Major Flaws of the Characters of Romeo and Juliet

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Updated: Aug 18, 2023
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Romeo and Juliet is a play that was written back in 1595. It was written by the famous playwright, William Shakespeare. Romeo and Juliet is based on Arthur Brooke’s narrative poem, The Tragical History Of Romeus and Juliet, written in 1565. The play is about two characters who are deeply in love, but cannot be together because of their families’ enmity. In Romeo and Juliet, the characters’ poor decisions leave everyone grieving over the death of two young lives. Rivalry is one of the many flaws within the characters’ behavior that leads to tragedy, along with unclear communication and deceit.

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Therefore, even minor flaws can impact an entire life.

Rivalry is one of the main reasons why this play ends in tragedy. The characters have a series of issues because the families cannot get along. In the beginning of the play, Tybalt (one of the Capulets) says, “What, drawn, and talk of peace! I hate the word/ As I hate hell, all Montagues and thee,/ Have at thee, coward!” (1.1.68-70). Tybalt is challenging one of the Montagues, Benvolio, to a duel. He is basically expressing his hatred for all Montagues and goads them to fight him. This situation later leads to tragedy as the Prince shows up moments after their fight and promises severe consequences if the feud between the families is instigated again. The Prince is fed up with this family feud and decides that death is in order for those at fault. Consequently, Romeo is later banished from Verona. An angry and upset Romeo tells Benvolio,

“Alive in triumph! And Mercutio slain! / Away to heaven, respective lenity,/ And fire-eyed fury be my conduct now! / Now, Tybalt, take the villain back again/ That late thou gavest me; for Mercutio’s soul/ Is but a little way above our heads,/ Staying for thine to keep him company,/ Either thou, or I, or both, must go with him” (3.1.121-128).

After witnessing Tybalt kill Mercutio, Romeo is filled with rage. He explains to Benvolio that he is going to fight Tybalt because he feels he owes it to him to fight his killer. Romeo believes either he or Tybalt will join Mercutio in heaven. This sets the stage for tragedy when the Prince shows up moments after Romeo kills Tybalt. Although Romeo is not sentenced to death because Tybalt killed Mercutio first, he is banished from Verona. Consequently, Romeo and Juliet struggle to be together. After meeting Romeo, Juliet tells Nurse, “My only love sprung from my only hate! / Too early seen unknown, and known too late! Prodigious birth of love it is to me / That I must love a loathed enemy (1.5.138-141).” Juliet explains that she fell in love with Romeo before she knew he was a Montague, her family’s enemy. Their love culminates in a tragic end with both dying in the Capulets’ tomb due to their families’ rivalry. Without this feud, the play could have concluded peacefully, and possibly romantically, rather than being a tale of tragedy.

Another reason tragedy occurred is because of unclear communication amongst the characters. Throughout the play, stories get confused, and secrets are kept. When Romeo tries to convince Tybalt not to fight Mercutio and him, he says, “Tybalt, the reason that I have to love thee / Doth much excuse the appertaining rage / To such a greeting. Villain am I none; / Therefore farewell; I see thou know’st me not (3.1.61-64).” Tybalt is Juliet’s cousin, and since Romeo and Juliet are married, Tybalt is now related to him. Both lovers decide to keep their marriage a secret from their families, resulting in Mercutio and Tybalt’s deaths. If Tybalt knew about the marriage, it could have entirely altered the situation. Tybalt might not have tried to start a fight in the first place. Moreover, Romeo is in Mantua when he receives false information about Juliet from Balthasar who tells him, “Her body sleeps in Capels’ monument, / and her immortal part with angels lives. / I saw her laid low in Kindred’s vault, / and presently took post to tell it you (5.1.18-21).” Balthasar informs him that Juliet is dead, which is untrue. Juliet faked her death, and Friar Lawrence was supposed to send Romeo a letter explaining her plan. However, the letter did not reach him. This misunderstanding leads to the deaths of Romeo and Juliet. Seeing Romeo’s lifeless body beside her, Juliet stabs herself with a dagger. Openness and persuasion with their families could have saved the lives of the two lovers.

Lastly, the main reason why the play Romeo and Juliet resulted in tragedy was because the characters had trouble telling the truth. After noticing Romeo at a Capulet party, Tybalt tells Capulet, “Uncle, this is a Montague, our foe; / A villain that is hither come in spite/ To scorn at our solemnity this night” (1.5.61-63). Originally a Montague was forbidden to show his face at a Capulet party. However, Romeo decides to break the rules and sneak in, lying to all Capulets, making them all believe he is someone that he is not. Tybalt soon realizes who they are and brings it to the attention of Lord Capulet. This situation leads to tragedy because this is where Romeo and Juliet first encounter each other and fall in love. If Romeo never came to this party, he would not have fallen in love with a Capulet. Also, Juliet tells her father, “I met the youthful lord at Laurence cell,/And gave him what becomed love I might, / Not stepping o’er the bounds of modesty” (4.2.25-27). Juliet is agreeing to go along with marrying Paris, although she is already married to Romeo. Dramatic irony is shown here because the audience/reader already knows about Romeo and Juliet’s marriage, when the rest of both families do not. Juliet is lying to her father about marrying Paris. This later leads to her faking her death, so she can escape from marrying Paris. Lastly, Juliet tries to figure out a way to go against her father’s wishes and not marry Paris. Friar Lawrence suggests, “Take thou vial, being then in bed, / And this distilled liquor drink thou off; / When presently through all thy veins shall run/ A cold and drowsy humour; for no pulse” (4.1.93-96). Juliet immediately agrees to drink the potion, to make her family believe she is dead. This is all because she cannot tell her father the truth. Later, it leads to the death of her and Romeo because they both feel they cannot live without each other. So, not telling the truth can result in dire consequences.

Huge tragedies can occur when poor decisions are made. Rivalry changes the entire outcome of the play, putting a negative effect on the ending. As well, unclear communication is the reason why the young lovers could never be together. Lastly, not telling the truth impacts the ending, also leading to tragedy. Rivalry, unclear communication, and lying are all examples of poor decisions made throughout the play. This is why poor decisions can lead to horrid tragedies.

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Major Flaws of the Characters of Romeo and Juliet. (2023, Feb 06). Retrieved from