Romeo and Juliet is an early tragedy by William Shakespeare about two teenage star-crossed lovers whose untimely deaths ultimately unite their feuding households. The play opens with a party where everyone is happy and ends with sadness and disaster due to the unfortunate events that happen throughout the play.
The violence in the play happens because of a feud and enmity between two families called the Capulets and the Montagues. This has been on going for generations and it leads to the tragic deaths of Romeo and Juliet. In this essay I will start by looking at some earlier scenes and then look in-depth at Act 3 Scene1 of the play, which is an important scene because it is a violent scene and it is the turning point of the play where everything starts to go wrong for the lovers.
Act 2, 6, takes place In Friar Lawrence’s cell some peace, tranquillity, happiness and Romeo and Juliet’s eagerness to get married is shown. However, it includes many warnings and inauspicious signs of the tragedy to come. During this peaceful scene Friar Lawrence says, “So smile the heavens upon this holy act, that after hours with sorrow chide us not”. This shows us that Friar Lawrence is wishing that the heavens and God are happy for this marriage and that after nothing comes in the way to destruct the happiness of the lovers. This is important because it makes the audience support what Friar Lawrence is saying and hope that Romeo and Juliet stay happy. This is in doubt due to what’s told at the start of the play where it’s said that Romeo and Juliet are going to die. Friar Lawrence also says, “These violent delights have violent ends”. This time the Friar is saying that happy moments can have bad ends. This is important because it links with the start of the play when the audience are told that Romeo and Juliet are going to die. This scene is overall a peaceful scene and contrasts with Act 3, 1 which is an important scene.
The beginning of Act 3, 1, is a hot day in a public place. We are told this when Benvolio says to Mercutio, “The day is hot”. This is effective because it creates pathetic fallacy which links the weather with the mood. The audience are told that the weather is hot; this signifies to the audience that tragedy will follow. When Benvolio says to Mercutio, “The Capulet’s abroad, and if we meet, we shall not ‘scape a brawl; for now these hot days is the mad blood stirring”. this means that the Capulets are out and about and that if they meet somewhere then nothing will stop the blood dripping. This shows the audience that Benvolio is a peacemaker and likes to keep himself and everyone else out of trouble.
Mercutio refuses to listen to Benvolio and is in an argumentative mood, we know this from the fact that Mercutio accuses Benvolio of being moody when he himself is. “Come, come. Thou art as hot a jack in thy mood as any in Italy”. Furthermore, Shakespeare used dramatic devices to make the opening of the scene more interesting and engage the audience in to the play and the use of language from Shakespeare at the start of this scene relates with the start of the play where the prince warns that if anyone is violent then they shall die. The audience will now remember his ominous warning.
At the start of the play the prologue informs the audience the outcome of the play and therefore they are aware of the impending tragedy. The audience are told that the lovers are, “A pair of star-crossed lovers”. This means that the stars have already crossed their love and informs the audience that they are going to die. The audience are also told that their love is a “Death-marked love” This means that their love is going to exist but it is going to die. These speeches link with the idea of fate which determines the lives of people and is inevitable and unavoidable. Shakespeare uses this prologue, where the outcome is already told to enable the Elizabethan audience who are strong believers in fate to see in the end whether fate is true and does actually decide the events of your life or whether fate is something that can be changed or prevented from happening. The strong love that Shakespeare builds up between Romeo and Juliet gives audience a little satisfaction that the power of the two lovers might change the fate. The idea of fate and its inevitability is another dramatic device that keeps the audience interested into the play.
Just after Benvolio and Mercutio’s short talk, Tybalt and other Capulets arrive.into the scene. Benvolio informs Mercutio about them but he doesn’t care. Mercutio says, “By my heel, I care not”. This shows us that Mercutio doesn’t care about the fight and is looking forward to it. When Tybalt asks if he could have a word but Mercutio replies, “And but one word with on of us? Couple it with something; make it a word and a blow” This shows that Mercutio is eager to pick a fight rather then solve it with words. It shows that he is fiery and short tempered. Further on into the scene Mercutio says, “I will not budge for no man’s pleasure”. This shows that Mercutio is so angry now that nothing can stop him from fighting. During this scene Shakespeare removed Mercutio and the reason for that is that he wanted to make the play become more serious and progress.
As the scene progresses, Mercutio jokes around and this was loved by the Elizabethan audience. Mercutio says to Tybalt,”u rat-catcher. Good king of cats”. This makes the audience laugh and shows that Mercutio has a good sense of humour and is not just short tempered. Further on, when Mercutio gets stabbed he still jokes and says, “Ay, ay, a scratch, a scratch”. This also makes the audience laugh and it links in with the previous observations that Mercutio said about Tybalt, e.g. u rat catcher and good king of cats. From Mercutio’s language the audience know that Mercutio is a moody character and an entertaining character too. When Mercutio is stabbed he curses Romeo and Juliet’s families, he says “A plague o’ both your houses”. This curse really hits the audience because the Elizabethan audiences believed in curses. The effect of Mercutio being humorous and the curse he gives is that the audience don’t want him to leave the play because they start to like his character. But Shakespeare had to end Mercutio because he wanted to change the flow of the story and create a turning point that would lead to the unstoppable and inevitable tragedy.
During the scene when tension builds up between Mercutio, Romeo and Tybalt.We find out that Tybalt is a very short-tempered and fiery character that loves to fight. Tybalt instigates Romeo into fighting when he says to Romeo “Thou art a villain”. This means that he is a low class man and a very bad person. This really insults Romeo who is an honourable character. Due to this insult the argument gets drastic. The reason why Tybalt is arguing with Romeo and Mercutio is because they gate crashed the party and so he desires revenge. Tybalt says, “Boy, this shall not excuse the injuries that thou hast done me; therefore turn and draw”. This shows that Tybalt is very stubborn and that there is no way that he will back off and again this links with the idea that he is short-tempered and fiery. On the other hand Benvolio is a very calm character.
He is a peace maker. Benvolio says, “We talk here in the public haunt of men; either withdraw into some private place or reason coldly with your grievances, or else depart; here all eyes gaze on us”. Here Benvolio wants Mercutio and Tybalt to talk in a private place. This abbreviates that he is a peace maker and wants the argument to stop. Benvolio’s name means goodwill, so Shakespeare introduces Benvolio as a good character so that it signifies that there is a clear link with the name of the person to the personality of a person. Similarly, Tybalt’s name means king of cats and it clearly links to his character because he acts like a cat that wants to scratch and just keep fighting and not back off. Tybalt and Benvolio are different to each other because Tybalt is fiery and is keen to fight where as Benvolio is peaceful. After this point Benvolio no longer appears in the play
The play often uses oxymoron because two opposite words have been used to show confusion when Romeo says, “O brawling love! Loving hate”. This means that Romeo is confused by the event of violence. This contrasts between love and hate. Further on, Juliet says, “My only love sprung from my only hate”.
This quote shows that Juliet is confused because the only person she could love was from the family which her parents hate. Alternatively, Romeo loves Tybalt at the start of the scene and kills him at the end, Mercutio loves Romeo but curses him at the end, Mercutio fights hate because of the love he has for Romeo.
In Act 3, 1. Romeo is a very unique character because at the start of the scene he is very kind and calm character but later on in the scene he changes to a very angry character. When Romeo arrives, Tybalt insults Romeo by calling him a villain. Romeo responds to this by saying to Tybalt that the love he has for him exceeds this on-going rage and this is because he is now related to Tybalt through Juliet. He also says,” I do protest, I never injured thee, but love thee better than thou canst devise”. This means that Romeo loves Tybalt more than you can imagine. This shows us that Romeo is a loving and caring character. The audience are aware of his reasons, yet the other characters are not. This is an example of dramatic irony. However, near the end of the end of the scene when Mercutio is killed he suddenly changes, he gets angry and becomes a revenge hero.
This revenge hero was popular in the 1590’s and the inclusion of this made the scene very dramatic. We see Romeo’s changed character when after seeing Mercutio dead, he says to Tybalt,”Alive in triumph! And Mercutio slain away to heaven, respective lenity. And fire-eyed fury be my conduct now! Now, Tybalt take the ‘villain’ back again that late thou gavest me; for Mercutio’s soul is but a little way above our heads, staying for thine to keep him company: either thou, or I, or both, must go with him”. Romeo means that Mercutio is now gone to heaven and now let me be the fiery one, and that take the word villain back when you called it me before and that now Mercutio is above our heads, we should fight so that either me, you or both should go with him. This shows Romeo’s anger and contrasts with his earlier mood when he was very kind, polite and a mild character. Romeo’s sudden change of character was vital for Shakespeare to adapt a twist to the story so that the tragedy could come.
In Act 3, 1, some characters have a different way of speaking like Benvolio and Mercutio. Benvolio speaks in verse we notice this when he speaks short sentences like “Am I like such a fellow. And what to”. This signifies dignity and calm and is a formal form of speaking. The prince also speaks in a verse and it indicates the audience his social status in the play. Whereas, Mercutio speaks in a prose and in long sentences like “Thou art one of them fellows that when he enters the confines of a tavern claps me his sword upon the table, and says ‘god send me no need of thee!’ and by the operation of the second cup draws it on the drawer, when indeed there is no need”. The prose is a less formal form of speaking and this dramatic device is another technique of Shakespeare in indicating the tragedy to come.
Act 3, 1, is one of the most influential scenes in the play because this is when Romeo is banished and driven from Verona and Juliet. As a result, this scene acts as a major turning point in the play. After this, the tragedy is inevitable and unavoidable. The audience’s eagerness to know what the consequence would be for Romeo for the murder of Tybalt is over when Prince Escalus says, “And for that offence immediately we do exile him hence. Let Romeo hence in haste, else, when he’s found, that hour is his last”. Romeo has been banished with immediate effect if found, then it will be his last hour of his life. When the audience hear the Prince’s sentence they are shattered to hear it but also expected it. The Prince speaks in verse like, Benvolio did at the start of the scene. This use of language represents the Prince’s dignity, honesty and calm. This is effective for the audience because they know that the prince is going to give a fair and honest sentence.
On the other hand, Benvolio changes his style of language when he gives account of Tybalt’s death. The change of language style, compared to before, hints to the audience that Benvolio might not be giving an honest account to the Prince and this makes the audience react because they suspect that his exaggerations and denials are not true.