The play Romeo and Juliet was written by William Shakespeare, the famous play write, actor and poet of his time. It was written in 1596. He found inspiration for the play from a poem written by Arthur Brooke in 1562.
At the time, England was ruled by Elizabeth the first, who admired Shakespeare’s work. This being rare as women did not have a big role in society back then , and were not even allowed to act.
The play Romeo and Juliet is set in Verona, Italy. Most people in England had not had the opportunity to travel abroad. So the setting, costumes and references of heat gave them images of what it would be like in a foreign country. The plays gave the mixed audiences the opportunity of seeing how other social classes dressed, behaved and spoke.
The entire play happens over five days, in which six people die. This would have made the audience feel shocked and horrified. The play follows Shakespeare’s usual structure of five acts, the drama usually being in the middle of the play, As it is here in act three scene one. This part of the play is where the high point and tragic events take place.
Shakespeare wrote the play as a tragedy; this is so because of the many deaths and large number of things that fail to go right. There are many themes that run throughout the play. These being , passion , violence , despair and forgiveness. But the main two running throughout are love and death.
Shakespeare wrote this play in order to entertain Elizabethan audiences. The early part gave them the impression of a happily ever after ending to the play. But act three scene one soon changed that, with it becoming emotional and dramatic. This would have made the audience worry and hope for something good to happen. Shakespeare introduces the upset on a crucial story line. The Capulet and Montague families have hated each other for generations and passed it on to their descendants. Juliet is a Capulet girl, and Romeo a Montague boy, so this would make the audience see it as a doomed romance. Shakespeare reveals the plot in the prologue and then builds on the events to develop drama and tension.
Shakespeare’s plays were preformed in outdoor theatres , were people had to stand in thick mud and rain , but despite this the plays still went on for enjoyment purposes. This mean that in order to keep the audiences attention for the duration of the play, he would have to create and atmosphere using interesting words to create tension. He also added a drama to the voice and movement to capture the audience. This made people gain a feeling of being included in the play, and feel for the characters drawing them in.
During act three scene one, events happen that change the direction of the story line. In the previous scene Romeo and Juliet meet at the Capulet house and immediately falling in love and vowing to marry each other. Romeo took the news to Friar Lawrence who approver, as he thinks it will end the feud between the two families. He agrees to marry them. This scene also makes the audience feel that everything will go smoothly and settle down between the Capulet’s and Montague’s. This would have been a quiet pleasant scene in contrast to act three, scene one.
However, compared to the last scene Act three scene one is upsetting and shows tragedy. This is shown through the language which gets darker during this scene. Even at the beginning of act three scene one , we can still see comedy as Mercutio and Benvolio open the scene. Mercutio says ‘ come, come thou art as hot a jack in thy mood as any in Italy, and as soon as moved to be moody, and as soon as moody to be moved’. Puns are used and Shakespeare is playing with words. The audience found this entertaining therefore were not prepared for the dramatic effects that turned the play.
The most important part of this scene is the feud between Romeo and Tybalt. It’s effective because of the tension that arises. This is caused by Mercutio at first being hot headed and then teasing which leads to provoking and insults and then invites Tybalt to fight , ‘ And but one word with one of us ? Couple it with something; make it two words and a blow’. This line starts the aggression in the scene, which makes the audience feel on edge as in the previous scene the Prince had forbidden fighting in the streets and the punishment could lead to death.
Benvolio, the peacemaker, warns them that they could get into trouble if they are seen or heard, ‘ Either withdraw into some private place and reason coldly of your grievances, or else depart’. Romeo enters the scene and tries to make peace with Tybalt and refuses to fight him. He does not realise Romeo did not receive his letter and calls him a coward and that he has let down his family honour. Tension begins to arise as the audience are aware that Romeos references to the fact that he and Tybalt are related by marriage are true, but Tybalt remains in the dark. The blank verse continues with strong rhythm and carries authority. Tybalt draws his sword which is the first sign of aggression from him after Mercutio insulted him. This would have entertained the audience as he plays with words and shows the contrast between how the different characters speak. Romeo tries to stop the fight between Mercutio and Tybalt, which results in Mercutio being stabbed. Even though this is a very solemn scene , Mercutio still brings up humour by saying, ‘It’s just a scratch’ which relates back to him insulting Tybalt calling him the King of Cats. So even though he is hurt, the audience would believe that he wasn’t seriously wounded. The play pivots on the line, ‘Oh Romeo, Mercutio is dead’.
It signals a turning point from comedy to tragedy, because Mercutio is the jester of the play, when he dies, the jokes do also. Characters also change at this point , Romeo the romantic becomes Romeo the violent as is shown when he takes his revenge on Tybalt and kills him. This proves to the Audience that tragedy will follow. They take into consideration the Princes warning, ‘ Your lives shall pay the forfeit of peace’. As Mercutio was kinsman to the prince, Romeo is only banished and not killed as it is fair to both of the families. Before Mercutios death he curses both the Capulet’s and Montague’s houses, ‘ A plague on both your houses’. An Elizabethan audience believed in curses , they believed that they had potency, particularly the curse of a dying man. Romeos emotions are an effective way to capture the audience, as he raises sympathy for being banished from Verona and is not able to see Juliet.
The speech used also shows that the play is now a tragedy after Mercutios and Tybalts deaths. After Romeo kills Tybalt he has realised what he has done, ‘Oh im fortunes fool’. He blames fate. Juliet is also very confused when she finds out what Romeo has done, and also scared as she does not want to marry Paris. She also thinks fate is against them,’ Me thinks I see thee now art so low as one dead in the tomb’.’ where bloody Tybalt lies festering in his shroud’. These quotes show how determined and scared she is. The Audience would now know that the play has completely turned and that there wont be a happy ending. The play is an oxymoron because of Shakespeare playing love and hate against each other, which would have caused confusion for the audience. the fact that the play is an oxymoron can be seen as Romeo loves Tybalt at the start of the scene and kills him by the end. And Mercutio fights hate for the love he has for Romeo. All this shows that Act three Scene one is an important turning point because this is where it changes from comedy to tragedy. It is important because characters change. Shakespeare also changes the language to show the differences in comedy and tragedy.
The language of Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet is also very important. Most of the play is written in prose, which is used for normal speech and exchanges. Rhyming couplets were used to either signal the end of a scene or the departure of a character which is shown by Benvolio at the end of Act three scene one, ‘and as he fell , did Romeo turn and fly. This is the truth or let Benvolio die’. When Benvolio speaks it is all in rhythmic verse. His speech is used to bring stability and peace to the overheated emotions-and to change the atmosphere for the audience. The end of the speech signals Benvolios departure because rhyming couplets are used and he has served his purpose in the play.
The audience would have witnessed many emotions throughout this scene such as- humour, violence, love and death. The peak of emotions would have been at Mercutios death, Tybalts death and Romeo’s banishment. Mercutios death would have been an effective way to change the mood as only moments earlier, he is joking around, and the next he is a dying man. Tybalts death would have come as a shock , as the audience would not expect Romeo to be capable of such a thing. When Lady Capulet enters the scene, tension would have grown more as she would be known as an uncaring, unsympathetic and hard vengeful woman. After Lady Capulet’s outburst, Benvolio and the Prince try to calm the situation, making the audience feel another wide range of emotions and moods. The Prince responds to the situation by being just to both the Capulet and Montague’s. The scene ends on a very solemn note, so Shakespeare makes sure to use his techniques to open the scene on a lighter happier note.
Act three scene one is an important and effective turning point of the play Romeo and Juliet. This is due to the tragic events that take place. In this scene, events happen that change the storyline; these are: Mercutios death, Tybalts death and Romeos banishment. To create drama and tension for this scene, it is very obvious to me that Shakespeare was a brilliant play write. Nowadays, play writes and directors use high technology to create all their effects. This proves to me even more how talented Shakespeare was to create such amazing entertainment for the Elizabethan audience through his choice of words.