How is tension created in act 3 scene 1 of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ by William Shakespeare
In ‘Romeo and Juliet’ by William Shakespeare, Act 3 Scene 1 is one of the most important and significant scenes in the play because it changes the course of the play. The scene includes the deaths of Mercutio and Tybalt. These two deaths are significant because they are the reason why Romeo is banished from Verona for killing Tybalt. Romeo kills Tybalt because Tybalt killed Mercutio and he wants to get revenge on Tybalt for killing his best friend, it therefore has an impact on Romeo and Juliet’s relationship as Tybalt is Juliet’s cousin. We know that in the end Romeo and Juliet die because in the sonnet at the start of the play it says “tow star-crossed lovers take their lives.” After the deaths of Mercutio and Tybalt several of the characters change. The nurse before this scene supports Romeo and Juliet’s relationship but then when Romeo kills Tybalt she says that Juliet should forget about him and marry Paris. The nurse have previously created humour in the play but telling crude jokes and comments but now her mood is serious and she no longer makes jokes.
When Tybalt arrives on the scene Mercutio and Benvolio are in the town square of Verona. It is midday which is also the hottest part of the day; this is the same as Act 1 Scene 1. We know that it is this time of because Benvolio says to Mercutio, “I pray thee, good Mercutio, let’s retire: the day is hot, the Capulets abroad.” In this quote he is saying that he wants to go home because the sun is high and hot. And also because the Capulets will be near by. At the beginning of the play the atmosphere is light-hearted and jocular. One way the scene id light-hearted is how Mercutio uses prose. Another way you can tell that the atmosphere is light-hearted is the way Mercutio makes fun of Benvolio. “Thou wilt quarrel with a man for cracking nuts, having no other reason but because thou hast hazel eye.” This is saying that Benvolio would fight with anyone just because they have hazel eyes. You can tell that Mercutio is making fun of Benvolio because we can see that Benvolio is the peacemaker of the play. In this scene Mercutio is acting very peculiar and slightly angry. We know he is in the kind of mood when he says “by my heel, I care not.” He says this in reply to Benvolio’s comment that the Capulets are on their way. This comment shows that he does not care that the Capulets are coming and that Tybalt seems ready for a fight. Mercutio acts similarly to this in Act 1 Scene 5 when he starts talking about when Queen Mab coming into his dreams and also when he takes drugs before attending the Capulet’s party.
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In this scene Benvolio tries to keep the peace between the Capulets and the Montagues. We know that he is trying to do this because Benvolio says, “We talk here in the public haunt of men: either withdraw unto some private place, and reason coldly of your grievances, or else depart: here all eyes gaze on us.” This shows that Benvolio is a peace keeper and that he is trying to save both the Capulets and the Montagues because he knows what will happen to them if they fight in a public place. He reminds them of what the Prince earlier said to them.
When Tybalt enters this scene Mercutio’s mood is very light-hearted and jocular. Mercutio winds up Tybalt by his jokes and quick- thinking. “Heres my fiddlestick; heres that shall make you dance.” At this point Mercutio is jocular and referring to his sword as a fiddlestick. This is a pun because a fiddlestick is used to play the violin, so when Mercutio says this he is saying that his sword will make Tybalt dance. This shows us that Mercutio’s attitude towards Tybalt is very light-hearted. At the beginning of this scene Tybalt is angry. He is angry because of what happened at the Capulet ball. Tybalt discovers that Romeo has had the cheek to turn up to the Capulets party. Tybalt is also angry at his uncle because he tells Tybalt to stop being dramatic and to not ruin the party because everyone is having a good time and Romeo is not bothering anybody. “He shall be endur’d, what, Goodman boy! I say he shall. Go to!” Mercutio contributes to Tybalt’s bad mood by winding him up. He does this by mocking him and using his wit against him. The level of tension between Mercutio and Tybalt is quite tense. On the outside it just seems like funny banter but we know that Tybalt does not enjoy being laughed at and that Mercutio really dislikes Tybalt. The audience can tell what is going to happen as they have seen how Tybalt has reacted to this kind of behaviour before. Benvolio’s reaction is to try and keep the peace between the two of them and to stop the banter as he knows that there is bound to be a fight. He does this to try and stop the arguments between the two feuding families. , “We talk here in the public haunt of men: either withdraw unto some private place, and reason coldly of your grievances, or else depart: here all eyes gaze on us.” From this speech we can tell that Benvolio does not want anybody to be harmed.
When Romeo arrives in this scene- Act 3 Scene 1, the level of tension is increased. The level of tension increases because Romeo is the person that Tybalt is looking for, it is also increased because Romeo refuses to fight Tybalt as he knows that Tybalt is now is family. When Romeo refuses to fight for this reason Tybalt becomes angry because he doe not understand what Romeo is saying, “Good Capulet,-- which name I tender as dearly as my own,-- be satisfied.” Romeo is saying that he loves the Capulets as much as he does his own family. Tybalt does not understand this comment for he doesn’t know that Romeo and Juliet, his cousin, are married. The one main way the Romeo makes Tybalt angry is by refusing to fight him. Tybalt is frustrated by this because Tybalt has set out to fight Romeo. Shakespeare uses dramatic irony in this scene. This cause tension in this scene because the audience know that Romeo and Juliet are married whereas Tybalt does not. This causes tension because Tybalt can not understand the reason Romeo has given him for not fighting him. Tybalt gets angrier by this because he does not know what is going on.
In this section of the scene Tybalt and Mercutio fight. This creates more tension in the play because Tybalt kills Mercutio and as Mercutio is dying he is saying the words “a plague on both your houses.” This creates some tension because Mercutio is neither a Capulet or a Montague. When Mercutio curses both the house of Capulet and the house of Montague he is foreshadowing what is going to happen in the future. Both Romeo and Juliet die because of the Black Death. As Mercutio is dying he still continues to use puns. “Ask me tomorrow and you will find me a grave man.” He says this as he is dying because he knows that tomorrow he will be dead and the only place they will be able to find him will be in a grave. This suggests that even though he knows he is dying he is still light-hearted and jocular. It also shows that he is strong because he is making jokes as he is dying. Mercutio is taken off stage to die; this increases the level of tension for the audience because they do not know what is happening. As soon as Romeo finds out that Mercutio is dead his mood changes dramatically. Romeo becomes angry and ashamed. He feels like this because Tybalt has killed his best friend but he is ashamed because Tybalt is now Romeo’s family and he also blames his love for Juliet for making him soft. “O sweet Juliet, thy beauty hath made me effeminate and in my temper soften’d valour’s steel.” Romeo is saying that Juliet has made him soft by her beauty and her love for him and his love for her.
When Tybalt returns the tension in the atmosphere is increased. This is because Tybalt re-enters the scene at the point where Romeo is taken over by his fury. “And fire-eyed fury be my conduct now!” this shows that Romeo has been overcome by the fury that Tybalt has killed his best friend Mercutio. He compares his feelings to an animal and personifies his fury. We know that Tybalt will not back down from a fight; he will always fight to the death. The language used here is blank verse and then incomplete blank verses. The audience can tell that there is probably going to be a fight because of the language used and the pace quickens. The part of the scene is one of the highest tension and the pace quickens rapidly because of the short sentences used. You would expect the actor playing the role of Romeo at this point to feel the fury that Romeo is experiencing and to act saddened by Mercutio’s death. When Romeo kills Tybalt you should expect the actor to act shocked and surprised that he has killed Tybalt. “The citizens are up, and Tybalt slain. Stand not amazed: the prince doom thee death, if thou art taken: hence, be gone, away!” Benvolio is saying that Romeo should stop standing there amazed at what he has done to Tybalt but start running away from Verona where if he is caught he will surly be killed.
This scene echo’s Act 1 scene 1 because it is set around the same time of day- midday, and there is a fight. It also echo’s the scene because at the end of Act 1 scene 1 the Prince, Capulets and the Montagues enter the stage. But in act 1 scene 1 there has only been a minor brawl whereas when the prince enters in act 3 scene 1 there has been a big fight and the death of two people- Tybalt and Mercutio. As a conclusion to this fight Romeo is banished from Verona and if he is caught there again he will pay with his life.
Overall in this play the tension in this scene is created by the different characters moods and entrances into the scene. In this scene Shakespeare has used pun, foreshadowing, blank verse and dramatic irony.