Act 3 Scene 1 is seen to be a pivotal scene with regards to the rest of the play. Prior to this scene everything seems to be indicating towards peace and harmony between the two powerful feuding families of the city of Verona, the Montague’s and the Capulet’s. Although hatred is abundant between the two families there is one significant similarity between them, they both have single children, Romeo (of the Montague family) and Juliet (of the Capulet family).
Romeo and Juliet, both unfazed by the hatred between their families, get deeply entangled in love, which leads to the young couple secretly getting married. At first it seems that this marriage could unify both the families. However from the beginning of Act 3 Scene 1 things take a twist, for the worse.
From the very first dialogue Shakespeare strongly indicates that a brawl shall take place. This is done by singular words that are constantly repeated like the word quarrel. Mercutio uses this word no more then seven times in one monologue. Benvolio prophesises that an encounter with the Capulets would ‘not scape as brawl,’
With the entrance of Tybalt this prophecy begins.
Mercutio, who is in an argumentative mood, begins an onslaught on Tybalt challenging him to fight. Tybalt, however, is pursuing of Romeo due to an earlier event. Romeo, unknown to himself, caused Tybalt great embarrassment and anger in front of his own family; this resulted in Tybalt seeking revenge.
Momentously Romeo enters in a jovial mood, after just recently marrying Juliet. Tybalt now pounces on his opportunity and challenges Romeo to draw and fight. Romeo has no intention of fighting with his newly found cousin and refuses to draw. This enrages Mercutio who feels Romeo is being ‘dishonourable’ and he draws Tybalt. Tybalt then accepts Mercutio’s challenge and the two enjoin in a fight.
Romeo interferes with his intention purely to stop the brawl, unfortunately his action results in Mercutio being hit under Romeo’s arm. This small and good intentioned action by Romeo leads to Mercutio’s death. Just before his death Mercutio questions Romeo over his action, causing Romeo to feel guilty. Mercutio also curse both families for initiating his death. Romeo then in self guilt seeks vengeance for the death of Mercutio.
Tybalt re enters and gives Romeo the opportunity to seek his vengeance. Romeo now with newly filled hatred for Tybalt kills him, by this time many citizens have woken up. Romeo realises that he acted hastily and describes himself as ‘fortune’s fool.’
The Prince enters due to an earlier promise he had made, that anyone caught fighting between the two families ‘shall pay with their lives.’ Benvolio narrate to the Prince his view point of what happened, he blames Tybalt for causing the disturbance and speaks well of Romeo. However Lady Capulet is determined to seek compensation for the life of Tybalt and states that Benvolio’s narrative cannot be taken as the truth because ‘affection makes him false.’ The Prince, angry and weary with having to deal with clashes between the two families, banished Romeo and sentenced him to immediate death when found.
In Act 3 Scene one there are four main characters Benvolio, Mercutio, Tybalt and Romeo. The two main aggressors are Mercutio and Tybalt. These two are primarily to blame for the tragedies that occur in this scene.
Mercutio is in a very argumentative mood right from the beginning. He talks to Benvolio about how Benvolio is a very argumentative person. Mercutio mocks Benvolio by saying that Benvolio would quarrel over small things like ‘eyes’, ‘clothes’, ‘beards’ and ‘nuts’. These statements can be seen to be ironic as Mercutio seems to be describing himself. Mercutio continues to mock Benvolio and with the entrance of Tybalt he begins to mock him instead. Mercutio now though takes a more aggressive approach. He challenges Tybalt to a ‘blow’ immediately when Tybalt enters, however this doesn’t intimidate Tybalt, but he replies ‘you shall find me apt enough.’
However, when Romeo protests against fighting against Tybalt, Mercutio takes it as an insult to the family name and at once draws against Tybalt. Tybalt, true to his words, also draws and both aggressors indulge in a sword fight. Mercutio is then hit under Romeo’s arm. Mercutio then for the first time in the scene loses his humorous act and becomes serious. He informs his companions that he has been killed but, unaware of his pain, they think he is fooling around. Mercutio questions Romeo why he came in between both him and Tybalt, Mercutio could be implying that Romeo is to blame for his death. However he also says ‘A plague on both your houses! They have made worms’ meat of me.’ This shows that Mercutio feels that the families are both responsible for his death. His last words echo who he feels are to blame he quotes ‘Your Houses!’ This shows although at one stage Mercutio was prepared to give his life to honour his family name, now that he has done exactly that the family name is not as significant to him as it once was.
Although Romeo is not one of the main aggressors I believe that his naivety brings about his downfall. At the beginning of the scene Romeo is jovial after his secret marriage to Juliet; he is not insulted by Tybalt’s severe insults. Romeo then tries to prevent any injuries by acting as the peacemaker between Mercutio and Tybalt. However his good intentions lead to the death of Mercutio. After Mercutio questions Romeo, Romeo feels self guilt. This self guilt is turned into anger for Tybalt, who killed Mercutio. Romeo then, mentally unstable after losing a friend, quotes ‘This day’s black fate on moe days doth depend, this but begins the woe others must end.’ This shows that Romeo feels that because of Mercutio’s death other people will be affected, more significantly others will also die or ‘end.’ Romeo is already thinking about revenge. Straight after Romeo delivers this couplet Tybalt re-enters, this makes the audience think that the above quote is relating to Tybalt. This proves to be the case as Romeo in ‘fire-eyed fury’ decides that either Tybalt or he himself shall join Mercutio. After a quick fight Romeo emerges as the victor and Tybalt emerges dead. However Romeo’s victory is short lived as the citizens of Verona awaken to the dreadful scene. Romeo is forced to flee. His last line before fleeing ‘O, I am fortunes fool,’ show that Romeo regrets what he has done and accepts that he acted hastily, this is evidence of his naivety.
Benvolio is the only character in this scene that doesn’t actually physically be involved in a conflict. All the way through the scene Benvolio is the worrier. At the beginning he worries about a conflict between the Capulets and Montague’s. Later on in the scene Benvolio is wary of people gazing at them and tells Mercutio to ‘withdraw unto some private place.’ However Benvolio could be said to be feeble,
because he never takes action. Even at this time Mercutio overrules him by saying that he shall not be moved for any mans pleasure. This shows that also Benvolio is a man of good thoughts he is too much of a weakling to actually do anything about what he believes to be true. If Benvolio had been more assertive he would most probably have saved the lives of the other three characters from getting destroyed. To me this was the only flaw visible in Benvolio’s character as he was a loyal and level headed person.
One method in which Shakespeare uses language effectively in this scene is the way he uses words to give imageries of various things. The first dialogue use words like ‘hot’, ‘mad blood stirring’ to give imagery of heat and fighting. This brings the play alive and especially in text form draws the attention of the audience.
Shakespeare also uses repetition to give some information to the audience. An example of this is how Mercutio repeats the word ‘quarrel’ over half a dozen times to show that Mercutio is in a quarrelsome mood. This technique is effective as tells the audience something without the characters having to specifically say it.
Also another technique Shakespeare uses well is double meaning. The quote ‘mad blood stirring’ could represent two different ideas, one of the weather being extremely hot and the other of people’s tempers being high. This is good because it makes the audience actively think that are some arguments going to happen, a fight even? This thinking draws the audience’s attention and makes them want to continue to find out if their predicaments are true or not. Shakespeare uses this technique a lot for example he uses it on another instance where Mercutio states that if you ask for him tomorrow you shall find him a ‘grave man.’ The word grave could be referring to Mercutio being serious and at the same time it could also refer to the grave a dead person is buried in. This is a very clever technique of making the audience think.
The social and historic importance involving the action and the repercussions of the characters is immense. The whole scene is based around revenge. Shakespeare seems to be using the well known question, if we were all to take an eye for an eye no-one would be left. This is the case in this scene. At first Tybalt seeks to take revenge on Romeo, in failing to do so he kills Mercutio instead. Then Romeo seeks revenge on Tybalt and Tybalt is slain. Furthermore Lady Capulet aims to obtain revenge on Romeo for killing Tybalt. In each of the instances above someone either gets killed or their lives are destroyed. Shakespeare could be trying to indicate that revenge can be a dreadful thing.
Another thing of historical/social importance is the structure of the families, how there are servants and how there are two extremely powerful families. This was common in Shakespearian times, unlike now where the social barrier is more open. These days there aren’t just the rich and the poor. Also the way royalty is viewed nowadays is different from the Shakespearian era. The Prince in Romeo and Juliet is held in high esteem and he has power and control over conflicts. The Prince also has authority over the rich. In the modern era however the Royal family is viewed with less importance as time passes. The Royal family are also no longer law enforcers. This shows how social barriers have been weakened and how people have began to view royalty as being less special then it used to be. This indicates the development of the way people have been thinking over the years.
The events in this scene drastically impact the rest of the play. This scene leads to the exclusion of two main characters, this in itself significant. Moreover the scene concludes with Romeo being banished. Romeo has to now live in exile, knowing that both the deaths of Tybalt as well as Mercutio were directly linked to him. The corollaries of this scene have a major impact on the newly wed young couple. Both Romeo and Juliet, who madly fell in love with each other, have now to be separated. Also there is the factor of how Juliet would feel knowing Romeo killed her cousin; this would test her faith and love in Romeo. The Montague family would mourn the death of Mercutio whereas the Capulets would mourn the death of Tybalt.
I believe this scene would also result in a ceasefire, no more clashes between the two families. The families may realise, as Mercutio did, that a life is worth more than a family name.
To conclude I believe this scene is pivotal because it not only destroys three lives but it also destroys two households. This scene gets rid of the two main aggressors from both families, which may result in fewer brawls between the two families. I believe this scene is where everything occurs. The families begin to realise that there are consequences for their actins. Also this scene is pivotal in the fact that before it everything was satisfactory, but after this scene things spiral out of control. This scene starts the domino effect. This scene also talks about moral rights and wrongs is the saying an eye for an eye right or wrong, Shakespeare shows is one outcome of what can happen. This is important because at Shakespearian time people did actually believe in the saying an eye for an eye.