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George Aberto once said “above anything else, fate is what brings lovers together.” In Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet, fate, chance, and coincidence are all important to the development and eventually the conclusion of this tragedy. Without these three closely related themes the play would not have been able to make it out of the first act. These themes are pivotal to the development of the play and there are many instances where this is very obvious. These themes play a part in the feud between the Capulets and the Montagues, the invitation of Romeo to the ball, and the death of the two lovers, Romeo and Juliet.
For as long as the two families, The Capulets and The Montagues, can remember, they have both been at war with each other and held an “ancient grudge” (Prologue). The purpose and goal of this feud is never revealed thus it must be assumed through the Prologue that their hatred is solely based on tradition from past generations. This feud is visible within the first line of Act 1 Scene 1 where Sampson, a servant of the Capulet family says that he will “not carry coals” (1.1.1). He says this in talking to another servant, Gregory, about how he will not be humiliated by a Montague servant. This allows the audience to see the importance of the feud between the Capulets and the Montagues. Romeo, a Montague, and Juliet, a Capulet, meet and fall in love at the ball in Act 1 Scene 5. This is visible in Romeos dialogue “O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright! / It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night / Like a rich jewel in an Ethiop’s ear.” (1.5.46-48).
It is chance that Romeo’s true love happens to be part of the family he was brought up to hate. Romeo is aware that Juliet is a Capulet but Juliet is not aware that Romeo is a Montague and even though the feud between the families is existent, fate takes its course and allows enough time for Juliet to fall in love with Romeo. Therefore, once Juliet learns that Romeo is a Montague, she has already fallen in love with Romeo and she cannot turn back now. This is one of the most important examples of fate in the play because if she had known that Romeo was a Montague she would have never pursued a relationship with him and the rest of the play would have never turned out the way it had.
Romeo and Juliet’s relationship begins at the Capulets house during the ball without Juliet knowing that Romeo is a Montague although the fate involved in getting Romeo to the ball is just as important as Juliet not knowing Romeos last name because if Romeo would not have gone to the ball then he would have never met Juliet and fallen in love with her. It all starts with one of the Capulets servants in the streets of Verona with a list of the different guests which are invited to the ball. This list contains the names Mercutio, Tybalt, and Rosaline among others.
The servant which is given the list is not able to read and this is another example of fate because once Benvolio learns that Rosaline is going to be at the ball he decides that him and Romeo will attend. Benvolio wants to “Compare her face with some that I shall show / And I will make thee think they swan a crow.” Meaning that he will bring Romeo to the ball to show that a comparison of Rosaline with other girls will make a difference and possibly relieve his sadness and love for Rosaline. This is also fate because if Rosaline was not invited, Benvolio didn’t create a plan, and if the servant would have been able to read then Romeo would have never been invited and he would have never met Juliet.
The meeting of the two lovers is important although the death of the two lovers is probably one of the most important roles fate plays in the play. The first instance where fate makes its mark leading up to the death of the two lovers, Romeo and Juliet, is when the Prince banishes Romeo from the city of Verona for the death of Tybalt. The Prince reacts to the situation by saying that “for that offence / Immediately we do exile him hence.” This gets the ball rolling on the events that will lead to the two lovers death. After Romeo flees on the recommendation of Benovlio, Romeo finds himself hiding out in Friar Laurance’s Cell and then in Mantua. The next event which fate is involved in is the idea of Juliet faking her death so that she is not required to marry Paris. Friar Laurence devises a plan which he tells Juliet in Scene 1 of Act 4 as they are both talking in the Friar’s cell. He tells her to:
Hold, then; go home, be merry, give consent
To marry Paris: Wednesday is to-morrow:
To-morrow night look that thou lie alone;
Let not thy nurse lie with thee in thy chamber:
Take thou this vial, being then in bed,
And this distilled liquor drink thou off, (4.1. 91-96)
These lines explain everything she must do so that she does not have to marry Paris and can be with Romeo instead, although he has forgotten to tell her one thing. That one thing is that the Friar has not told Juliet to tell Romeo that she is going through with this plan, faking her death. Friar Laurence realizes this and sends Friar John to give Romeo, who is hiding in Mantua, the message of his plan. What happens next is a perfect example of chance and coincidence. Right as Friar John is preparing to deliver the message an outbreak of the Plague occurs in the city of Verona and Friar John “could not send it,–here it is again,- / Nor get a messenger to bring it thee, / So fearful were they of infection” (5.2.14-16). Therefore this causes Romeo to not receive the message of the Friar’s plan but instead he receives news of Juliet’s death so it then becomes a race to the tomb, in which Juliet was placed, to stop Romeo from seeing Juliet dead.
So Friar Laurence “Now must I to the monument alone; Within three hours will fair Juliet wake”(5.2.25-27) . Fates second last appearance in the play occurs Romeo arrives at the tomb first, before the Friar, and he sees Juliet, his love, “dead”. If the Friar would have arrived first, Romeo and Juliet would have never killed themselves and they would have been able to live together but that was not the case and it led to the suicide of both lovers. The final appearance of fate occurs after the lovers death and it is the end of the feud between the two families. It was fate for the lovers to die and resolve this feud.
Fate, Chance, and Coincidence play an extremely pivotal part of the development of the play as well as the ending and without them the play would have turned out anything like it had and it would have never gotten out of Act 1. The feud between the Capulets and the Montagues, Romeo’s invitation to the ball, and the death of the two “star-crossed” lovers which led to the end of the feud between the two families are all examples of how fate was able to sway the development of the story so it would lead to the death of Romeo and Juliet, “For never was a story of more woe /Than this of Juliet and her Romeo”.