For Romeo and Juliet to be a tragedy, it must have a tragic hero. In Shakespeare’s plays, tragedy is seen as a story which contains an unhappy end. Moreover, a tragedy leads to the fall of the protagonist, which is tragic too. In this Shakespearian play, there are two tragic heroes, Romeo and Juliet, both being the main characters. To be tragic heroes, they must have a high estate and a tragic flaw which is the cause of their destruction.
A tragic hero belongs to a well-known family of wealth or he has, as a person in society, a high status. Both Romeo and Juliet’s names have high significance. Juliet is a Capulet, a notorious family. Thus, this family doesn’t have a status as high as the Motagues. Romeo is a Montague. The readers find out that the Montagues have a higher status than the Capulets when Benvolio highlights it: “My noble uncle” (Act I, Scene I, 141). So the Montagues seem to be a noble family. As introduces in the prologue, Both Montague and Capulet families are well-known merchants, they have large houses and many servants. Furthermore, they are famous in the Veronese society.
Tragic heroes have also to carry with them a tragic flow. Thus, in this play, both Romeo and Juliet have this tragic flow. In Romeo’s case, his tragic end comes because he doesn’t think before he does something. He listens just to his heart instead of thinking twice. He could balance all the consequences he knew he had to endure after his decisions. Even when he sees that Juliet is dead, he rushes to kill himself. Thus, in his last moments of life, when the poison made its’ effect, he sees Juliet is alive. Then he realizes that he made a mortal mistake just because of his rush. He regrets his act of love but it is too late. Romeo proved to be a slave of passion, killing himself for Juliet, his love.
Moreover, when Romeo falls in love so quickly with Juliet and totally forgets about his feelings for Rosaline it is more that obvious that he is unstable. He concentrates only on Juliet, Rosaline becoming just a memory in a flash. He is blinded by Juliet’s rare beauty and his love for Rosaline is erased. Juliet sees that Romeo’s falling in love with her was too fast and she is conscious that “It is too rash; too undvis’d, too sudden” (Act II, Scene II, 117-118). We can say that Juliet is more mature and stable. Thus, this love at first sight is the real energy of the tragedy.
In Juliet’s case, she is too loyal to Romeo and this thing makes her a tragic hero. Her loyalty is very well represented in the moment when she sees that Romeo has poisoned himself. Maybe because she knows that she could be the cause. For Juliet, Romeo’s act of heroism makes her kill herself without hesitation, just because she cannot conceive her life without him. These tragic flaws are the cause of Romeo and Juliet’s destruction. Both of them illustrate all the tragic hero’s characteristics in the Shakespearian play.
Since dawn of civilization, many wars, struggles, conflicts, and rebellions, have been fought because of Society. This conflict is a persistent theme in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. In the play, Romeo, Juliet and the other characters must decide if they should follow their individual desires, or follow society’s will. However, various individuals go against well-known rules and regulations in Verona. The characters deal with pressure from Family, Government and Religion.
Romeo is an individual who goes against the ideologies of Verona’s society. He is against society because he is a Petrarchan Lover, “at the start of Romeo and Juliet, this is the character type that Shakespeare is making fun of when Romeo is drooping all over the stage for the great love of his life… Rosaline”. Despite the long feud between the Montagues and the Capulets, Romeo still wants to follow his heart and takes the risk, “I’ll go along no such sight to be shown, / But to rejoice in splendor of mine own. ” (Act I, Scene II, 102-103). He also goes against his father’s wishes when he secretly marries Juliet. Firstly, the Renaissance Era in Verona restricts Romeo from being with Rosaline then with Juliet. Thus Romeo falling in love and marrying Juliet destroys the prosperity in Verona and starts the real conflict between the individual and society. Because of Romeo, Juliet chooses to die: she is overwhelmed by Romeo’s charm, they fall in love and get married, Juliet refuses to marry Paris, she takes a potion that makes her look dead and takes her life when she sees Romeo dead. So Juliet’s actions and death are all due to Romeo. Romeo also causes the death of many noble men. When Tybalt looks for Romeo, Romeo doesn’t want to fight but in his place fights Mercutio and dies. Only when he sees his close friend is dead, Romeo fights and kills Tybalt. He also kills Paris, the man Juliet was supposed to marry to.
Juliet deals with pressures from her family. She disobeys her parents’ wishes to marry Paris: “Not proud you have, but thankful that you have. / Proud can I never be of what I hate, / But thankful even for hate that is meant love.” (Act III, Scene V, 146-148). In this scene, Juliet is informed of her arranged marriage with Count Paris. She says the aforementioned quote to Lady Capulet to express her individual opinion that she does not wish to marry Paris. Lord Capulet disagrees with her, however: “How, how, how, how? Chopped logic! What is this? / “Proud,” and “I thank you,” and “I thank you not,” / And yet “not proud”? Mistress minion you, / Thank me no thankings, nor proud me no prouds” (Act III, Scene V, 149-152). Even if she tries to make her parents change their mind she fails. As Lord Capulet is the head of the House of Capulet, this is essentially a societal institute (family) conflicting against the will of an individual (Juliet). Thus she plans with Friar Laurence to fake her death because she doesn’t want to marry Paris and she thinks that this is the only solution: “I will not marry yet. And when I do, I swear / It shall be Romeo, whom you know I hate, / Rather than Paris” (Act III, scene V, 121-123).
The characters of Romeo and Juliet sometimes find themselves conflicting with Friar Laurence, a representative of the Church, and also conflict with the values that the Church adheres to. For example, Juliet once sees Romeo as a god, and says, “Or, if thou wilt, swear by thy gracious self, / Which is the god of my idolatry” (Act II, Scene II, 113-114). This conflict with the Church is unforgettable, as in Exodus is written “Do not have any other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3) and “You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth” (Exodus 20:4). So the human being is not allowed to create any other gods, but to believe in the existent one.
Even Friar Laurence is in conflict with Society. He helps Romeo and Juliet and goes against Prince’s wishes. However, Friar Laurence advised the two lovers to love with moderation but they ignored this advice and made him part of their actions. Friar Laurence also disobeys the Capulets and Montagues when he marries Romeo and Juliet. He goes against Society (the Prince) because he plans to bring Romeo back in Verona after he was banished. He wants just to make the two lovers happy, to live their love as they wish and to break the feud between their families.
Prince Escalus tries to break up the fight between the houses of Montague and Capulet. As the Prince is the head of Verona’s civil government (another societal institute), he is therefore imposing his will, and by extension society’s, unto the will of the fighting members of both houses. He and society are conflicting with the individuals’ will to fight: “Rebellious subjects, enemies to peace, / Profaners of this neighbor-stainèd steel!— … Your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace. / For this time, all the rest depart away “(Act I, Scene I, 71-78). His words have no effect. It is the sacrificial death which will end the feud between the Montague and Capulet houses.
I think that individuals should have more freedom within society. However, their freedom should also be limited if it poses a danger to society as a whole, or to their well-being. Conflicts between an individual and society can be seen throughout Romeo and Juliet, as its characters often find themselves choosing between individual desires and bowing down to society’s demands. They mostly conflict with their family, their religion, and their government. Juliet’s desires is suppressed by her father. The characters constantly go against the values of the Church, and the government suppresses the Capulets’ and Montagues’ wish to fight. The struggle between the individual and society started since human civilization existed (and is recorded in various works of literature and art), and will continue as long as civilization exists.