How does Shakespeare create tension in Act 3 scene 1 of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ 

October 30, 2017 September 1st, 2019 Free Essays Online for College Students

Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is a love story about a boy (Romeo) and a girl (Juliet), that fall in love even though they are forbidden because of their two families years of hatred to one another, and their journey through the highs and lows, which unfortunately ends in their deaths because they cannot be together. There are three main themes that run throughout the whole play, one of them is fate, which was strongly believed in at Shakespeare’s time and is shown by Romeo when he kills Tybalt which then means he has changed the paths of his life. Another is violence vs. peace and is shown by how the conflict between the two families is set against the life of Romeo and Juliet. Love vs. hate is another theme which is shown by the two children of enemy households fall in love, but are forced to keep is a secret.

In Elizabethan times, the ideas of fate, family honour -which is shown by the two families fighting for the family name- and love at first sight were strongly believed in and put into the play for the reason that the audience can then relate to the characters, however for a modern day audience this would seem far-fetched and unlikely. Shakespeare and the Elizabethan’s also were strong believers of superstitions, curses and the idea that the natural world can influence your mood, which is shown when Mercutio is dying and cries out ‘A plague O’ both your houses.’ which is an example of a curse, and yet at the same time Shakespeare uses the intense heat at the start of the scene to build tension.

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The structure that Shakespeare uses for ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is clever as it works both before and with act 3 scene 1 to create three main parts that do that: One is the prince’s warning that is whoever fights again shall be killed or banished, these events develop in act 3 scene 1 as Mercutio and Tybalt fight, and eventually Romeo kills Tybalt for killing Mercutio; another is where Tybalt sees Romeo at the party, which leads up to the fight scene between Mercutio and Tybalt; the last is the marriage of Romeo and Juliet that has to be kept secret, because of the two family feuds, and these create tension by contrasting between happy, love scenes to death, sad scenes and back again.

Tension is created through character in act 3 scene 1 as Tybalt and Mercutio prepare to fight as Benvolio and Romeo try to stop them, this is an example of contrasting characters. Just before the Capulet’s arrive, Benvolio pleads Mercutio to leave, ‘let’s retire’, even when the Capulet’s do arrive Mercutio responds with, ‘By my heel I care not’ shows that he is a cocky, stubborn character who is not willing to stand down for anyone. Upon the arrival of the Capulet’s, Benvolio still pleads Mercutio to leave before a brawl starts, Mercutio has none of it. As Tybalt talks to Mercutio and Benvolio, Mercutio continues to be cocky by insulting Tybalt, ‘And but one word with one of us? Couple it with something, make it a word and a blow’, this also shows how the characters are juxtaposed.

Romeo and Benvolio’s characters, however are trying to calm down the situation and trying to keep the peace. This also shows how Romeo and Tybalt’s characters are contrasted as Tybalt intends to break the peace.

Tension is again created through language that is used by Tybalt and Romeo to one another. Their conversation shows again that these characters are juxtaposed, Mercutio is the one insulting Romeo, ‘villain’, ‘injuries’ this shows that he is a troublemaker, while Romeo replies to these insults with only positive words, ‘Love thee’, ‘name I tender’. This creates tension because Tybalt does not know the reason why Romeo is doing this, although the audience do, which is an example of dramatic irony. The audience is also kept in suspense to see if Romeo’s language can calm down the situation, meanwhile as this is going on, Mercutio is being wound up and getting more and more angry because of Romeo refusing to fight Tybalt as Mercutio thinks Romeo is weak by just taking the insults.

Benvolio’s Speech at the beginning of act 3 scene 1 creates tension because of the language he uses that suggest the hot weather will bring trouble for him and Mercutio, the words that he uses, ‘These hot days is the mad blood stirring’, is an example of what the Elizabethan’s believed in at the time, that the weather can influence your mood, which would appealed to the audience because it would make them feel more engaged in the play. Benvolio is also concerned that if they see the Capulet’s, they will ‘not ‘scape a brawl’. This creates tension because it reminds us of the prince’s warning in act 1 and the consequences of breaking it. Benvolio’s use of the word, ‘mad’ also has a connotation of anger and hatred. The word, ‘blood’ also has a connotation of bleeding and violence that will be shed later on in the scene, this is clever technique as it foreshows what is to later happen.

Another technique used is the cat imagery used by Mercutio to insult Tybalt, ‘rat catcher’, ‘Good king of cats’ suggest that Tybalt is timid and quite feminine like a cat. However, Tybalt is strongly opposed by this as he sees himself as ‘top gun’, the leader and strong fighter and does not like anyone challenging him, this builds tension as Mercutio is trying to wind Tybalt up and it’s working as he becomes more and more eager to fight.

The word ‘fiddlestick’ is used to describe the weapon, in this case it’s a sword.

Shakespeare creates tension through stagecraft as the Capulet’s arrive, ‘Enter Tybalt and others’. This creates tension because of the feuds between them and because Tybalt wants revenge on Romeo as he intruded at the party. The fight scene also creates tension as it reminds us of the prince’s warning again and the consequences of disobeying it. The stage directions creates tension again when Tybalt stabs Mercutio, ‘Tybalt under Romeo’s arm thrusts Mercutio in’. At this point the audience are kept in suspense as we wonder if Mercutio is hurt, how badly and what will now happen to Tybalt.

Literary devices are used to create tension in act 3 scene 1 through Lady Capulet’s carefully worded speech which uses iambic pentameter and interjections, ‘O’. This shows that she is grieving over the death of her nephew, Tybalt as the language ‘O’ suggests weeping or crying. Through the start of her speech Lady Capulet presents herself as a nice, positive character as she names family members, ‘O’, my brother’s child! O’ prince, O’ husband’, but this soon turns to a sinister ND almost evil language, ‘O’, the blood is spilled, of dear kingsman. Prince, as thou art true, for the blood of ours shed blood of a Montague’. Here there is use of dramatic irony as Lady Capulet is morning the loss of Tybalt and demands that the blood of a Montague, Romeo must be shed, but she does not know that Romeo is now her son in-law.

In conclusion, tension is created throughout act 3 scene 1 through a variety of different ways including stagecraft, language, literary devices, contrasting character and structure. All these techniques are combined to make up the play.


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