William Shakespeare's Use of Death to Create Tension in Romeo and Juliet

William Shakespeare's Use of Death to Create Tension in Romeo and Juliet

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William Shakespeare's Use of Death to Create Tension in Romeo and Juliet

This essay is about how the deaths of Mercutio and Tybalt add tension
in Act 3 scene 1 in 'Romeo and Juliet' and also how the deaths affect
the audience watching. In the scenes before Act 3 scene 1 the audience
will of seen that there are two rival families, the Capulet family and
the Montague family but then Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet fall
madly in love at a ball held at the Capulet's house and they get
secretly married knowing that their families would be furious if they
ever found out about their love and this carried on into the beginning
of Act 3 scene 1 as Romeo is a part of the family with which his
wife's family is in a feud with. I will be using two film versions to
consider the effects on the audience. The two film versions are by two
different directors, Zeffirelli version which was made in 1968 and the
Baz Luhrmann version made in 1997.
In Act 3 scene 1 both films use settings, costumes, music and lighting
in different ways to show important moments in the scene. In the
Zeffirelli version it is all set in 13th century Italy and all the
buildings are made of stone type material. The buildings are placed in
such a way that there is a large courtyard which is where the fight
begins and where Mercutio dies. The costumes are all very well
tailored and look very expensive for the time that it is set in and
one family has dark coloured clothes on and the other has bright
orange clothes which shows the family they support or belong to. One
good way of adding tension to the scene is by adding music. In the
Zeffirelli version there isn't any music at the beginning of the scene
but a tiny bit of music when Mercutio dies it picks up then just
stops. The church bells go off when the Prince is talking to the
Capulet family and the Montague family when they bring the bodies to

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the Prince and start arguing. The main lighting in the Zeffirelli
version is from the sun so there are lots of shadows and the faces of
both families are really pale.
The Luhrmann version has this part set on a crowded beach, and people
are in a laid back mood. Just like in the Zeffirelli version, the
Luhrmann version has one family in dark clothes and the other in
brightly coloured clothes to show what family they are part of. There
is much more of a presence with music in this version it has calm
music to begin with but then it picks up in preparation for the fight
and the beat gets a lot faster followed by a drum roll but it stops
after the fight and then thunder is heard. Echoes are used in this
version. When Romeo drops his gun after shooting Tybalt the sound of
metal crashing on the concrete ground.
As they are at the beach Luhrmann has used lighting to make it look
like the sun is blazing down on the beach but as the fight gets
underway the sun sets and a storm begins to start and it gets dark
very quickly. By making it dark Luhrmann add the feeling that
something really bad is going to happen. When Romeo goes after Tybalt
in his car the camera shot of the headlight and the fact they are
blurred shows the speed and furry of the moments from Mercutio's death
and Romeo catching up with Tybalt. As the rain begins to fall after
Romeo shoots Mercutio the light shines into Romeo's eyes as tears
begin to gather. When the police turn up the blue lights on the top of
the police cars make the raindrops glisten.
One of the main deaths is the first one to happen which is Mercutio.
Mercutio is killed at this point because it's a turning point in the
play. It gives a shock factor to the play it makes the audience
realize they are watching a tragedy not a romance anymore. Mercutio is
a likeable character and killing him makes the audience feel more
involved. Also as Romeo is central to the story and because he is
close to Mercutio the audience wants to know how Romeo is going to
react to his death. Mercutio knows he is going to die but continues to
joke. He says the line:
"And you shall find me a grave man."
He's saying they will find him dead but because he says it jokingly
they take it as him saying they will find him a serious person. In the
Zeffirelli version Mercutio says the line as a joke also he laughs
when he says it and the people around him laugh as well. In the
Luhrmann version he has both laughter and pain in his voice. His dying
words are:
"A Plague a' both your houses!
They have made worm's meat of me. I have it,
And soundly too. Your houses!"
These are very powerful and basically what he's saying is that he's
putting a curse on both the Montague's and the Capulet's houses. The
way he is putting it is the worms will eat him when he's buried in the
ground. These are very powerful things to say because he's not only
curing one family but his own family to. Luhrmann just keeps it in
wide shots but there is a close up on Mercutio's wound and his face
when you can see he is in a lot of pain. Mercutio is injured on an
old, abandoned stage but he moves onto the beach and that is where he
dies but there a storm sets in and sand begins to blow over his body.
In the Zeffirelli version an out of focus view of Romeo's face is
shown as if you are looking through Mercutio's eyes. Moments before he
dies he pulls himself to the top of some steps and as he dies he falls
The second main death is that of Tybalt, who is killed in a fight with
Romeo who is seeking revenge for the death of Mercutio. The Audience
knows that something is going to happen between Romeo and Tybalt
because Romeo is feeling that his relationship with Juliet has made
him weak. We know this when Romeo says
"O sweet Juliet,
Thy beauty hath made me effeminate,
And in my temper softened valour's steel!"

If he is feeling like he is been made weak then he might do something
to try and prove to himself that he isn't weak. As Romeo catches up
with Tybalt he says to Tybalt that someone needs to pay for the death
of Mercutio. This is shown when Romeo says:
"Either thou or I, or both, must go with him."
This makes the audience feel that Romeo is really upset at the death
of Mercutio and he just wants to make sure his friend gets some
revenge. This part of the scene is portrayed differently between the
film versions. In Zeffirelli Romeo and Tybalt have a sword fight and
Romeo acts injured but Tybalt goes to attack and Romeo puts up his
sword which Tybalt runs onto. In the Luhrmann version Tybalt is shot
by Romeo but it seems a spur of the moment thing. Romeo drops the gun
after he shots Tybalt and the sound of the metal when it hits the
ground echoes. After the death of Tybalt, Benvolio urges Romeo to
leave as he fears for Romeo's life. We can see this when Benvolio says
"Romeo, away, be gone!
The citizens are up, and Tybalt slain.
Stand not amazed, the Prince will doom thee death
If thou art taken. Hence be gone, away!"
This shows the audience that Benvolio knows that something bad will
happen to Romeo if he does not leave. At the end of this scene Lady
Capulet demands that Romeo must die. We see this when she says
"I beg for justice, which thou, Prince must give:
Romeo slew Tybalt, Romeo must not live."
The effect on the audience is that they know that things are just
going to get worse for Romeo. The Prince does not order Romeo to die
but he orders that, for killing Tybalt, Romeo will be banished from
Verona. When Romeo finds out he's banished it is sort of portrayed the
same in both films. He just breaks down and worries about when he will
see Juliet next. At this point the audience feels so sorry for Romeo
because they know it's going mess up his future with Juliet and the
whole thing is going to end up in tears.
From my personal view I think that the Luhrmann version portrayed the
tension of this scene most effectively. The whole point of this scene
is to give the whole thing a turning point and makes the story change
from a romantic to a tragedy. If this scene wasn't in then I don't
think 'Romeo and Juliet' wouldn't be as well known as it is, because
it wouldn't have the same sad ending.
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