Who is responsible for the deaths of Romeo and Juliet?

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rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is one of the central questions of Romeo and Juliet, and one which is left hanging, in a sense, at the end of the play, when the Prince says "Some shall be pardon'd, and some punished." In the play's prologue, Shakespeare seems to suggest that Romeo and Juliet are simply victims of fate when the Chorus calls them "star-cross'd lovers." A case could be made for many of the characters. First, both Romeo and Juliet knew perfectly well that their love would put their lives in danger in light of the violent feud between their two families. By entering into marriage, they took an enormous risk that ultimately cost them their lives. Romeo, in particular, is portrayed early in the play as impulsive in matters of love. Additionally, both the Nurse and Friar Lawrence, by assisting the young couple in their dangerous course of action, could receive  a certain share of the blame. But most fundamentally, the responsibility for the deaths of Romeo and Juliet lies with their families. By continuing with their feud, they ultimately sacrificed the lives of the two loves. Indeed, both Capulet and Montague acknowledge this fact at the end of the play, when they become reconciled.