What characters and ideas contribute to the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet? What characters and ideas contribute to the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet?

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In short, virtually every character within Romeo and Juliet bears some measure of responsibility for the death of Romeo and Juliet. Additionally, though there are many thematic ideas present within the play, the idea of fate has a special resonance within the play. From the very outset of the play, it is known that the two "star-cross'd" lovers are doomed to die.


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Verdie Cremin eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In support of #4, I will point to a major theme of Renaissance culture: reason vs. passion.  It is astonishing how often this idea is stressed not only in the literature of the period but also in the other writings of the time.  Very few people in the play behave reasonably; they allow their passions (erotic, violent, or otherwise) to overwhelm their better judgment and to control their behavior.

Of course, almost all people succumb to this temptation continually in their lives, and so the play is not so much about Romeo and Juliet as it is about a common flaw in human nature.  W. H. Auden once wrote that the reaction we have after witnessing a tragedy written in classical Greece is this: "What a pity it had to be this way." He wrote that the proper response to a Christian tragedy is this: "What a pity it had to be this way, when it could have been otherwise." In other words, classical tragedies tend to emphasize the power of fate; Christian tragedies tend to emphasize the failure to exercise free will properly.

An old but still valuable book on reason vs. passion in Shakepeare's plays is by Lily B. Campbell: Shakespeare's Tragic Heroes: Slaves of Passion.

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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One of the ideas that contribute to the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet is the idea of the just street duel. It is deaths from just such duels that set up the background to the tragedy specific to Romeo and Juliet. Another idea that contributes is the idea of the rightness, indeed the necessity, of vengeful family feuds, feuds that encompass  extended families. These are both ideas the Prince was trying subdue and combat.

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litteacher8 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I think many people are struck most by how young Romeo and Juliet are. They might have had so much potential, and such fulfilling lives, if they had given themselves a chance. For me, it is the close call. If Romeo had read the note, and been in on the secret, he may have lived. If Juliet's poison had worked differently, what would have happened? The possibilities are endless. That's where the tragedy ensues.

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I thought I would reach beyond the typical love story of Romeo and Juliet this time and suggest an idea (as opposed to a character) that contributed to this tragedy:  the pointlessness of family feuding.
Of course, Shakespearean tragedies always end on a hopeful note, and Romeo and Juliet is no exception (seeing that the big feud is ending by the last scene of the play), but one cannot deny that it is the feuding Capulet and Montague families that contribute much to the deaths of these two lovers.  Simply said, if the two families were not feuding, Romeo and Juliet would most likely have been encouraged to pursue their relationship with gusto.
Further, feuding families have been the focus of other tragedy in literature as well.  Consider the Grangerfords and the Shepherdsons within The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  Huck, himself, realizes how very pointless the feud is and the dramatic irony, of course, is that we know Huck is wise indeed to realize this pointlessness while Huck considers his thoughts to be a flaw in character.
Finally, I thought it would be fun to give a modern day example.  In the South today (where I live), feuding families remain very much at the forefront of life in the country.  There are two families on the mountain where I live that have vowed to hate each other until they die.  Just recently, our community was desperately trying to pave our road.  One family (who lives at the top) encouraged the effort, contributing more than their fair share.  The other family (who lives at the...

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Discuss what theme this character contributes to and how? Provide examples wherever possible