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Examine the way that Shakespeare creates tension in Act 3 Scene 1 with particular reference to Mercutio's role.

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Introduction

Examine the way that Shakespeare creates tension in Act 3 Scene 1 with particular reference to Mercutio's role. Act 3 Scene 1 is the scene in which both Tybalt and Mercutio are killed. As this scene is the exact midpoint of the play, Shakespeare builds up tension and excitement to keep the audience interested in the play. He also uses this scene as a turning point, in which the course of the play changes from romance to tragedy. At the very start of the scene we are thrown in at the sharp end of a conversation. This is a method used often by Shakespeare, such as in Act 1 Scene 1, to instantly grab the audience's attention. Instantly, Benvolio sets the scene the scene as a hot, humid day. This creates tension straight away because hot days cause restlessness and makes people irritable. This tension is increased when we hear that the "Capulats are abroad". Because of this, Benvolio wants to "retire" because he realizes that if they meet the Capulats they "Will not 'scape a brawl". However, true to form, Mercutio laughs at his advice and mocks him. This is ironic because, in hind sight, if Mercutio had taken his advice then he would still be alive. The tension caused by the expected fight is added to by the fact that the rest of the conversation between Mercutio and Benvolio has been about how 'hot-headed' they are, "You are as hot a Jack as any in thy mood", and about how apt they are to "quarrel". ...read more.

Middle

When the Prince decides to banish Romeo, "Immediately we do exile him hence", and the scene ends it adds a lot of tension and excitement because the audience do not know how Romeo will react, what he will do, or what will happen to Juliet. This means that the scene ends on a tense and exciting note. Overall, Act 3 Scene 1 is made exciting by Shakespeare, through the conscious crafting of tension in the build up to the expected fight, creating excitement with the fight, and then ending with the surprise of the exiling of Romeo and the excitement of not knowing what will happen next. The scene is also exiting because it contains the shift between the original Romantic theme of the play and the overall Tragic theme, this is unexpected by the audience and so captures their attention. Shakespeare uses Mercutio as a contrast to Romeo's self obsession with the notion of romantic love "My lips two blushing pilgrims' ready stand, To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss" Mercutio contrasts to Romeo with constant, explicit references to sexual parts, "Pop-rin pear" (pear shaped like a penis and "Open-arse" (female sexual organs). This reflects the idea of what nowadays is the contrast between 'real' love and relationships, and sexual relationships and one night stands. Mercutio is constantly joking about love and sex and trying to pull Romeo back to reality from his love sickness with puns. ...read more.

Conclusion

In Act 3 Scene 1 Mercutio uses his quick wit and sharp intellect to goad and taunt Tybalt, "Make it a word and a blow", he also insults him by making fun of his nickname, "good king of cats, nothing but one of your nine lives". All of this shows how much Mercutio wants a fight-due to his aggressive nature. When Mercutio is wounded his friend do not know how badly injured he is. Mercutio uses this fact to play on words, even at deaths door, "Ask for me tomorrow and you Will find me a grave man" He is playing on the two meanings of the word grave, serious/upset and dead. Mercutio steps into the fight to take Romeo's place and defend his honour as Romeo can not fight because he is Tybalt's cousin by marriage. However Mercutio does not know about Romeo's secret marriage and so doesn't know why he doesn't fight. It is therefore one of chief ironies of the play that Mercutio dies protecting a cause that he knows nothing about. The death of Mercutio prompts Romeo to take revenge and so is a catalyst that steers the play towards its tragic end. Overall, Mercutio is an imaginative, inventive and quick witted character that is extremely clever and the main source of comedy in the play. He has a deep underlying aggression and a lust for fighting that ultimately leads to his demise. He is entirely obsessed with the physical form of love and it could be said to represent a man's base instinct and view of love. 1892 words ...read more.

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