Romeo and Juliet is one of William Shakespeare’s most famous play. The general storyline has been reworked and redone countless times, a story of love and sacrifice. It is one of the most significant plays of the 16th century. One of the most interesting things about this piece is the underlying concept of fate. Different features are used to express this theme in the play. Of the many, I will be discussing Metaphor, Foreshadowing, and acts of God.
The first signs of fate in Romeo and Juliet are the Metaphors. They play an important part in adding to the dramatic irony of the play. It gives the audience or reader knowledge of what is going to happen and lets them know more than the characters. There are lots of uses of metaphor in Romeo and Juliet. The first is the Metaphor of Death. It occurs multiple times throughout and adds a sense of Irony as the characters unknowingly predict the outcome. One good example is when Juliet says “Go ask his name. If he be married, my grave is likely to be my wedding bed”. She says this after she meets Romeo at the Capulet’s ball in act 1. The grave as wedding bed saying occurs more than once in the play, and acknowledges the end of the play when Juliet and Romeo are wedded in her grave, to be eternally together in the afterlife. Another commonly used metaphor is the Boat/Sea metaphor. Romeo talks about how he is a passenger on a boat (life) that is helmed by fate. In act 2 he says “By love, who did first prompt me to inquire; he lent me counsel and I lent him eyes. I am no pilot; yet, wert thou as far as that vast shore wash’d with the farthest sea, I would adventure for such merchandise”. In this quote, he recognizes that he is not a pilot, and says that no matter how far Juliet is he would venture for her. Also, at the start of the quote, he talks about love. Love is his guide. Love first prompted him to go to the ball because he was sad about not being loved back by Rosaline. Love lent him counsel (wisdom) about Juliet and in return, he lent love eyes because love is blind. Love is Romeo’s mysterious pilot, who guides him every step until the end.
Similar to metaphor, foreshadowing is another sign of fate in Romeo and Juliet. foreshadowing is where a character unknowingly predicts future events. Like metaphor, It is used by Shakespeare to give the audience a sense of dramatic irony. There are a lot of times in the play where a character foreshadows a future event. One of the most known of these is when Friar Lawrence is marrying Romeo and Juliet. He says “These violent delights have violent ends, and in their triumph die like fire and powder, which as they kiss consume”. At first, he talks about violent delights. This is referring to Romeo and Juliet’s love, which is a passionate and violent affair. This passion will lead to a violent end for both of them. He next talks about fire and powder. In their triumph, or their love, they die like fire and powder. Fire and powder have a unique bond in which one consumes the other until there is nothing left, then dies out itself. This is like Romeo and Juliet’s love, a fast relationship that escalates to a finale before burning out. As they kiss consume links to Romeo’s final word and action, kissing Juliet before drinking the poison, saying “With a kiss, I die”. Another major foreshadow occurs just after Mercutio is mortally wounded by Tybalt, saying “A plague a’both your houses”. This foreshadows the rest of the play, where the death of Mercutio indirectly causes the final outcome, by making Romeo kill Tybalt and leading to his (Romeo’s) banishment. The plague on both the houses is the loss of their beloved children. This Quote can also refer to the Black Plague, which plays a major part in the story.
Acts of God played an important part in Romeo and Juliet. A lot of events are caused by seemingly good luck, but is there something more going on in the shadows? There are multiple instances in Romeo and Juliet where a coincidence is just too unlikely. When Lord Capulet’s servant goes to the town to find someone to read the guests off the invitation list, who does he first come across? Romeo and Benvolio. After they read the invitation to him (servant), he invites them to the ball. He says “Now I’ll tell you without asking. My master is the great rich Capulet, and if you be not of the house of Montagues, I pray come and crush a cup of wine.”. This invitation leads to Romeo and Juliet meeting at the ball, and without them meeting there would be no story. The fact that Romeo and Benvolio happened to be walking in the right spot at the right time, just as the servant was passing through can be seen as an act of God. There would be a fair few people in Verona, and the servant coming across our hero first has to be more than coincidental. God changed the servant’s fate to come across Romeo and Benvolio before anyone else. Another act of God in Romeo and Juliet is the Plague in act 5. In the time of the Bubonic (Black) Plague in Europe, many people saw it as an act of God, sent to cleanse the Earth of Heretics and Atheists. The Plague prevented Friar John from delivering Friar Lawrence’s message to Romeo, leading to the final outcome of the play as Romeo kills himself over “dead” Juliet. In Friar John’s words, “…Where the infectious pestilence did reign, seal’d up the doors, and would not let us forth, so that my speed to Mantua there was stay’d…”. The Plague was an act of God, sent to stop Romeo from learning of Juliet’s fake death. This leads to the final outcome, where they both wind up dead. This may have been God’s, or Shakespeare’s fate’s plan all along. He sacrificed the two lovers by twisting their fate, causing the Families to stop their feuding. God caused Romeo and Juliet’s death for the greater good, a classic case of doing the wrong thing for the right reason.
Fate is used by Shakespeare a fair few times in Romeo and Juliet and to great effect. It helps the reader along with the story and gives a subtle, underlying concept that adds the entirely new level of God and prophecy to the play. Whether it is Metaphor, Foreshadowing or Act’s of God that he uses to display it, The play is a masterpiece of subtle hints and dramatic irony, which helps us understand the sorrow of Romeo and Juliet. This story will be a classic tale of fate and love forevermore.