You must consider: –
* How the scene relates to other areas of the play
* What you learn about the characters and their relationships
* The language and it’s affect
* Production issues which help bring out the meaning of the scene
There are several issues that have a bearing on Act three scene one. There is a feud between the Capulets and the Montagues. This feud stems back for several years and now everyone including the servants have become involved. Their involvement is unusual as honour is not theirs but perhaps loyalty is. Their involvement becomes apparent in act one scene one, even they begin to quarrel. The entire families become involved, even old Capulet and old Montague. The feud is the reason for Tybalt’s hatred of Romeo. Previously Romeo Montague was spotted by Tybalt at the Capulet house. Tybalt was not permitted to throw him out which left him feeling humiliated. This scene shows Tybalt’s hatred, but Romeo willingness to forget until he is provoked to avenge his friend’s death.
The Prince had issued a decree to stop brawling. Romeo and Benvolio know that the brawling will lead to something serious, in this case, Mercutio’s death. The decree clearly stated that anyone caught brawling in the streets, “their life shall pay the forfeit of the peace” this meant that anyone caught fighting would be automatically put to death. The decree is important because when Romeo killed Tybalt to avenge Mercutio’s death, he immediately knows he will be sentenced to death, and is forced to flee Verona.
Something else that has a bearing on this scene is the secret marriage of Romeo and Juliet. When Tybalt challenges him to a duel he refuses to fight out of love for Juliet because Tybalt is her kinsman. Romeos love for Juliet is so strong that even when Tybalt insults him, calling him a “villain” (which means peasant) he still refuses to fight.
The extent of Tybalt’s resentment of the Montagues is also played out. He is annoyed that Romeo gatecrashes the Capulet party, but he was unable to throw him out, as old Capulet had forbidden it. The dialogue that passed between Tybalt, Mercutio and Romeo expresses anger and disgust
This scenes relationship to the rest of the play is that it is pivoted in creating the outcomes to other parts of the play. If Romeo had not been exiled, then Juliet’s would not have had to escape marriage to Paris and Romeo needn’t have returned to Verona in order to lie with his supposedly dead wife. When Juliet awakens from her false death and find Romeo dead at her side, she herself takes her life with Romeos dagger.
Mercutio is the Princes kinsman. He is an awkward, perverse character that is hotheaded, jumps into something head first. He is someone who has a feel for fun and enjoys playing practical jokes. He does not think about what he is doing, for example Mercutio’s response to all of Tybalt’s comments, causes him to become angry and confrontational leading to his eventual death. Mercutio is a witty character and can play on words competently. He is shown at the beginning of the scene when he and Benvolio are conversing to be objectionable and unreasonable. Mercutio is warned to retire, as Benvolio knows that if they meet the Capulets in the square they “shall not scape a brawl”. Mercutio refuses to listen, and replies with his witty and good-natured humour, but he is affected by the heat, so climbs into the fountain, giving him further a excuse not to leave the square. His character obviously hates the Capulets, this is shown in the way he treats and speaks to Tybalt. During the time they are conversing Mercutio is incessantly trying to provoke Tybalt into a fight. Mercutio is impulsive, but he is also extremely loyal which this scene shows. When Tybalt insults Romeo, Mercutio not Montague himself, challenges Tybalt so to avenge his friend. This shows that Romeo means a great deal to Mercutio. Even when Mercutio is hurt, he still maintains his characteristics to the end, so it is what his friends and the audience remember him by.
Tybalt is a Capulet and is also hotheaded, but unlike Mercutio he has no sense of fun. Tybalt is very arrogant and proud. He feels he is above everyone else, and makes sure people know this. Tybalt feels he has previous grievances against Romeo and his bitterness gives reason to his challenge to a duel, which Romeo refused, this only feeds his malice leading to insults. This is shown well in the Franco Zefferelli production. Romeo is seen to shake Tybalt’s hand as a gesture of truce, but Tybalt shocked, reacts with vulgar behaviour by smelling his hand and running to the fountain and vigorously washing it. In the stage version Tybalt is actually unaware that he has wounded Mercutio, and so walks away. In the Zefferelli production Tybalt realises he has hurt Mercutio when he sees blood on his sword, he tries to stay feeling guilt and remorse but is urged to leave by his companions. This does show a softer, side to Tybalt’s character and this is the only time we have the opportunity of seeing this. In the play even once he has realised what he has done he shows no remorse. Perhaps this is what spurs Romeo to behave with the same callousness that Tybalt showed Mercutio.
Romeo is a Montague and a good friend of Mercutio and Benvolio’s. He is impulsive and passionate; he adores Juliet and so out of respect for her refuses to duel with Tybalt. He is also a peacemaker and only fights when he believes just cause requires it. He overlooks all insults received from Tybalt, but the death of Mercutio he cannot forgive. His love is outstripped by his anger and he loses all control and he accepts the challenge to dual. Only when Tybalt falls, does he realise what he has done and feels regret. Romeo seems to love Mercutio like a brother and so his reaction seems justified. His friend’s loyalty and sacrifice cannot go unavenged.
Benvolio is in this scene out of necessity rather then interest, he provides the first object for Mercutio to vent his frustrations at, and he is able to offer the Prince an explanation at the end of the scene. Benvolio is a peacemaker and knows what Mercutio and Romeo are like. He is aware of what could happen if a Montague and a Capulet meet and so tries to get Mercutio to retire from the square. Once Romeo slays Tybalt, Benvolio fears for Romeos life and so begs him to flee. Benvolio hates fighting but is dragged into it by his friends, in all parts of the previous two acts he is consistently warning them of what could happen, and so he could be described as a wimp.
Lady Capulet is a haughty woman who only feels for her own losses, she does not care for others, and is selfish. She feels that only her family are the victims and the Montagues should pay for her loss. Her actions towards the deaths show that the depth of the feud affects her to and she too resents the Montagues.
The prince is the highest status character in the entire play, and his word is law. He has sympathy for the families, but in his heart he knows justice has been served, because he too has lost kinsman and he knows Romeo was only avenging his friend’s death. Probably he wants to let Romeo go unpunished but this would be misinterpreted and so sentences him with exile to Mantua. The Prince is fed up with the fighting.
The language in this scene is very important. Shakespeare did not write intricate and complex stage directions so the words used in the play help us decide how the scene should be staged, how the characters are feeling and how the words should be recited.
The beginning of the scene starts with Mercutio, Benvolio, a page and servants entering. Benvolio states that they should retire because the day is hot and if they meet the Capulets they “shall not scape a brawl”. This tells us that it is a hot day and “the mad blood is stirring” this means that they are frustrated and not acting, as they would do so normally. Mercutio now replies with insults to Benvolio, he accuses Benvolio of being everything that he is, for example Mercutio is hot headed, perverse and awkward and in his words he describes Benvolio as those things ” Thou art one of those fellows that…..there is no need”. Benvolio knowing Mercutio temperament humours him by asking if he is “such a fellow”. The language during this sequence is jovial and free, with neither of them caring what they say until the Capulets arrive. Benvolio’s attitude seems to completely change as the words “by my head, here come the Capulets” show. Tension now seems to appear as Benvolio fears something could happen. The words seem to be said in concern, as he knows what Mercutio feels towards the Capulets, so in a way the words could be a warning. Mercutio again shows his awkward, obtuse nature by pretending he does not care, when really he does.
Tybalt now enters the scene, telling his gentlemen to “follow him close”. This shows he is wary of approaching Benvolio and Mercutio without his companions, or he wishes to show off to them.
When Mercutio and Tybalt begin to converse, Mercutio uses his talent playing on words, he replies with witty comments and sharp retorts. He is able to twist the words of Tybalt in an endeavour to provoke him into a fight. A clear example of this is when Tybalt asks Mercutio if he “consorts” with Romeo. The word “consort” has many meanings and Mercutio is able to play on this, by thinking that the word consort means he is Romeos “minstrel” musician. The conversation between the two continues tamely but spitefully until Romeo arrives.
Romeo’s entrance allows Tybalt to use words that show his true feelings, for example “Villain” this is an insult but Romeo lets it slide, and replies with gentle words of familiarity. Tybalt continues to insult him until Mercutio can take no more. The words he uses are aggressive and hostile, he feels aggrieved, and wants to defend Romeo. Mercutio’s words are passionate and in the end they provoke the fight that ends his life.
At Mercutio’s death, all feeling of control seem to leave Romeo he becomes aggressive and he accepts the challenge previously put before him. Romeo tries to intimidate Tybalt by saying ” Mercutio’s soul is little above our heads……must go with him” But Tybalt uses dismissive language in reply that makes Romeo out to be a nothing but a child, who could do no harm to him. In the end he is slain.
Once Tybalt is killed Romeo becomes scared and full of remorse, when he says ” he is fortunes fool” we realise that he did not mean to kill Tybalt being swept away with anger our sympathy falls to him, because he himself will be sentenced to death. He is told to flee ” why dost thou stay” by a fearful Benvolio.
When the Prince arrives his words are filled with anger ” where are the vile beginners of this fray?” Benvolio a truthful person tries to tell the fate of the tragedy, but his efforts are shunned by the hysterical words of Lady Capulet the aunt of Tybalt. Her words are clouded by her hatred of the Montagues and she cannot see the importance of Mercutio death, only her own loss matters. The Prince’s final words before he retires shows mercy to Romeo, he is only given a sentence of exile to Mantua, and to keep peace he tells the people that if he is found with in Verona “that hour shall be his last”.
During the scene production issues need to be addressed, lighting, movement, setting, expressions and mood are all important as they give the final effect to the scene. As Shakespeare wrote hardly any stage directions the producers and directors of today, have to interpret the scene so it can be seen in it’s best light.
In the Franco Zefferelli production the heat and time of day were put across by the sunlight reflecting off the building and faces of characters. Also the faces of characters were sweaty and drained looking, the shadows were short; telling us it was around noon. The effect of the lighting allowed us to feel how hot it was. If I were to produce this scene I also would use lighting to my advantage. In a theatre production the lighting is only used on the sections the audience need to see, but in a film the lighting is there constantly and is reflected to give the idea of heat, cold, tension, sadness and happiness. The light can be used to illustrate many aspects of a scene.
The setting is also important to provide the right idea about the scene. In the Zefferelli production we are able to see the streets, alleyways and buildings. The setting of this scene is in the square of central Verona, the sun is high and the streets are so dry that dust rises from the floor and people are walking in the street, this provides a slight sense of realism to the scene.
The characters facial expressions, movement and actions are also important to show the scene and characters mood. During the scene many dialogues with different feelings are exchanged so actions would be different. The beginning of the scene is a section of comedy, so, free movement, smiles and friendly behaviour would be portrayed. When the scene becomes serious and there are areas of fear, the facial expressions and actions should show this. As the dialogue is hard to grasp and understand people need something else to help them understand the story and this shall do so.
Finally music is important as it provides suspense and a final sense of emotion to the scene. During the scene certain areas need certain styles of music, for example during the fighting sequence the music needs to be swash buckling music that would be used in sword fighting films such as the Three Musketeers.
I feel this scene is the turning point in the play; there are two things to be considered in the play itself. The feud between the Montagues and the Capulets and the love between Romeo and Juliet. In the end the love loses out to the hatred and the deaths of Romeo and Juliet come about establishing this tragedy.