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Tension in Act 3 Scene 1

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Act 3 Scene 1 is a pivotal scene in the play "Romeo and Juliet". Explain how Shakespeare creates and sustains tension in this scene. Refer to language, character and structure. Shakespeare was born into a well-to-do family in the market town of Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire. He went on to marry Anne Hathaway at the age of eighteen and had two daughters and a son. Romeo and Juliet is one of Shakespeare's most famous tragedies, written in 1595. It is, perhaps, the most famous of his plays and undoubtedly the most famous love story in Western history. The play is based on Arthur Brooke's narrative poem The Tragicall History of Romeus and Juliet, written in 1562. As the definition of pivotal explains, Act 3 Scene 1 is of vital or central importance to the play. At the beginning of the scene, marriage has just taken place, off set, between the two families. Friar Lawrence hopes that it will unite the two families, "I'll thy assistant be:/ For this alliance may so happy prove/ To turn your households' rancour to pure love." From the beginning of the scene, the audience are expecting a fight; as in Act 1 Scene 1, the last time the characters were in a public place. Tybalt was furious at the Montagues' intrusion at the Capulet ball, "This, by his voice, should be a Montague/.../What dares the slave/ Come hither, cover'd with an antic face/ To fleer and scorn at our solemnity?/ Now, by the stock and honor of my kin,/ To strike him dead, I hold it not a sin." As Tybalt heard Romeo's voice, he ordered his servant to "Fetch me my rapier, boy" which showed his tendency towards violence. He bid his uncle to get rid of Romeo but Capulet did not want to cause trouble after the Prince's speech in the square and so told Tybalt, "He shall be endured" and put him in his place by calling him "boy." ...read more.


to field, he'll be your follower;" Tybalt then goes further and says, "thou art a villain," to Romeo, a serious insult in Elizabethan society, calling for immediate retaliation, as Romeo is a socially important person in the Montague household and a villain was another term for a peasant. The audience here becomes worried and tense as such a serious insult is more than likely to result in a reaction from Romeo. However, Romeo reacts in the opposite way to this offensive comment that Tybalt intended him to, "Tybalt, the reason that I have to love thee/ Doth much excuse the appertaining rage/ To such a greeting: villain am I none;/ Therefore farewell; I see thou know'st me not." Which enrages Tybalt even further, "Boy, this shall not excuse the injuries/ That thou hast done me; therefore turn and draw." An elaborate pattern of wordplay is found in Tybalt's challenges and Romeo's replies. When Tybalt sarcastically says "the love I bear thee" (no love at all) Romeo responds with "the reason that I have to love thee", while "Thou art a villain" becomes "villain I am none". "Boy, this shall not excuse the injuries..." is met with "I do protest I never injur'd thee." The general contrast of love and hate in the play is explicit in this scene. The contrast between Romeo's loving words and Tybalt's hate-filled ones creates tension and highlights the difference between the two men's worlds - Romeo's revolves around Juliet and his love for her, and Tybalt's revolves around the Montagues and his hate for them. Mercutio does not understand why Romeo is reacting in such a strange way to Tybalt's insults and wonders whether he is too scared to fight Tybalt, so he tries to defend Romeo's honour himself by challenging Tybalt to a fight, "O calm, dishonourable, vile submission!/ Alla stoccata carries it away./ Tybalt, you rat-catcher, will you walk?" ...read more.


However, the Prince is not impressed with this argument either, and replies, "And for that offence / Immediately we do exile him hence" His whole speech is in rhyming couplets which stress the finality of his decision. At the end of the speech the word "kill" proves how strongly the Prince feels about violence. A strong theme in this scene is the idea that we are not in control of our lives. When Romeo has killed Tybalt he cries out, "I am fortune's fool" The Friar will later say to Juliet, "A greater power than we can contradict/ Hath thwarted our intents" Another strong theme that appears is that of the feud between the two families and how innocent lives are harmed by it. Mercutio curses the feuding families, "A plague on both your houses" This would have been especially effective to the audience at the time the play was written as the Great Plague of 1665 was rife throughout Europe. It may be argued that Romeo and Juliet's downfall does not result from their personal flaws of character, but from the actions of others, from mistiming, from accidents, or from incidents of ill fate. However, it may be that recklessness and youth's immaturity are the tragic flaws of Romeo and Juliet's characters. This scene certainly favours the former view as the strongest theme in the scene is the intervention of fate. Once again Prince Escales has tried to enforce peace. The first time we saw this, in Act 1 Scene 1, the intervention came before any real harm was done. This time it is too late. The Prince promises justice to the feuding familes and exiles Romeo. This is one of the worst outcomes possible as Romeo has just been married to Juliet. Exile would mean that he would never see Juliet again. The question remains, is this the end of the feud between the two families, or will fate once again ensure that events spiral disastrously out of control? ...read more.

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