A tragic hero is a literary character who makes a mistake that leads to their own downfall. In William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Romeo is a tragic hero. His impulsive decisions lead to the death of himself and his true love, Juliet.
Romeo first meets Juliet at a masquerade ball, hosted by her parents. He falls in love with her instantly and decides to marry her, despite the fact that she is already betrothed to another man. Romeo’s impulsiveness continues when he kills Juliet’s cousin, Tybalt, in revenge for Tybalt killing Romeo’s friend Mercutio. This earns Romeo a banishment from Verona.
In an attempt to be reunited with Juliet, Romeo takes a deadly potion that Juliet had been planning to use on herself in order to fake her death. Juliet finds Romeo’s corpse beside her and kills herself. Romeo’s impulsiveness and haste ultimately lead to his demise, as well as the demise of Juliet.
While Romeo is certainly responsible for his own actions and their consequences, it could be argued that he was a victim of circumstance. If Romeo had not met Juliet, he would not have fallen in love with her and none of the tragic events that followed would have occurred. In this way, Romeo is an example of a tragic hero.
Romeo and Juliet is regarded by many as one of Shakespeare’s finest tragedies. Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy about star-crossed lovers who come from various backgrounds. They want to be together, yet they both recognize that being together is almost impossible. Many critics regard it as a tragedy, though others disagree.
Some believe that Romeo and Juliet is not a tragedy because the protagonists are not truly tragic heroes. A tragic hero is defined as “a man of high estate, usually a king, prince, or nobleman, who is endowed with great strength and courage but who falls victim to a fatal flaw” (“Tragic Hero”).
The fatal flaw of a tragic hero is what ultimately leads to his downfall. In Romeo and Juliet, some critics argue that Romeo is not a tragic hero because he does not have a fatal flaw. According to them, Romeo’s one true flaw is his impulsiveness, which does not lead directly to his demise. While it may be true that Romeo’s impulsive nature contributes to the tragic events that occur, it is not his only flaw.
Another reason why some may argue that Romeo is not a tragic hero is because he does not experience a true reversal of fortune. A reversal of fortune is defined as “a sudden change in the protagonist’s circumstances, usually from good to bad” (“Tragic Hero”). In Romeo and Juliet, Romeo does experience a change in fortune, but it is not a complete reversal. At the beginning of the play, Romeo is lovesick for Rosaline and is miserable. However, by the end of the play, he is married to Juliet and is content. While his circumstances have changed for the better, they have not completely reversed.
Critics may also argue that Juliet is not a tragic heroine because she does not experience a true reversal of fortune. Like Romeo, Juliet’s circumstances do change throughout the play, but they do not completely reverse. At the beginning of the play, Juliet is content with her life and is looking forward to marriage. However, by the end of the play, she is married to Romeo but is facing exile. While her circumstances have changed for the worse, they have not completely reversed.
Whether or not Romeo and Juliet are truly tragic heroes is up for debate. However, what cannot be denied is that their story is a tragedy. A tragedy is defined as “a drama or literary work in which the main character is brought to ruin or suffers extreme sorrow, especially as a consequence of a tragic flaw, moral weakness, or inability to cope with unfavorable circumstances” (“Tragedy”).
Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy because the characters are brought to ruin as a consequence of their own flaws. Romeo is impulsive and Juliet is headstrong. These flaws contribute to the tragic events that occur throughout the play. While Romeo and Juliet may not be truly tragic heroes, their story is still a tragedy.
Although some claim Romeo and Juliet is more of a problem play than tragedy, others argue that the two are defined differently. A Tragedy is an epic drama with a serious subject matter, such as the downfall of a great figure due to their character flaw or conflict with an overpowering force like fate or society (Tragedy).
A problem play is a domestic drama that attempts to confront various social issues within the confines of a realistic setting (Problem Play). A tragic hero is the main character in a tragedy, and Romeo Montague can be seen as one. To truly understand Romeo’s status as hero or anti-hero, one must look at the play itself and how he fares in relation to other characters.
Some argue that there are two types of tragic heroes: those who fall because of a personal error/flaw, and those who are victims of circumstances beyond their control. In either case, the tragic hero suffers from an internal conflict between his own desires and what he knows is right according to societal standards. This conflict eventually leads to his downfall.
Romeo Montague’s personal flaws include his impulsiveness and hot-headedness. He is quick to anger and often makes decisions without thinking them through first. This impulsiveness is what leads him to get married to Juliet without even knowing her last name, and it’s also what leads him to kill Tybalt in a fit of rage. These actions ultimately lead to his banishment from Verona and cause a chain of events that lead to the tragic ending of the play.
However, some argue that Romeo is not truly responsible for his own downfall, but is instead a victim of circumstances beyond his control. Their argument is that Romeo’s main problem is not his personal flaws, but the fact that he is caught in a feud between two families that he has no control over. He falls in love with Juliet, who just happens to be a Capulet, and there is nothing he can do to change that. The events of the play are set in motion by this feud, and Romeo’s tragic ending is a direct result of it.
There is evidence to support both arguments, but ultimately it is up to the reader to decide whether Romeo is a tragic hero or victim of circumstances. What cannot be denied, however, is that Romeo and Juliet is one of Shakespeare’s most famous and well-loved plays. It continues to be performed around the world and studied by students of all ages. It is a timeless story of love and tragedy that will likely be remembered and enjoyed for centuries to come.