“Romeo and Juliet” is one of the most famous plays written by Shakespeare, it is famous for its intense romance. It was written in the 17th century and by reading the play it is quite obvious that people at that time had very different views on life than the present time. At the time of Shakespeare, religion was an extremely serious matter, things such as honour and the importance of family were extremely valued and any that went against or ridiculed these beliefs were considered criminals. For these reasons Shakespeare decided he would set the entire play in Italy to avoid confrontation from the people. The main scene of the play will be analysed, Act 3 Scene 1, in this scene the mood of the play changes from happiness to sadness and changes the whole play, making it a key scene in “Romeo and Juliet”. The techniques used by Shakespeare, such as pathetic fallacy, to create tension in this dramatic part of the play will also be analysed.
Before this scene there is already a certain degree of tension throughout the play; the most obvious one is before the beginning, the prologue, which tells the audience that this story will end in tragedy, thus ultimately death. In Act 1 Scene 1 there is a fight between the two houses Capulet and Montague, in this scene there is a lot of tension and hatred “What, drawn and talk peace? I hate the word, as I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee. Have at thee coward.” In this scene it also shows how easily the two houses can start a brawl with no concern for the civilian lives. The brawl is interrupted by the Prince, who states that if there is anymore fighting between the houses the house responsible will suffer the death penalty; the tension created at this point is recalled throughout all of the play. The play develops and becomes quite confusing for the audience, Romeo states he is out of love and then later on within seconds falls in love with Juliet at the Capulet’s party, there is also an abundant amount of tension when Romeo and his friends go to their most hated house’s party without an invitation. After Romeo falls in love, Romeo discovers that Juliet is a Capulet; even so he decides to risk his life just to see Juliet later on in Act 2 Scene 2.
The events described in the previous paragraph create a lot of tension early on in the play. At the beginning of Act 3 Scene 1 the fear of Benvolio encountering the Capulets in public is apparent “I pray thee good Mercutio lets retire, the day is hot, the Capulets are abroad. And if we meet we shall not ‘scape a brawl, for now these hot days, is the mad blood stirring” this is a perfect example of a pathetic fallacy, this is a technique used by Shakespeare to give inanimate objects, such as the weather, human emotions, this helps the audience understand better the mood of the scene. In this case Shakespeare uses the weather to represent Benvolio’s fear. Benvolio uses the weather to try and convince Mercutio to retire because he knows that is they have an encounter with the Capulets a fight will surely follow. From the use of this technique the audience is given an insight of the fear and tension the characters are feeling at that particular moment. Despite these warnings Mercutio refuses to leave because he is not scared of an encounter with the Capulets. Mercutio then criticizes his fear and points out how Benvolio was always involved in the previous fights between the houses, this particular part of the scene creates a lot of tension and Mercutio’s willingness to stay increases it further.
It is also interesting to note the setting chosen by Shakespeare. “Romeo and Juliet” is set in Verona in Italy, at the time things such as love were not acceptable on stage. Shakespeare moved it to Italy to avoid confrontation and scepticism from the audience and authorities. Many had never travelled before and getting a glimpse of what happened outside of the country was extremely interesting, this factor gave even more attention at that time to this play.
At the beginning of the scene only Benvolio and Mercutio are there, the tension is rising because of Mercutio’s refusal to go home. When Tybalt and the Capulets arrive there is a major increase in tension because there will surely be a fight, as they start to argue and then eventually start to fight there is a great amount of tension. When Romeo enters the tension starts to increase rapidly as Tybalt approaches him after disregarding the fight with Mercutio. Tybalt starts to fight Romeo, which results in the death of Mercutio, because of this Romeo is infuriated and kills Tybalt when he returns.
Mercutio is a very humorous and energetic character and is always quite happy to fight; this is probably because he is of neither houses and thus plays a very neutral part in the play. He is also related to the Prince and probably believes he will not get involved between the fights of the two houses. Because of this behaviour he often puts other characters in danger, especially in this scene when he refuses to leave to avoid a fight. Mercutio loves to play with words and can easily anger people with his jousting. Mercutio’s jousting and carelessness for a fight is very dangerous because if a fight arose between the two houses nobody would try to stop them, this situation creates further tension. Mercutio seems to enjoy the amount of tension increasing and is part of his personality. The knowledge of the major possibility of a fight starting alone creates a lot of tension; another thing that creates tension is the knowledge that whichever house starts the fight will be punished by the death penalty. The audience knows that the play will end in death and thus the tension builds up when the scenario of a possible tragedy is apparent, this is called dramatic irony.
The language used by Shakespeare is the main cause of tension during this scene. One of the best examples of language used are the phrases used by Mercutio towards Tybalt ‘thou art a villain’, ‘Good king of cats’, ‘by my heal I care not’, ‘A plague a’both your houses!” Those are some of the many quotes of language used by Shakespeare to create tension. When Mercutio and Tybalt encounter each other a verbal fight breaks out, Shakespeare uses these two contrasting characters to create tension. Whilst they insult each other the audience know this is going to escalate into a fight and thus tension is created. Although Shakespeare’s language is elaborate it is apparent that they are insulting each other, and through the escalation of tension the audience comes to realise that the prophecy that was said in the prologue is about to become true.
Benvolo is very important character in the play. He takes the part of the narrator in most scenes; he also helps recap events when there is a fast paced scene. He told the Prince what happened when the two houses clashed and Mercutio and Tybalt died. His helps the audience have a better understanding of the play and makes it easier to understand. He keeps the audience “up to date” and helps the tension remain throughout the play. A interesting thing to note is that characters of high rank always talk in riming couplets, this is Shakespeare’s way to tell the audience they are important. Although it is not a major role Benvolio’s part is helpful for the understanding of the play.
Shakespeare uses a lot of techniques to create tension. Pathetic fallacy is when inanimate objects reflect human emotions, for example, as I said before, the weather in Act 3 Scene 1. Another technique used is dramatic irony; this is when the audience know something that the characters don’t know such as Romeo and Juliet’s marriage, which ultimately led to everyone’s death. Another technique, which I have not mentioned, is juxtaposition, which is when there are two contrasting emotions which closely follow each other, for example when Romeo and Juliet get married it is very happy, then when everyone died it was sad. Using these techniques Shakespeare has created a truly compelling, fascinating and deeply emotional piece which is appreciated by everyone around the globe.