In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Juliet Capulet and Romeo Montague have fallen in love. Unfortunately, for them, their families are at odds with each other and have had a long-standing feud and mutual dislike in the city of Verona. These two star-crossed lovers meet their respective fates of death because of a) their youth and b) the speed with which events unfold in the play. The third aspect which will be examined is c) how the characteristic elements of youth and speediness can lead to death.
One of the factors that lead to Romeo’s and Juliet’s respective demises have to do with their being young. To begin with, it is the fact that these young people are caught up in their families’ continuous rivalry which makes this story all the more compelling, and which ultimately solves the age-old problem in their deaths, when Shakespeare says, “…the continuance of their parents’ rage/Which, but their children’s end, nought could remove…”
Comments regarding youth pervade Romeo and Juliet. One of Romeo’s friends, Sampson, remarks that he himself is “a pretty piece of flesh.” Obviously, Romeo hangs out with these people and probably thinks himself as being very good-looking for his age. With imagery, Shakespeare makes his point that fights and impending death is bound to happen due to those fights. The prince of Verona calls Tybalt and Romeo’s friends, who have been fighting, “beasts.” Usually the word “beast” conjures up images of virulence and strength, implying youth. Of course, in this case one sees that this type of savagery can only lead to one thing: death.
Capulet the father, in a different scene, speaks about his daughter Juliet’s child-like qualities, and that she is ready to be a bride. Capulet says,
“But saying o’er what I have said before:
My child is yet a stranger in the world;
She hath not seen the change of fourteen years,
Let two more summers wither in their pride,
Ere we may think her ripe to be a bride.”
This passage is ultimately proof that Juliet is still too young as a “stranger in the world” and perhaps not ready to get married, although her father seems to think so. The preemptiveness of Juliet marrying Romeo, therefore, is probably a bad mistake which she ultimately pays for with her life, since she is new to things of the world. That is what ultimately made her life particularly vulnerable. Death is ultimately the consequence of not having been more careful.
These two, Romeo and Juliet, do not have the discipline or know-how in order to manage the communications of a married couple. Friar Laurence, who marries Romeo and Juliet, says as much regarding their youthfulness and indwelling naivete. He encourages Juliet to drink the poison if no youthful fears hold her back, saying
“If no inconstant toy, nor womanish fear,
Abate thy valour in the acting it.”
Its seems as though youth is the catalyst for death. The prologue at the beginning of Act II says
“Now old desire doth in his death-bed lie,
And young affection gapes to be his heir;
That fair for which love groan’d for and would die,
With tender Juliet match’d, is now not fair.”
It is Romeo who, for the sake of Juliet’s youthful beauty, is willing to die for her, as one shall see in the end.
With regard to speed, hastiness in getting into arguments causes fights, one of which ultimately ends in the death of Tybalt, who is from the Capulet family. One of Romeo’s friends, Gregory, says of his friend Sampson, “But thou art not quickly moved to strike.” But someone in this close circle of friends is quick to strike, and consequentially kills Tybalt. The fight scene at the beginning of Romeo and Juliet show that characters are willing to quickly enter into arguments.
Romeo decides to drink a quick-acting poison proves to be a vital and fatal mistake. Romeo laments, “Thy drugs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die.” It is due to the speed of the quick-acting drugs that Romeo dies. If he hadn’t been so hasty, he would have been reunited with Juliet after she awoke from the potion she had taken, the effects of which wore off—but obviously not in time for Romeo to see her.
Youth and speed can be dangerous entities either by themselves or in combination which can lead to death. Young people are more susceptible to doing naïve things like going out in boats on lakes when they are not supervised and then drown. Young people also may have the tendency to take risk with drugs, alcohol, and other toxic substances in order to have an altered sensory perception or heightened awareness. This includes the practice of huffing, which is getting high off inhalants—a highly dangerous activity. Going too fast, or living in the fast lane, can hurt people as well. Doing drugs and living at the edge of one’s means is a sure recipe for disaster ending in death. Even worse, when young people are driving at high speeds, there is a greater chance of them getting into all sorts of accidents. Young people who want to rush love are also in danger of contracting STD’s, HIV/AIDS, or creating unwanted pregnancies because they move too fast and go too far sexually in a relationship. These are just a few examples.
As it has been demonstrated, Romeo and Juliet were two young people whose childishness and naivete led them to their deaths. The impatience of Romeo, especially, and his speedy actions, also compelled him to bring his life to an end in a destructive manner. In the case of Romeo and Juliet, they were most likely too young to really grasp hold of the seriousness of their actions. Thus their ignorance, apart from their youthful passions, was part of what probably did them in.
Additionally, we see that: Romeo and Juliet were quick to get married; Friar Laurence was quick to send out a message to Romeo which never arrived; and Romeo himself made the judgment call to drink poison preemptively, which was a major mistake. If Romeo and Juliet had been older and moved slower, perhaps things might have turned out differently. As a result they paid the consequences of their actions. What can be learned from this? First of all, better judgment comes with age. As the saying goes, one becomes older and wiser. Youthful actions are folly, subsequent to the end that Romeo and Juliet suffered because of their missteps. Secondly, judicious decisions cannot be made in a quick manner or they could lead to untimely death. The most carefully thought-out and well-planned decisions are the ones which will probably yield the most positive results. Acting quickly without thinking is a liability. If Romeo and Juliet had acted less out of youthful frivolity and speediness, they might have lived.
William Shakespeare Site. http://www.william-shakespeare.info/script-text-romeo-and-juliet.htm. Retrieved 25 April 2009.