The fate of Romeo and Juliet is the cause of much heated discussion. Was their tragic end inevitable or did they have a choice along the way to steer their life and love in another direction?
Were their choices foolish, impetuous and driven by young love? Are they victims of the family feud? Could they have thought further ahead and waited to see where their relationship would lead? It is important to consider the turning points in the plot when decisions are made and how events would have been otherwise different.
Consider the following statement by literary critic Harold Bloom. What do you think he meant by this?
‘Clearly Shakespeare took some risks in letting us judge this tragedy for ourselves’
Harold Bloom (1998)
Consider the following moments in the play and hypothetically imagine possible alternative paths for the story:
- What if Juliet had never met Romeo?
- What if Mercutio didn’t step in for Romeo in the street fight?
- What if Capulet never offered Juliet to Paris in marriage?
- What if the lovers’ relationship had been discovered earlier, and at what point?
- What if Capulet hadn’t stopped Tybalt from fighting at the ball?
- What if Romeo and Juliet were older?
- What if Romeo hadn’t found Juliet after the ball? Climbed the orchard wall? Heard her private thoughts?
- What if the Friar refused to marry them?
- What if the Nurse refused to play her part in the plan? What if she told Juliet’s parents about her secret?
- What if the lover’s plan was different and what could an alternative option have been?
- What would have happened, had Romeo and Juliet lived?
- If the plan was successful, what would their lives have been like in Mantua? What would have happened to the Montagues and Capulets back in Verona, without their children?
Creative writing and critical thinking
- Considering the questions above, find quotes or moments in the play when characters have made decisions that dramatically affect their own lives or the lives of others. By analysing the text around their decision, argue how they were thinking, feeling and behaving at this point in the play.
- Imagine you are a playwright. Choose one question from the list above and write a short alternative ending to the play drawing from your personal beliefs on how the character could have acted, or would have acted, had things been different.