Who is to blame for the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet?

In previous times, the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet might have been seen as their own fault and the result of their disobedience, and it might be argued that Romeo contributes to it through his impatience. References to "fate" in the play suggest, however, that the tragedy was their destiny.

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It's difficult to apportion direct blame for the tragic demise of Romeo and Juliet. As the Prologue tells us, it was the destiny of these "star-cross'd lovers" to die such a tragic death. However, if we reject the Elizabethan worldview, which held that the movements of the stars control...

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It's difficult to apportion direct blame for the tragic demise of Romeo and Juliet. As the Prologue tells us, it was the destiny of these "star-cross'd lovers" to die such a tragic death. However, if we reject the Elizabethan worldview, which held that the movements of the stars control our destinies, then there are a number of likely candidates who most certainly contribute to the play's sad outcome.

The lion's share of the blame would surely go to the heads of the Montague and Capulet families. They are the ones who've been keeping up this bloody, bitter feud, a feud which prevents Romeo and Juliet from following their lovestruck hearts and spending the rest of their lives together.

Romeo's and Juliet's parents don't see marriage in terms of love; they unthinkingly subscribe to the prevailing convention among the upper classes that marriages are nothing more than strategic political alliances between powerful families. This attitude makes it almost inevitable that Romeo and Juliet's relationship will eventually come to grief. It places one more seemingly insurmountable hurdle in their way, making it virtually inevitable that they will take increasingly dangerous risks in pursuit of their dreams.

Then there's Friar Laurence, who undoubtedly means well but, in the end, contributes to the young lovers' demise with his hare-brained scheming. His plan to have Juliet take a sleeping draught which will make everyone think she's dead is risky, to say the least—not to mention rather cruel to Juliet's loved ones.

There's so much that can go wrong with the Friar's plan, and just about everything does. A moment's reflection would have told him that he was playing with people's lives and so should've come up with a better plan, one less likely to involve such danger. His recklessness and irresponsibility arguably made a bad situation a whole lot worse.

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The feuding Capulet and Montague families are primarily responsible for the tragic deaths of Romeo, Juliet, and Paris. If both families were not hostile toward each other, Romeo and Juliet would have had no reason to hide their marriage and would more than likely have enjoyed a happy, uneventful life together.

One could also place some of the blame on Friar Lawrence and the Nurse. Friar Lawrence and the Nurse are the only two individuals who are aware of Romeo and Juliet's relationship, and they help arrange their secret marriage. Friar Lawrence's plan to give Juliet a sleeping potion backfires when his letter is not delivered to Romeo in Mantua, and he is forced to rescue Juliet from the Capulet tomb. When Romeo receives the news of Juliet's "death," he purchases poison, kills Paris at her tomb, and commits suicide. The Nurse is also aware that Juliet has already married Romeo and does not anticipate that her upcoming marriage to Paris will have a devastating impact on Juliet's psyche.

One could also argue that the hot-headed Tybalt is somewhat responsible for the lovers' deaths. If Tybalt had never challenged Romeo and fought Mercutio, Romeo would have never been banished and could have, perhaps, eventually expressed his love for Juliet publicly to end the feud.

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The most obvious culprit is the long-standing feud between the Montagues and the Capulets; thus, ignorance, spite, and a lack of forgiveness lead to the deaths of Romeo and Juliet. However, we can also blame circumstance: if Friar Laurence's messenger had reached Romeo in time, he would have known that Juliet was merely asleep, and not dead in the chamber. Thus, luck and faulty communication are also responsible for the final outcome. 

We could also argue that Tybalt is to blame for instigating the duel which leads to his and Mercutio's deaths. If he had not been so hot-headed and prone to violence, a better outcome may have been achieved. Romeo, too, would also have to shoulder the blame for slaying Tybalt (and Paris).

Last, we could argue that Friar Laurence's behavior—that is, secretly marrying the couple, and encouraging Juliet to fake her own death—was irresponsible, and that he could have thought of a safer way by which to reconcile the two families.

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In Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, two families are feuding. Because of the dangerous attitudes of the Capulets and Montagues, a tragedy occurs. Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet end their lives due to fact that they cannot freely love one another. The murderous animosity between the two families keeps the two "star-crossed" young lovers apart. 

If the Montagues and Capulets had not been enemies, Romeo and Juliet could have loved one another freely. Since the two families hate one another, Romeo and Juliet had to keep their love a secret. Juliet could not love Romeo without her family's destructive interference. Romeo could not love Juliet without his family's destructive interference.

Because two families would not end the feud, Romeo and Juliet had to make secretive plans to be together. When Friar Laurence's plan--giving Juliet a sleeping potion--failed to reach Romeo's ears, he planned his own suicide, thinking Juliet was actually dead. When Juliet awakened, she discovers her Romeo is dead. She kills herself with Romeo's dagger. Two innocent lives are forever in eternity. Romeo and Juliet could not be together because of their families' hatred for one another. 

When Juliet's and Romeo's dead bodies are discovered, even the Prince blames their deaths on the two feuding families.

The Prince chastises both Montague, whose wife has just died from grief, and Capulet, telling them that this event is the product of their hate...because they are all to blame for the feud.

Ironically, the two families decide to end the feud after losing Romeo and Juliet:

These losses, as promised, bring the end of the feud—Capulet and Montague swear to raise monuments to the other's child, now cured by the love of Juliet and her Romeo.

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When it comes to who is to essentially to blame for the tragic ending of Romeo and Juliet, for the most part, we can agree with Prince Escalus's opinion expressed in the final scene. Prince Escalus very blatantly and accurately lays all blame on Lords Capulet and 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 you, discords took.
    Have lost a brace of kinsmen. (V.iii.303-06)

Another important point concerning the hatred and feud can be found in the opening prologue. Shakespeare makes a point of stating that, while the feud between the two families is a longstanding one, a period of peace had been reigning, but the present generation of Montagues and Capulets had decided to rehash the old argument, as we see in the line, "From ancient grudge break to new mutiny" (First Prologue, 3). Hence it is essentially Lords Capulet and Montague's decisions that created all of the hatred and violence, leading to the play's tragic end. Had this hatred not existed, the couple's hasty marriage would not have been an issue; nor would fate have played a role in their deaths; nor would Tybalt have become so enraged by Romeo's presence at the Capulet ball, causing his own death as well Romeo's banishment and eventually Romeo's and Juliet's own deaths.

While the hatred is ultimately to blame, we must also remember that, as a tragedy, the play also contains a tragic hero. According to Aristotle's commonly accepted definition, a tragic hero must be a generally noble person who has some character flaw that leads to his/her demise. Romeo's character flaws are his impetuousness and the fact that he allows himself to be governed by his rash, passionate, intense emotions rather than by reason. Being guided by rational thought would have prevented Romeo from crashing the ball, from killing Tybalt out of revenge, and would have even helped him to realize the moment he saw Juliet in the tomb that she could not possibly actually be both dead and rosy cheeked, all of which would have prevented the couple's death in the play.

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One of the things you need to remember is that these are two doomed lovers. In the prologue, the chorus mentions theses are "star-crossed lovers". In Shakespeare's time, many people believed that our lives have already been predetermined by some higher power. All the major events have some element of chance. Romeo went to the party to see Rosalind but meets Juliet. Romeo kills Tybalt by a rash and emotional impluse and this leads to his banishment. Friar Laurence's letter doesn't reach Romeo becuase of the plague. Juliet wakes up after Romeo kills himself moments before. Perhaps the two were meant to die no matter what happens.

Some may say that it is on-going feud between the Capulets and Montagues. If feud didn't did exist, they two would still be alive and together. There wouldn't have been a fight between Tybalt and Mercutio and no reason to banish Romeo.

Others might point the finger at Friar Laurence. He was the only adult that could have done something to prevent the death of the lovers. He could have not performed the marriage rites. He could have tried to get to the tomb sooner. He could have told both families what he had done when Tybalt and Mercutio was slain.

Still others may blame Romeo's implusive nature. If he had kept his cool during the fight, he wouldn't have stabbed Tybalt. If he had tried to confirm Juliet's "death", he wouldn't have made the decision to return to Verona with a vile of posion in hand. If he had waited a moment while in the Capulet tomb, he may have seen his wife wake up and the two of them could run away to start a new life together.

When you think about it, there are so many things that one can pin the blame for this tragedy.

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