In Elizabethan England the idea of fate was immensely different on how we view it currently. Back in the time where Romeo and Juliet was set, fate was viewed as an act of god or a higher being who was choosing the right path for you in the form of something happening almost like it was planned. This wasn’t just swept aside as some little coincidence as people do nowadays, it was important. Shakespeare portrays coincidences that happen throughout the play as fate or acts of god. There are many examples of “fate” throughout the whole play.
The first aspect of the play that has the idea of fate in it is the plot. This is one of the main ways that Shakespeare shows fate. The first example is when Peter, who is carrying the invitation to the Capulet party, from the Capulet house comes across Romeo and Benvolio and asks them to read the invite to him as he can’t read. He says “Now I’ll tell you without asking. My master is the great rich Capulet, and if you be not of the house of Montagues, I pray come and crush a cup of wine. Rest you merry!” This is seen as “fate” because if Romeo wouldn’t have ever met Juliet and none of the events of the story would have happened. Almost like God wanted them to meet at this party.
Another example of fate in the plot of the story is when Friar Lawrence sent for a letter to be delivered to Romeo to tell him the plan and how he is going to meet Juliet in the Capulet tomb to finally get away from the battle between the two families and escape his exile. Sadly the letter doesn’t end up reaching him and results in him and Juliet killing themselves but in turn end the fight between the two families. This is not what Friar Lawrence wanted to happen, he says ”Unhappy fortune! By my brotherhood, The letter was not nice but full of charge, Of dear import, and the neglecting it May do much danger. Friar John, go hence. Get me an iron crow and bring it straight Unto my cell.” This is seen as “fate” because if the letter did reach Romeo he would have ended up running away with Juliet and none of the problems would have been resolved. God wanted this to happen.
Another aspect of the play that shows the idea of ‘fate’ is the use of Pathetic Fallacy. Shakespeare uses this to show that you know something important that the characters don’t know. One example of this technique is in one line of the prologue it says “A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life,” the ‘two star-crossed lovers’ referring to Romeo and Juliet and ‘take their life’ referring to how they both commit suicide in the end of the play. We literally know the ending of the story from the very first lines. It is almost like we are God and we know the fate of all of the characters.
The second use of Pathetic Fallacy is when Juliet takes Friar Lawrence’s concoction to make her seem like she is dead. The whole Capulet family believes she is dead but we know that as a matter of fact, she isn’t. The nurse is the one who finds her ‘dead’ and she says “Ha? Let me see her. Out, alas! She’s cold. Her blood is settled, and her joints are stiff. Life and these lips have long been separated. Death lies on her like an untimely frost Upon the sweetest flower of all the field.” We know Juliet is not dead and it is almost frustrating watching all the characters including Romeo think she is dead. This could also been seen as fate for the same reasons as Romeo not receiving the letter from Friar Lawrence.
An underlying part of the play is the use of iambic pentameter which is a technique used by Shakespeare in many of his famous plays. It mimics the steady rhythm of our hearts and was used to create an easy flow to follow for the actors and the audience. A great example of this technique is in Act 2, Scene 2 where Romeo is admitting his love to Juliet up on the balcony, he goes “But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun. Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon, Who is already sick and pale with grief, That thou, her maid, art far more fair than she. Be not her maid since she is envious. Her vestal livery is but sick and green…” This is just part of his whole soliloquy and it shows the continuous rhythm of the play. This shows fate because of the fact that this technique is used throughout the whole play. This makes the play seem ordered and planned out. From the first scene to the final scene there is this same steady beat like there is some sort of higher being controlling them and influencing their actions. When Romeo first talks to Juliet to when he finds her ‘dead’ and kills himself. It is all in iambic pentameter.
Fate was an important concept of people’s lives back in Elizabethan England which is the polar opposite to today’s society where we believe we are in total control in our lives and which path we will take; we are steering our own course. Maybe this isn’t the case, though and our lives are in fact determined but most of science proves otherwise. However, I believe it is it is certain that Shakespeare is trying to portray the idea of ‘fate’ in his and God being in control in his play.