Shakespeare in The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet depicts the conflict between fate and free will through use of his characters’ actions and beliefs. Fate is the main driving force between the demise of the two main protagonists. Because of it, superstition, the actions of others, and the idea of chance are allowed a main role in the play building up to events that lead to a tragic end.
The main protagonists of the play are victims of fate’s cruelty. Many events that directly affect Romeo and Juliet’s lives are brought about by the harmless actions of others. The reason they were even able to meet was because of a servant’s mistake: “My master is the great rich Capulet; and if you not be of the house of the Montagues, I pray come and crush a cup of wine” (1.2.82-83). Capulet’s servant was simply looking for anyone to help him read a list of invites when he ran into Romeo. He had no intention of inviting a Montague, but he accidently did, simply because Romeo helped him out. If the servant had not crashed into him, Romeo and Juliet would have never had a chance to meet, and therefore no chance to fall in love and then die. Similarly, Friar John played an indirect role in their deaths: “I could not send it—here it is again—/ Nor get a messenger to bring it to thee” (5.3.14-15). This is towards the end of the play when Friar John was supposed to give a letter to Romeo, explaining that Juliet was alive, but in a coma, and waiting for him to get her. Friar John has no ill-intentions when he says he can’t get the message to Romeo. He is completely oblivious to the content of the message and simply gets held up to a point where sending the message isn’t a possibility. Friar John doesn’t realize that the message he is intended to send to Romeo holds the note that Juliet is alive and that he must save her. In the cases of both the servant and the Friar, no character had any intention or reason as to what they were doing, everything that happened was pure coincidence. It was simply fate playing its way into their lives, and nothing could be done.
Fate also interacts with the main protagonists through warnings in the form of dreams and feelings. The night of the very party where Romeo and Juliet meet, Romeo confesses his feelings about what the night might bring:
I fear, too early; for my mind misgivings
Some consequence yet hanging in the stars
Shall bitterly begin his fearful date
With this night’s...