Romeo and Juliet

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Themes and Colors
Love Theme Icon
Fate Theme Icon
Individuals vs. Society Theme Icon
Language and Word Play Theme Icon
Servants Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Romeo and Juliet, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Fate Theme Icon

From the opening prologue when the Chorus summarizes Romeo and Juliet and says that the "star-crossed lovers" will die, Romeo and Juliet are trapped by fate. No matter what the lovers do, what plans they make, or how much they love each other, their struggles against fate only help fulfill it. But defeating or escaping fate is not the point. No one escapes fate. It is Romeo and Juliet's determination to struggle against fate in order to be together, whether in life or death, that shows the fiery passion of their love, and which makes that love eternal.

Fate is not just a force felt by the characters in Romeo and Juliet. The audience also senses it through Shakespeare's use of foreshadowing. Time and again, both Romeo and Juliet unknowingly reference their imminent deaths, as when Juliet says after first meeting Romeo: "If he be married / My grave is like to be my wedding bed." She means that if Romeo is already married she'll be miserable. But the audience knows that Juliet's grave actually will be her wedding bed. In Romeo and Juliet, fate is a force that neither the characters nor the audience can escape, and so every word and gesture gains in power, becomes fateful.

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Fate Quotes in Romeo and Juliet

Below you will find the important quotes in Romeo and Juliet related to the theme of Fate.
Prologue Quotes
Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes,
A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life;
Whose misadventured piteous overthrows,
Doth with their death bury their parents' strife.
The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love,
And the continuance of their parents' rage,
Which, but their children's end, nought could remove,
Is now the two hours' traffic of our stage;
The which if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.
Related Characters: The Chorus (speaker), Romeo, Juliet
Page Number: Prol.1-14
Explanation and Analysis:

The chorus which opens Romeo and Juliet echoes the chorus of ancient Greek tragedies, a troupe of masked performers who explained, summarized, or contextualized aspects of the play. In the case of Romeo and Juliet, the chorus first places the action in Verona at a particular time (after an “ancient grudge” and during a “new mutiny” between two noble families). In the next sentence, this chorus narrows its scope to the play’s protagonists – the “star-cross’d lovers” who will die because of the play’s events. Finally, it tells the audience that the play, the “two hours’ traffic of our stage,” focuses on these lovers’ deaths “and their parents’ rage,” which could only be quenched by the deaths of their children. By framing their summary this way, and placing their description of Romeo and Juliet in the middle of descriptions of their parents, the chorus emphasizes that Romeo and Juliet live within a social context that precedes and succeeds them. This Prologue also informs us that these “lovers” are “star-cross’d” and their “love” is “death-mark’d”; amorphous forces – fate, love, and death – will control the action as much as the characters and actors.

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Act 1, scene 4 Quotes
Romeo: I dream'd a dream to-night.
Mercutio: And so did I.
Romeo: Well, what was yours?
Mercutio: That dreamers often lie.
Related Characters: Romeo (speaker), Mercutio (speaker)
Page Number: 1.4.53-56
Explanation and Analysis:

Romeo, Benvolio, Mercutio, and several other maskers and torch-bearers are walking through the streets to the Capulet’s household, in order to attend their feast tonight. As they travel, they engage in witty banter that still informs us about the characters’ emotional states – particularly because Romeo seems determined to remain somber and refuse to join in the others’ revelry. Romeo, for instance, divulges that he had a dream which makes him harbor trepidations about attending this feast at all. Romeo’s friend Mercutio, who was actually invited to the feast because he is unrelated to Romeo and the other Montagues, wittily refuses to tolerate Romeo’s attitude. After claiming that he, too, had a dream, Mercutio wittingly says that he learned “that dreamers often lie” in this dream itself. Yet, Mercutio is not merely mocking Romeo here; this comment also alludes to his larger skepticism about love.

Act 1, scene 5 Quotes
Oh, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiope's ear,
Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear.
So shows a snowy dove trooping with crows
As yonder lady o'er her fellows shows.
The measure done, I'll watch her place of stand,
And, touching hers, make blessèd my rude hand.
Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight!
For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night.
Related Characters: Romeo (speaker), Juliet
Related Symbols: Light/Dark and Day/Night
Page Number: 1.5.51-60
Explanation and Analysis:

Before Romeo learns Juliet's name, he is amazed by her beauty and begins to use the analogy of light to describe her particular radiance. Juliet has immediately replaced Rosaline in Juliet's mind—a fact that Romeo alludes to directly and indirectly. Directly, he claims that Juliet surpasses all other women; she is a "snowy dove" in comparison to the "crows." Indirectly, he neglects to mention even Rosaline's name in referring to his past loves—indeed, he does not say Rosaline's name again until the Friar Laurence reminds him of it in a later scene (after which Romeo claims that he "forgot" that name and the emotions associated with it).

My only love sprung from my only hate!
Too early seen unknown, and known too late!
Related Characters: Juliet (speaker), Romeo
Page Number: 1.5.152-153
Explanation and Analysis:

As the guests are leaving her house’s feast, Juliet decides to find out who Romeo is. She first asks her nurse who two other gentlemen are and then finally asks her one of the most significant questions of the play, the question of Romeo’s identity. The notion of fate is at play even in Juliet’s question; right after she requests that her nurse ask for Romeo’s name, she says that, if Romeo is married, her “grave” will likely be her “wedding bed.” The nurse never mentions if Romeo is married, but his identity as a Montague, “the only son of your great enemy,” is evil enough, spurring Juliet to give this eloquent exclamation. With these lines, Juliet arrives at the emotional contradiction at the heart of the play: she loves a man whom her parents hate. This play will juxtapose such opposites, manifesting the tumultuous, contradictory feelings of the jilted Petrarchan lover.

Act 3, scene 1 Quotes
Romeo: Courage, man; the hurt cannot be much.
Mercutio: No, 'tis not so deep as a well, nor so wide as a church-door; but 'tis enough, 'twill serve: ask for me to-morrow, and you shall find me a grave man.
Related Characters: Romeo (speaker), Mercutio (speaker)
Page Number: 3.1.99-102
Explanation and Analysis:

Mercutio receives a wound from Tybalt during their fight, and it is indeed mortal, although Romeo claims it isn't as he attempts to inspire courage in his friend. Mercutio is under no such delusion; his dark pun that he will be a “grave man” tomorrow (a man who is somber or a man who is in a grave) demonstrates his acknowledgment of his true condition. Mercutio is ever the realist, about his own life and about others’ lives. Mercutio will die, and he will become a victim of the feud between the Capulets and Montagues, although he does not belong to either family. This indicates the extent to which these two households’ rivalry affects the larger society of Verona.

O, I am fortune's fool!
Related Characters: Romeo (speaker)
Page Number: 3.1.142
Explanation and Analysis:

Romeo exclaims that he is "fortune's fool" after two deaths occur -- the death of his friend Mercutio and the death of Juliet's cousin Tybalt. Of course, we know from the play's Prologue that Romeo is indeed "fortune's fool," as he is one of two "star-cross'd" lovers who will die because of the drama's events. Yet, Romeo ironically utters this statement after he himself kills Tybalt, with his own sword and hands, during a combat which he immediately incited because of his passion over Mercutio's death. This inspires a degree of uncertainty about whether Romeo is indeed "fortune's fool," or whether he cooperates with fortune of his own free will, thus partially causing his own death as well. 

Act 3, scene 5 Quotes
Is there no pity sitting in the clouds
That sees into the bottom of my grief?
O sweet my mother, cast me not away!
Delay this marriage for a month, a week,
Or if you do not, make the bridal bed
In that dim monument where Tybalt lies.
Related Characters: Juliet (speaker), Lady Capulet, Tybalt
Page Number: 3.5.208-213
Explanation and Analysis:

Romeo finally leaves Juliet’s room when her Nurse warns her that Lady Capulet is coming. Lady Capulet arrives with “joyful tidings” that will hopefully ease the woe that Juliet (supposedly) feels for Tybalt’s death: Juliet is to marry County Paris next Thursday. Of course, to Juliet, this news is the opposite of joyful. She reveals her love for Romeo to her mother and father, who refuse to acknowledge her desire to marry him. Her father swiftly leaves, and Juliet here appeals to her mother. She begs her mother to not cast her away, although Juliet has already figuratively cast herself away from her household during conversations with Romeo. Juliet practically suggests that her mother might merely delay this marriage to County Paris, before more ardently and imaginatively asking her mother to make her bridal bed with County Paris a tomb—reflecting her earlier phrase, upon first seeing Romeo, that the grave should be her wedding-bed.

Act 5, scene 1 Quotes
Then I defy you, stars!
Related Characters: Romeo (speaker)
Page Number: 5.1.25
Explanation and Analysis:

Balthasar has brought word to Romeo that Juliet is dead and lies in the Capulet’s tomb vaults. Romeo’s immediate response is the question “Is it even so?,” a momentary refusal to recognize the death of Juliet, which only briefly precedes his exclamation “then I defy you, stars!” Here, we witness how these lovers are “star-cross’d”: fate causes Romeo to hear that Juliet is dead, which will soon lead to his own death and her actual death. We see our lovers strive against the more amorphous forces which oppose them. The stars do not only “defy” Romeo’s wishes; through his use of language, Romeo is able to “defy” them, as well.

Act 5, scene 3 Quotes
O true apothecary! Thy drugs are quick. — Thus with a kiss I die.
Related Characters: Romeo (speaker), Juliet, The Apothecary
Page Number: 5.3.119-120
Explanation and Analysis:

In Juliet’s tomb, Romeo believes that his lover is dead, along with Tybalt, and near to Paris, whom he has just killed and lays in this grave as well. Romeo delivers a lengthy soliloquy, beginning by describing Juliet’s beauty (her quality which first attracted his notice) and claiming that death has not slighted her appearance in any way. Romeo also makes peace with Tybalt; even his last declaration of love to Juliet is contextualized by others, and by the greater society in which they exist. Finally, Romeo drinks the poison, which swiftly begins to kill him, urging him to say that the apothecary was “true” in selling him an effective poison. The natural substances – which, as Friar Laurence earlier reminded us, can either work for good or for evil – here are fulfilling the purpose which Romeo hopes they will fulfill.

Yea, noise,then I'll be brief;
O, happy dagger!
This is thy sheath; there rest, and let me die.
Related Characters: Juliet (speaker)
Page Number: 5.3.174-175
Explanation and Analysis:

Romeo’s drugs were “quick” to kill him, and Juliet decides to make her last moments “brief” as well, because she hears “noise” from the broader society outside the tomb. She makes her own body the dagger’s “sheath” for the dagger, stabbing herself. Like Romeo, she kills herself because she believes that her lover is dead. However, here Romeo is truly dead; earlier, Romeo falsely believed that Juliet had died. This unfortunate accident of fate places a harsh dramatic irony over the tragedy. Morbidly, though, the two lovers’ similar deaths connects them for the audience. And they even share the same last word – “die” – which affirms the power of death to connect the two lovers.