Fate: __The audience are told from the outset that it’s the fault of __predestination. The Prologue is riddled with references to it, from “star-cross’d” and “fearful passage”, “fatal loins” to “misdaventur’d” (‘aventure’ being the French for chance/accident) It certainly seems to play a role in stitching everything together: the Capulet servant asking Romeo for help with the invitations; Friar Laurence’s letter not reaching Romeo; Juliet waking up thirty seconds too late.
__Time: __But don’t dismiss Fate’s trusty sidekick, Time. When the play opens, time is moving painfully slowly for Romeo. But not for long. __Soon it is the pace that drags it out of their control. __The wedding of Juliet and Paris is brought forward, compressing the time they have to find a solution. In the end, four days is simply not enough to fix this mess.
So if it is all due to fate and time, then surely the humans can’t be held accountable? This is the challenge Shakespeare presents. Do we as an audience simply accept that this was all inevitable? Or do we question whether the actions of other characters allowed things to unfold as they did?
__Friar Laurence: __Interesting then, that the individual who makes a large number of mistakes, is the religious one. Though he supports their love and tries to help, there are a few key moments where he messes up: he marries them in the hope that it will end the family feud (pretty naive, no?); it is his letter which never reaches Romeo; and (the biggy) he has a chance to save Juliet after Romeo has died, but values protecting himself over Juliet. Not looking good for the Friar…
__The Nurse: __Surely, the Nurse can’t be to blame. Although Friar Laurence doesn’t seem to have too many qualms dragging her down with him at the end. The Nurse is a contrast to Juliet’s parents, in genuinely wanting what is best for her. That being said, she does facilitate almost everything that happens between the two lovers. Unlike the Friar, she is able to change her view, and encourages Juliet to marry Paris when all seems lost. The Friar, bound by the rites of matrimony he has performed, can do no such thing. The Nurse definitely plays a role, but her interests appear to be entirely selfless.
The Capulets: The problem with Juliet’s parents, is they both seem to be carrying some baggage. Both attempt to push Juliet into something she is not happy with, for personal gains. Their forcefulness and decision to bring the wedding forward is a catalyst for the tragedy. A pattern is emerging: when people act for selfish reasons, it doesn’t tend to go well…
__The Montagues: __The other side of the coin. Where the Capulets are the overbearing parents, the Montagues barely appear, conspicuous by their absence. Romeo gleans all guidance from the Friar and Nurse, along with his friends, but nothing from his parents. Where Juliet acts in response to her parents, Romeo appears not to know how to respond to certain situations. However, all this could reinforce the role of Fate; whether you have present parents or those who let you do as you wish, neither results in a happy ending.
__Romeo: __Romeo’s one saving grace is that he is only a teenager. Because otherwise he seems to make mistakes at every turn. He rushes things with Juliet, even when advised against it. His actions allow Mercutio to be killed and then he makes things worse by killing Tybalt. He is petulant about his banishment and returns without waiting for word from Friar Laurence. He then kills Paris and himself. Lots of mistakes. He acts emotionally and not logically. BUT he is only young. He is let down again and again by the adults around him; you should have kept Benvolio around, mate!
__Juliet: __Don’t know why I’ve included Juliet. She is the most repressed character in the play and the only one trying to do something about it. Don’t get tricked into believing that Romeo and Juliet live the same lives. The patriarchy means they are worlds apart in their freedom and choices. The only real mistake she makes is not trusting her gut and slowing things down, when she recognises the haste of their love is dangerous. Probably should have just married Paris, right?
__Tybalt: __Let’s not lie; Tybalt is the fire of the play, who loves to light some fuses. He is the trigger, killing Mercutio and causing everything else to kick off. But Mercutio was the one pushing him to fight. If anything though, Tybalt could have been the saviour: had Lord Capulet allowed him to intervene and remove Romeo from the party, he and Juliet would never have met. Tybalt isn’t a big player in this. It’s fair to say he gets the party started, but it’s hard to hold him accountable for everything that happens after.
__Mercutio: __He certainly acts like the little demon on peoples’ shoulders. He mocks Romeo for being naive about dreams before the party. He then mocks Benvolio, claiming that he loves a brawl, and resulting in them being present when Tybalt turns up. He winds Tybalt up into fighting him. Finally, he chastises Romeo for being pathetic, causing him to kill Tybalt. Though a mischievous and flagrant character, all Mercutio does is highlight the flaws of others. Again, despite being a catalyst for what unfolds, it is hard to view him as responsible for the tragedy.