Question: How does Shakespeare present the inevitability of fate in Romeo and Juliet?
GCSE ENGLISH LITERATURE AQA ROMEO AND JULIET
Answer: Shakespeare presents the idea of the inevitability of fate throughout Romeo and Juliet. Firstly, the prologue describes Romeo and Juliet as “fatal loins” which suggests that the children of the Montague and Capulet households were destined to die, in order to bring the families together and end the everlasting family feud. The adjective “fatal” has connotations of death, which further emphasises the idea that Romeo and Juliet committing suicide could not have been avoided, in order to solve the constant deaths and violence the feud was bringing to Verona. This evokes the reader to understand how idiotic the feud was, seeing as nobody could even remember the root cause of it, and how it as well as fate did not allow two young lovers to spend their lives together. During Shakespeare’s time, the idea of fate heavily influenced the lives of the Elizabethan people. For example, they believed that the stars or the alignment of planets determined what would happen in their lives – and that it was decided before you were born, and nothing could change it.
Secondly, the inevitability of fate is demonstrated when Romeo and Benvolio are asked by a Capulet servant to read the guest list. This guest list is for the Capulet’s ball, where Romeo will meet Juliet for the first time. Romeo only wants to go to the ball at this point in time to see the “fair Rosaline”, which illustrates how Romeo is quite immature and doesn’t understand true love. The adjective “fair” is referring to Rosaline’s beauty, which explains how men at this point only loved women for their appearances. This evokes the reader to feel that Romeo and Juliet were destined to meet, and everything that had happened before this event was so that they met and fell in love with each other. Romeo’s love for Rosaline clearly demonstrates the idea of courtly love, the idea of when a man tries to win over a woman – perhaps by writing her sonnets or admiring her from afar.
Lastly, the inevitability of fate is presented when Romeo is going to drink the poison and kill himself to be with Juliet. His dying words are that he wants to “shake the yolk of inauspicious stars”, which suggests that Romeo knows that his love for Juliet was doomed from the start, and now all he wants to do is kill himself so he can be free from his fate and be with the love of his life. The mentioning of the noun “stars” is said to remind the audience of how he and Juliet are star-crossed lovers, their love is forbidden, and they can never be together. This evokes the reader to feel sympathy for the pair as they both clearly love each other, but because of their families they will not have a happy life with each other. The fact that Romeo and Juliet killed themselves to be with each other would’ve shocked the Elizabethan audience, seeing as Europe was Christian at the time. In Christianity, to take your own life is seen as a major sin.