Romeo and Juliet
Fate and Free Will Theme
We don't need to bother with a spoiler alert, because Shakespeare wants us to be spoiled. It goes out of its way to tells us that Romeo and Juliet are destined for tragedy: in the opening Prologue, we learn that the "star-cross'd lovers" will "take their life." At the same time, there's still a sense that Romeo and Juliet decide all on their own to commit suicide—not to mention, there are plenty of players (the meddling Friar and Nurse, Romeo and Juliet's warring parents, etc.) who contribute to the play's tragic events. In Romeo and Juliet, maybe "fate" is just another word for "consequences."
Questions About Fate and Free Will
- What role does fate play in Romeo and Juliet? Is fate alone responsible for the deaths of Romeo and Juliet, or should certain characters be held accountable?
- Is fate friendly or unfriendly to Romeo and Juliet? Does fate seem like a threatening force or simply an inevitable one?
- How are Romeo and Juliet's deaths foreshadowed throughout the play?
- Read the opening Prologue and discuss how the Chorus treats the topic of "fate."
Chew on This
Romeo and Juliet have no control over their tragic destinies—they're simply victims of fate.
In Romeo and Juliet, individuals bring about their own fates.