Romeo and Juliet: A True Tragedy
An Aristotelian tragedy consists of several different aspects. In William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the main characters contain a tragic flaw, or hamartia, that contributes to their fall from esteem or regal status. Additionally, the audience experiences pity and fear evoked by Shakespeare for the duration of the play. Furthermore, the two star-crossed lovers undergo a catastrophe at the end of the tragedy, where the characters meet a tragic and horrendous death. Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is a true Aristotelian tragedy because both Romeo and Juliet possess a tragic flaw, a catastrophe takes place in which both characters meet a tragic death, and the audience is aroused with pity and fear.
Romeo’s tragic flaw impetuousness causes him to make decisions quickly, which contributes to his tragic death. Romeo acts with haste when he marries Juliet, even though he does not even know her for twenty-four hours. Juliet tells Romeo, “It is too rash, too unadvised, too sudden, / Too like the lightning” (II, ii, 118-119). One can see that even Juliet recognizes Romeo’s impetuousness and questions if they are moving their relationship forward too quickly and hastily. Romeo allows his anger to guide his actions and this gets him into trouble many times throughout the play. One example of this is immediately after Tybalt kills Mercutio. Romeo is so devastated by his friend’s death that he does not think clearly and acts impulsively. Normally, Romeo does not attack Tybalt, but in this situation, Mercutio’s death angers him and is ravenous for revenge. Romeo regrets killing Tybalt and even discerns his flaw when he says, “Oh, I am fortune’s fool!” (III, i, 130). Romeo realizes that he should not have attacked Tybalt and that there are serious consequences. Last but not least, Romeo does not think before he kills himself after learning of Juliet’s death and seeing her in the tomb. Her death is so heart-rending for him and he cannot bear to live without her. So, he ends his life, thinking that they will never be able to be together ever again. This displays impetuousness because, once again Romeo does not think before he acts. Instead, he reacts impulsively and does not consider the consequences of his actions. Aristotle points out, “The role of the hamartia in tragedy comes not from its moral status but from the inevitability of its consequences” (McManus). This means that with any tragic flaw, consequences for a person’s actions are inevitable. Overall, Shakespeare’s play is a genuine tragedy because Romeo’s impetuousness is the justification for his downfall.
Juliet makes certain decisions and does things that she would not normally, due to the fact that she is blinded by the love she feels for Romeo, or her hamartia. Because of her hamartia, Juliet ignores her duty to society to marry someone her parents pick out for her. By not obeying her parents’ wishes, Juliet is also going against the courtship and...