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Impetous Actions and their Tragic Consequences

Impetuous actions can dramatically alter the life of anybody in many ways. The lack of thinking things through and acting solely on one particular emotion can lead to unanticipated results. In William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare shows how impetuous actions combined with the need for lust can lead to a tragic end. It wasn’t fate but rather Romeo and Juliet’s hasty actions that brought their untimely deaths.

Love at first sight ultimately led to the premature deaths of the two lovers. At the Capulet party was where Romeo first sees Juliet:

O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright! It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night As a rich jewel in an Ethiop’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 blessed my rude hand. Did my heart love till now? Forswear is sight, For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night. (1.5.51-60)

At the very first sight of Juliet, Romeo immediately falls in love with her. He doesn’t begin to think about her character, age, or even about whether she is married. If Romeo had taken his time and gotten to know Juliet and thought about what might come of this attraction, the tragic ending to their story could have been avoided. Romeo is not all to blame for the tragedy. Juliet felt exactly the same way about Romeo when she first saw him:

My only love sprung from my only hate! Too early seen unknown, and known too late! Prodigious birth of love it is to me That I must love a loathed enemy. (1.5.152-155)

Like Romeo, if Juliet had just taken some time to think things through, this disaster might have never occurred.

After the two lovers had met, they made many hasty decisions and actions that only made their circumstances worse. The night the two sweethearts met the decided to get married:

Three words, dear Romeo, and good night indeed. If that thy bent of love be honorable, Thy purpose marriage, send me word tomorrow, By one that I’ll procure to come to thee, Where and what tine thou wilt perform the rite, And all my fortunes at they foot I’ll lay And follow thee my lord throughout the world. (2.2.149-155)

The very next day the Romeo and Juliet were married in secret to prevent another fight erupting between the Capulet and Montague families. Friar Lawrence married the couple:

Come, come with me, and we will make short work, For, by you leaves, you shall not stay alone Till Holy Church incorporate two in one. (2.6.35-38)

Had the two lovers not been so impulsive, they could have talked with the Friar and decided if this was really the best option for them. If they had thought the situation through, they would have come to realize that this was not the right decision to make at all.

When Juliet subsequently learns that she is to wed County Paris, she is outraged and will do anything to avoid it. She visits the Friar and he tells her of a potion he has made that will make her appear as if she is dead for three days so she would not have to marry the County. After the three days, the potion would wear off and she would awake to a waiting Romeo:

Hold, daughter, I do spy a kind of hope, Which craves as desperate an execution As that is desperate which we would prevent. If, rather than to marry County Paris, Thou hast the strength of will to sly thyself, Then is it likely thou wilt undertake A thing like death to chide away this shame, That cop’st with death himself to scape from it; And if thou darest, I’ll give thee remedy. (4.1.69-77)

Hold, get you gone. Be strong and prosperous In this resolve. I’ll send a friar with speed To Mantua with my letters to thy lord. (4.1.124-126)

Juliet thinks this plan is perfect and takes the potion home and drinks it that night: “Here’s drink. I drink to thee.”(4.3.59-60) Juliet’s thoughtlessness in taking the sleeping potion that the Friar made leads to the fatal outcome for the lovers.

While in Mantua, Romeo hears of Juliet’s death through a friend and immediately sets out for Verona. Romeo heads straight for the Capulet tomb to see Juliet. Upon seeing Juliet, Romeo thinks she is dead and drinks a recently purchased poison: “Here’s to my love. O true apothecary, / Thy drugs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die.” (5.3.119-120) Instead of committing suicide, Romeo should have first conferred with the Friar to learn the circumstances of Juliet’s death. Had he done this, he would have realized that she was, in fact, still alive and therefore he could have lived. When Juliet wakes up she sees Romeo dead and proceeds to stab herself with a dagger so she can be with her husband in heaven: “Yea, noise? Then I’ll be brief. O, happy dagger, / This is thy sheath. There rust, and let me die.” Juliet’s death would have also been avoided had Romeo taken steps to ask about Juliet’s “death”.

If this story has taught us anything, it would be that you must not act in haste, particularly when your emotions determine your actions. Thinking things through and seeking help is the ultimate choice when making any decision. If you act impetuously and make a decision in haste as Romeo and Juliet did, it may not be the best choice to make. It could lead to unforeseen and undesired consequences as happened in their tragic story.

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