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‘Star-crossed lovers’ is a term first coined by William Shakespeare in his popular play ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ When most people think of star-crossed lovers, they think of William Shakespeare. Learn more about the term and test your knowledge with a quiz.

Definition of Star-Crossed Lovers and Archetypes

Star-crossed lovers are two people who care deeply for each other; however, their love is doomed by the stars and they cannot be together. This couple is considered ill-fated. The term star-crossed lovers was first coined by William Shakespeare in the popular play The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet.

An archetype is the original form of a person or object; similar examples are created based on an archetype. Archetypes are expressed in dreams, literature, myths and fantasies.Star-crossed lovers is an example of an archetype because two characters are in love and their relationship is unable to continue based on views by society, family or a tragic event. Romeo and Juliet are the archetypal star-crossed lovers; they were in love but they took their own lives after their families disagreed with their relationship.

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Shakespearean Star-Crossed Lovers

The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet was written and published by William Shakespeare in the 1500s. The play tells the story of forbidden love and is the first example of archetypal star-crossed lovers.

Romeo and Juliet is considered to be one of the greatest love stories of all time.The story begins with a fight between the servants of two noble families: the Capulets and Montagues, who do not like each other. Romeo, the son of a Montague, is in love with a woman named Rosaline who does not return his affection. His cousin Benvolio encourages him to fall in love with someone else. Meanwhile, Juliet’s father, Capulet, holds a masquerade ball and hopes a man named Paris will start to win the affection of his daughter Juliet.Romeo and Benvolio decide to go to the Capulet ball; Romeo wants to go because he sees Rosaline’s name on the guest list. Benvolio suggests that Romeo go to try to meet other beautiful women of Verona.

Juliet is told Paris is interested in marrying her, and her mother suggests she try to decide at the ball if he would be someone she would like to marry. As soon as Romeo sees Juliet, he falls in love with her and forgets about Rosaline.They talk and both feel an attraction to each other. When they learn they are from feuding families, they are distraught but can do nothing about the love they already feel for one another. Romeo goes to his friend Friar Lawrence and asks that he marries them in secret; Friar Lawrence agrees to marry Romeo and Juliet in hopes that it will help end the feud between the families.

After an unfortunate duel between both families, Romeo kills one of Juliet’s family members and is banished from Verona on their wedding night. Juliet is upset by Romeo’s behavior but remains loyal to her husband. After they consummate their marriage and say goodbye to each other, Romeo and Juliet don’t know when they will see each other again.Juliet’s father has decided to let her marry Paris, but Juliet does not want to marry Paris because she is married and loyal to Romeo. Scared of marrying Paris, Juliet goes to Friar Lawrence for help with how to proceed with her life. He develops a plan to have Juliet drink a potion to appear dead to her family; he advises that when she is buried, he and Romeo will free her and she’ll be able to live with Romeo away from their families. Juliet drinks the potion that night.

Friar Lawrence tries to get a message to Romeo explaining to him what has happened to Juliet, but the message never reaches him and Romeo hears that Juliet is dead. Romeo decides to kill himself because he does not want to live without Juliet. At Juliet’s tomb, he drinks poison to kill himself.

When Juliet awakens and sees Romeo is dead, she kills herself with his dagger and falls on his body. Both families agree to end their feud and create statues of their children to sit side-by-side.Romeo and Juliet were considered star-crossed lovers because they loved each other but could not be open about their relationship; their families would not have approved of their marriage. Their relationship was doomed from the moment they met; they were true star-crossed lovers.

Lesson Summary

‘Star-crossed lovers’ is a term first coined by William Shakespeare in his play The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. Romeo and Juliet are archetypal star-crossed lovers because they are not able to be together because their families do not get along with one another. Their love is doomed by fate, and both their lives are lost.

Learning Outcomes

When you are done, you should be able to:

  • Describe the archetype of the star-crossed lovers
  • Explain how Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet are examples of the star-crossed lovers archetype

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