An essay written on Romeo and Juliet, in a ninth-grade English class.
A literary critic once said of Romeo and Juliet, “It is not simply a tragedy of two individuals, but the tragedy of a city. Everybody in the city is one way or another involved in and responsible for what happens.” However, I do not agree with this statement. I believe that the responsibility for the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet can be pinned down to several main characters and their actions. I believe these three characters are Tybalt, Romeo and Juliet themselves, and Friar Laurence.
Tybalt is responsible for the tragedy due to his fiery temper and hatred. He ignores the instructions of Capulet to leave Romeo alone, and after the party seeks revenge on Romeo, simply because he has shown up. When he tries to provoke Romeo the next day, Mercutio challenges Tybalt and is killed, although Romeo and Benvolio have tried to stop the fighting. This angers Romeo, who then kills Tybalt. When Prince Escalus comes to investigate, he declares Romeo exiled from Verona. Tybalt, by provoking Romeo, complicates an already complicated matter; Romeo and Juliet have already been married without their parents’ knowledge, and now Romeo must see Juliet once before he is to head to Mantua. Tybalt, by seeking a fight with Romeo and getting killed, also destroys what credibility Romeo may have had with the Capulets, thereby preventing any explanation of the marriage to Juliet’s parents. Had Tybalt listened to his Uncle Capulet, Romeo and Juliet’s marriage wouldn’t have been complicated by Romeo’s exile.
Romeo and Juliet themselves are also to blame for this tragedy. Romeo wishes to rush the marriage, as does Juliet. The fact that the marriage is a secret results in a complication; Juliet’s parents do not realize that she has already made a commitment to another man and cannot possibly be married to Paris. The fact that the marriage is rushed results in yet another complication; the marriage must be done without the parents’ consent. They both “run fast,” and as the Friar predicts, they both “stumble.” Juliet should also have attempted to contain herself when mourning Romeo’s exile, as a large reason for Capulet rushing the marriage is Juliet’s immoderate mourning. Romeo also is unable to control himself after Tybalt kills Mercutio, and allows himself to be provoked into fighting Tybalt. Overall, though, they were both too rash in their actions. Romeo’s hurriedness to poison himself after he has only heard about Juliet’s funeral is not level-headed, nor is Juliet’s decision to stab herself.
Lastly, Friar Laurence also is responsible for the tragedy, although not purposefully. First, even though he criticizes that Romeo is able to change his heart’s desire so quickly, he decides to continue with the marriage. He “runs fast,” which he rebukes Romeo for doing, and so his plan also “stumbles”. Afterwards, when Romeo is exiled and Juliet’s marriage to Paris is rushed, he adds the complicated solution of giving Juliet a potion that will make her look dead, to the already complicated problem of Juliet’s marriage. There are many things that could have gone wrong with this plan, and the Friar should have taken a moment to think through it before giving Juliet the potion. Finally, he leaves Juliet by herself at the end, in the Capulet’s tomb. He flees the tomb, leaving Juliet to her own mercy. Had he remained with her, he could have prevented her from killing herself.
I believe that not everyone is responsible for the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. The responsibility for the tragedy lies on several main characters, those being Tybalt, Friar Laurence, and Romeo and Juliet themselves. The tragedy is a result of the poorly thought out actions of these main characters and the hateful behaviors of certain characters toward others. On the whole, it is a great story of tragedy that could have been prevented by more thought and tolerance.