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How does Shakespeare use dramatic tension and irony in Romeo and Juliet

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How does Shakespeare use dramatic tension and irony in Romeo and Juliet? "... A plague on both your houses!" - Mercutio, Act three Scene one Dramatic tension and irony are both present throughout almost every scene in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. The audience often knows what is going to happen before hand. At the very beginning of the play, the chorus give a brief overview of the play. In this they mention Romeo and Juliet as "a pair of star crossed lovers", meaning that they are rules over by the fates; they will die. This shows that from the very beginning of the play to the very end, dramatic irony is present as the audience knows that the pair of lovers are destined to die. As for dramatic tension, this is also present throughout most of the play. Romeo constantly has obscure premonitions that he is being dominated by the fates; he has no control over his life and has a sense of foreboding that disaster is near. This feeling continues to grow in strength throughout the play. When Romeo slays Tybalt in act three scene 1, the feeling of helplessness is stronger than ever. This is indicated by Romeo's cry of "Oh I am fortunes fool!" Here Romeo acknowledges that his life is being ruled over by a greater power. At the beginning of act three scene one, Mercutio and Benvolio are walking together and Benvolio is insisting that they go home. ...read more.


This is another case of dramatic irony, as only Mercutio himself can tell that his small wound will be the end of him. However, Romeo and his friends are not aware of the extent to which Mercutio is wounded, and cannot understand why he acts as though he has been grievously wounded. When Romeo asks him why he agonizes over such a small wound, Mercutio replies with his usual jesting, "...'tis enough, 'twill serve. Ask for me to-morrow and you shall find me a grave man." By this Mercutio means that he will not be jesting for much longer; he is dying. As Mercutio dies, he curses both the house of Montague and Capulet with a "plague". This is a chilling omen of the tragedy that will soon befall both houses. However, Mercutio's death was more a result of his own rivalry and loathing of Tybalt, as he persisted in trying to start a duel. However, he perceives clearly that it is the feud that has caused his death. After the dieing Mercutio is helped off stage by Benvolio, we see Romeo left contemplating what has happened. He blames the incident on himself, saying that his "reputation (has been) stained". By this he means that his masculinity is dubious as he did not respond violently to Tybalt's attempted provocation. However, we can observe that this is incorrect as Mercutio, who persisted in pursuing violence, has been killed. ...read more.


The audience is forced to watch helplessly as many characters make fatal mistakes simply because they have been ill informed, or do not know of one of the many secrets that go on in the play. If Tybalt had known that Juliet was married to Romeo, he may have killed him on the spot and the play would have taken a completely different route. But in this scene Shakespeare has masterfully used dramatic irony to make the play seem more credible, and dramatic tension to make the scene more engrossing. In Zefferelli's 1968 film adaptation of the play, Mercutio's death is portrayed as an accident, as he stumbles onto the point of Tybalt's sword during what is intended to be a gentlemanly and non-fatal duel. As none of his friends notice this, Mercutio's wound serves as another chance to emphasise the dramatic tension in the film. Mercutio's death is made even bitterer by the fact that none of his friends realise that he is fatally wounded until the moment of his death. This causes Romeo to be far more stunned as he only becomes aware of what he has caused just as Mercutio's last breath leaves his body. One of the reasons why Romeo and Juliet is made to seem so tragic is that from the moment the curtains are raised the audience is aware of the fact that the two lovers area inevitably going to die. This makes the audience feel frustrated and sad as they know what is going to take place but are powerless to stop it. ...read more.

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