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...

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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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Romeo is impetuous; he is, at times, impulsive, at others, reckless.  When he first meets Juliet, he falls instantly in love with her, and he wonders aloud, "Did my heart love till now?" (1.5.59).  It's a rhetorical question to which the answer is an unequivocal no.  He believes that her "true beauty" is the first he's even seen and trumps the, apparently, false beauty that he has seen before (1.5.60).  His impetuosity compels him to leap her garden wall, intrude on her privacy, and, on that same night, profess his love and agree to make arrangements for their marriage.  

Later, Romeo tries to remain calm and neutral when Tybalt insults and berates him.  He tries to offer rational reasons why they should not fight.  But when Tybalt slays his best friend, Mercutio, Romeo -- in a passion of anger and grief -- says that "Either [Tybalt] or [himself], or both must go with [Mercutio to heaven]," and he kills Tybalt in the street (3.1.134).  When made angry, Romeo becomes rash and reckless, and he acts without thought, only feeling.

Finally, Romeo's impulsiveness harms him for the last time when he, without benefit of consultation with his friend, the Friar, purchases poison and goes directly to Juliet's tomb to kill himself.  Since the Friar has been so involved in their relationship to this point, one might assume that Romeo would expect to hear from the Friar if Juliet really died.  However, since he does not, a less rash action would have been to check in with the Friar first.  Alas, Romeo is too impetuous, too passionate and hasty to be rational.  His death, and later, Juliet's, are the direct result of Romeo's inability to slow down and consider.

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A tragedy is a play in which a good or noble character (otherwise known as a "tragic hero") suffers a downfall as a result of a fault in his or her character.  This fault is what we refer to as a "tragic flaw."  Romeo is considered to be a tragic hero because he is a young nobleman with a good heart-- but he also has character traits which bring about his own demise.  For example, he is very fickle.  In less than one day Romeo loses his love for Rosaline in favor of Juliet.  Romeo is also very impulsive; he takes action without thinking things through first or examining his optons.  For example, after meeting Juliet at the masquerade party he rushes back to Juliet's home to woo her even though he knows that she is the daughter of his family's enemy.  By the end of that highly romantic-- but short-- meeting he proposes marriage to her.  He kills Tybalt and then consults with the Friar to find a way to run away with Juliet (secretly of course, because he is banished).  In the final Act he assumes that Juliet is dead even though her skin is still warm-- and he kills himself. 

Romeo also has another flaw.  It is a flaw that every human has, and the irony is that although he has no control over it, he is punished for simply being human.  This flaw is the act of challenging fate.  In tragedies there is the assumption that a higher power predetermines what path our lives will follow.  In this play, this higher power is fate, which is alluded to in the Prologue with its reference to the "star-crossed lovers."  In challenging his fate, Romeo becomes the ultimate tragic hero and is destroyed as a result of it.  


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In Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, I think there is a distinct difference between a tragic flaw and making mistakes.

The concept of the tragic flaw is attributed to Aristotle in his Greek tragedies. It comes from Aristotle's characteristics of a "tragic hero." Shakespeare's tragic heroes are in plays such as Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello (heroes and plays have same name), and Brutus in Julius Caesar (to name a few).

First, the tragic hero must be a great man—this does not mean having a good sense of humor or being who is entertaining at parties. "Great" in this context means "celebrated," "brave," or "respected"—men who have, for example, proven themselves in battle, e.g., Othello or Macbeth. The tragic hero must have a "tragic flaw."

...the hero's misfortune must be brought about 'by vice and depravity but by some error of judgment.'

Othello is overly jealous. Macbeth states that his biggest problem is his "vaulting ambition:" he wants to have more than he has and be more important than he already is. Second, he must die. Finally, the tragic flaw must be responsible for the hero's death.

I don't see Romeo as a tragic hero. He is not a great man. He is a young man who spends most of his time early on in the play piteously moaning over a woman who is not interested in him. He is not very mature. It is hard to take Romeo seriously, especially in that he really does not do anything heroic. He is not a soldier, and he is not the leader of his noble family. If anything, Romeo is just too young.

After he meets Juliet, it can be argued that he turns himself around: he finally seems to understand what love really is. However, "seems" is the operative word. Had Rosalind loved Romeo in return, can we be sure he would not have loved and revered her in return? Is there any way to know that Romeo only seems to come to his senses because he meets a beautiful woman who returns his "love?" We cannot always choose who we fall in love with, so I can't say that he is foolish for falling for Juliet (in that his family hates hers).

However, when Romeo first believes he may not be able to be with Juliet, the first thing he threatens is suicide. He does not keep his head; he does not look rationally at the situation (as does Friar Lawrence) to see if there is some means by which the problem could be solved.


As if that name,

Shot from the deadly level of a gun,

Did murder her; as that name's cursed hand

Murdered her kinsman. O, tell me, friar, tell me,(110)

In what vile part of this anatomy

Doth my name lodge? Tell me, that I may sack

The hateful mansion.

Draws his dagger.


Hold thy desperate hand.

Art thou a man? Thy form cries out thou art;(115)

Thy tears are womanish, thy wild acts denote

The unreasonable fury of a beast.

Unseemly woman in a seeming man!

Or ill-beseeming beast in seeming both!

Thou hast amaz'd me. By my holy order,(120)

I thought thy disposition better temper'd.

Hast thou slain Tybalt? Wilt thou slay thyself?

And slay thy lady that in thy life lives,

By doing damned hate upon thyself? (III.iii.107-125)

Romeo is ready to take his life because he is banished from Verona. Foolishly, he never considers another plan; he does not stop to think of how the news is affecting the woman he swears he loves so much; and, foolishly he does not consider how killing himself will affect Juliet.

For me, I find that Romeo is simply too young. That is his flaw. He is not a hero, so I cannot find a "tragic" flaw.

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