The mantle of mistakes

A mistake is made, the consequences pour forward. For each mistake, there is the concomitant necessity to atone, but, if one corrects their mistake before it is too late, they may be able to evade that atonement. In William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, one is able to witness how severe mistakes that are neglected, and left unrealized, lead to the tragic destruction of the two protagonists. Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet, the two protagonists, are from two different families, who have past rivalries and do not associate with one another. Romeo and Juliet hurriedly marry each other, but because of their ill-fate, they eventually meet their demise. Their death is caused not so much by their own flaws as by numerous obstacles in their path, which are created by other characters. The characters that induce the most dramatic and critical affect upon the young couple’s death, are Tybalt, the Nurse, and Friar Laurence.

     The hot-blooded and furious cousin of Juliet, Tybalt, bears a grudge against Romeo, which inevitably leads to a series of misfortunes. When he confronts Romeo at the Capulet’s party, he is dishonoured in front of a whole debauchery because of Romeo. Later on, he pursues Romeo to take revenge, “Boy, this shall not excuse the injuries, that thou hast done to me” (Act III, sc i, ll 65-66), and erroneously slays Mercutio, Romeo’s friend. Romeo then slays Tybalt to avenge his friend’s death, and, runs away. Meanwhile, the Prince, who is the leader of the city, announces that Romeo is banished from Verona, “Immediately we do exile him hence” (Act III, sc i, ll 187). This causes Juliet to weep for her husband. Her parents assume that she is sad because of Tybalt’s death, and decide that she should get married to the County Paris immediately, which is a great misunderstanding. Above all, her father threatens to disown her if she does not marry Paris. This forces Juliet to take drastic measures, and drink the potion that Friar Laurence provides her with, which is followed by the death of Romeo and Juliet. If Tybalt did not pursue Romeo and initiate the conflicts, neither Mercutio nor Tybalt would have met their end, and Romeo would not have been banished. If Romeo did not get exiled, Juliet would not have gone to such drastic measures to evade her marriage with Paris. If Juliet did not take Friar Lawrence’s potion, Romeo would not have killed Paris, or drank the poison, and Juliet would not have committed suicide. In other words, if Tybalt did not make the mistake of disregarding the Prince and Lord Capulet’s strict orders, the deaths of the innocent characters would not have occurred.

     Besides the childish behaviour of Tybalt, an adult that should take responsibility for the tragedy is the Nurse. The Nurse is the person who has been taking care of Juliet since the day she was born. Unfortunately, even she makes mistakes. She helps the two marry each other. She even goes as far as to tell Romeo, that, “For the gentlewoman is young and therefore, if you should deal double with her, truly it were an ill thing to be offered to any gentlewoman, and very weak dealing” (Act II, sc iv, ll 163-166), meaning that she makes sure that Romeo knows, that he better mean that he wants to marry Juliet. The Nurse helps Juliet to get to her wedding, which is very foolish of her, since she does not even think the slightest bit about what would happen if the two were to marry. After Romeo is banished, the Nurse does not support him anymore. Moreover, she does not understand that Juliet’s love for Romeo is genuine, and not some childish infatuation. She betrays Juliet, even though she is a wise and experienced woman. She encourages her to forget about Romeo and marry the County Paris instead, “I think it best you married with the County” (Act III, sc v, ll 225), which discourages Juliet greatly, since the Nurse was the only person Juliet could earnestly confide in. This betrayal by the Nurse leaves Juliet alone to make her own decisions. The Nurse is supposed to be one of Juliet’s best friends. Now when it is important for Juliet to have someone support her, she is disheartened. She also knows of the secret marriage between Romeo and Juliet, yet she does not notify others of it. As a result, the Nurse thinks she is helping Juliet by leading her on that path, but, in truth, she is only helping her towards her death. That is an error that could have been easily resolved, but, she does not even know she made that error in the first place. Otherwise, if the Nurse continued supporting Juliet, she would have confided in her, and the Nurse could have stopped the whole tragedy from happening.

     Likewise, the gullible and somewhat secretive Friar Laurence plays a big part in the death of the young couple. He is a Franciscan Friar and is well-known throughout Verona. The Friar does all his actions, without even slightly thinking about the results. He is present throughout Romeo and Juliet’s lives; he unites them, comes up with a plan to keep them together, and is an ally throughout their tragedies. Nevertheless, Friar Laurence’s foolish actions in marrying Romeo and Juliet, creating thoughtless plans, and his fear of committing sin, all contribute to the deaths of them. For instance, after the death of Mercutio and Tybalt, and Romeo’s banishment, Friar Laurence is still not aware of the consequences of Romeo and Juliet’s marriage. Instead, he continues his effort in reuniting Romeo and Juliet. The plan he concocts for reuniting them is very risky, and badly thought out. Juliet is willing to commit suicide if the Friar does not help her, so, to appease her, the Friar gives her a potion to drink, and that potion, would keep her in a death-like state for forty-two hours. Meanwhile, he sends a letter to inform Romeo of the plan, but it never reaches him. Friar John, the person who is supposed to deliver the letter, says this to Friar Laurence, “I could not send it-here it is again-” (Act V, sc ii, ll 14). This tells the reader that Friar Laurence does not tell the messenger the importance of the letter beforehand. Also, Friar Laurence does not abide by his agreement with Romeo, “Sojourn in Mantua; I’ll find out your man, and he shall signify from time to time” (Act III, sc iii, ll 168-169), which means he would notify Romeo of happenings via his manservant, Balthasar. Furthermore, the Friar contributes to the death of Juliet by his cowardly behaviour in the tomb. He does not comfort her at seeing her love dead and he also does not give her hope for future life other than life among holy nuns, “I’ll dispose of thee, among a sisterhood of holy nuns” (Act V, sc iii, ll 156-157). After that, he abandons her, as he does not want to be seen or caught in the midst of all the drama. This is very irresponsible, cowardly, and selfish, especially since Juliet threatens to kill herself in the presence of Friar Laurence earlier in the play. In short, because of Friar Laurence’s short-sightedness and mistakes that he overlooks, he dooms those he tries to help. He puts the core of the catastrophe into motion, all starting with rashness, hastiness and numerous bad decisions. He tries to please everyone, but ends up pleasing no one. Therefore, if the two did not know Friar Laurence at all, this would not have ended as a tragedy.

     In brief, from the very beginning, the young couple is destined to die. Almost every decision that the three characters make, leads up to the deaths of Romeo and Juliet. The deaths are the fault of the people who do not realize their mistakes earlier, and now grieve. These characters are Tybalt, the Nurse and Friar Laurence. They assist fate in succeeding to not allow Romeo and Juliet to be together. All of them make considerable mistakes by not thinking before acting. If the Nurse had continued supporting Juliet, Friar Laurence had thought carefully and Tybalt did not hold a grudge, these deaths would not have occurred. The outcome would have been completely different. The errors and senseless decisions that they made, became the sorrow of their whole lives.