Romeo and Juliet

Introduction 1 A play in which a central character’s actions bring about his downfall his downfall is ‘Romeo and Juliet’ by Shakespeare. The story is set in 16th century Verona, when two children from rival families fall in love.
Introduction 2 The children, Romeo and Juliet fall in love, despite the rivalry of their families. However, the couple are constantly faced with set-backs, eventually leading to the tragic ending of their deaths. In this essay I will argue that Romeo’s immature actions were the cause of his downfall and their deaths.
P1 In the early scenes of the play Shakespeare establishes Romeo as an immature character, one who bases his actions solely on his current emotions no matter the consequences. Shakespeare uses characterisation to convey this in the beginning of the play, through his relationship with Rosaline. Romeo initially claims that Rosaline was the most beautiful woman in the city “splendour of mine own” and almost instantly this turns to “I forgot that name” when he meets Juliet. This helps us to understand how little he cares about the consequences of his actions and foreshadows how his carelessness will lead to his downfall
P2 Then, Shakespeare emphasises his new love for Juliet and uses characterisation to draw a contrast between them and their view on a relationship, again showing Romeo is careless. This is shown when Romeo invests all of his love into Juliet, saying that “It is the east and Juliet is the sun” From this, we can see that Romeo believes that life without Juliet would be filled with darkness and that she is the centre of his universe. Initially, this has an uplifting tone and reminds the reader to have hope. However, this is also a reminder that Romeo is still not considering the bigger picture or the setbacks they will face. Then, Juliet’s view contrasts this when she says that “that which we call a rose… By any other name would smell as sweet” showing that although she loves Romeo, she has recognised and is aware that the rivalry between their families will be an issue. By having Juliet recognise this problem it not only draws attention to the fact that Romeo does not think ahead of his actions but also foreshadows the actions of their families which end up encouraging Romeo to choose the drastic course of action that he does.
P3 The most influential family member on Romeo’s actions is Tybalt, Juliet’s cousin. Tybalt holds the strongest grudge against Romeo and this dynamic between the two is extremely important to set the play onto its tragic course. Tybalt’s unjustified rage towards Romeo can be seen throughout the play. For example when Romeo shows up uninvited to a Capulet ball. When Tybalt sees him he refers to him as “that villain Romeo” despite him only crashing a party. The word choice of ‘villain’ is especially effective as it connotes danger and evilness. The overreaction again foreshadows the play as we are shown that the Capulet’s view Romeo as an intruder, and that Tybalt is willing to fight him as a result, foreshadowing the scene which essentially acts as a catalyst to Romeo and Juliet’s downfall.
P4 In a key scene, Tybalt tries to fight Romeo, and initially, Romeo refuses. This is just shortly after Romeo marries Juliet in secret, so Tybalt at this point is actually his cousin-in-law and this knowledge combined with his newfound maturity and awareness of the consequences of his actions stop him from fighting Tybalt “the reason I have to love thee Doth much excuse the appertaining rage”. This newfound maturity in Romeo shows an enormous contrast to his old behaviour as he is now thinking ahead and considering the possible outcomes of the fight, before he rushes into it. This scene gives us hope again as we begin to believe that Romeo has matured and that he will no longer make irresponsible decisions, despite us already knowing that he will from the beginning of the play.
P5 Almost as soon as he shows the development of Romeo’s character and gives us hope, Shakespeare takes it away and establishes the limitations. This is shown after Mercutio, Romeo’s friend was killed by Tybalt, trying to defend Romeo’s honour. Even though Romeo knew the punishment for fighting and was able to turn down Tybalt’s initial challenges after Mercutio dies he re-challenges him and this ends in Tybalt’s death. Almost immediately Romeo has a moment of clarity and realises the consequences of his actions, crying out “O I am fortune’s fool!” This again shows his character development as he would have never before realised he had made mistakes or acknowledge the consequences. However, by this point, it is already too late. Romeo’s new maturity is reinforced when he accepts his punishment of being banished from Verona, even though he thought it was “purgatory, torture, hell itself” but even this has its limitations as he still believes he is ‘fortune’s fool’ he is being punished because of fate and not because of his own mistakes and therefore whilst he is willing to accept punishment for his actions he is still not aware that it is his own foolish behaviour that causes it.
P6 Finally, we see Romeo’s irresponsible actions catch up with him in the final act, when his emotions get the better of him as he thinks that emotions get the better of him as he thinks that Juliet has died. However, the reader knows that Juliet has not actually died, simply taking a potion to fake her death, to get out of marrying Paris. Romeo, again being impulsive and irresponsible after hearing this false news from a friend takes no time to try and find out more about the situation and rushes off to buy poison, travelling to her tomb, set on killing himself. When Romeo arrives at her tomb we see his strong emotions cloud his judgement even further as he murders Paris when he sees him at Juliet’s tomb and then fails to make the connection that Juliet is not actually dead, despite even commenting that she does not look dead “death’s pale flag has not yet advanced there”. This shows that his emotions overpowered his logic, despite his attempts to grow and mature, highlighting that although he tried his best to avoid it, his careless actions eventually led to his death.
Conclusion In conclusion, Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ features many characters with conflicting emotions and attitudes which all influence the play, and Romeo’s downfall to a certain extent. However, it cannot be said that anyone’s actions influenced the play and led to the tragic ending to the same extent as Romeo’s. This is justified as it was he who killed Tybalt and got banished causing Juliet to fake her death and it was also him who failed to notice she was not really dead before killing himself leading to his downfall.

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