Why does Romeo call himself "fortune's fool" in Romeo and Juliet?

Romeo calls himself "fortune's fool" because he feels that fortune has played a cruel trick on him.

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One of the themes present in Romeo and Juliet is that fate shapes the characters' destinies regardless of how the characters themselves attempt to alter the eventual outcome. In the Prologue, the first whispers of the fates of Romeo and Juliet are found:

From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life ...

Romeo and Juliet are "star-crossed," or ill-fated. This is a theme that runs throughout the play and is echoed again in act 3, scene 1.

In this scene, Romeo tries to avoid fighting Tybalt. He has just married Juliet privately, and he does not want to engage in conflict with her kinsman. Romeo tries to dispel the growing tension, but after Tybalt kills Mercutio, he is driven to revenge. In an emotional rage, Romeo fights Tybalt and kills him.

And that's quite an issue. Not only does he place himself into conflict with the Prince, but he also stands as an enemy of Juliet's family, and the two households were already on poor terms. After Tybalt falls dead, Romeo steps back from the situation and realizes the gravity of what has happened. Benvolio reminds Romeo that he'll be killed if he's caught, and Romeo delivers this line:

Oh, I am fortune’s fool!

Romeo believes that fortune, or fate, has played him for a fool. Although he tries to avoid conflict with Tybalt, the circumstances around him spiral out of control until his fate is sealed. This moment begins a series of "fateful" events that lead both Romeo and Juliet to their deaths.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on April 23, 2020
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Romeo makes his comment not long after the deaths of Tybalt and Mercutio. Benvolio has just given Romeo some very bad news: he's told him that it's likely that Prince Paris will have him put to death if he's caught. We, the audience, already know that Romeo—along with Juliet, of course—has been fated for a tragic end. But it's only now that Romeo seems to realize this himself.

And it couldn't have come at a worst time because Romeo's only just married Juliet. The "star-cross'd" lovers were sure that the rest of their life will be one of wedded bliss. But now look what's happened. The violent deaths of Tybalt and Mercutio have thrown a huge monkey wrench into the works. Instead of settling down to a new life with Juliet, Romeo now needs to worry; he's in serious danger of being executed. Either that, or he'll have to skip town and become a fugitive from justice.

Whatever the immediate future holds, it's unlikely to be pleasant. Romeo had made all these plans and it now seems that they lie in ruins. Fortune has come along and, in wrecking those plans, has made Romeo its plaything, making him look and feel very foolish indeed.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on April 23, 2020
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Romeo calls himself fortune's fool because he believes that his life was going well until he and his friends ran afoul of Tybalt. Now, however, he believes that he is being mocked by fate.

Romeo is happy when he meets Juliet. His broken heart—courtesy of his infatuation with Rosaline—is mended. They overcome the bad blood between their families and married in secret. Everything seems to be going his way.

However, Mercutio takes the place of Romeo in a duel with Tybalt; Romeo refuses to duel because he is now kin to Tybalt (through his marriage to Juliet). Tybalt then slays Mercutio. In a rage, Romeo kills Tybalt and is banished from Verona as a result.

All the happiness that Romeo had experienced is now gone. He's apart from the women he loves and separated from his family and friends. He feels that being away from Juliet is as bad as a death sentence. Though he thought fortune had smiled upon him, it appears to him that he was only being set up for a larger fall. If he had checked his temper and not killed Tybalt, then he would have been fine and would have been able to be with Juliet. Because he didn't, he is banished.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on September 24, 2019
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In act 3, scene 1, Tybalt kills Mercutio and Romeo reacts violently to Mercutio's death by killing Tybalt. Immediately after killing Tybalt, Benvolio informs Romeo that Prince Escalus will doom him and instructs Romeo to flee from Verona. Romeo responds to his misfortune by saying, "O, I am fortune's fool!" (Shakespeare 3.1.98). Romeo calls himself "fortune's fool" because he recognizes that his fortune has suddenly turned against him.

Romeo has recently married Tybalt's cousin and has attempted to avoid conflict with Tybalt. Tragically, Lady Luck is not on Romeo's side, and he acknowledges that his future has taken a turn for the worse. Instead of enjoying time with Juliet, Romeo must now flee Verona in order to avoid his disastrous fate. He feels that he has been tricked by Lady Luck into killing Tybalt and laments his future.

Romeo's comment underscores the element of fate that is prevalent throughout the play. Romeo and Juliet have already been described as "star-crossed lovers," who cannot avoid their destiny, and Romeo must now escape Verona to survive. Overall, Romeo blames fate and Lady Luck for his impetuous act, which has ruined his seemingly bright future.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on September 24, 2019
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Romeo says this in act III, scene I, after he has killed Tybalt in battle. In saying that he is "fortune's fool," what Romeo means is that fortune, or fate, has made a fool of him, or mistreated him. There are several reasons for this at this point in the play. First, he has just killed Tybalt, who belongs to the same house as his new wife. It is cruel of fortune to have put Romeo in a position where he should fall in love with a member of an opposing house; it is crueler still that he should then be forced to kill a member of that opposing house, to which he is now tied by marriage. Earlier, Romeo had attempted to avoid this fate by refusing to fight with Tybalt, but fate would not have it as Romeo designed.

Next, it is cruelly unfair of fortune that Romeo should be in this position—"the prince will doom thee death"—at this stage of his life, when he should be celebrating his new relationship with Juliet. Instead, he must now fear being put to death for murdering her kinsman.

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