The Ultimate Cause of Romeo and Juilet's Deaths

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Death and foreboding in Romeo and Juliet DEATH AND FOREBODING IN ROMEO AND JULIET Francisco SANTIBÁÑEZ Universidad de La Rioja 1. Introduction “Well, we were born to die” (1968: III.4.4), says old Capulet with Tybalt’s death in mind, unaware that his words, a common statement after someone has died, will also apply to his daughter by the end of the play, partly because of his immediate decision to ease Juliet’s grief with a hasty marriage to Paris. The universal theme of the inevitability of death has been dealt with in different ways by different cultures, approaches ranging from Horace’s carpe diem to the Christian belief in death as the anteroom to everlasting life. In Romeo and Juliet, however, death emerges as an ambivalent agent: it strikes the young lovers with all its cruelty (which moves the public to feelings of pity and sorrow) but, at the same time, a certain impression remains that a series of hostile forces make this unfortunate denouement the only possible way to preserve the purity and intensity of their love. The first two acts of the play are characterized by the predominance of a comic mood; it is there that we can find the atmosphere of celebration of the party at the Capulets’ house, Mercutio’s bawdy wordplay, the Nurse’s garrulousness and, above all, the sincere love between Romeo and Juliet, their marriage being the typical happy ending of Shakespearean romantic comedy. But, in this case, the play must continue, and the fragility of the lovers’ happiness soon comes to the surface by means of a sudden movement towards tragedy, marked by the violent deaths of Mercutio and Tybalt and Romeo’s subsequent banishment from Verona. To the audience, however, this variation in tone is not unexpected; Shakespeare introduces at the beginning of the play a prologue which, making use of the authoritative comment of an external chorus, leaves out any kind
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