Act 3, scene 1 is a very memorable scene for the audience as they are presented with two, very dramatic fight scenes which result in Romeo’s banishment from Verona. As a consequence of this Romeo thinks he will never see his wife, Juliet, again. Shakespeare cleverly changes the theme of the scene to ‘hate’ after Mercutio is murdered. What seems to be a playful fight between him and Tybalt ends in his own death. In an act of revenge Romeo then kills Tybalt in the second fight scene. The fight scenes give the audience a chilling reminder that the play is in fact a tragedy and that the unfortunate fate of Romeo and Juliet has already been decided.Order now
Act 3, scene 1 is one of the most important scenes in the play as well as being one of the most memorable. Throughout the play Shakespeare alternates the theme between ‘love’ and ‘hate.’ In Act 2 ‘love’ is clearly presented to the audience as the main theme and this is further emphasised when the scene is concluded with the secret marriage of Romeo and Juliet. The theme of ‘love’ continues through the start of Act 3, scene 1 when Mercutio and Benvolio are joking around with each other.
The theme dramatically changes however, after the murder of two of the play’s main characters ( Mercutio and Tybalt). Later on in the scene the audience are reminded of the play’s tragic ending when the arguing families reignite the ‘ancient feud’ between the Montagues and Capulets. This gets the audience to think of the Prologue The scene ends on a dramatic note with the banishment of Romeo from Verona. This is important to the play as a whole because it is due to Romeo’s banishment, that he is misinformed on the death of his beloved Juliet which leads to the play’s tragic ending.
Romeo’s act of revenge on Tybalt confirms the audience’s previous knowledge that Romeo is a reckless and impulsive character who doesn’t think about his actions. We saw this behaviour earlier in the play when he instantly fell in love with Juliet and decided to marry her almost immediately. Only after Romeo has killed Tybalt does he think about his earlier actions and the likely consequences. After the Prince’s previous warning he is now subject to the death penalty. He describes himself as ‘fortune’s fool’ which reminds the audience of the status of Romeo and Juliet, as ‘star-crossed lovers’ and prepares them for the tragic ending of the play.
In Act 3, scene 1 Shakespeare cleverly uses the technique of dramatic irony. Romeo is the only character in this scene (other than the audience) who knows Romeo has married Juliet in secret. This creates dramatic irony and explains his strange actions and unwillingness to fight Tybalt. In this scene Shakespeare also uses juxtaposition. After the theme of ‘love’ was strongly emphasised in the last scene the theme of ‘hate’ is now used in this scene as a contrast. This strong contrast creates a very captivating scene for the audience.
Even in Act 3, scene 1 Shakespeare uses a contrast between humour and drama. The scene starts off with Benvolio warning Mercutio about his temper and says:
“I pray thee, good Mercutio, let’s retire:
The day is hot, the Capulets abroad,
And, if we meet, we shall not scape a brawl;
For now, these hot days, is the mad blood stirring.”
This reminds us of the Prince’s earlier warning in Act 1 Scene 1 but it is also ironic because of what happens later on in the scene. Because Mercutio chooses to ignore Benvolio’s advice he ends up getting killed.
Mercutio manages to keep on joking up until his death. He says:
“ask for me to-morrow, and you shall find me a grave man”
He puns on the word “grave” meaning either ‘dead’ or ‘serious.’ The reality is, though that he is dead and he continues on to say:
“I am peppered, I warrant, for this world. A plague o’both your houses!”
This changes the atmosphere of the scene completely. Mercutio’s last remarks shown his dislike about the feud between the two houses. In his last moments he repeats this angry curse and it is clear he blames the ancient grudge between the two houses for his death. This curse changes the play as a whole; for the audience, and the characters alike. It causes Romeo to feel the guilt of the death of his best friend. Mercutio thinks Romeo is to blame and emphasises the point:
‘Why the devil came you between us? I was hurt under your arm.”
The fact that Mercutio blames Romeo for his death reinforces his ‘curse’, but it also brings on some of Romeo’s impulsive behaviour. He immediately goes off looking for Tybalt to avenge Mercutio’s death rather than thinking about his actions.
The two fight scenes in Act 3, scene 1 make this scene the most breathtaking visual spectacle in the play. There are two fights in this scene ; the first between Mercutio and Tybalt and the second between Romeo and Tybalt. In Shakespeare’s play it simply says “they fight” while in Zeffirelli’s 1960s film the two fights are portrayed rather differently. While in the fight between Mercutio and Tybalt the two characters are almost having a ‘play’ fight’ (which ends in Mercutio accidentally getting killed), the fight between Romeo and Tybalt is shown as a more intense fight that clearly shows the two characters bitterly hate each other. Zeffirelli’s version emphasises the violence of the scene and in particular the hostile assaults/murders, this makes the scene as a whole even more dramatic.
Once the Prince arrives at the scene the characters start using rhyming couplets in their speech. This emphasises their protests to the Prince and the hatred of the other family. It also shows that the characters are upper class and prepares the audience for the Prince’s decision.