What is Romeo and Juliet's tragic flaw, and how does it lead to their destruction?

The concept of the tragic flaw is most applicable to the model of classical tragedy discussed by Aristotle in the Poetics, in which a great figure falls from a high position. In Romeo and Juliet, a "love tragedy," the death of the two lovers is principally due to malign fate, rather than to any flaws in their characters. However, being young, they are quite impulsive.

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The concept of the tragic flaw or hamartia comes from Aristotle's Poetics, and was first applied to classical Greek tragedy. Many critics have also found the idea useful in writing about Renaissance tragedy, in particular the great tragedies of Shakespeare: Hamlet, King Lear, Othello and Macbeth.

Although Romeo and Juliet is one of Shakespeare's best-known tragedies, it is usually categorized, along with Antony and Cleopatra, as a "love tragedy." The idea of the tragic flaw is less useful in these plays. The two names in the title indicate that this is the story of a love affair, not of a single tragic hero. The structure of the plays emphasizes the role of fate and the helplessness of the lovers. This is particularly true of Romeo and Juliet, since the audience is informed in the prologue that the lovers are "star-crossed" and will die.

This is not too say that Romeo and Juliet are both without fault, merely that being young and impetuous cannot really be called a tragic flaw. One could say that both...

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