able to reach Romeo due to having chosen Friar John as a partner, and therefore since Romeo knew not of his wife’s drift, he died thinking she was dead. Chance plays a major role in the outcome and therefore many events that were would most likely not have occurred if only chance was on the lovers’ side.

     Romeo and Juliet, as marvelous as it is, is heavy with chance. Although the chance is contains is rather unpleasant, the feud eventually ends between the families. Chance plays a major role in the play due to it being almost inevitable to avoid and having disastrous results in the end of the play. Romeo, struck most by chance exclaims “I am a fortunes’ fool”, thus we as audience or readers know that Romeo, knowing of this evil fate, was never able to defy it.

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tamarakh's profile pic

Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

You have a good start on your essay, but with this type of prompt concerning Romeo and Juliet, you may want to consider exactly to what extent chance plays a role and to what extent choice plays a role. Yes, it's certainly true that Shakespeare includes a lot of references to fate in the play, but it's also true that all events happen as a matter of characters' choices rather than mere chance. We especially see choices and decisions being blamed for both Romeo's and Juliet's deaths in the final act when Prince Escalus blatantly places the blame on Lords Capulet and Montague and their prolonged feud, as we see in the prince's revealing lines:

Capulet, Mongage [Montague],
See what a scourge is laid upon your hate,
That heaven finds means to kill your joys with love! (V.iii.302-05)

His argument here is that God is punishing Capulet and Montague for their prolonged hatred by taking away their only joys, who have just died for the sake of love. Since Capulet and Montague have both made active choices to continue the hatred and prolonged the feud, it's very clear that Shakespeare is using Prince Escalus to show that Romeo's and Juliet's tragic deaths are really ultimately the consequences of their parents' choices rather than a product of fate. Hence, if you expand your analysis and thesis to look at the roles that both chance and choice play within Romeo and Juliet, not only will you have a much more honest answer, you will also have a much deeper analysis.

One point you make that is actually even more a product of choice than it is of chance can be seen in your sentence, "Moving on to the next time they meet, it is by chance that Romeo happens to be right below her balcony and eavesdrop on her." Actually, Romeo made the conscious choice to scale the high garden wall in the hopes of seeking her out, a choice that puts both himself and her in grave danger. However, the choice alone to scale to the wall would not necessarily have led to the start of their relationship; only listening to her feelings and talking with her led to the start of their relationship and the formation of their wedding plans. Therefore, what is true is that, as you say, by chance he overheard Juliet confess out loud to herself her feelings for Romeo, and it was that confession that led to the start of their relationship. However, what truly led to their deaths? Was it his decision to pursue their relationship by scaling the wall? Or was it the chance moment of overhearing her? Or was it perhaps a combination of factors, such as Romeo's choice to pursue the relationship coupled with their parents' decisions to continue the feud? The fact is that had Romeo not made the active choice to pursue the relationship neither he nor Juliet would have died; however, that choice alone also did not lead to their deaths. What is even more true is that had neither one of their parents made the active choice to continue the feud neither offspring would have died, regardless of their choice to marry. Hence, just like Prince Escalus asserts, everything again ties back to the parents' decisions to hate and feud.

Even your point concerning Tybalt's chance death deserves further analysis. Was it really Romeo's random act of appearing on the street that led to Tybalt's chance death? Think about the reason why Tybalt was angered and pursuing Romeo in the first place. Mercutio and Benvolio had persuaded Romeo to come along with them and crash the Capulets' ball in the hopes that it would cheer up Romeo. Romeo at first refused but then, against his better judgement, finally capitulates, which means Romeo made the active choice to give in to his friends' persuasion; what's more, his friends made the active choice to try and persuade Romeo, even though they knew it was a dangerous idea. Hence, Romeo and his friends went to the ball that night as a matter of choice. More importantly, Tybalt recognized Romeo and felt insulted by his presence. Tybalt had every right to feel insulted by Romeo's presence, who was clearly there uninvited. Plus, in those days, challenging a man to a duel was the socially acceptable and dignified way to face an insult and regain dignity; duels also seldom resulted in death. However, we must also remember that Tybalt is also quite a fiery, hot-headed character, as we clearly see even in the very first scene, and it would have been in his better interest to listen to his uncle's advice in ignoring Romeo's presence at the ball because Romeo wasn't doing any harm. Hence, even Tybalt's own choice to challenge Romeo to a duel led to his own death, making his death less a matter of chance and more a matter of choice. We must not also forget that Romeo would not have been on the street that day had Mercutio not made the active choice to remain on the street in the hopes of starting a fight with the Capulets, even though Benvolio begged him to get off the street, as we clearly see at the very beginning of Act 3, Scene 1. Therefore, both Mercutio's and Tybalt's deaths are really the consequence of a series of active choices, the choice to crash the ball, the choice to remain on the street, and Tybalt's choice to pursue a duel.

So, as you can see, your essay will definitely be a lot stronger if you deepen your analysis of the text and start looking at choices as well as chance. You will also want to strengthen your paragraph development. Depending on how long your essay should be, you have enough material for at least three well-argued paragraphs that analyze both the role of choice and chance, using supporting details from the play, like you see above. Finally, once you have a more polished draft, you'll want to proofread thoroughly for grammar mistakes. You especially have a weakness with respect to run-on sentences, and below is a source that will help you better understand exactly what those are and what all of your options are for fixing them. Contrary to common belief, run-on sentences actually are not just long sentences. Run-on sentences can even be short.

Sources:
billdelaney's profile pic

William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Answer #1 by Tamara K. H. is thorough and excellent regarding the content of your essay. However, you could make considerable improvements in the grammar. Take the following sentence for example:

Perhaps, if there was no chance of Friar John taken for quarantine, the two lovers may have been able to live together for much longer. 

I believe it should read something like:

If there had been no chance of Friar John being taken into quarantine, the two lovers might have been able to enjoy marital bliss much longer.

The best way to write a good essay is to print it out double-spaced and then go over it word by word and line by line, then making a second draft with all the corrections incorporated, then going over the second draft word by word and line by line, and perhaps stopping with the third and final draft.

The next sentence in your essay reads:

Romeo has met Juliet by chance, he had no intention of falling in love with her, and this is before he lays his eyes on her. If the two had not met, had they not fallen in love, their untimely deaths would most likely not have occurred. 

I think, in the first place, that any description of what happens in the play should be in the present tense.

Romeo meets Juliet by chance. He has no intention of falling in love. [The "with her"] is obvious and redundant. 

I really don't know what you mean by "and this is before he lays his eyes on her." Probably we should have:

Romeo meets Juliet by chance. He could have had no intention of falling in love before he first lays eyes on her. If the two had not met by chance, and if they had not fallen in love at first sight, their untimely deaths could never have occurred.

I cannot go through your entire essay, but I will look for one more example:

A third example, as well as the most important, is the death of Tybalt. The whole scenario was coincidental: Romeo appearing as Tybalt looks for him, and Romeo jumping in front of Tybalt, trying to protect Mercutio, but later being one of the causes for his death.

That passage should read something like this:

The most important example of the role of chance in Shakespeare's play is the death of Tybalt. The entire episode is coincidental. Romeo happens to appear just while Tybalt is looking for him. Romeo jumps in front of Tybalt to protect Mercutio, but later Romeo himself is partly responsible for Mercutio's death.

I think you can make plenty of grammatical improvements yourself if you are willing to go over your essay several times before you submit a clean final copy. You need to avoid the old grammatical bogies of run-on sentences and incorrect verb tenses. I'm sure your grader will be looking at the grammar and the clarity along with the content of your essay.

But you are doing fine. I congratulate you on your intelligence and conscientious work. It will pay off.

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