Fate

The prologue introduces the theme of fate when the lovers are called star-crossed and death-marked. This means that the events of their lives, and their deaths, are somehow already decided.

There are lots of incidences throughout the play when the main characters refer to omens that hint at their tragic ending. For example, before the Capulet party, Romeo feels worried that something bad is hanging in the stars. Later when Juliet looks at Romeo from the balcony she is upset that she sees him as one dead in the bottom of a tomb.

We know from the start of the play that the lovers will die, and the events all lead to this tragic end.

Did you know? The references to fate in Romeo and Juliet would have been well understood by audiences at the time. People were generally more superstitious and many believed that the events of life were already decided.

Analysis of fate in the play

Question

Is Juliet aware of the tragic fate that lies ahead of her?

Juliet seems to refer to her tragic ending when she first meets Romeo. Juliet sends the Nurse to find out who he is and she says that if he is already married she will die alone:

Juliet
My grave is like to be my wedding bed.
Act 1 Scene 5
Question

What are Friar Lawrence’s views on fate?

Friar Lawrence believes that fate cannot be challenged. He says:

Friar Lawrence
A greater power than we can contradict
Act 5 Scene 3

He fears that there was nothing they could do to prevent the deaths of the lovers because a greater power or fate had already decided what would happen.

Question

How does Mercutio remind the audience of the fate that awaits the lovers?

As Mercutio dies, he curses the Montagues and Capulets. He says:

Mercutio
A plague a’both your houses!
Act 3 Scene 1

Their fighting has ended in his death. The dramatic irony for the audience is that they know the deaths of Romeo and Juliet are ahead.

You can find the theme of fate in other plays by Shakespeare:

  • Macbeth – in this tragedy Macbeth and his wife try to interfere with fate with some rather grisly consequences