Is "Romeo and Juliet" a tragedy, or a comedy with tragic events?

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robertwilliam eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Well, it's classified in the manuscripts as a tragedy - so the question is more about genre than about classification. That is, nobody really argues that "Romeo and Juliet", which ends with the death of two young lovers, is anything other than a tragedy.

But you're right to suggest that it absolutely does have elements that we might associate with a comedy. For example, The play seems to start as a comedy, and only twists into tragedy on Mercutio's (accidental) death. The youthful high-jinks of the first scenes of "Romeo and Juliet" seem closer to "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in youthful high-jinks, rather than the ominousness of a "Macbeth" or a "King Lear". Is Shakespeare trying his hand at a different sort of tragedy?

The play also relies on fate (their love is "death-mark'd") and chance (and coincidence) for it to happen - look at the way Friar John cannot, randomly, deliver Romeo's letter to Mantua, which brings about the dual suicide of the final act. And chance, of course, is something far more associated with comedy: look at the reunion of the twins in "The Comedy of Errors" for only one of many examples in Shakespeare.

Perhaps one of the objectives of the play is to ask the question - why do bad things happen? What is "tragedy"?

zh15045 | Student

it a trajety of loss of love and efectiotate care towards each other

onionandeva | Student

Romeo and Juliet is not a comedy.  Although during the time of publication of Romeo and Juliet many comedies were written, Romeo and Juliet and also Julius Caesar are known to be tragedies.  The genre of Romeo and Juliet is Drama, Romance, where the play is dramatic and full of expression and also romantic.

jmacfarlane | Student

It's definitely not a comedy. Despite what you may believe it is also more a tragedy than a romance.

annettemelton | Student



crystal-marie | Student

i think Romeo and Juliet is a Tragedy with tragic events

jmwong982 | Student

Romeo and Juliet was a tragic story in the sense the conflict is never resolved and the story ends in death. Through all of William's stories he adds elements of comedy.

I would not go so far as to say it was a comedy with tragic events. I would say it is a tragedy with comic events. 

Is life not humorous and tragic?

Romeo and Juliet were both young dramatic teenagers with raging hormones. They allowed their hearts (or groins) to take over their senses.  Is that not humorous? The fact that they took their lives as a result of their inability to separate their emotions with common sense is tragic.