Most people have a distorted view of what a tragedy is. Many think that any story with a sad ending is a tragedy. This is not true in a literary sense. A tragedy must follow a set of criteria covering a theme, a plot, and a protagonist. There is no standard set of criteria, but the philosophers Bradley and Aristotle researched and created two very similar sets that can be used as a guide. Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy because it matches multiple tragic criteria for each of the major story elements; theme, plot, and protagonist.
First of all, this play has a tragic theme in that it arouses pity and fear. The basic story of Romeo and Juliet is about two young lovers who are devastatingly divided by their family's hatred and ignorance. The theme throughout all of this, though, is centered around the pity and fear that is felt about the situation.
You not only have a feeling of pity for the separated lovers, but for their whole community that also suffered from the family's pointless feud. The second part of this theme is focused on the fear at how devastating two family's hostility can be. Not only were Romeo and Juliet's lives ruined, the entire community felt a loss over the many deaths and shame for their foolishness.
Romeo and Juliet matches multiple criteria for a tragic plot set by the philosophers Bradley and Aristotle. The first criterion is met since the plot is a result of the main character's actions. The main character in this play, Romeo, causes many of the events that affect the plot's unfolding in the way that it does. In the beginning acts, Romeo's sorrow over Rosoline gives Benvolio reason to take him to the party where he falls aimlessly...