What It Really Means To Be Star-Crossed Lovers

If you believe in fate or kismet, chances are you're familiar with the idea of a "soulmate" — the one you're destined to be with. You're also likely familiar with the concept of "star-crossed lovers," which can be found in many plot descriptions and synopses

The concept of a soul mate comes from one of literature's most famous tragic couples — Romeo and Juliet. In the prologue to Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare wrote, "From forth the fatal loins of these two foes, a pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life." According to Dictionary.com, this is when the phrase first came into use. We can always trust Shakespeare to come up with a keeper!

But what exactly does it mean to be star-crossed lovers, and is the term ever misused? Lovers, or those around them, who might believe they are "star-crossed" are also bound to believe that they are essentially doomed to fail. Star-crossed lovers believe that the stars, the heavens, or similar outside forces are in control of their destiny and are working against them (via Literary Devices). In Romeo and Juliet, for example, the outside forces working against the lovers are their own families who won't allow them to be together.

Romeo and Juliet aren't the only famous star-crossed lovers in pop culture

We're typically introduced to the idea of star-crossed lovers as rebellious teenagers, a time in our lives when — let's face it — everything that happens feels like a dramatic element a tragicomedy. If you recall, the original star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet, were actually teens themselves when their story unfolded (via Hothouse Literary Journal). 

But let's get one thing straight: Star-crossed lovers aren't ill-fated because they lack love for one another, so the term shouldn't be used for two people who do love each other but just can't make it work. Rather, it applies to couples whose fates are determined by things they can't control. Those of us who are familiar with young adult fiction are probably familiar with "The Fault in Our Stars," where lead characters Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters, who both suffer from a terminal illness, meet at a Cancer Kid Support group and discover that "the thing about pain" is "it demands to be felt" (via Epic Reads). The book resonated with so many readers that it was made into a movie featuring a now-iconic bench in Amsterdam, which later made headlines of its own because it was stolen (via Teen Vogue). These two are star-crossed lovers to a T.

Star-crossed lovers also appear in these movies and TV shows

The theme of star-crossed lovers recurs in movies and television too. One classic example of cinematic star-crossed lovers is Jack Dawson (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose DeWitt Bukater (played by Kate Winslet) in the movie "Titanic" (via Los Angeles Times). While Rose ultimately decides to defy her family and fiancé to be with Jack, their relationship comes to an end because another outside force seals their fate — the ship hitting an iceberg causing Jack dying in the icy waters. Couldn't Rose have made room for him on the door, though? That's a topic for a different day (via ScreenRant).

Then there are the doomed lovers Buffy and Angel from the TV series "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." In fact, IGN describes Buffy and Angel as "the ultimate star-crossed lovers." A moment of pure happiness with Buffy leads Angel to be returned to his incarnation Angelous, who is evil and has no soul. Although he's able to get his soul back, the pair could never be together because it would cause the world to end — and that's an intense outside force if we ever heard of one.

Can the fate of two star-crossed lovers be reversed? Literature offers no remedies for a couple that is seen as star-crossed lovers — other than copious tears, heartbreak, and plenty of tissues. And while books and movies can mirror real life from time to time, they also offer one other thought — that time, no matter how much, can eventually heal all wounds.