Dramatic Tension in Act Three, Scene One of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

Dramatic Tension in Act Three, Scene One of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

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Dramatic Tension in Act Three, Scene One of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

Although the plays of Shakespeare were written for a mixed audience,
anyone watching Romeo and Juliet would appreciate the tension and
drama in act three, scene one. It is unusual for two major characters
to die so early on, but Shakespeare was a master playwright, and this
is arguably his dramatic best.

The scene opens with light humour from Mercutio and Benvolio, and
follows on from the relaxed atmosphere of the previous scene, the
wedding. Benvolio, however, is worried, and tries to persuade Mercutio
to 'retire'. He talks of the days stirring 'the mad blood' of the
family feud. He knows that if they meet the Capulets, they 'will not
'scape a brawl'. It is as if he knows that someone will be killed.
Mercutio is a lot less wary, and continues to joke about fights and
Benvolio, giving examples that may or may not be true. The audience
though have only ever seen Benvolio as a peacemaker, but laugh anyway,
even though Mercutio's language is frequently associated with fighting
and death. This is one of Shakespeare's more subtle messages to his
audience, a warning of things to come. This reasonably light opening
contrasts harshly with the sinister end of the scene.

The pace of the scene changes rapidly with the entrance of the
Capulets. There is a sense of tension between Mercutio and Tybalt from
the moment that the dialogue begins, and although Mercutio is still
playing the comic character, his words are layered with malice, which
becomes apparent when Tybalt accuses him of consorting with Romeo.
Mercutio loses patience and draws his sword to fight. Al...


... middle of paper ...


...o lost a kinsman, and will not
condemn Romeo. He chooses exile. This relieves the audience, but the
tension is still there, lessened, but there. Something must end this,
they know, but they do not know what.

There is a sense of foreboding at many places in this scene. Baz
Luhrman captures the moment of Mercutio's death impeccably, as an ill
wind whips up, and Romeo exits to pursue revenge, and as Romeo kills
Tybalt, an eerie silence begins, disturbed only by the clatter of the
gun on the steps.

The reactions of the Capulets and Montagues show how little these
deaths have affected their hatred of each other. Lady Capulet vows for
revenge, and demands it, but the prince is deaf to her pleads. As the
scene ends Tension is low, but there is an air of foreboding, and the
audience know that the play is far from over.

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