What brings the downfall of Romeo and Juliet?

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Noelle Matteson | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy in which a variety of circumstances are responsible for the deaths of the two main characters. The overarching problem is the feud between the Capulets and the Montagues. Juliet is a Capulet and Romeo is a Montague. Their fathers perpetuate the conflict between the houses, which has “disturb'd the quiet of [Verona’s] streets” multiple times.

Because of this discord, the impetuosity of youth is amplified. Romeo yearns for Rosaline before loving Juliet, who just as quickly falls for Romeo. This kind of rashness would not be so deadly if there were not a terrible enmity between the families. Because of this, they must hide their love, and the two lovers feel as though they have no options.

Another form of youthful carelessness emerges in aggression. The feisty Tybalt takes out his anger on the Montagues, and Mercutio reacts violently to Tybalt’s taunts. Even the normally peaceful Romeo attacks and kills Tybalt after Tybalt slays his friend Mercutio. The prince then banishes Romeo, increasing Romeo and Juliet’s frustration. It is unlikely any of this would have happened if there had not been a feud in the first place.

Ultimately, Romeo and Juliet commit suicide, and several others die along the way. A number of people are to blame. Romeo and Juliet do not pause before killing themselves; if they had waited, they might have been together. Mercutio and Tybalt fight, against the prince’s orders. The nurse means well in advising Juliet to marry Paris, but this pushes Juliet away. In addition, Friar Laurence’s plan to unite the families through the marriage of Romeo and Juliet is completely botched.

Fate also intervenes, such as the unforeseeable sickness that delays the friar’s message to Romeo about Juliet’s fake death. The prince lays the blame on himself, Lord Capulet, and Lord Montague:

See, what a scourge is laid upon your hate,
That heaven finds means to kill your joys with love.
And I for winking at your discords too
Have lost a brace of kinsmen: all are punish'd.

Many contribute to the tragedy, and many suffer from it.

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