Is "Romeo and Juliet" a tragedy of fate?What is a tragedy of fate?

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robertwilliam eNotes educator| Certified Educator

What is tragedy? is itself a huge, impossible question: so let me make this disclaimer before I even start that academics have always argued about the definition of tragedy, and there is very, very little agreement.

If we assume - in the simplest terms - that a tragedy is a story which ends unhappily and which contains suffering, then a tragedy of fate is such a story, but one in which there is no rational explanation for the events that occur other than fate, God, gods, evil forces... etc.

Is Romeo and Juliet such a tragedy? Well, the usual academic view is that the tragedy has something to do with the feud of the Capulets and the Montagues. But I don't agree.

Why do Romeo and Juliet end up dead? Romeo, mistakenly thinking Juliet is dead, kills himself: on awakening, she then kills herself. Why does Romeo think she is dead? Because Friar John's letter doesn't get delievered to him in Mantua. Why is he in Mantua? Because he revenges Mercutio by killing Tybalt. How does Mercutio die? By accident, in an accidental underarm thrust from Tybalt, when Romeo tries to split up the fight.

The two key events of the plot that drive the tragedy - the letter, and Mercutio's death - come about through bad luck, accident, fate. I think then, that you really can make a convincing argument that, even before it has begun, Romeo and Juliet's love is "death-marked": picked out in the stars for an unhappy end.

ncorso | Student

You're right on robertwilliam.  The problem with Romeo and Juliet is that their fate and flaws work together to defeat them.  Romeo's flaw is that he lets his feelings command his behavior. There are many examples of this in acts one and two.   In act three, the climax of the play, Romeo is the victim of fate and his flaw.  Fate - when he accidentally causes the death of Mercutio. Flaw - his very powerful feelings of rage, grief, and guilt that cause him to pursue and kill Tybalt.  Once he kills Tybalt nothing goes right for him and Juliet.

crystal-marie | Student

i dont think its a tragedy because romeo and juliet fell in love with each other and ended up beign happy with each other. which they also find themselves with out each other in the end of the story