Romeo and Juliet: Romeo – A Tragic Hero
Shakespeare is a well known author who wrote in the 1500’s. Many of his
plays are classified as tragedies. According to the Oxford dictionary of
current English, a tragedy is described as a serious disaster or a sad event.
In Shakespeare plays, tragedy is identified as a story that ends unhappily due
to the fall of the protagonist, which is the tragic hero. For a play to be a
tragedy, there must be a tragic hero. In the play Romeo and Juliet, Romeo is
the tragic hero. The theme of tragedy plays a great role in the play Romeo and
Juliet. By analyzing Romeo’s tragic flaw, his noble birth, his series of poor
decisions, the suffering of Romeo that extends beyond himself, it is evident
that Romeo and Juliet is classified as a tragedy.
A person must posses certain qualities that classify one as a tragic
hero. One of these qualities is the noble birth of a character. In the play
Romeo and Juliet Romeo being the tragic hero, possesses that quality. Romeo is
a Montague, and in the city of Verona the Montagues are a well known and
respected family. It is a known fact that the Montagues are of noble birth when
it is said by Benvolio in Act 1, Scene 1, Line 141: “My noble uncle.” Benvolio
is referring to Lord Montague, who is the father of Romeo. The Montagues are
also a rich family, and that is one of the reasons for the respect for Romeo.
“Verona brags of him… a bears him like a partly gentleman.” This was said by
Lord Capulet in Act 1, Scene 5, Lines 65-66. This quote illustrates that even
Romeo’s enemies know well of him and know that he is respected and talked about
by the citizens of Verona. Usually when a character is introduced as being
noble, the audience is aware that in the end of the play, the character will
have a tragic fall.
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Another necessary quality possessed by a tragic hero is the hero’s
tragic flaw, which in Romeo’s case is falling in love too quickly and deeply. ”
To seek a tragic flaw in either Romeo or Juliet is a foolish and futile.” –
comments Harold Goddard, a critic from the book: ” Modern critical views,
William Shakespeare the Tragedies.” Goddard supports the idea that having a
tragic flaw is a part of being a tragic hero. Another critic states that ” if
Romeo’s character does have a tragic flaw, it is youthful impetuosity; an older
or more deliberate man might somehow have managed to avoid the quarrel and would
not rush to kill himself as soon as he believed that Juliet was dead.” ( Phillis
Rackin, author of ” Shakespeare Tragedies.”)In the play Romeo and Juliet romeo’s
tragic fall being he falls in love too quickly and too deeply, brings him to an
awful end. In the beginning of the play one is introduced to Romeo being deeply
and hopelessly in love with Rosaline. However Rosaline does not feel the same
way about Romeo. This is when Romeo is unhappy and says to Benvolio: “Not
having that which makes having short.” ( Act 1, Scene 1, Line 162). This very
well illustrates how deeply Romeo was in love with Rosaline. In the next scene
the audience realize that Romeo ha fallen for another, which is Juliet. “For I
ne’er saw true beauty till this night.” -Said by Romeo in Act 1, Scene 5, Line
52.The audience can quickly identify Romeo’s flaw of falling in love too quickly
and deeply when he forgets about his feelings for Rosaline and concentrates on
Juliet. Juliet too realizes that Romeo’s love for her was too fast when she
said : “It is too rash, too undvis’d, too sudden.”( Act 2, Scene 2, Lines 117-
118). Having a tragic flaw could be foreshadowing of the fall of the tragic
Rome being the play’s tragic hero makes a series of poor decisions. The
first decision of many was going to the Capulet’s party. ” Direct my sail! Oh
lusty gentlemen.” Says Romeo in Act 1, Scene 4, Line 113. If Romeo did not go
to the party he would not have met Juliet. It was unnecessary for Romeo to try
to stop the fight between Tybalt and Mercutio. If Romeo did not try to stop the
fight, Mercutio would not have been killed, and the fight between Romeo and
Tybalt would not have existed. Romeo says in Act 3, Scene 1, Line 94 : ”
Courage, man; the hurt can not be much.”, when he tries to stop the fight
between Tybalt and Mercutio. Romeo makes the wrong choice when he decides to
fight Tybalt for the death of Mercutio. “Either thou, or I, or both, must go
with him.”( Act 3, Scene 1, Line 1290. This quote refers to Romeo’s challenge
for Tybalt. If Romeo did not fight Tybalt he would not have been banished from
Verona. Another one of Romeo’s poor decisions was the decision to commit
suicide, which was also his last decision. “O true apothecary, thy drugs are
quick, thus with a kiss I die.” Said Romeo in Act 5, Scene 3, Line 120, right
before he died. If only Romeo decided not to drink the poison he would have
been alive to see Juliet wake. All these decisions caused Romeo, the tragic
hero, to end his life tragically.
The suffering of the tragic hero also extends beyond himself. Due to
the actions of Romeo, Mercutio and Tybalt died. “When he tries to make peace
between them and Mercutio is fatally wounded, Romeo remarks pathetically ‘I
thought out for the best.’ “- Comments Phillis Rackin author of Shakespeare
Tragedies. “Mercutio’s soul is but a little way above our heads”, remarks Romeo
after Mercutio’s death, caused by Romeo. Tybalt’s death also results from
Romeo’s poor actions. After Romeo’s death Lady Montague dies of a heart attack.
Lord Montague says to the Prince in Act 5, Scene 3, Line 209: “Alas my leige, my
wife is dead tonight.” Because of Romeo, Juliet decides upon her own death.
She argues with her father, drinks the potion, and later stabs herself, all for
the love for Romeo. Verona’s peace is disturbed by all the commotion of the
fights between the Capulets and the Montagues, caused mainly by Romeo. There is
still no peace in the streets of Verona. The families of both Romeo and Juliet
suffer over the loss of their children, and everyone is unhappy. Since Romeo
brought suffering upon people rather than himself, he is truly the tragic hero
and makes the play Romeo and Juliet a tragedy.
It is obvious that in the play Romeo and Juliet, Romeo is the tragic
hero. This is evident when the audience see Romeo’s noble birth, his tragic
flaw, series of poor decisions he made and the fact that through his actions he
brought suffering upon other people. Most plays, stories or novels have a moral.
The moral of Romeo and Juliet is not to rush into things like love, hate and
important decisions. All people should think twice about every decision they
are making. From all the evidence stated in this paragraph along with the
paragraphs above it is said that Romeo and Juliet is classified as a tragedy.
Bloom, Nasold. Modern critical views. William shakespeare the Tragedies.1985
Rackin, Phillis. Shakespeare’s Tragedies. 1978
Brodley, A.C. Shakespearian Tragedy. 1986
Oxford school Shakespeare. Romeo and Juliet. 1982