Romeo and Juliet are not star crossed lovers; they are willful teens with poor judgment. The play “Romeo and Juliet”, by William Shakespeare, is often seen as the ultimate romantic tragedy, a perfect example of true love. But in reality, Shakespeare only sets the play up as a cruel twist of fate. He is actually presenting a subtle judgment of the lovers’ behavior. Shakespeare shows through the characters’ actions and language that Romeo’s and Juliet’s tragic deaths are a result of their own behavior and choices, not some unfortunate planetary alignment.
Although Romeo’s actions were dictated by love, it was his own willful actions and poor judgment that brought about his death. Romeo’s poor judgment governed his actions even before he meets Juliet. At the beginning of the play, he is upset over a girl named Rosaline. She is intent upon becoming a nun and thus must live in chastity. Romeo, ever dramatic, remarks upon this, saying, “She hath forsworn love and in that vow/ Do I live dead, that live to tell it now.” As mentioned above, this comment is not about Juliet but about another one of Romeo’s crushes. This shows how Romeo has been “star crossed” before and was willing to die then, because it was the romantic thing to do, even as he was willing to die for Juliet. He is perfectly exemplifying the reason why in modern parlance a male who is overly dramatic in love is called a “Romeo.”
Romeo’s poor judgment remains a common theme throughout the play. If one were to start at his death, one could trace it all the way back through bad decision after bad decision. It is those bad decisions that eventually bring about his death. While Shakespeare wrote Romeo as an impulsive teen with poor judgment, he also wrote in a voices of reason through Friar Lawrence, and Lord Montague. Friar Lawrence was Romeo’s friend and counselor throughout the whole play, though Romeo rarely listened to him. When Romeo came to the Friar asking for him to marry him to Juliet, the Friar responds with wisdom saying “Wisely and slow. They stumble that run fast.” (Act 2, Scene 4, Line 101) This is one of many examples of an older and less impulsive individual, such as Lord and Lady Montague, trying to set Romeo on the right path, and one of many examples of Romeo ignoring sage advice. Another such event comes early at the beginning of the play, when Romeo is still upset over Rosaline. Lord Montague, an older and wiser individual and also Romeo’s father, notices his dark mood and comments, “Black and portentous must this humour prove/ Unless good counsel may the cause remove.” (Act 1, Scene 1, Line 144-145) These are two scenes where Romeo deliberately, and of his own free will, chooses to ignore good advice, strikes down attempts to set him on the right path, and, stupidly, digs his own grave.
Romeo’s hasty decisions lead to death throughout the entire play. He single handedly manages to cause the death of his best friend, and Juliet’s cousin, in one fell swoop. But the final destination in this chain of poorly made decisions is his own death and the death of Juliet. Romeo goes to the tomb where Juliet lies in her false death and, upon seeing her, procures his poison and says, “Here’s to my love O true apothecary thy drugs are quick/ Thus with a kiss I die.” When Juliet wakes up, she finds her husband dead next to her and when she sees this, she takes his dagger and stabs herself. Moving backward through the play, one could easily see how this final, dark destination was reached by another one of Romeo’s judgment errors. Just the day after Romeo meets Juliet, he goes to his friend the Friar saying, “I tell thee as we pass, but this I pray/ that thou consent to marry us today.” Romeo, crazy with love, asks the Friar to marry him to someone whom he had only met the night prior. One does not normally rush marriage, as the Friar tries to tell Romeo, but Romeo could not care less about getting to know someone before vowing to spend the rest of his life with them. This is another one of Romeo’s hasty decisions pushing him firmly down the path towards death.
In conclusion, it is Romeo’s own bad decisions that bring about his death and Juliet’s. The path to his death is one that he chose, not one that was predetermined. Romeo chooses drama over caution, chooses to ignore wise advice, and eventually ends up choosing death. Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” is actually a commentary directed towards those who do not think before acting. By exaggerating Romeo’s impetuousness, and overly romantic nature, Shakespeare reveals that the romantic tragedy is just a false face for a lesson in rational behavior.
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