Romeo and Juliet – was composed during the Elizabethan era. During this era, one’s fate or destiny was seen as pre-determined. A majority of individuals during Shakespeare’s time believed astrology, the belief that a person’s life was relatively determined by the planets and the stars. People were interested in astrology and held the belief that the planets and the stars had some sort of power over nature and man. Every single creation had its own position in a hierarchy comprising everything in the world with God right at the top. Among the populations, there was a general fear of upsetting the order of things or chaos in the chain of being.
A significant majority of people in the Elizabethan era firmly believed in the wheel of fortune, in superstition, and in fate. In this essay, we will examine the several references to stars, fate, and God by the many characters in the play and discuss how the figurative language affects the plot of the play.
Throughout the Elizabethan age, a majority of people believed in the stars. William Shakespeare uses this common idea in adding more anticipation and excitement to the tragedies. “Then I defy you, stars!” This a brazen statement because Romeo has failed in avoiding his destiny. It is only the stars that control the lives of the people. Right from the beginning, the idea of astrological destiny is displayed by this well-known quote, ‘a pair of star cross’d lovers take their life’ (Romeo and Juliet, Prologue, 6’).
Shakespeare explores the theme of fate in the play by permitting the audience to be part of his characters’ fate. In the first lines of the play, the audience is informed on what will happen to the two lovers. Throughout the play, the audience is put in an omnipotent, god-like position encouraging the audience to consider their actions and to what extent are their actions free. Since the public knows the fate of Romeo and Juliet from the beginning, they are from the start constantly hoping that the characters will take a different course- for example, that Romeo will come just after Juliet has woken up. Nonetheless, their destiny is already sealed, and the audience is forced to question their fate and their ability to make free choices.
When Mercutio screams “a plague on both your houses,” in ACT 3 Scene 1, the audience is reminded of the fate of the protagonist. This is a bloody scene where the characters are slain, and it gives us a hint of what destiny has in store for the lovebirds, marking the start of Rome and Juliet’s heartbreaking downfall. Fate infiltrates the speeches and events in the play. Romeo and Juliet just observe premonitions throughout the play, constantly reminding the audience of their destiny. The death of the two is a catalyst for a change in Verona. The clashing families come together in their grief, and they create a political shift in the city. From an analyst point of view, Romeo and Juliet were destined to fall in love and then die for the greater good of the city of Verona.
“Some consequences left hanging in the stars”, this line means that Romeo absolutely has no control of his destiny. When Romeo mentions hanging in the stars, he is talking about God. There are several references to God in the play; however, the most notable one is this one: “but he hath the steerage of my corse direct my sailor lusty gentleman,” this is an excellent example of the references made to God on the play. In the quote, Romeo states his life can be likened to a ship with God controlling it.