Haste, the over-eagerness to act, is an important element in any tragic play. William Shakespeare paid careful attention to this concept in the writing of his famous play Romeo and Juliet. Haste is certainly well shown, since most of the characters make rash decisions during the play.
Firstly, Romeo and Juliet best display haste when they decide to get married after having met merely a couple of hours earlier. While gazing into her orchard and delivering her soliloquy, Juliet notices Romeo. They express their love for each other, but Romeo is anxious to know that Juliet is his. He proposes to her by saying, “Lady, by yonder blessed moon I vow,” (II.ii.107). Romeo clearly loves Juliet enough to vow his love for her by the moon, which he speaks so highly of. Though Juliet returns his love, she does not wish to vow their love by the moon for she thinks that the moon is inconstant. She expresses this through the lines, “O swear not by the moon, th’inconstant moon, /That monthly changes in her circl’d orb, /Lest that thy love prove likewise variable.” (II.ii.109-111). She continues with, “Well, do not swear. Although I joy in thee, /I have no joy of this contract tonight, /It is too rash, too unadvis’d, too sudden, /Too like the lightning, which doth cease to be” (II.ii.117-119).
Evidently, Juliet does not think it is wise to make such a life changing decision after just having met Romeo. She questions the strength of his love and believes that his declaration of love is just spur of the moment. She settles the discussion by replying, “If thy bent love be honourable, /Thy purpose marriage, send me word tomorrow,” (II.ii.143-144). Juliet thought that if Romeo was still madly in love with her in the morning, his feelings were true, and they would wed the following day. Undoubtedly, Romeo and Juliet were hasty to make a decision that would soon alter the entire course of their lives, and that would take a major part in the making of this tragic play.
Secondly, Romeo proves his rash ways yet again by murdering Tybalt in cold blood. When Romeo realized that Tybalt took the life of his dear friend Mercutio, he was set on getting revenge. He ran after Tybalt and expressed his anger by exclaiming, “That late thou gavest me, for Mercutio’s soul/Is
but a little way above our heads, /Staying for thine to keep him company:/Either thou or I, or both, must go with him.” (III.i.122-125). The only option Romeo considered rational was that either him or Tybalt should join Mercutio. Romeo was prepared to battle Tybalt for Mercutio’s sake. Unfortunately the battle ended as Romeo had planned it. Tybalt joined Mercutio but at what price.
The death of Tybalt got Romeo banished from Verona and sent to Mantua. In Romeo’s eyes, not being able to see Juliet is just as bad as death. He frantically searches for the easy way out, and asks the Friar, “Hast thou no poison mix’d, no sharp-ground knife” (III.iii.44). Though Romeo was not dead physically he was emotionally, so in the end both Romeo and Tybalt had joined Mercutio. Clearly, Romeo’s eagerness to act ultimately led to the tragic outcome of this play.
Lastly, the Capulet family were also major factors in this tragedy because they were quick to judge and make decisions before considering the outcome. Unaware that Juliet was already married to the son of his enemy, Lord Capule arranged for her to get married to Paris. Juliet was against the idea so she sought counsel from Friar Lawrence. He advised her to drink a potion he had mixed that would make her appear as if she were dead, while he would sent word to Romeo about what had really happened, in hopes that he would rescue her from the Capulet tomb. The idea of being reunited with Romeo pleased Juliet. She assumed that if she made her father believe that she agreed with the idea of marrying Paris, he would not begin to get suspicious about her true plan. Originally, she was to wed Paris on that Thursday, but seeing how happy Juliet was about the wedding, Lord Capulet decided to, “Send for the County, go tell him of this. /I’ll have this knot knit up tomorrow morning.” (IV.ii.23-24).
This would mean that Juliet’s plans would have to be moved up a day, and that the news would not get to Romeo in time but Juliet would rather risk it then marry Paris. She clearly illustrated this with the lines, “Come,vial. /What if this mixture do not work at all? /Shall I be married then tomorrow morning? /No, no, this shall forbid it; lie thou there.” (IV.iii.20-23). Juliet was prepared to accept any fate as long as it did not mean having to marry Paris. She decided that second, that instead of consulting Friar Lawrence about this matter, she would just go ahead with the plan a day early.
This rash decision caused Romeo to believe she was deceased, which drove him to commit suicide where she lay in the tomb. As she woke up and saw him lying dead beside her, she took his dagger and drove it through herself. The haste in Lord Capulet’s decision changed Romeo and Juliet’s fate, which eventually meant their deaths and the deaths of many others, making this play a tragedy.
Certainly the principle of haste is well demonstrated in the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet since most of the characters act in haste without carefully thinking their decisions through. Romeo, Juliet, and Lord Capulet all determine their fates by their actions, which result directly from the flaws of their own natures. The concept of haste is a key element in the successful conclusion of a tragic play, since it emphasizes the playwright’s belief that the characters choices affected their destinies. Haste will continue to be an essential element in tragedy since the inconsiderate decision of the characters affected them greatly.
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