While cruising through Yahoo! Answers today I saw that somebody had asked about the theme of destiny in Romeo and Juliet. Then something hit me. It’s easy to point to the “star-crossed lovers” right in the prologue, and later Romeo, who is Fortune’s fool, defies to stars, etc etc etc.
But here’s the thing, I’ve also always thought of the play as a lesson to the parents about not being so stubborn in your ancient grudges and your own problems that you don’t realize what you’re about to lose.
At the end of the play, the prince gives his great “All are punished” speech and the two families shake hands and build statues. I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely left with a feeling of, “See how stupid you’ve been? If only you’d changed your ways and seen what was happening, this all could have been prevented.”
And there’s the problem. Which is it? Is Shakespeare giving us a story where we’re supposed to come away thinking that this tragedy could have been prevented? Or that it was Fate, and that these kids were going to end up dead no matter what happened?
I’d never really thought of this before, but has anybody ever done an ending to this play where the Prince still gets to give his speech, but rather than the statue building stuff, the two families turn their backs on each other and the grudge continues? I think that would be genius. Depressing, but genius. Then you’ve got the more helpless feeling that no, these kids never had a chance, the feud is never going to end even in the face of such overwhelming tragedy.