Romeo- A Tragic Hero Essay, Research Paper
ROMEO: A TRULY TRAGIC HERO
William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is a truly tragic play, where heroes and villains struggle for survival. Romeo Montague possesses many characteristics which allow him to become the play’s tragic hero. The first characteristic of a tragic hero that Romeo possesses is a sense of calamity that befalls him many times, bringing him misery and despair; although preceded by moments of happiness and glory. Also, there are actions that lead to an apparently irreversible catastrophe. Romeo himself contributes to many of the catastrophes, adding more tragedy to the play. The suffering of Romeo is profound as a result of these catastrophes, enhancing the drama and despair. Romeo triggers feelings of pathos towards himself, as the reader feels pity for him. All of these characteristics represent why Romeo is looked upon as a tragic hero.
One of the many reasons why Romeo can be seen as a tragic hero are the ultimate calamities which befall him many times during the play, when initially great joy and happiness are brought to his life. The first great joy (which became a calamity when he was banished from Mantua) that befalls Romeo comes when he goes to the Capulet mansion after the masquerade and Juliet proclaims her love for him. Romeo proposes to Juliet and she accepts, thus bringing great joy and happiness to them both. The second great joy for Romeo comes when Juliet and he are secretly married by Friar Lawrence. Romeo feels a sense of fulfillment and has never been happier in his life. These moments of exultation rapidly deteriorated into calamities because of subsequent developments.
Ah, Juliet, if the measure of the joy
Be heap’d like mine and that thy skill be more
To blazon it, then sweeten with thy breath
This neighbor air, and let rich music’s tongue
Unfold the imagined happiness that both
Receive in either by this dear encounter.
(Act II, scene vi)
The third great joy that befalls Romeo comes when Juliet and he consummate their marriage. The deep emotion and true happiness that both lovers feel is evident when the two have to part the next morning. The calamity is Romeo’s eventual separation from Juliet and future events. Therefore, these joyous events that lead to calamity for Romeo contribute to his position as a tragic hero.
During the play, actions are taken that lead to an apparently irreversible catastrophe. The first action that leads to an inevitable catastrophe is when Tybalt and Mercutio (Romeo’s best friend) fight. The inevitability that is felt by the reader is that someone is going to die when the two fight because there is so much animosity between them. Eventually, Tybalt kills Mercutio which angers Romeo greatly and will force him to take action later in the play for revenge of his best friend. Another action that leaves a sense of inevitability with the reader is when Romeo buys the deadly poison from the apothecary. The reader can sense Romeo is about to do something drastic because of his state of mind when buying the poison.
Well, Juliet, I will lie with thee to-night.
Let’s see for means. O mischief, thou art swift
To enter in the thoughts of desperate men!
I do remember an apothecary…
(Act V, scene i)
The third feeling of inevitability comes when Romeo goes to the tomb of Juliet and runs into Paris. There is a great sense of inevitability as a confrontation between the two men occurs. The reader can sense that there will be a fight with one of them dying before it all happens. For these reasons, actions are taken throughout the play where a sense of inevitability is felt for Romeo that contributes to his being the play’s tragic hero.
Romeo contributes to many of the catastrophes during the play, which is a characteristic of a tragic hero. The first catastrophe that Romeo contributes to is when he kills Tybalt. Romeo killed Tybalt in revenge of Tybalt’s killing Mercutio. This event is a catastrophe because Tybalt is Lady Capulet’s nephew. His death causes even more friction between the Capulets and Montagues, which would make things more complicated for Romeo and Juliet.
He is a kinsman to the Montague,
Affection makes him false, he speaks not true…
I beg for justice, which thou, Prince, must give;
Romeo slew Tybalt, Romeo must not live.
(Act III, scene i)
The second catastrophe that Romeo contributes to is when he kills Paris. Paris is a relative of the Prince and an innocent victim of Romeo’s anger and violet temper. Killing Paris would lead to the immediate execution of Romeo by Prince, who would seek revenge for this killing. The third catastrophe that Romeo contributes to is when he kills himself. This is a catastrophe for Juliet for she has lost her one love in life; whom she can’t live without and the Montagues have lost their dear, beloved son. These catastrophes that Romeo contributed to make him a tragic hero.
Romeo suffers emotionally during the play as a result of many disasters that occur. Romeo’s first major suffering was Mercutio’s death. Mercutio was Romeo’s best friend and confidant. Romeo often sought advice from Mercutio and his death took a real toll on him. Romeo’s second major suffering was being declared banished by Prince for the slaying of Tybalt. This is a major source of suffering for Romeo because he cannot see his wife, Juliet because he will be killed if found within the walls of Mantua.
Immediately we do exile him hence…
I will be deaf to pleading and excuses;
Nor tears nor prayers shall purchase out abuses;
Therefore use none. Let Romeo hence in haste,
Else, when he’s found, that hour is his last.
(Act III, scene i)
The third major suffering came when Romeo learned the news of Juliet’s apparent death from Benvolio. Romeo feels a great sense of emptiness and that life isn’t worth living. He cannot go on without Juliet. She is his true love and they must always be together. This event is, by far, was the most painful suffering that Romeo endured throughout the whole play. It is for these reasons, that the suffering of Romeo is exceptional and he should be looked upon as the play’s tragic hero.
Pathos is the “most important tragic emotion” and is one that Romeo definitely evokes. The reader feels sorrow for Romeo many times during the play. The first feeling of pathos for Romeo reveals itself in his discussions with Benvolio about love early in the play. Romeo claims to be in “love melancholy”(Act I, scene ii) and is depressed. This dialogue between Benvolio and him makes the reader feel pity for Romeo and hope that he recovers and finds true love. The second instance where the reader feels pathos for Romeo comes during his discussions with Friar Lawrence. Romeo goes to Friar Lawrence for help and advice after he is banished for the killing of Tybalt. In his discussions with the Friar, Romeo reveals grief and sadness, which allow the reader to feel compassion for him and his suffering.
There is no world without Verona walls,
But purgatory, torture, hell itself.
Hence banished is banish’d from the world
And world’s exile is death; then “banished”
Is death mis-term’d. Calling death “banished”
Thou cut’st my head off with a golden axe,
And smilest upon the stroke that murders me.
(Act III, scene iii)
The third example of pathos comes right before Romeo kills himself. In a soliloquy, Romeo moves the hearts of all readers with a feeling of sorrow for the way things turned out. The reader feels a great sense of compassion for Romeo for what he has gone through.
Will I set up my everlasting rest,
And shake the yoke of inauspicious stars
From this world-wearied flesh. Eyes, look your last!
Arms, take your last embrace! And, lips, O you
The doors of breath, seal with a righteous kiss
A dateless bargain to engrossing Death!
(Act V, scene iii)
For these reasons, the reader feels pathos for Romeo and he becomes a tragic hero.
Romeo Montague demonstrates all of the qualities of a tragic hero throughout the play. For this reason, Romeo is a tragic hero. Romeo had calamities befall him during the play. His actions led to apparently inevitable and irreversible catastrophes. He contributed to many of the catastrophes. He suffered emotionally throughout the play. And most importantly, he triggered feelings of pathos towards himself, which is one of the most important qualities of a hero. Truly, Romeo is the tragic hero of Romeo and Juliet.