Look at the way Shakespeare presents conflict in a scene from Romeo and Juliet. Imagine you are directing this scene. What advice would you give the actors?
This essay is about the presentation of conflict in scene one of act three in Romeo and Juliet. By the end of this piece of work I intend to be able to direct the scene. I will therefore have to include descriptions of dramatic devices and language. I will discuss character motivation, along with social and historical context.
This scene is about the conflict between Tybalt and Mercutio and later the fight between Romeo and Tybalt. The scene is dominated by the deaths of Mercutio and Tybalt. The scene starts calm, heating quickly to boiling point, and then returns to a melancholy anti-climax as Benvolio tells of his Montague cousin’s crime against the Capulets, and the Capulet Tybalt’s crime against Prince Escalus’ cousin.
This scene is greatly influenced by the actions of the characters in earlier scenes, which also reflects character motivation. Tybalt wants revenge for the Montague invasion of his uncle’s party, reflecting his antagonist character, and his fierce hatred for all Montagues. Romeo refuses to fight with Tybalt to start with, as he is married to Juliet- Tybalt’s cousin- but after Mercutio, Romeo’s close friend is killed by Tybalt; he acts quickly and in hot blood, killing Tybalt in a fit of grievous passion.
The language that Mercutio and Benvolio use at the start of the scene is filled with similes and comparisons. The two men joke with each other, using examples to show how one is more willing to argue than the other. “Thou wilt quarrel with a man for cracking nuts, for no other reason than thou hast hazel eyes” This quote states obviously that the person in question has an antagonist character. Benvolio says how “the mad blood is stirring” meaning that the feud has made everyone go mad and seek fights where there need be none, and ominously predicts Mercutio’s death by saying that he could buy legal ownership of his life, but only for an hour and a half. Later as the feelings turn to anger, Mercutio stirs things up and deliberately picks a fight with Tybalt. Benvolio asks the men calmly to either depart, go into a private place to show their anger, or to calmly talk out their problems, because he knows that their Prince will execute them if they start a brawl again. This language is unusually calm in a scene filled with anger, pride and hatred.
The social context of the scene is the fact that the two families are feuding, along with the disapproval of their Prince and society as a whole. It would be very difficult to change this without changing the plot of the scene or the major details of the entire play. For example, if you were to change the disapproval of Prince Escalus then he would not have exiled Romeo from Verona, Juliet would run away with him; not take the potion making her seem dead and their premature deaths along with Paris’ could have been averted.
The historical context of the scene is it’s original setting in Verona during the renaissance period. This was a period of artistic revolution, and ideas about the surrounding world were changing. It was a time when the gap between the extravagant rich upper class and the poverty stricken poor was huge. Shakespeare will have seen both classes, performing for the Queen at court and playing at the theatres in London, and these must have influenced him greatly. It is infinitely possible that Shakespeare assumed that Verona was largely like London and so emphasised this difference as he saw it in London. The context that the scene could be played in (NOT WRITTEN IN) means that the language used and the actions made by the actors would have to be changed.
Having said that changing the historical context would mean changing several elements- costume, scenery, and in some cases language- it would not be difficult to change the setting whilst retaining the original language used. It is tempting to change everything in the scene including the language. If I was directing the scene for a modern audience I would be sorely tried to do so; however I feel that some of the poetic beauty of the scene would be lost if it was translated from Shakespearean to Modern English. For this reason I would make the costumes and settings twentieth century versions, and would set the play in gangland Chicago. I would not however cut anything from the scene, or otherwise change the vocal parts of any of the characters.