One of the most important issues in the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet is that of choice. Do the characters have the ability to choose what they want to do, or are they simply destined to participate in death and destruction? There is ample evidence of both fate and free will in the play, and the presence of both greatly affects the interpretation of the plot and the characters.
Fate as a dominating force is evident from the very beginning of the play. The Chorus introduces the power of fortune in the opening prologue when we are told that Romeo and Juliet are “star-crossed” (destined for bad luck) and “death-marked,” and that their death will end their parents’ feud. Fate and fortune are closely related in the play, as they both concern events that are out of human control. By telling us that Romeo and Juliet are destined to die because of their bad luck, Shakespeare gives us the climax of the play before it even begins. This strategy, which seems odd considering the end has been spoiled for the audience, serves two purposes: it allows the introduction of the power of fate and fortune over people’s lives by declaring the fate of Romeo and Juliet at the very beginning, and it also creates tension throughout the play because they very nearly succeed despite this terrible declaration. Thus the opening prologue sets up the fate/free will problem.
The characters themselves all believe that their lives are controlled by destiny and luck, and Romeo is a prime example of this. When Romeo and his friends journey to the Capulet’s ball in Act I, scene iv, Romeo hesitates to go because he has had a bad dream:
...[M]y mind misgivesSome consequence, yet hanging in the stars,Shall bitterly begin his fearful dateWith this night’s revels and expire the termOf a despised life, closed in my breast,By some vile forfeit of untimely death (I, iv. 106-111).
Romeo not only acknowledges the power of the stars, which tell what fate has in store through astrology, but he also believes that his destiny is to die. Romeo’s belief in fate also affects his interpretation of events. When Romeo kills Tybalt in Act III, scene i, he claims that he is “fortune’s fool” by having contributed to his own downfall. In Act V, scene i, Romeo demonstrates his belief in the power of dreams to foretell the future once again when he believes that he will be reunited with Juliet on the basis of another dream. However, when Balthasar informs him that Juliet is dead, Romeo once again rails against the power of fate: “Is it e’en so? Then I defy you, stars! / Thou knowest my lodging” (V, i. 24). Romeo finally tries to escape from his destiny at the end of the play by committing suicide to “shake the yoke of inauspicious stars,” ironically fulfilling the destiny declared by the Chorus in the opening prologue.
Other characters in the play believe in the power of fate as well. Juliet appeals to fortune when Romeo escapes to Mantua in Act III, scene v:
“O Fortune, Fortune! All men call thee fickle. If thou art fickle, what dost thou with himThat is renowned for faith? Be fickle, Fortune,For then I hope thou wilt not keep him longBut send him back” (III, v. 60-64).
Juliet demonstrates here that she not only believes in the power of luck and fate over her own situation, but that Romeo himself has faith in those concepts. Friar Laurence also shows his belief in the power of destiny over people. When Romeo runs to his cell after killing Tybalt, Friar Laurence acknowledges that Romeo does indeed have bad luck: “Affliction is enamored of thy parts, / And thou art wedded to calamity” (III, iii. ll.2-3). As a priest, Friar Laurence naturally believes that destiny exists, as God has planned out all events. However, the friar will also become a victim of fate by the end of the play. His letter to Romeo, which details Friar Laurence’s plan for Romeo to pick up Juliet at the Capulet tomb after she has awakened from the effects of the potion, could not be delivered because of the “unfortunate” quarantine of Friar John. Friar Laurence then has the misfortune of accidentally tripping over gravestones while running to meet Juliet, which delays his arrival until after Romeo has committed suicide. Friar Laurence recognizes the power of fate to overrule his good intentions when Juliet awakens: “A greater power than we can contradict / Hath thwarted our intents” (V, iii. ll.153-154). The fact that Friar Laurence, Juliet, Romeo, and the other characters in the play believe so strongly in fate and fortune is not surprising, given...
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Below you will find five outstanding thesis statements for Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare that can be used as essay starters or paper topics. All five incorporate at least one of the themes in Romeo and Juliet and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a short summary of Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare in terms of different elements that could be important in an essay. You are, of course, free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them for your essay. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from Romeo and Juliet at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent essay.Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1 : The Use of Foreshadowing in Romeo and Juliet
Shakespeare uses foreshadowing in Romeo and Juliet to warn the reader that danger or a perilous situation is near. As the play opens in the city of Verona, and the audience settles down to hear the tale of the star-crossed lovers, it is evident that things are not going to turn out well for the pair. The story of Romeo and Juliet progresses and the foreshadowing becomes heavier. The witty word play that Shakespeare so often employs serves as a double entendre for the impending events, such as Mercutio’s admittance that the next day will find him a “grave man". In what scenes of the play is the foreshadowing the strongest, and what is the event being foreshadowed? What does Shakespeare hope to accomplish with the foreshadowing, and what does use does foreshadowing deliver to the audience? For this essay on Romeo and Juliet, consider the overall importance and role of foreshadowing using the questions listed here as a guide.Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: The Power of Destiny in Romeo and Juliet
The powerful concept of fate and destiny has intrigued many writers, including William Shakespeare. Although Romeo and Juliet scheme up many ways to be together, it is almost certain that they have no hand in their fate; they are merely being pushed along by fate. As Juliet prepares to leave everything she loves, Romeo is caught up in the cosmic warfare between his family and the Capulet’s, fighting for his life against her cousins and is eventually banished by the King. Using these examples, as well as Shakespeare’s own textual hints, describe how destiny controls the end result Romeo and Juliet’s ill-fated union. Did they ever have a chance together? Why or why not?
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3 : The Role of Religion in Romeo & Juliet
The theme of religion appears quite frequently throughout the text of Romeo and Juliet. In what ways does religion in Romeo and Juliet allude to the feelings that the lovers have for each other? Romeo compares Juliet to a saint as he kisses her hand, saying that he is unworthy to do so, and at several moments, the duo declare their love as divined by God. What is the connection between their affair and the heavens, and do they perhaps overestimate God’s favor? If God really approves of their love, why is it that the one religious figure in the play causes their deaths? Also, in what way does the language used between Romeo and Juliet add to the consecration of their relationship?
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4 : The Depiction of Romantic Love in Romeo and Juliet
Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is, at its core, a story about the undeniable power of love. Before Romeo and Juliet meet, both of them are involved with another. Romeo is infatuated with Rosaline, who does not return his feelings, and Juliet is betrothed to Paris by her father, but shows no true feelings towards him. However, once Romeo meets Juliet, their prospective romances fall apart as their feelings for one another eclipse their respective feelings towards Rosaline and Paris. In what instances is their love for one another different from their feelings towards Rosaline and Paris? How do their interactions vary, and in what ways do the people around them notice these changes?
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #5 : Romeo & Juliet and the Role of the Feuding Families
The role of the family in Romeo & Juliet is perhaps the most important, as the feuding families end up being the ultimate downfall for Romeo and Juliet. Were it not for the battle between the Capulets and Montagues, the ending of Romeo and Juliet would have turned out far differently. The feuding causes Romeo’s banishment, the death of Tybalt, and the ultimate suicide of the lovers. In what ways are Romeo and Juliet driven to destruction by the wars of their families? Do the lovers underestimate the hatred between their fathers and overestimate the power of their love to overcome the family feud?
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This list of important quotations from Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from Romeo and Juliet listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes and explanations about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned and explained. Aside from the thesis statements above, these quotes from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet alone can act as essay questions or study questions as they are all relevant to the text in an important way. All quotes from Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare contain page numbers as well. Look at the bottom of the page to identify which edition of the text they are referring to.
Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight! For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night." (I.v.52-53)
“But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the East, and Juliet is the sun! Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon, Who is already sick and pale with grief That thou her maid are far more fair than she." (II.2. 2-6)
“O, find him! Give this ring to my true knight And bid him come to take his last farewell." (III.ii.142-143)
“I dreamt my lady came and found me dead” (V.i.6).
“Then I defy you, stars!" (V.i.24)
“Oh! I am fortune’s fool" (III.i.131)
“God joined my heart and Romeo's, thou our hands" (IV.i.55)
“Or if thou wilt, swear by thy gracious self,/Which is the god of my idolatry,/ And I'll believe thee." (II.ii.113-115)
“O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo? Deny thy father and refuse thy name, Or if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love, And I’ll no longer be a Capulet." (II.i.74–78)
“From forth the fatal loins of these two foes A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life, Whose misadventured piteous overthrows, Doth with their death bury their parents’ strife" (Prologue. 5-8)