William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet
4.1. Solution of the dichotomy
4.1.1. Double suicide
At the end of act IV, after Romeo and Juliet have taken their farewell
and Juliet's (second) marriage has been appointed, the situation seems
hopeless. Act III concludes with a soliloquy by Juliet, in which she
mentions the possibility of suicide.
I'll to the Friar to know his remedy.
If all else fail, myself have power to die.
There are lots of other passages which point to Romeo and Juliet's
final death. In the Prologue the Chorus already announces "their
death" and "their death-marked love". The Friar also anticipates the
cruel end of their love when he warns "these violent things have
Shortly before Romeo and Juliet are married Romeo says
But come what sorrow can,
It cannot countervail the exchange of joy
That one short minute gives me in her sight
Basically, he has reached what he has described as his utmost
fulfilment. "It is enough I may but call her mine".
In chapter 3, I explained that the love of Romeo and Juliet appears as
an attempt. But are we to evaluate their love as a success, as a
successful attempt? Or are does their death show that their love was a
Though the circumstances which led to the death at the end of act V
were coincidence to a large extent, both their deaths are suicide,
committed through their own decision. They both prefer death to a
living without each other.
Romeo hears about the false message o Juliet's death in V. i. His
reaction is immediate and resolute: "Then I defy you, stars!". His man
Balthasar unwittingly has the correct suggestion: "I do beseech you
sir, have patience". But Romeo's decision has been made, though he has
not got any affirmation of Juliet's death. "Hast thou no letters to me
from the Friar? [...] No matter.". After that, he concludes to kill
himself in Juliet's tomb. When Juliet awakes from her pretended
"death", she finds Romeo dead and also kills herself.
To Romeo, this double suicide is a kind of everlasting reconciliation.
Well, Juliet, I will lie with thee tonight.
O here will I set up my everlasting rest.
As we have seen in chapter 2.3. and 3.1.1., the real world does not
provide any room for the realization of their love. Romeo regards
death as the only place for it.
In Juliet's speeches we do not find any explicit hint that she regards
death as a reconciliation, as a fulfilment.
Scholars have discussed the question whether the end of Romeo and
Juliet belongs to the motif of "Liebestod", like the conclusion of
Antony and Cleopatra, for example. Hillgärtner stresses the bad
influence of society on Romeo and Juliet's love. To him, death is the
place where mischievous society has no influence.