In Elizabethan England, fate was thought as an act of god or a higher being, choosing your path for you and leading you into life. Any coincidences were thought important and if anything went wrong, God meant for it to happen. Fate is a series of events in ones life that is out of their control. Shakespeare shows his idea of fate by using techniques such as timing and coincidences, metaphors, dramatic irony, the prologue and iambic pentameter.
Shakespeare uses metaphors to convey his idea that Romeo is being controlled by a higher power, such as God. ‘He that hath steerage of my course, direct my sail’. Romeo refers to himself as a vessel. By the use of the capital ‘H’, we know that the ‘He’ was referring to God. Romeo is saying that he is willing to ask for his life to be guided. He has decided, in spite of his doubt, to take the risk of following his fate. Later in act 5, scene 3, he continues the metaphor by saying ‘Thou desperate pilot, now at once run on, the dashing rocks thy seasick, weary bark’. Saying this, he is indicating that God has failed leading him into a good life and his life turned bad. Quickly after this being said, he kills himself.
Dramatic Irony is used all throughout Romeo and Juliet, where the audience knows what’s happening, but the characters in the play are unaware. In act 4, scene 1, Friar Lawrence tells Juliet about his plan for Juliet to avoid the wedding. Friar Lawrence writes a letter to be delivered to Romeo, informing him on what’s about to happen. ‘Shall Romeo by my letters know our drift’. The letter didn’t get delivered because Friar John – who was meant to deliver the letter – was quarantined in a house that town health officials suspected had been hit with the plague. ‘Sealed up the doors and would not let us forth. So that my speed to Mantua there was stayed’. This meant that Romeo would not get the letter informing him that Juliet is alive. They are all prevented from changing God’s pre decided decision when Friar John wasn’t able to deliver the letter full of information the could save Romeo and Juliet. When the letter was meant to be delivered, it was prevented by a force. Romeo thinks he is in control but the audience knows that he isn’t because the letter won’t be delivered to him, providing him with important information.
The idea of fate in Romeo and Juliet is conveyed by Shakespeare through a series of events, happening by coincidence. Around the time between 1558 – 1603, humanity perceived fate as the will of God. Because of this, when coincidences happened, they thought of it as God’s intentions. An example of fate in the play is when Capulet’s servant is out in the streets, carrying an invitation to the Capulet’s party and comes across Romeo and Mercutio. Romeo reads the invite aloud to the servant, as he cannot read. The servant says ‘If you be not of the house of Montague’s, I pray come and crush a cup of wine’.Romeo finds that Rosaline was going to be attending party. As Romeo believes he loves Rosaline, he decided to go to the party because of the fact that Rosaline is going as well. “I’ll go along no such sight to be shown, but to rejoice in splendour of mine own.” But instead of looking for Rosaline, he meets Juliet, immediately falling in love with her. This particular coincidence is connected to fate because if the servant hadn’t asked Romeo to read the invites for him, then Romeo wouldn’t have fallen for Juliet. This would’ve resulted in them not falling in love, killing themselves and breaking their families rivalry. Another example of coincidences in Romeo and Juliet is when Romeo has just killed himself and Friar Lawrence enters the graveyard. ‘Saint Francis be my speed! How oft tonight, have my old feet stumbled at graves!’ At this point in the play, Romeo thinks Juliet is dead so he killed himself next to her. If Friar Lawrence had entered earlier, he would have been able to stop Romeo from commiting suicide but because he kept tripping up on the graves, he arrived to late to do anything. This is fate because its almost like those graves have been in his way for a reason, so he couldn’t stop Romeo. God had already decided that Friar Lawrence wouldn’t be able to reach him in time, so he didn’t.
Shakespeare wrote the prologue in the form of a Shakespearean sonnet. The prologue is telling us what exactly is going to happen in the play. ‘A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life’. This is saying that they are two lovers, opposed by the stars. It was believed that the positions of the stars ruled over people’s fates and that they were doomed from the very start, being against the stars. The prologue creates this sense of fate by providing knowledge to the audience that the lovers are going to fall in love and die. ‘Do with their death bury their parents’ strife’. This is saying that the death will result in the feud between the families being overlooked and overcome. When the audience are watching, they are waiting for the bits of the prologue to fulfill the terms set. Resulting in the death of Romeo and Juliet, and the conflict between the family goes away as they connect over the death of the children.
A hidden part of the play is the use of Iambic Pentameter. It is a steady rhythm throughout the play, mimicking a heartbeat. Although most of the play is written with iambic pentameter, some characters do not speak it because they are lower on the social scale like Capulet and Montagues servants. The prologue is a great example of iambic pentameter. ‘Two house / holds, both / a like / in dig / ‘ni ty, in fair / Ver o / na, where / we lay / our scene’. The quote has been split to show the meter. It is the same pattern right through the play, showing that fate cannot be changed although many try to change it. Our heartbeat is like fate because it sits behind us our whole lives, we don’t pay attention to it but its always there. Although when our hearts stop, we take notice. Just like fate, when something goes wrong, we notice.
To conclude, we can determine that fate played a big part in the lives of Romeo and Juliet. Romeo and Juliet were responsible for their own deaths, but fate played a part by putting them in a suicidal mindset. It continued in spite of everybody trying to change it and there was nothing they could do about it.