Many factors contribute to the tragic end to one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays. Shakespeare uses dramatic irony to detail the plotline of the story to the audience, as well as the indiscretion of Romeo’s decision to kill himself due to his oblivion that Juliet was actually alive in the tomb. Shakespeare also uses the literary device of chance versus choice to portray the reckless decisions made by both Romeo and Juliet when they are faced with situations that they could not control, or “chance”.
Finally, Shakespeare employs multiple antagonists in the play to influence their decisions to both run away and kill themselves because they knew their love will never be accepted in Verona. Throughout the play, Shakespeare uses various literary devices to emphasize the recklessness and lack of impulse control that prompted Romeo and Juliet to end their lives. Romeo and Juliet made a reckless decision to end their lives, and this is revealed to the audience through the use of dramatic irony. In the beginning of the play, the entire plot is revealed through the chorus.
In a melancholy tone, they explain how “a pair of star-crossed lovers take their life, whose misadventured piteous overthrows doth with their death bury their parent’s strife. ” (Prologue. 6-7) The audience knows throughout the play that Romeo and Juliet were going to kill themselves, therefore ending their families’ long-standing feud. They were simply oblivious as to the details of this tragic end. Shakespeare uses dramatic irony to detail the oblivion of Romeo that Juliet was actually alive.
The audience knew she was merely sleeping, however Romeo actually believes she is dead, prompting him to make the foolish and reckless decision to kill himself. Dramatic irony plays a role in the audience’s understanding of how senseless and impulsive Romeo’s death was. Chance versus choice is a prevalent literary deice in the emphasis of the foolishness of Romeo and Juliet’s death. Shakespeare writes many examples of chance throughout the play, and those instances influences the choice that both Romeo and Juliet made to end their lives.
For example, it was chance that Balthazar told Romeo that Juliet’s body “sleeps in Capels’ monument, and her immortal part with angels lives. ” (5. 1. 18-19) Juliet was not actually dead, it was just coincidental that Balthazar was present for her “funeral”. Because of his belief that Juliet was dead, he goes to her in the tomb and makes the choice to kill himself. His sudden choice to end his life is an example of his youthful foolishness because he should have had some belief that Friar Lawrence had a plan, and that Juliet would not end her life so quickly, because she so desperately wanted to be with him just as much as he did.
It was complete chance that Juliet wakes up to find out her “husband in thy bosom there lies dead. ” (5. 3. 167) Because she could not imagine a life without her true love, and did not want to be placed in a sisterhood of holy nuns, she makes the choice to kill herself to be with Romeo in heaven. Both Romeo and Juliet make the conscious decision to kill themselves, but choice greatly influences their decision to do so. Shakespeare employs many antagonists throughout the play to influence Romeo and Juliet’s decisions to kill themselves.
The entire story of their love is based on the fact that they will never be accepted because they are members of two rival houses in Verona. An example of the seething hatred these two families have for each other is the scene leading up to the killing of Mercutio by Tybalt. Tybalt approaches Romeo with such an intense rage, simply because they were from rival houses. Because Romeo loves Juliet, he maturely puts aside his differences with Tybalt and the Capulets, a name he tells Tybalt he “tender[s] as dearly as mine own” (3. . 43).
While the Montague’s and the Capulets are antagonists to each other, Juliet’s own parents are antagonists to her because they never give her he freedom of opportunity to decide things for herself. Her family essentially forces her into a marriage with Paris, and when she tries to gently tell her father she does not want to marry this man, he spits insults at her, saying “unworthy as she is, that we have wrought such a worthy gentleman to be her bride. ” (3. 5. 143-145).
All of the antagonistic influences on Romeo and Juliet lead them to believe that there is no option to be with each other in Verona, prompting a series of unfortunate yet reckless events that lead them to kill themselves. Shakespeare uses the literary devices of dramatic irony, chance versus choice, and antagonists to emphasize the influences Romeo and Juliet had on them when they kill themselves. Shakespeare uses dramatic irony to detail that Romeo did not need to kill himself because Juliet was actually still alive, and had he thought about it, he would know something was amiss.
Shakespeare uses the literary device of chance versus choice to highlight the youthful foolishness of Romeo and Juliet’s decisions when they are faced with chance situations they could not control. Finally, Shakespeare employs multiple antagonists in the play to accentuate the convalescence of Romeo and Juliet’s family situation, and how they believe the only option was to leave their houses and be with each other elsewhere. Shakespeare uses these devices to accentuate the detrimental decisions made by Romeo and Juliet in the wake of each other’s deaths.