Romeo and Juliet

What does Romeo mean when he says Then I defy you stars in Romeo and Juliet Act V Scene I?


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This line is representative of the apparent dichotomy in many (if not all) of Shakespeare's tragedies: free will versus fate. By cursing the stars, Romeo is expressing his independence by saying that he is in charge of his own life and is not ruled not by some predetermined course of events. The truly tragic part of this exclamation is that we, as readers, know that Romeo is mistaken and that the events that befall him were going to happen no matter what and that he was destined to fall in love and come to a tragic end.

Specifically, Romeo says this when he receives the news that Juliet is dead. He feels that fate (the stars) have struck him the cruelest possible blow, and he is going to defy the stars by committing suicide and joining Juliet in death.

That, and it also makes reference to the beginning of the play, where they're referred to as "star-crossed lovers," which is admittedly also a statement of its being fate-oriented, but "I defy you, stars!" would be a reference to the stars being symbolic of fate as they were in the description of the "lovers" early on.