What are Romeo's tragic flaws in Romeo and Juliet?

In Romeo and Juliet, Romeo's tragic flaw is his rashness. He rushes into action without thinking quickly, such as when he marries Juliet after only knowing her for a short time.

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Romeo's greatest tragic flaw is his immaturity, which in turn means that he makes irrational choices, ignores good advice, and, crucially, does not know how to love well or wisely.

At the beginning of the play Romeo is madly in love with a girl called Rosaline. He proclaims that Roasline is "rich in beauty" and a "precious treasure," and he complains that, because Rosaline does not reciprocate his love, he "live(s) dead" or, in other words, might as well be dead. However, as soon as Romeo sees Juliet, at the Capulet party, he forgets all about Rosaline and proclaims the he is now madly in love with Juliet. The only difference between Rosaline and Juliet seems to be that the latter reciprocates Romeo's love, whereas the former doesn't. When Romeo runs to see Friar Laurence, the morning after meeting Juliet, Friar Laurence asks Romeo, "Is Rosaline, whom thou didst love so dear, / So soon forsaken?" The intensity of Romeo's seeming love for Rosaline and then for Juliet and the speed with which he falls out of love with one and in love with the other all point to Romeo's immaturity. Romeo does not really understand what love is. He is still a child with immature ideas of love. He thinks that love must be instant, all-consuming, and obsessive. Later in the play, it is this immature understanding of love which makes him unable to, in the words of Friar Laurence, "love moderately."

Friar Laurence gives Romeo lots of good advice. As noted above, he tells Romeo to "love moderately," and he also warns Romeo that "violent delights have violent ends," meaning that those who love too violently, or too intensely, like Romeo, will inevitably suffer the violent, fatal consequences of that too intense love. Romeo though is too immature to heed this good advice. Instead of trying to speak to Juliet's parents, and perhaps brokering a peace between the two families, he seems to revel in the illicit nature of the relationship. At the end of the play, he decides to kill himself, when a more moderate outlook might have resulted in him and Juliet being together.

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Romeo's most tragic flaw is his impetuousness. He is highly emotional, and this turbulent personality is critical in shaping his and Juliet's tragic fate and through a variety of different ways.

First, there is the intensity and speed with which he falls in love. Note that, during the first part of the play, it is not Juliet he is enamored with at all but rather Rosaline, who has sworn herself to chastity. He is shown intensely pining over her, and given the speed with which he transfers his affection from Rosaline to Juliet herself, there is an underlying question worth asking as to just how genuine and sustainable his love for Juliet really is.

Of course, even beyond the doomed romance between Romeo and Juliet, one can also discuss his killing of Tybalt. Consider this from Juliet's perspective, with her husband now having slain her cousin. As a result of this rash action, Romeo is banished from Verona, and Juliet herself becomes placed under increasing pressure to marry Paris. Thus, the two are left in an almost untenable situation, leading to tragic repercussions.

The examples of emotional turbulence and rash decision making are innumerable. His secret marriage to Juliet is itself an example of a dubious decision, given the context of the feud. Additionally, you can point towards his determination to commit suicide after learning of Juliet's death. In short, Romeo reacts strongly and shows poor emotional self-control. This would be his tragic flaw.

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The Aristotelian concept of the tragic flaw is generally applied to the so-called "great tragedies," defined by A. C. Bradley as Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear, and Othello. Romeo and Juliet, though it is one of Shakespeare's best-known tragedies, follows a different model and is often called a "love tragedy." This means that it is not the story of a great man falling from a high position because of his tragic flaw, but one of the fates or the stars being against two lovers, refusing them the chance to live ad be happy.

This is not to say that Romeo has no flaws; he has plenty. He is fickle and impetuous, as Friar Laurence observes, rushing from one ill-considered love affair into another. His lack of forethought and intelligence are particularly clear when he is contrasted with Juliet, who must be younger (though Romeo's age is not specified). One might argue that his impetuous actions in buying poison and rushing to Juliet's tomb rather than, for instance, going to Friar Laurence to ascertain what has really happened, are the cause of the tragedy. Romeo's impetuosity, however, does not have anything like the same corrupting force as Othello's jealousy or Macbeth's ambition. Shakespeare makes it clear from the prologue that his downfall, along with Juliet's, is written in the stars before they ever meet.

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Romeo's tragic flaw is his impetuosity, his rashness of action before thinking thoroughly. You would want to look for examples of this behavior. Examples include:

  • Falling in "love" with Juliet within minutes of meeting her, even after finding out that she was a Capulet.
  • Forgetting about Rosaline within minutes of meeting Juliet, though he had been depressed for weeks due to his unrequited love.
  • Leaving his friends after the Capulet ball and climbing back into the Capulet compound, where he would be killed if discovered.
  • Swearing his love for Juliet during the balcony scene, and asking her to marry him.
  • Lying to the friar to get him to marry the couple by implying that he had sex with Juliet the night before. The friar then felt obligated to "erase" that sin by marrying them after the fact (as well as to end the feud).
  • Holding Mercutio back before Benvolio had the chance to do the same with Tybalt, allowing Tybalt to stab Mercutio "under [Romeo's] arm."
  • Killing Tybalt in anger despite knowing the consequences, which should have been execution.
  • Threatening to kill himself with a dagger after the friar informs him that he is banished, not sentenced to death.
  • Buying poison from the apothecary, bullying him into accepting the money though the sale of poison was illegal and punishable by death.
  • Killing Paris without even knowing who he was. Paris had come to the Capulet tomb to innocently place flowers for his 'dead' fiance. He thought that Romeo was there to defile the crypt.
  • Killing himself though he should have realized that Juliet was alive. After two days, Juliet shouold not have still had rosy lips and supple flesh. Romeo notices this, but cannot figure out that she must be alive. He rashly poisons himself though she  awakened within minutes.
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