Like several other phrases, this phrase has been selected from Shakespeare’s famous play, Romeo and Juliet. This phrase is illustrating a couple whose bond of love is destined to fail. Its origin seems to be astrological, but it is best known for its association with Romeo and Juliet. In the prologue, chorus uses states, “A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life, / Whose misadventured piteous overthrows / Doth with their death bury their parents’ strife.” (Lines 6-8) The phrase is about Romeo and Juliet, whose love and affection is destined to end in a tragedy.
It refers to someone having bad luck, because the stars or heavens do not favor him. This phrase refers to those lovers whose relationship is destined to fail, because people who have a strong belief in astrology are of the belief that stars actually control the destiny of human beings. Simply, we can call this couple ill-fated. Star-crossed lovers present a perfect example of archetypes, of how two characters love each other, but are unable to continue due to societal and family conflicts, leading to a tragic end. Romeo and Juliet are also archetypal star-crossed lovers, who fall in love, but face numerous hardships because their families did not agree to this relationship.
We often see the use of this phrase in literature and movies. We find many examples of star-crossed lovers in novels and plays, such as Lancelot and Guinevere in King Arthur’s mystical tale Round Table, Heathcliff and Catherine from Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, and Lyla and Majnun from the classic love story Nizami Ganjavi. Its use in modern literature includes Jack Dawson and Rose DeWitt Bukater in the movie Titanic. What we have learned from these examples is that a couple in everyday life, who experience a tragic end to their relationship, could be called star-crossed lovers.
The chorus uses this phrase in the sixth line of the prologue section in Romeo and Juliet. The chorus goes on to say that,
A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life,
Whose misadventured piteous overthrows
Doth with their death bury their parents’ strife.
The fearful passage of their death-marked love
And the continuance of their parents’ rage,…
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.
(Romeo and Juliet, Prologue, Lines 6-15)
Both the lovers, due to the unfortunate circumstance, predetermined fate, or uncontrollable situations, are destined to face failure in their love affair. This exactly happened to this romantic couple, Romeo and Juliet. When the order of the stars is shattered and “crossed” in Romeo and Juliet’s lives, they face this tragic situation, and their misfortune end their lives. Thus, we can say that destiny proves tragic for their lives.
As we know from the prologue of this play, which introduces the couple as “star-crossed,” it becomes clear that the couple’s relationship is to face hardships. This phrase has been used as a harbinger of doom and devastation for the couple. You have noticed towards its end how the couple is at the mercy of destiny/fate/bad luck/chance.
In the Prologue section, Chorus uses this phrase by introducing the couple to the Elizabethan audience. This shows that this term would definitely be familiar to the audience. The stars are a part of the chain of being, and if one part of the chain becomes upset, then chaos and disorder replaces the order. Thus, when lovers’ stars are misplaced, things go wrong and destiny alters the order and arrangement of things.
- Metaphor: The phrase presents an example of a beautiful metaphor.
Fate In William Shakespeare's Romeo And Juliet
Fate, for better or worse, interrupts everyone’s daily life, whether he/she chooses to acknowledge it or not. Thinking about fate conjures up different feelings for different people; some people believe strongly in it, some people think of fate as ridiculous, and some do not care one way or the other. However, in many instances, such as in William Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, far too many coincidences occur to be strictly coincidental. Fate creates a powerful effect throughout the entire play, starting in the prologue, continuing as Romeo and Juliet meet and fall in love, and tragically ending in the lovers’ deaths.
In the prologue, Shakespeare makes it undoubtedly clear that Romeo and Juliet are subject to fate. The audience is first introduced to Shakespeare’s ideas of fate when he describes Romeo and Juliet as “star-cross’d lovers” (I. Prologue. l. 6). Shakespeare chooses to refer to the lovers as being “star-cross’d”, meaning that they are doomed from birth because of the position of the planets at that time. This conveys to the reader that no matter what actions Romeo and Juliet take during the course of the play, their destinies remain doomed. Farther along in the prologue, Shakespeare continues to interpolate fate into his play, referring to the love of Romeo and Juliet as “death-mark’d,” (I. Prologue. l. 9) another word describing fate. By using this specific word, Shakespeare informs his audience that the love of Romeo and Juliet is destined to end in death. Because of the use of two very strong words describing fate, “star-crossed” and “death-marked,” a reader easily sees that Romeo and Juliet possess little control over the events that eventually lead to their deaths.
After the initial dose of fate in the prologue, Shakespeare continues to utilize fate as Romeo and Juliet meet and fall in love. As Romeo and his cousin, Benvolio, stroll down a street near the Capulet’s house (I. ii), an illiterate servant with a list of invitees to the Capulet’s party approaches Romeo asking, “I pray, sir, can you read?” (I. ii. l. 57). These few seemingly unimportant words help set off fate’s spiraling journey. Unaware that by reading the list his life will dramatically change, Romeo reads the list, and the thankful servant invites him to the prestigious party. Because Rosaline, the girl Romeo currently loves, will be at the party, Romeo decides to go. Under normal circumstances, none of these events take place. Fate causes Romeo to be at the right place at the right time. If he does not walk near the Capulet’s house or if the servant is able to read, Romeo does not attend the party, thus he does not meet Juliet. After Romeo attends the party, fate strikes again as he stumbles into the Capulet’s orchard while trying to escape his friends. Juliet, after meeting Romeo mere hours before, emerges onto her balcony and, unaware that Romeo can hear...
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