“For never was there a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo”. Romeo and Juliet is a tragic love story. Whose tragedy is it? Through the metrical composition of the closing lines of the play, Shakespeare informs the audience on whose tragedy Romeo and Juliet is about. By addressing the last verse of the play to us in pyrrhic pentameter, he is suggesting a victory which has come about at too great a cost. The pace of time amplifies the tragic quality of the play. Time is used to set things in a motion that they spiral out of control. Instead of logical decisions, everything is controlled by emotions, which ultimately leads Romeo and Juliet to their path of death. However, Shakespeare’s deliberate use of pyrrhic pentameter reinforces the sound of a pyrrhic victory. Besides the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, there is something more pervasive suggested, as many characters thereafter also suffer as a consequence of this tragedy, such as the parents and Paris. Essentially, the story is Romeo and Juliet’s tragedy because they are young and pay the ultimate price for their passionate ‘true love’. The chorus tells us that the lovers are necessary sacrifices. Nothing but their death can “bury their parents’ strife”.
Through the words “here’s much to do with hate, but more with love”, Shakespeare suggests how the world of the play is initially sprouted by hate between two families. So the paradox with Romeo and Juliet is how the one thing that defines them is ultimately the one thing which separates them. Not only are they victims of their families hatred, they are also victim to piteous overthrows and misguided plans which were supposed to unite them. By disregarding patriarchal imperatives and escaping to a world without parents, they place their trust in orders, such as Friar Lawrence and the Nurse. In doing that, they subject themselves to piteous overthrows. Their tragedy is that they have nowhere to turn. In an attempt to come together, the true lovers die; their love was “death-marked”. They are inexperienced and have the idealistic ardour of first love.
Hence, their love is pure. The poetry of the play is written as beautifully and pure as the love it speaks of as this purity enhances the tragedy presented in the play for Romeo and Juliet. It is the parents’ tragedy in this play because of their disobedient children. Romeo and Juliet’s rebellion ultimately leads to them to their own deaths and consequently, the only succession to the Capulet and Montague’s family name is lost. Upon Juliet’s death, Capulet expresses lamentation to this loss of succession through his words “death is my heir”. The children’s fatal flaws ultimately pave their parents’ tragedy. The children took little honour in their names and treated it as if it were a piece of clothing which they could just throw away. Juliet questions “what’s in a name?” and expresses dishonour to the significance of her family name. Juliet’s lack of pride leads her to Romeo, which ultimately leads her to death. Hence, her lack of pride is her fatal flaw.
If she had pride in her name, she would not have allowed herself to love Romeo and hence, would not have died. If they did not die, the story would not have been their parent’s tragedy, as they would not have lost their children, or their successor to their family name. Of all the young men who die in the play, Paris is the greatest victim of all, because he dies from being a victim of both love and death. Essentially, Paris was not even part of the two families’ battle. Rather, he was dragged into the whole mess as a result of associations. For the other young men in the story, their tragedy had come about as a result of the ancient grudge however for Paris, he was a victim of love. He dies as a consequence of love in both ways; Romeo’s love for Juliet as well as his own love for Juliet. Paris was a nice guy who happened to get caught in someone else’s love story.
As Juliet’s love for Romeo deepens, Paris is increasingly ignored by her. Hence, not only is it a tragic end for Paris in that he dies by the end of the play, but his beloved Juliet also dies and the fact that he never received Juliet’s love or attention since the start adds further depth to his tragedy. Through the use of pyrrhic pentameter, Shakespeare allows us to ‘hear’ as well as understand the pyrrhic victory taken place in the play. The constant battle between family Montague and the family Capulet is the spark which sets off the train for future misfortunes. Romeo and Juliet’s forbidden pure love is definitely a major factor which contributes to the tragedy of both these young lovers. For the parents, their children’s grave death, tragic in itself, also marks the death of their own succession to the family names. For Paris, his tragedy is bought about as a consequence of love. Ultimately, the catastrophic end to Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy which affects everyone in the play.
Courtney from Study Moose
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