Romeo and Juliet
English 9 H-Block 6


The text of Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare, suggests the possibility of both, free will and destiny. The two seem to be constantly contrasting and complimenting each other. Although the fact that Romeo and Juliet are star-crossed lovers is clearly stated in the Prologue to the play, free will plays a significant part throughout.

As the play opens up, Romeo is in love with Rosaline, convinced that she is his one and only, true love. It seems that it is Romeo’s free will to love Rosaline, although she has set her mind to remain chaste, therefore contradicting destiny. But as the play moves on, the free will turns to fate. If Romeo was destined to love Rosaline, he would not have met his true love, Juliet, at the Capulet feast. Before Romeo goes to the Capulet gathering, he tells his companions of a dream he had, in which he had a terrible end as a result of going into the Capulet home. He is sure that the dream is a premonition, telling him what would happen if he made the choice of going the feast. Romeo, though pressured by his friends, decides to go, where he meets Juliet. In these two instances, both free will and destiny are entwined. Romeo’s choice to love Rosaline results in his destiny to meet Juliet at the feast if he chooses to go to it.

Romeo once again makes a choice when his longing drives him to Juliet’s orchard in hopes of seeing her again. But destiny plays a part when Romeo makes his way to her balcony, just as she comes out onto it and speaks of him. And again, destiny laces with free will when, as a result, the two lovers make the choice of getting married. “If that thy bent of love be honorable, / Thy purpose marriage, send me word tomorrow…” –Juliet (Act II, Sc. II, Lines 151-152) Free will comes about once more when, after having married Juliet, Romeo chooses to try to stop his friend Mercutio from fighting for him against Tybalt, Juliet’s cousin. Mercutio’s death is the tragic result of Romeo’s choice. In his rage and sadness, Romeo makes the choice to fight Tybalt and kills him. But destiny enters when we find out that Mercutio was related to the Prince, therefore making Romeo’s punishment for the death of Tybalt not execution, but banishment from Verona. “And for that offense, / immediately we do exile him hence.” (Act III, Sc. I, Lines 190-191)

Later in the play, after it comes to Juliet's attention that Romeo is banished and her father is planning for her to marry Count Paris, she makes the choice of taking the potion Friar Lawrence has given her, hoping that everything will work out as planned. But destiny comes about and twists around the plans, keeping the message of Juliet's supposed death from getting to Romeo. In despair, Romeo makes the choice to go to Juliet's tomb, thinking that she really is dead, and ending his life to be with her for eternity. Unfortunately, Juliet is really alive, but destiny keeps her from waking up until seconds after Romeo has consumed poison. Sorrow overcomes Juliet, and she chooses to end her life by stabbing herself with Romeo’s knife. “…Oh happy dagger! / This is thy sheath; there rest, and let me die.” (Act V, Sc. III, Lines 174-175) The death of both Romeo and Juliet seems to be a destined end; a result of the feuding families. The tragedy was almost foretold by Mercutio as he was dying: “A plague to both your houses! / They have made worms meet of me…” (Act III, Sc. I, Lines 106-107)

The play Romeo and Juliet demonstrates an equal amount of instances of fate as well as free will. But despite that, destiny seems to have the stronger hold. It’s almost as if Shakespeare is suggesting that even though humanity seems to have free will and the ability to make choices, it all eventually leads to one destined end.