What are the characteristics and features that make Romeo and Juliet a tragedy?
A good way to approach the assignment is to create a file in your word processor listing the elements of Shakespearean tragedy from your class notes. As you read through the play, look for each of the elements, and then note down examples and quotations as you encounter them.
First, you will note that the play starts out in a temporarily stable but inherently precarious situation. The feud between the Capulet and Montague families is harming the city of Verona, but the situation is essentially a stalemate. When Romeo decides to attend the Capulet party and falls in love with Juliet, the situation becomes radically unstable.
Romeo and Juliet count as tragic heroes because they are noble and potentially admirable characters whose downfalls occur because they fall in love with each other and act on it. The audience is sympathetic to them. Their impulsiveness is a tragic flaw. The key conflicts are between the families and between the young couple and their families. The sad ending includes the death of both protagonists.