Even though nobody likes it, bad luck exists. There is no way to get rid of it, it is just a part of life. Not everything can go the way someone wants it to. If something random happens to someone and it favours them, like winning the lottery, then that is good luck for that person. Likewise, if something random happens to someone and it is unfavourable, like a rampaging rhinoceros escaping from a nearby zoo and brutally slaughtering them and 23 other people, that would be bad luck. Just like everybody else, William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet are victims of bad luck. The Capulets and Montagues hate each other, Juliet has an arranged marriage to Paris, and there is a plague in the city of the messenger. And so it is bad luck and fate that ultimately cause the deaths of Romeo and Juliet.
Firstly, the Capulets and Montagues are at odds with each other. Members of each house and servants break into a sword fight, clashing with each other. Sampson says “Draw, if you be men. Gregory, remember thy swashing blow.” (Act 1, Scene 1, Line 60).
The feuding between the two families motivates Sampson to challenge the Capulets. Another example of how the two houses despise each other is what Romeo and his friends have to do to get into the Capulet feast. So they will not be recognized, Romeo, Mercutio, and Benvolio wear comic masks to hide their faces. Mercutio says, “Give me a case to put my visage in” (Act 1, Scene 4, Line 29).
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They do not want to be recognized because of the hatred between the two houses. Also, Romeo and Juliet are not supposed to be in love: “My only love sprung from my only hate! / Too early seen unknown, and known too late! / Prodigious birth of love it is to me, / That I must love a loathed enemy.” says Juliet (Act 1, Scene 5, Lines 137-140).
They are not supposed to love each other because it just so happens that each of their houses despise each other. It is unfortunate for Romeo and Juliet that their two families are against each other, because this means that they are not supposed to be married.
A second stroke of bad luck is Juliet’s arranged marriage to Paris. Juliet does not want to marry Paris. She states “I will not marry yet; and, when I do I swear, / It shall be Romeo, whom you know I hate, / Rather than Paris. These are news indeed!” (Act 3, Scene 5, Lines 121-123).
This shows that not only does Juliet not want to marry, but it is also an example of dramatic irony whereas the audience knows she really does want to be with Romeo. But then, Friar Laurence offers a solution: “Take thou this vial, being then in bed, / And this distilled liquor drink thou off; / When presently through all thy veins shall run / A cold and drowsy humour, for no pulse / Shall keep his native progress, but surcease” (Act 4, Scene 1, Lines 93-97).
He is saying that he can give Juliet a drink which will put her into a coma that will make it appear as though she is dead so that she can escape into exile to be with Romeo. However, the marriage is rescheduled for Wednesday instead of Thursday, and Capulet says “Send for the County; go tell him of this: / I’ll have this know knit up tomorrow morning.” (Act 4, Scene 2, Lines 23-24).
Because of this Juliet must drink the contents of the vial earlier. The arranged marriage is bad luck because it is another obstacle which prevents Romeo and Juliet from being together.
One more example of bad luck for the two star-crossed lovers is the plague in the city of the messenger. The message from Friar Laurence must reach Romeo through a friar to Mantua. “In this resolve. I’ll send a friar with speed / To Mantua, with my letters to thy lord.” (Act 4, Scene 1, Lines 23-24).
The message must reach Romeo so that he knows what Friar Laurence and Juliet have planned. Unfortunately, because of the plague, there is a quarantine which prevents the messenger, Friar John, from delivering his message in time. Consequently, since Romeo does not receive a letter from Friar Laurence telling of their plan, Romeo instead hears from Balthasar that Juliet is dead, and now rests in the Capulet crypt. Since it prevents the messenger from reaching Romeo with the important letter, the plague is very unfortunate for Romeo and Juliet.
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It is clear that misfortune plays a major role in this story of two star-crossed lovers. The hatred between their families means that they are not supposed to be together, Juliet’s arranged marriage means that according to tradition she should instead be marrying Paris, and the quarantine in the city of the messenger prevents Romeo from learning what is really going on. Romeo claims he is a victim of bad luck, in saying that he is “Fortune’s fool” (Act 3, Scene 1, Line 136), but again, everybody is a victim of bad luck, so in a sense, everybody is a fool of Fortune.