How does Act 3, scene 1 fit into the structure of ‘Romeo and Juliet’, and how does Shakespeare create dramatic tension in the scene? Essay

Published: 2021-07-27 13:15:05
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Category: William Shakespeare

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Previous to Act 3 Scene 1 Romeo and Juliet marry each other. This is a big problem because the Montague’s (Romeos family) and the Capulet’s (Juliet’s family) are involved in, what seems like, an enormous feud. Nobody knows what it is about exactly, not even by the end of the play, but it is obvious that it is about something very important to both the families as it seems to have gone one for years and years. I am made to think this from the line “From ancient grudge break to new mutiny” The word ‘ancient’ suggests that it is old and happened years ago. In fact I think that the feud is so old that not even the actual characters know what they are arguing and fighting about anymore.
Romeo and Juliet weren’t even born when it started and were just born into it. As were all of the others characters in the play. With this in mind then it seems unfair that they should have got dragged into it, it wasn’t their fault their families had issues with one another. The feud is very foolish and the violence is very stupid in this play. Sampson begins a fight between the Montagues and Capulets at the start of the play that could have easily been avoided.
He insults the Montagues by flicking his thumb from behind his upper teeth. Nowadays that wouldn’t have been seen as a n insult but back when that feud was taking place they found it very insulting. He chose to ‘thumb-bite’ as he wished to get into a fight with the Montagues without saying anything abusive. It works and they fight. This shows hoe pointless the feud is and how easily each of the families get wound up with each other. So because of the feud it is considered very bad indeed for Romeo and Juliet to get married, for this reason they are forced to keep their marriage to themselves and not tell any of their relatives. If they were to have found out the feud would have got worse and all hell would have broken loose in Verona. Because of Romeos marriage to Juliet he is now related to Tybalt through marriage. Because of this he is even more reluctant to fight Tybalt in Act 3 Scene 1 than if he wasn’t related to him. He finds it bad and unfaithful to fight a relative even if Tybalt isn’t aware of his relation to him.
Romeo as I mentioned before is a Capulet but unlike the other members of his family he is uninterested in the feud and only cares about his love for Juliet. Romeo is a very emotional and hasty character in the play. He really does love Juliet a lot. I know this because of something that happened in Act 1 Scene 1. Benvolio and Romeos parents are discussing what is wrong with Romeo because lately he had been extremely unhappy about something “…with tears augmenting the fresh morning’s dew, adding to clouds…” It turns out that he is in love with Rosaline. He is deeply in love with her and really upset that she doesn’t feel the same way. “Out of her favour where I am in love” It seems like she is his one and only love of his life but as soon as Juliet comes along Rosaline is out of the question “Now old desire doth in his death-bed lie, and young affection gapes to be his heir…” He must have loved Juliet a lot for him to just forget about Rosaline like that.
Benvolio is the quiet and calm one in the play. He doesn’t like fighting and would much rather the feud to not exist at all. It would make his life a whole lot better if it wasn’t as he feels as though all he ever does is break up the two families – “I do but keep the peace…” But he does fight in the play. While he was trying to keep the peace between Sampson, Gregory and Abraham along came Tybalt. Benvolio says – “I do but keep the peace; put up thy sword, or manage it to part these men with me. In other words Benvolio is saying help me to stop this fighting and let there be peace. But Tybalt being the way he is replies with “What drawn, and talk of peace! I hate the word…” So they fight until the Prince comes to break them up. At this moment we discover that Benvolio is a very truthful man. He tells the prince exactly what happened before his fight with Tybalt “While we were interchanging thrusts and blows…” Here he is admitting that is wasn’t all Tybalts fault and he did fight back. It takes a very courageous person to admit so something like that. We will see more of acts like this later on in the play sp it wasn’t just a one off he really is a truthful and honest man.
We don’t see or hear much of Tybalt before Act 3 Scene 1 but already we are aware that he is a very aggressive person who seems to enjoy fighting. In Act1 Scene 1 Benvolio asks him to help separate some fighting servants. Instead of just saying no to Benvolio he fights him. I can understand that Benvolio is a Montague but still he is no way, shape or form had he provoked Tybalt. Tybalt replied with “What drawn, and talk of peace! I hate the word, As I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee. Have at thee, coward!” As it says here he even accuses Benvolio of being a coward merely for not starting a fight with him. Tybalt is obviously just searching for a reason to fight with Benvolio which shows his love for fighting even more. When Romeo turns up at the Capulets party, wearing a mask, Tybalt instantly guesses that it is he under the mask. “This, by his voice, should be a Montague.” He informs Capulet of this and doesn’t get the response he was hoping for. Capulet tells him to leave him be “Content thee, gentle coz, let him alone” Tybalt is astounded that Capulet would allow a Montague to be in his premises for a minute longer. “It fits, when such a villain is a guest, I’ll not endure him.”
By the end of the conversation Tybalt is still not happy with Romeos presence “I will withdraw; but this intrusion shall, Now seeming sweet, convert to bitt’rest gall.” Here he is saying he’ll leave Romeo be but even thought Romeo looks as though he is not doing anything bad at the moment it with soon change and he will wreak havoc at the party. Romeo may have been reluctant to fight Tybalt in Act 3 Scene 1 but I know for a fact that Tybalt would have reacted totally differently if he had found out his relation to Romeo prior to his fight. He would have been even more determined to kill Romeo as he had married his cousin and made her a Montague (one of his enemies). This shows who the nicer person is out of Romeo and Tybalt as Romeo is able to forgive Tybalt as he is now related but Tybalt wouldn’t have, it would have accelerated his anger to the limit making him even more likely to want to fight Romeo to the death.
Mercutio is a relative of the Prince and a friend to the Capulets. Even though Mercutio is seen as the joker in the play he does have a sensible side to him. “Why that same pale hard – hearted wench, that Rosaline, Torments him so that he will sure run mad.” He feels sorry for Romeo here even though he has no need to as it is not for that reason that Romeo did not go home last night. Mercutio thinks that Romeo is still upset that he can’t get Rosaline to love him back but in fact his love for Rosaline has gone “With Rosaline, my ghostly father? No; I have forgotten that name, and that name’s woe.” This shows that although Mercutio jokes around he can care for people as he is saying that Rosaline is bad for making his friend feel so lonely and sad. This shows that Mercutio is a good person and very altruistic. He sees Tybalt as a joke and in Act 3 Scene 1 mocks his sword fighting style.
Mercutio finds the whole feud a joke and really enjoys fighting like Tybalt. From the start of the play it is obvious that Mercutio is a bit too cocky for his own good and it seems inevitable that something will happen to him to serve him right. Which it does later on in the play. Mercutio loves to wind people up and there is evidence of this in Act 1 Scene when he teases Romeo “Romeo! Humours! Madman! Passion! Lover! Appear though in the likeness of a sigh.” This shows that Mercutio cannot understand Romeos love for Juliet and thinks that his love is just a confusion of emotions. Mercutio is a very independent and free and finds it very hard to understand how somebody could need anybody else in their life to make their own life complete. He wants to live his life where he can do what he wants when he wants and doesn’t want anybody else there dragging him down or holding him back from what he wishes to do.
This is bringing out the selfish side of him. Mercutio plays a vital part in Romeo and Juliet as if it wasn’t for him Romeo would never have attended the party at the Capulets therefore he would never have met Juliet there causing the whole plot of the play to change drastically. He may have never have met Juliet at all if it wasn’t for Mercutio as a lot of the members of the Capulets and Montagues have never met. Why? Because the play is very stereotypical – they have never wanted to or had the chance to meet each other because of their second names. Two characters in the play that don’t lead a stereotypical way of life are Romeo and Juliet. They saw through each others names and fell in love. They realized that the families that they are associated with doesn’t matter it’s what’s inside each individual person in that family that counts. Mercutio made it possible for Romeo and Juliet to see past their names and this is why he is such a main character in the play.
The Prince is in charge of law and order in Verona. It is quickly made clear from the very start of the play that he finds fighting that disturbs Verona very unsuitable and is very strict on it. “If ever you disturb our streets again, Your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace” He seems to say this is such away that it shows that he means it and is not a man to go back on his word. But he does go back on his word which I will explain his reasons for doing this later on.
Fate is evident form the very beginning of the play. The Chorus introduces fate for the first time when it says that Romeo and Juliet are “…star cross’d…” This means that they are destined for bad luck which by the end of the play this in fact does come true. Also it says that “…they are death marked” and that there death will end there parents feud. Fate plays a very important part in the play. It was fate that caused Benvolio and Romeo to bump into Capulet servant that happened to have the guest list for a party that the Capulets were holding. Rosaline (the love of Romeos life at the time) happened to be one of the guests. If Rosaline hadn’t been on the guest list then Romeo would never have gone to the party thus never have met Juliet. This is another example of the fact that Romeo and Juliet were destined to be together. Fate brought them together and ended their lives. It was in the stars.
Violence plays a very big part in the play. As I mentioned earlier the violence is very stupid and could easily be avoided most of the time if it wasn’t for some of the self centred characters in the play that wish to fight and find it all a game.
Friar Lawrence only agreed to marry Romeo and Juliet as he thought it would bring an end to the feud, it didn’t. In fact it did exactly the opposite it causes more fighting. He acted with good intentions but it had tragic consequences.
Act three Scene one opens with Mercutio and Benvolio with their followers entering a public place. Shakespeare shows us that Benvolio is nervous and anxious about meeting the Capulets from the very beginning of the scene, as he says “I pray thee, good Mercutio, let’s retire. The day is hot and the Capulets abroad, And if we meet we shall not scrape a brawl…” This shows that from the very beginning of the scene Shakespeare is introducing tension. Benvolio is fearful of a fight, and his words show that there is an air of violence and threat in Verona. “For now, these hot days, is the mad blood stirring”
After Benvolio has had his view on what he thinks they should do, Mercutio tells him exactly what he thinks of him. Mercutio tells Benvolio that he is as much a trouble maker as anybody else and is very easy to provoke “Why thou wilt quarrel with a man that hath a hair more, or a hair less, in his beard than thou hast” This is showing tension as even people on the same side are starting to quarrel with each other. Mercutio can’t believe how Benvolio can stand there and accuse people of things that he too is guilty of doing. Shakespeare is trying to, and in my opinion succeeding to do so, show that the strain of the whole feud is taking its toll on all of them and are even beginning to argue with each other even though it may be in a playful way. They are still getting rather stressed with each other.
Mercutio is totally different to Benvolio. When Benvolio sees that Tybalt is on his way he is genuinely scared to death “By my head, here comes the Capulets” This increases the tension as it shows the audience that Tybalt is on his way and because of events prior to this he is fuming and wants Romeo dead, but of course Romeo is not there yet so Tybalt is likely to wreak revenge on Benvolio or Mercutio. Mercutio being the opposite of Benvolio doesn’t care that Tybalt is on his way. He find the whole thing a game, I think the reason for Shakespeare doing this is to make the readers want to read on to find out what happens to Mercutio. As Mercutio seems a bit too laid back and cocky about the whole thing. Some readers may think that Mercutio has the chance of being punished for not taking the feud seriously and want to see if he gets his comeuppance. Mercutio is purposely not avoiding a fight so if something bad happened to him, which it does, it’ll serve him right. But he can be a very sympathetic and loving character too so it would be a bit harsh to make him die. The readers or audience would find this very tense as they don’t know whether they would be upset for Mercutio if he died or if they’d think it was his own fault for messing around.
As soon as Tybalt enters the scene it is obvious that there is some tension between Tybalt and Mercutio. Tybalt says “”…good den;a word with one of you” but Mercutio replies in such a way that provokes Tybalt. “And but one word with one of us? Couple it with something make it a word and a blow” Mercutio is trying to wind Tybalt up and is looking for some reaction from him. This is yet another sign of Mercutio certainly not trying to avoid a fight but looking for one.
The tension is increased when the readers become aware that Mercutio has a sword “…Here’s my fiddlestick…” This raises the tension as it means that actual physical harm could come to Tybalt and vice versa if Tybalt has a sword too, which considering the time this is set in, probably has.

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