Stars, Black Fate, and Free Will.
Most people associate Romeo and Juliet with Fate vs. Free Will, and I too find this most interesting. Most Tragedies are associated with the concept of only Fate determining the course of the play, but Romeo and Juliet is a little different because one could argue both sides are at play.
In one of the first couple of times we see Romeo, he mentions that he feels something is written in the stars that will prove this night to be a very special one, and set into motion the events that will ultimately cause his death; yet he still acts because he believes that if his course is set in motion, there is nothing he can truly do to stop it.
“I fear, too early: for my mind misgives
Some consequence yet hanging in the stars
Shall bitterly begin his fearful date
With this night’s revels and expire the term
Of a despised life closed in my breast
By some vile forfeit of untimely death.
But He, that hath the steerage of my course,
Direct my sail! On, lusty gentlemen.” – Romeo
When I first was offered the role of Romeo, I was initially a little nervous because I thought of him, as many do, as a one-dimensional character. I had in my mind that he was a lovesick mope and that was really all there was to him, and I didn’t know how to properly portray that; but I was wrong about him. After really reading and trying to get my head around the character I found that he is one-dimensional, but not in the way that I originally thought. Romeo is passionate. Every action takes is done out of extreme passion, sometimes to a fault, because his passion is ultimately his downfall. He is so passionate about what he feels that he lets his it consume him, oblivious to the repercussions his actions of passion may cause. The Act that proves to be the most difficult for me is Act 3, in which Romeo runs the gamut of emotions. I think Romeo is very in touch with himself and his feelings, but his character’s flaw is that he allows them to completely overtake him.
Ameer, who plays Benvolio, and I very early on were sitting around discussing our characters, when we came to an interesting conclusion: When Romeo is hurt, his pain is all that he is focused on. When he is happy, he is on top of the world and will joke and play with his best friends to no end. When he is angry, you’d better stay out of his way because there is no stopping him – even when he knows he is outmatched – like when he faces off with the furious Tybalt. And when he is in love, he will give everything for his lover, even his final breath. Romeo will always give every bit of himself to what he feels in his heart, which is dangerous when he is not using his head.
“Romeo! Humors! Madman! Passion! Lover!” – Mercutio
This character has proven to be a wonderful and very challenging experience for me because it has made me examine a lot of different facets of myself. It has been a very special role of self discovery and I am very lucky to experience this with such a wonderful cast of friends. This is why I love theatre, and especially this troupe; everyone gives it their all and we really share something special together on stage, and in a way become a family.
In Romeo’s final scene he at last curses the burden of the stars that he believes caused the events of the play, and decides to take matters into his own hand by taking his own life. He would gladly do this just to be with his love. Even in death.
To me, the concept of Fate vs. Free Will comes to an interesting crossroads in the final scene. Was it fate that Romeo and Juliet were supposed to live long lives together, but did Romeo set that fate off track by taking matters into his own hands? Did he take the easy way out? What if he had waited a few extra moments? I really find this interesting, because there is not a definitive answer and it is left for the audience to ponder.
I hope you will come out and make your own decisions on whether it was Fate or Free Will that set into motion the deaths of these two star-crossed lovers.
Or was it really Benvolio, Friar Lawrence, or Friar John’s fault after all?!?
Photo by Rodrigo Barajas