Romeo And Juliet: Shakespearian Tragedy

2054 Words9 Pages
Shadi Mohyeddin Ghomshei

The present paper seeks to compare and contrast Romeo and Juliet as an instance of Shakespeare’s earliest tragedy, with King Lear and Othello as two instances of the later tragedies. For many centuries there has been a great debate about whether Romeo and Juliet can be properly called a tragedy or not. I shall discuss the three plays with regards to structure, language, style and their ending in order to bring to light the differences between the early tragedy and the two later ones.

Introduction: Tragedy

In Renaissance there appeared a renewed interest in the classics and especially in tragedy. Aristotle had famously introduced a theory of tragedy, proposing that tragic action should have a beginning, middle and
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In the following sections I shall discuss this statement with regards to the three above mentioned tragedies. Kenneth Muir famously remarked that “There is no such thing as Shakespearian tragedy: there are only Shakespearian tragedies” (12).

Language in Romeo and Juliet, Othello and King Lear

Many critics have noted and focused on the use of poetic language and the imagery (esp. Fire and light) in Romeo and Juliet. The play is full of metaphors and symbols. There is a lot of play with puns. It has been suggested that Shakespeare here was much influenced by Arthur Brooke’s poem The Tragicall History of Romeus and Juliet (1562). The lyrical qualities are strong. One of the clearest statements of this is the prologue in the very beginning of the play which is in the form of a sonnet.

[Enter] Chorus
Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona (where we lay our scene),
From ancient grudge break to new
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Cordelia refuses to say what Lear requires to hear and Juliet .
Yet Desdemona, according to Roberts, is the object of sympathy, not disapproval.
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In all the three play the protagonist dies in the end. Romeo, Othello and Lear die in the final act. Considering Macbeth we sense that his death was right.
Many critics have rightly referred to Romeo and Juliet as a tragedy of accidents or chance (coincidence) rather than a tragedy of character. Ruth Nevo in her article “Tragic Form in Romeo and Juliet” (1969) holds that while in King Lear

random events-spontaneous, unplanned, unprepared for-press towards good, for example, the meeting between Edgar and the blinded Gloucester or Edgar and Oswald; the evil of the will is correspondingly thrown into relief. In Romeo and Juliet random events press towards evil while the willed actions of the protagonists are radically innocent (243).

As a result of this Nevo comes to the conclusion that in comparing Romeo and Juliet and King Lear one can say that the former is “less” tragic than the latter. The evil presented in Romeo and Juliet is neither complex, nor
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