Who is to Blame in Romeo and Juliet?
Length: 1236 words (3.5 double-spaced pages)
In this essay I will explore all acts in Romeo and Juliet and find the
answer to ‘who or what is responsible for the lover’s deaths?’
I will look in detail to all the different people and factors that
could have affected Romeo and Juliet’s death, explore all the ideas of
why Shakespeare wrote what he did and come to my conclusion.
For hundreds of years people have argued over the cause of the deaths
of the ‘star-cross’d lovers’ and has never properly been resolved, and
Romeo and Juliet’s whole relationship started as soon as they first
met, this is why some people say that Mercutio is to blame.
We first see Mercutio in act 1 scene 4 with a laddish, macho but
considerate attitude. ‘Nay gentle Romeo, we must have you dance’ he
tells Romeo, trying to persuade him to go to the Capulet’s ball, but
he is lovesick with Rosaline and declines. This leads to Mercutio
saying ‘you are a lover, borrow Cupid’s wings, and soar with them
above a common bound.’ Implying that he should get over Rosaline as
there are plenty of other girls and go and have fun at the party.
If Mercutio had never persuaded Romeo to go to the party then he would
have never met Juliet, resulting in them never dying.
Shakespeare then continues to write these traits of laddish and macho
behaviour in Mercutio's character until his death. In act 3 scene 1
Mercutio’s attitudes towards fighting makes the scene much worse than
it could have been. He enjoys quarrelling with Tybalt as he sees it as
a game and tries to control the situation with his quick wit. ‘Good
king of cats, nothing but one of your nine lives’ he said, trying to
aggravate Tybalt but Mercutio took it too far, as they ended up
fighting, which, in turn caused his death and Romeo’s banishment.
If Mercutio hadn’t had been so macho in his behaviour he probably
wouldn’t have died, so Romeo wouldn’t have taken his revenge and
killed Tybalt, therefore would never had been banished and would have
received the message from friar Laurence. So this is 2 ways in which
Mercutio could be to blame for Romeo and Juliet’s death.
Juliet’s nurse could also be to blame for the deaths of Romeo and
She has been more than a nurse to Juliet over the years, Juliet feels
closer to her than her own mother and the nurse treats Juliet as if
she were her own daughter.
She helped Juliet with her relationship with Romeo, helped organise
the secret wedding by carrying messages to and from the lovers (‘here
a sir, a ring she bid me give you sir:’) and generally encouraged her.
So Juliet thought that the nurse was on her side.
In act 3 scene 5 the nurse even tries to stand up for Juliet when she
has an argument with her father about the marriage to Paris ‘god in
heaven bless her: you are to blame my lord to rate her so’, she said
before being shouted at by Capulet.
Because Shakespeare made this relationship between the nurse and
Juliet so strong, it would come as a shock to the audience and Juliet
when the nurse says, at the end of the scene, ‘I think it best you
married with the county’ and ‘Romeo’s a dishclout to him’. This hits
Juliet hard, that the one person she trusts and thought understood her
most is now telling her the one thing she doesn’t want to hear and has
So this is how the nurse could be to blame for Romeo and Juliet’s
death. If nurse hadn’t have betrayed Juliet she wouldn’t have gone to
friar Laurence’s cell, distraught, he wouldn’t have given her the
poison and the deaths could have been prevented.
Friar Laurence’s part in the play I think is quite significant. He
knew about Romeo and Juliet’s relationship, married them in secret and
supplied Juliet with the drugs to make her fall asleep.
‘Come with me, and we will make short work. For by your leaves, you
shall not stay alone, till holy church incorporate two in one’ he says
before marrying the couple after encouraging the relationship, surely
knowing that it could only end in trouble. And, when Juliet turns to
him in need he gives her the remedy which causes her to go to sleep
and Romeo to kill himself.
The deaths could also have been caused by the ‘ancient grudge’ between
the opposing families. If the families didn’t have such a hatred for
each other then maybe Romeo and Juliet could have confided in their
families rather then keep the relationship a secret. When Juliet
discovers who Romeo is she doesn’t know what to do. She says ‘So Romeo
would were he no Romeo call’d, retain that dear perfection which he
owes’, meaning that if he wasn’t a Montague than he could be
The deaths could have been due to the lovers themselves as they rushed
into marriage to early and caused lots of problems. Romeo was too
quick to think about getting married, especially as he only just got
over Rosaline. When angered, he killed Tybalt out of revenge which led
to banishment and also was too quick to think about killing himself
without finding out the facts. Juliet was also too quick to think
about getting married especially as she was due to get engaged to
Paris at the time and she must have known that it couldn’t have
worked. Also she didn’t think twice about taking the drugs to make her
sleep for a day, not thinking bout the consequences.
Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet as a tragedy but has also been
hailed as the greatest love story that ever existed, so could the
deaths of the lovers purely be because of their love for one another,
along with coincidence and chance?
It could have been coincidence that a clown came along with an
invitation to the Capulets ball which Romeo read, that lead to him and
Juliet first meeting. And when they first met it was love at first
sight. I think that Shakespeare wrote about Romeo’s love for Rosaline
in the very beginning of the play so we could see just how different
it was with Juliet. ‘Alas that love, whose view is muffled still,
should without eyes, see pathways to his will’ is what Romeo says
about his love of Rosaline, which makes the audience think that he is
very much in love with her but when he meets Juliet his feelings
change. ‘With Rosaline, my ghostly father no, I have forgot that name,
and that name’s woe’ he says to friar Laurence in act 2 scene 3,
showing that he does not love Rosaline anymore. To summarise, Romeo
thought he loved Rosaline but as soon as he meets Juliet he forgets
all about her, which suggests that the relationship with Rosaline was
just a lust and not real love, as it is with Juliet.
Also it could be chance that, after Romeo’s banishment he did not
receive the friar’s letter containing Juliet’s status, after the friar
had said that he’d get the letter delivered quickly. And in the ending
scene Juliet did not awaken merely not much longer than ‘Full half an
hour’ before she actually did, as this would have prevented Romeo’s
When it comes to the end of Romeo and Juliet’s short lives,
Shakespeare makes it clear that they love each other and are willing
to do anything to be together with Romeo saying ‘Here’s to my love. O
true apothecary: thy drugs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die.’ And
Juliet; ‘O happy dagger. This is thy sheath, there rust and let me
die’. The lovers would rather die to be with each other than live and
not be together. So it is the purest of love that causes the suicides.
However, in the prologue, it says that ‘a pair of star-cross’d
lovers, take their life’ so we automatically know that from the very
beginning of the play fate is involved. Throughout the play there are
references to fate and the stars through the various characters.
Famously Romeo says ‘Is it e’en so? Then I deny you stars’ after
hearing of Juliet’s ‘death’. He wants to ‘deny’ the stars and fate as
opposed to ‘defying’ them as he is saying that he wont allow it to
happen and is denying fate the power to do anything else bad to him.
It could also be fate that made the friar not get to the tomb in time
to save a life and other things like that.
Shakespeare probably wrote about fate in the play because he knew how
the audience would respond to it. Around the time that he wrote the
play people believed in fate and that the stars ruled their lives and
were also superstitious.
To conclude, having looked at all the different aspects of what could
have caused Romeo and Juliet’s deaths I think that it was fate, with
all the characters contributing.
Shakespeare wrote the play to be a tragedy and that is what he
achieved. He used different writing skills like puns, repetition and
oxymorons to engage the audience and tell a believable story.
I think that Shakespeare wrote it so that it was fate that caused the
deaths. He knew the audience would understand and believe it and took
advantage of that. He mentioned fate all through the play and added
all the little points and things that went wrong, like the death of
Tibet, leading to Romeos banishment and the letter not arriving to
Romeo in time because these were things that could happen, it’s not
too far fetched and the audience would go along with it
But only Shakespeare knew when he wrote it, who is to blame for the
deaths of the lovers Romeo and Juliet, so the world will probably
never know and will disagree over the reasons for many years to come.