Romeo and Juliet in Aristotle’s Mind

Romeo and Juliet in Aristotle’s Mind

In the story of Romeo and Juliet, we know that the basic plot consists of love and sacrifice. In the beginning of the story, Romeo falls in love with Juliet at first sight and then marries her in less than twenty-four hours. Our lovers then go through a period of trials due to loving a member of your family’s enemy. Romeo is exiled to Mantua due to killing Tybalt and the Capulets are forcing Juliet to marry to a suitor named Paris. In the end, both Romeo and Juliet killed each other because they swore that if one of passes away, then they will die with them. However, this seemingly simple storyline of Romeo and Juliet is actually based on one of Aristotle’s theatrical philosophy.

Aristotle has his own definition of a tragedy, which is known for being characterized by having a few known components. If you read Shakespeare’s story called Romeo and Juliet, you’ll notice that the storyline reflects to Aristotle’s tragedy theory. That is because Shakespeare likely got his idea from Aristotle to organize his story, which meant that it definitely goes with his theory. Aristotle’s definition of tragedy is divided into three simple components. The first component of his theory is called the unity of action where the story has a clear and comprehensive beginning, middle, and end. We can compare this component with the whole story of Romeo and Juliet because the story’s beginning reveals to us Romeo has fallen in love with Juliet at first sight, the middle part tells us about the trials and change of personality that Romeo and Juliet went through, and the ending states that both protagonists murdered themselves in the name of love. The second component of his definition of tragedy is called catharsis, where the tragedy brings fear and terror to the audience where the story can later emotionally relieve the audience, thus affording then to be “cleansed.” They are also protagonists whom are once renowned but soon later fell from the position of being renowned due to some mistake or fear where he or she receives good or bad recognition for that situation by the other characters. One notable example of catharsis can be found in an excerpt in Romeo and Juliet, where Romeo battles Tybalt in public to avenge the death of Mercutio, which then later he kills him. Romeo is then punished to being exiled to Mantua for his error as Juliet and Lady Capulet give him a bad recognition for his action. The third and component is called the Scene of Suffering, where Romeo, the protagonist of the story, must suffer at least once in the story plot because that way he will receive recognition from the audience. His Scene of Suffering takes place in church after he murders Tybalt, where he gets so upset that he almost commits suicide before Friar Lawrence takes action to stop him from doing so. All three components of Aristotle’s theory of tragedy are befitting to Shakespeare’s story of Romeo and Juliet, and each of the examples from the story that is befitting to each component has its own description to it.

We first know about the unity of action, which is when the plot has a clear beginning, middle, and conclusion. This is a reflection on the story as it includes a simple, delicate plotline. For the beginning, the prologue firmly states that the two lovers Romeo and Juliet are going to face difficult trials because they are members of rival families and which eventually they will die with each other (Prologue, verses 5-14). When the story began, and when Romeo first laid his eyes upon Juliet, he immediately fell in love with her at first sight (Act I, scene v, verses 44-53). He even kisses her and both eventually married each other when they sink deeper into love within twenty-four hours (Act I, scene v, verses 95-109; Act II, scene vi, verses 35-37). Here we have our first part of the unity of action. When Romeo murdered Tybalt to avenge the death of Mercutio (Act III, scene I, verses 119-132), he drenched himself in hot water because the Prince was thinking of exiling him to Mantua (Act III, scene I, verses 183-194). Juliet is also in her predicament because her parents are planning a wedding where she has to marry a suitor named Paris whom man she has no interest in when she is already secretly married to Romeo (Act III, scene iv, verses 1-11). Both lovers are facing these problems because they would do whatever to be with each other, and such situation that Romeo was banished to Mantua and that Juliet must marry Paris would have them considering courage and sacrifice. This part of the story is simple mainly because the protagonists are going to have to face their trials. This is the middle part of the unity of action. During the conclusion, Romeo drank a vial of poison to die with what he assumes to be a dead Juliet. When Juliet wakes up from her slumber, she is devastated at looking at Romeo and kills her self by stabbing herself. The end is simple because both lovers simply died for each other.

The second part of Aristotle’s theory of tragedy is called catharsis, which is when the protagonists who were once highly renowned by the characters were not renowned anymore due to their errors and actions where they get the other characters’ good or bad recognitions. This component can be related to Romeo and Juliet because Romeo was once highly renowned for his peacemaking and romantic personality, like when he was wooing Juliet on the balcony when he first met her (Act II, scene ii, verses 1-32), but he soon developed a more aggressive and avenging personality when he slain Tybalt in the act of revenge (Act III, scene I, verses 119-126), thus receiving hate from Lady Capulet for taking the life of her kin and disbelief from Juliet. Juliet, on the other hand, used to be loyal and princess-like, but soon she succumbed into having the persona of a rebellious and disappointing girl after getting married to Romeo. One example of her behavior is when she exclaimed that she would retaliate from marrying Paris to her parents and she even betrayed the Nurse, the only woman whom she trusted, when she agreed with her parents’ decision (Act III, scene v, verses 127-172). She receives bad recognition from her parents for not wanting to marry Paris.

The third and final component of Aristotle’s theory is a Scene of Suffering, where the protagonist’s suffering is where we get the good recognition from the audience. If the story belongs with the format of Aristotle’s theory, then the protagonist must have at least one Scene of Suffering. One example of this component is when Romeo had his suffering in the church after he kills Tybalt. He was in dismay because he was guilty of murder and he must be exiled to Mantua where he cannot communicate or ever meet Juliet again. He even attempted to commit suicide because he thought that Juliet sees him as a murderer. The angry Friar sorted out a plan to get Romeo and Juliet back together before Romeo can stab himself (Act III, scene iii, verses 64-70 & verses 93-98).

We can conclude that the Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet goes along with Aristotle’s idea of tragedy because the excerpts of the story are befitting to the key components of his theory. If the story of Romeo and Juliet is missing at least one of these components, then the story won’t seem to result as a tragedy. Tragedy stories must always include a part where the protagonists go through trials and resolution in order to raise conflict in the plot and suspense onto the audience. Romeo and Juliet is the excellent story example of Aristotle’s theory of tragedy, because it includes all the key components that appertain to his theory and to a tragedy.