Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare as a Tragedy
"Romeo and Juliet" is considered by most people to be Shakespeare's
most tragic work. Two young people die for their love for each other -
what can be more purer, romantic and tragic than that. But is it as
simple as that? What does actually make the play so tragic? Before we
can discuss the tragic aspects of Romeo and Juliet, we must first
understand the meaning of the term 'tragedy'. The Chambers Dictionary
defines tragedy as" a type of drama dealing with tragic events and
often involving the fall of an honourable, worthy and important
protagonist, often with elevated action and language; a play of this
type; the art of such drama; any piece of literature, music, etc
ending with disaster for the protagonist; a disaster, any sad story or
turn of events; any event involving killing".
Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy by the definition in the dictionary.
Both lead roles, Romeo and Juliet, die in the play, therefore making
it tragic. However there are many more factors which are typical of
Shakespeare' tragedies which occur, and some factors which make the
play less tragic. Juliet is a more tragic figure because she has no
real control over her life at all. The arrival of Romeo and their
subsequent love affair gives her an alternative to a life controlled
by her father and his choice of husband for her - she could run away
and live a romantic life with Romeo. At the end both Romeo and Paris
are dead so even if she survived there would be no future for Juliet.
Main characters in Shakespeare's plays are often quite innocent and
are swept along by other events happening at the time, for example the
feud between the two families led to the breakdown of communication
between the lovers resulting in their death.
The tragic events are foreshadowed throughout the course of the play.
The great tension between the two families is apparent to all. In Act
lll, Scene l, Benvolio says:
'I pray thee, good Mercutio, let's retire:
The day is hot, the Capels are abroad,
And if we meet we shall not scape a brawl,
For now, these hot days, is the mad blood stirring.'
Romeo has a premonition in his sleep..."I dreamt my lady came and
found me dead", he admits at the beginning of Act 5. Although the
dream continues with Juliet reviving him with a kiss, this dark dream
may mean that Romeo subconsciously knew that his relationship with
Juliet would lead to an unhappy end.
There is another element that has a big part in the play - fate. Both
main characters are in the wrong place at the wrong time and were
never meant to be together. Shakespeare, through the narrator, calls
them 'Star-crossed lovers' which suggests that they have no control
over their fate. Romeo is aware that he is unlucky and that fate is
against him as he says 'I...