Romeo and Juliet is considered to be one of William Shakespeare’s most popular plays. There are 27 operas based on the story, as well as ballets, jazz and modern music, musicals, movies, paintings and even a Twitter series. The play follows the journey of Romeo and Juliet as they fall in love and hide it from society, as their parents are fueding. Shakespeare used literature and language devices to convey the idea of fate. Their ambitious love ended up with the death of both of them. Shakespeare used fate in a way to leave the readers apprehensive, such as using the protagonists’ dreams and prophecies to foreshadow an event. He used dramatic irony, as because of the prologue we know the main events that occur, and we can pick up when the characters subconsciously refer to their outcome. Another practice W. Shakespeare used was creating a plot line and leaving the hands of the characters in ‘gods’ hands so that when one event occurs it snowballs and carries on to create a string of events to leave the reader in anticipation.
During the course of the tragedy, Romeo and Juliet have several dreams and many prophecies were made. Shakespeare uses dreams to inform the reader that something major in the plot is about to materialize. In the 1500’s it is believed that when something is dreamt, it becomes real, so Shakespeare used this to foreshadow events. “I dreamt my lady came and found me dead… and breath’d such life in my lips that I reviv’d and was an emperor.” Romeo dreamt that Juliet came and found him dead. Romeo dreamt this after he was banished from Verona. Sice Romeo has done a sin and is banished, he can never be an emperor on earth. The only place where he could with Juliet and be as powerful as an emperor is in Heaven. This dream gave more information then what was said in the prologue, hinting that Juliet finds Romeo deceased and decides to go to Heaven with him. Friar Lawrence said, “These violent delights have violent ends and in their triumph die like fire and powder, which as they kiss, consume.” This is saying that the rough love that Romeo and Juliet have for each other have just as rough ends, and he refers to their kisses as explosive. This is prophetic because he aligns the cataclysmic passion of Romeo and Juliet with the feud that kills with violence, Romeo, Juliet, Mercutio, Tybalt and Paris.
Dramatic irony was Shakespeare’s way of adding humor to the script. Dramatic irony is when the reader knows more or knows something that the characters do not. We have more insight that the characters about the play because of the prologue. The most important quote in the prologue is when it tells us that a pair of star-crossed lovers takes their own life which buries their parents strife. Lady Capulet states “I would the fool were married to her grave.” She saying Juliet is a fool for not marrying Paris, because of this she wishes she was dead… therefore married to her grave. The dramatic irony in this is that in the end for Juliet a marriage is what actually killed her. In Act 2 scene 2 Juliet warns Romeo about their love. “Alack, there lies more peril in thine eye than twenty of their swords! Look thou but sweet, and I am proof against their enmity.” Romeo dismisses his warning. Juliet is saying that one bad look from Romeo would be worse then twenty of his families swords. She says look kindly at me and I will be invincible to their hatred. We know because of the prologue that they are doomed, and therefore she is referring to her fate of dying with Romeo. The use of dramatic irony was everywhere in the play, as using dramatic irony added banter and playfulness to the sad story of Romeo and Juliet.
The fate of Romeo and Juliet were in the hands of a higher figure, God. In the 1500’s coincidences was usually referred to as an act of God, as most people in England practiced the Roman Catholic religion. God used Romeo and Juliet as his toys. Their fate, of dying together, was always going to occur, no matter what the path there was. After the tragic death of Tybalt and Mercutio, Benvolio gives the news to Romeo that Prince Escales will most likely give him the death sentence if he is caught. Romeo says “Oh, I am fortune’s fool!” He is referring to the fact that he has no control over his destiny. The word fortune means chance as a higher force is affecting the human actions. The use of the word ‘fortune’ tells the audience that he recognizes the fact that he is being controlled by a higher force and he acknowledges that he has no control over that. God is controlling his life as there has been a turn of events that has sent Romeo’s life downhill. He places the responsibility of this on God. On the night of Capulet’s ball, Romeo says he has a funny feeling, that something is ‘hanging the stars’ (destined to happen) that night. “I fear, too early, for my mind misgives some consequence yet hanging in the stars shall bitterly begin his fearful date with this night’s revels, and expire the term by some vile forfeit of untimely death. But he hath the steerage of my course, direct my sail. ” Romeo was aware that he was not in control of what was going to happen that night. He says he has a bad feeling about the party, as it may spark the start of something bad that will end with his own death. He then announces that whoever is in charge of his life, steer him anywhere he wants. The use of sail refers back to the sea, as the sea can be seen as a vast empty space where, when sailing, you have no control over the path. He uses this word as in this stage of the play Romeo has no control over his course. He also makes a direct reference to God, saying that he can take his life where ever he wants to take it… and there he met the love of his life, Juliet.
William Shakespeare used many different language and literature devices to express the idea of fate in Romeo and Juliet. This essay shows how Shakespeare uses dramatic irony, acts of god and dreams and prophecies to convey fate to the reader. Examining Shakespeare’s tragedy showed how important it is to choose my words carefully.