Who is most to blame for the deaths of Romeo and Juliet?

Readers might consider the character of Friar Laurence to be deserving of the most blame for the deaths of Romeo and Juliet, because he encouraged and enabled their secret relationship and orchestrated the plan that led to their demise. Other characters deserving of blame include the Capulets and the Montagues, who continued a violent and pointless feud, as well as Romeo and Juliet themselves, whose impulsive impulsive actions and unwise choices led to their unnecessary deaths.

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In the prologue, Shakespeare identifies fate as the culprit responsible for Romeo and Juliet's death, calling them "star-crossed lovers." The feud between their families is also largely responsible for their deaths. As they both recognize during the balcony scene, the family feud makes it impossible to openly declare their love. As Juliet declares, "Wherefore are thou Romeo," meaning why are you a Montague, a forbidden love?

However, if we must assign individual blame, it can be shared between the friar and Romeo. The friar did not have to secretly marry the two young people. In fact, some critics have noted the symbolism of Romeo meeting him in a herb garden amid both poisons and potions: the friar can be seen as the serpent in the garden, leading the young couple astray. Especially at the end, with his scheme of having Juliet drink a potion that feigns death, the friar, to save himself from exposure, risks Juliet: the honest path would have been to confess to Lord Capulet that he had married...

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Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 5, 2021
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