“I fear to early, for my mind misgives some consequence hanging in the stars”. Fate is a huge part of Romeo and Juliet in the way that Shakespeare portrays the idea that a force of much higher power has already predetermined the characters lives. The expression of fate is strong in the sense that because everything is predetermined the outcome can not be prevented then leading the characters into believing that whatever happens, was meant to be. Shakespeare uses a number of techniques to display fate throughout the play such as premonitions, metaphors, coincidences, the plot of events and also the prologue to give an insight into the idea of fate that plays out in the play. All of these are used throughout the play in different ways for different reasons, but most importantly all display fate.
One of the first signs of fate that Shakespeare uses In Romeo and Juliet is in the prologue. Shakespeare uses the prologue as an insight into what is to happen in the play and is a crucial part as it summarises the story. One of the lines that shows fate is; “Two star cross lovers take their life”. When Shakespeare says “star-cross’d” we know he is referring to Romeo and Juliet’s doomed relationship as at the end of the line he quotes “take their life” meaning that their relationship took a turn for the worst and ended in both of their deaths. Further into the prologue the line; “The fearful passage of their death-mark’d love” is an expansion from the first line also expressing the idea that their love is destined to fail. This is a direct link to fate as it is explaining the outcome of the tragic event that is to come at the end of the play.
Like the prologue, premonitions display fate by giving a glimpse into the play showing events that are yet to happen. Premonitions in Romeo and Juliet occur on several different occasions giving an insight to the events to come. Romeo has a dream whilst he is in Mantua; “If I may trust the flattering truth of sleep, My dreams presage some joyful news at hand. My bosom’s lord sits lightly in his throne, And all this day an unaccustomed spirit lifts me above the ground with cheerful thoughts. I dreamt my lady came and found me dead and breath’d such life with kisses in my lips that I revive’d and was an emperor.” Romeo explains that his dream showed his love, Juliet, coming to find him dead. The irony in this is that Juliet does not revive him and bring him back to life but actually kills herself to be with him in the stars of heaven. The way Shakespeare uses a premonition in this matter is a foretell of Romeo and Juliet’s death further into the play. Fate is shown strongly in this instance because the dream that Romeo had is a reflection of what is to occur deeper into the play.
As well as premonitions Shakespeare communicates fate in a variety of ways, one other being metaphors. He uses metaphors to portray life as a journey. Moments before Romeo enters the party being thrown by his rivals, the Capulet family, he quotes; …”He that hath steerage of my course, Direct my sail “. When he says this, he is referring to himself as a ship and he is willing to let the captain take the steering wheel and choose his course. In this case Shakespeare is implying that God is the captain, We know this because “He” is written with a capital “H”, which is only done when we refer to God. Further into the play he elaborates on this metaphor when he says; ” Thou desperate Pilot, At once run on the dashing rocks, Thy seasick weary bark”. This suggests that the path God has paved for him has not worked out in his favour which has led to his destruction. This is a direct reference to fate because he has surrendered his life over to a higher power.
Another example of how Shakespeare describes a higher power in control, is in the way he uses coincidences. Coincidences are used in the play to string events together and show how the power of fate impacts Romeo and Juliet’s life. When Romeo and Benvolio are walking down the street the servant that has been sent out to deliver invitations for the party being held by the Capulets just happens to not be able to read. Ironically the first people he comes across are both members of the rival house of Montague, because of this Benvolio convinces Romeo to attend the party which this leads to him meeting Juliet, Therefore making this a coincidence. This coincidence is key to the play as if Romeo had not met Juliet at the party then there would be no storyline as this is the foundation to the play.
The plot events are the events of which coincidences occur showing fate in many ways. Plot events are to help the play along making sure that every event links to another. One of these plot events was when the letter that was meant to be delivered to Romeo in Mantua did not get there in time to tell Romeo that Juliet was not actually dead but had taken a potion that made her seem dead. Because of this literal fatal mistake Balthasar saw Juliet’s dead body and rushed to tell Romeo in Mantua. Fate in this instant is shown when a plague breaks out in a town on Friar Johns way to Mantua preventing him from passing through. Because of this plague Balthasar beat Friar John to Romeo then causing Romeo to go back to Verona with Balthasar to kill himself along beside Juliet. This simple prevention of the plague lead to the fate that was shown in the prologue of the doomed “star-cross’d lovers” being a reality and ending in their destruction.
In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare explores the theme of fate through the use of premonitions, metaphors, coincidences, the plot events, paradox, dialogue and the prologue, letting the audience be party from the onset to his characters destiny. In the very opening lines of the play, the audience is told what is going to happen to the lovers; ” a pair of star-cross’d lover take their life”. Then throughout the story, the audience is put in a powerful position from the beginning, motivating them to think about fate and to what extent anyone’s actions are actually free. As we are aware of the fate of Romeo and Juliet from the very beginning we are constantly hoping that things will take a different path, and paramount in the illustrated writing of this play is the way fate can take on so many disguises.