In Act 3 Scene 1 of ‘Romeo and Juliet’, Shakespeare uses language to make the fight scene dramatic. How does Baz Luhrmann draw on this and use other devices to create tension for his audience?
‘Romeo and Juliet’ is about two families, the Montagues and the Capulets, who have been introduced to a physical and verbal war. The play starts off with the prologue, where a man comes onstage and reads out the plot of the play and the key ideas, although this gives away the surprises, it builds tension at the crowd are constantly on the edge of their seats waiting for the events to happen that they have been told about.
The opening scene sees the two families, who have been fighting for generations, in another battle, this takes place in public and is witnessed by the prince who decides anymore fighting will end in exile or death. This creates tension as anymore fighting carries a more drastic punishment and so the tension is built because certain members of the family become more conscious about where they are fighting and the possibility of the prince seeing them.
The first fight scene is the first scene of the play; this is a much smaller fight and creates more tension in the way as you expect more fight scenes that are bigger. The first fight scene starts off the Montagues saying to the Capulets ‘Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?’ this shows that fights between these two families start off over the simplest of events.
Later that day the Montagues, the family of Romeo, invade the Capulets’, the family of Juliet, party. As the Montagues invade the party, Romeo wanders off to find Juliet; the two instantly fall in love. That night Romeo and Juliet meet and swear their love for each other, at this point no-one knows about Romeo and Juliet as their families are sworn enemies. The next day Romeo and Juliet get married by the Friar however, only Romeo, Juliet and the Friar know about this marriage. Shakespeare has set the structure of the play like this because it causes a sudden change from hate to love. As we see Romeo and Juliet get married, is shows hope for the two families; however it is only creating more tension as their love is a secret and here Shakespeare has used dramatic irony, as the audience know about the marriage but most of the characters do not, this further builds the tension.
Throughout Act 3 Scene 1 there is big contrast between love and hate. The main hate shown is by Tybalt towards Romeo, Tybalt calls Romeo names trying to get him into a fight, he calls Romeo a ‘villain’ this shows hate and builds tension as he is trying so hard to get Romeo into a fight although Romeo isn’t interested. On the contrast however, there is love shared between Romeo, Mercutio and Benvolio, as they Romeo says to Mercutio ‘Gentle Mercutio’ this shows love and he is also showing concern and trying to talk Mercutio into not fighting but calling him peaceful and gentle names.
In the fight scene different characters play different roles and have different personalities towards the fight and in one example their personality changes during the fight scene. Benvolio throughout the whole scene is the peacemaker, you pick this up about his character from the beginning of the scene as he starts off by saying ‘I pray thee good Mercutio, let’s retire’, this shows he is a peacemaker as he knows a fight is going to happen and he is saying to Mercutio come on lets leave lets get out of here.
Mercutio is the trouble maker always looking for a fight this is shown when he says ‘make it a word and a blow’ although this is him joking around he knows it will annoy Tybalt and creates tension and makes the fight more likely.
Tybalt is also a trouble maker looking for a fight this is shown when he says to Mercutio ‘thou consortest with Romeo’ this shows he is a trouble maker as he is insulting Mercutio and trying to enrage him and draw him into a fight.
Romeo starts off as a peacemaker and this is shown as he says to Tybalt ‘Gentlemen, for shame, forbear this outrage’ this shows he is the peacemaker as the word gentlemen is not an insult either way, he is calling them all gentle and trying to calm things down also he is trying to tell them to stage this outrage, which is the fight. However as the scene progresses Romeo stops being the peacemaker and turns violent this is shown when Romeo says ‘either thou or I, or both, must go with him’ this shows he has turned violent as he is saying one or both of us must die and join Mercutio in death.
Also throughout Act 3 Scene 1 there is constant addressing between characters, especially between the two rivals. Mercutio refers to Tybalt in many ways including ‘rat-catcher’ and ‘kings of cats’ this builds tension as he is name calling and provoking Tybalt. However there is name calling in a different way as Romeo says to Mercutio ‘Gentle Mercutio’ he addresses Mercutio in this way in the hope of calming him down and influencing his personality by the names he calls him.
At the beginning of Act 3 Scene 1 Benvolio is trying to persuade Mercutio to leave and find somewhere else to go as he knows there is going to be a fight and wants to try and leave before anything happens. Mercutio dismisses Benvolio describing him as a man who would walk into an inn and start a fight for no reason; however he is only describing himself. Shakespeare has done this as many people believe if you told who you are enough times you become them, and so Mercutio keeps telling Benvolio he is some-one who starts fights and thrives on fighting, in the hope Benvolio will fight. This is creating tension as Benvolio is the peacekeeper and the least likely to ever have a fight.
As the Scene progresses Tybalt enters, Benvolio becomes uncomfortable with the situation and says to Mercutio ‘By my head, here comes the Capulets.’ This shows Benvolio isn’t happy and can sense trouble however this shows contrast when Mercutio just responds by saying to him ‘By me heel, I care not.’ This shows contrast because as Benvolio says by his head, your head is the most valuable part of your body, you can’t literally live without out it, it contains all your wisdom and thoughts and shows how serious the situation is but when Mercutio says by his heel, he is saying he doesn’t care, his heel isn’t important at all and so this shows he is not at all worried about the developing.
Tybalt starts the conversation by being sarcastic when he says ‘gentlemen, good den; a word with one of you’ here Tybalt is trying to provoke a fight by his sarcasm, however Mercutio turns into a joke when he says ‘make it a word and a blow’, this is creating tension as Tybalt gets angrier at been made fun of in a public place, but Mercutio is just laughing and having a bit of fun. Tybalt again tries to draw Mercutio into a fight and Mercutio again turns it into joke, Tybalt then insults Mercutio by saying ‘consortest with Romeo’ this creates tension as it winds Mercutio up by referring to him as a servant. By saying this he has turned the joking Mercutio into an angry Mercutio, which creates tension through the sudden change of personality. Benvolio can see things are getting heated and tries to move them into a private place where the prince won’t be able to see by saying ‘withdraw into some private place’, however Mercutio just replies saying ‘Men’s eyes were made to look’ This creates tension as Benvolio is getting more and more worried about the prince seeing and Mercutio not caring.
Tybalt then tells Mercutio he no longer wants a fight with him, he wants one with Romeo who has just entered the scene, Romeo has just come from his wedding and is in a good peaceful mood after marrying the women he loves and just wants peace. Tybalt starts by calling Romeo ‘a villain’. Romeo responds to this calmly, and drops a hint that he is part of Tybalts family, and says he is not a villain. Tybalt responds by calling him ‘boy’ and saying Romeo has caused him injuries. This is creating tension as Romeo is part of Tybalts family now and doesn’t want to get drawn into a fight; however Tybalt is unaware of Romeo’s marriage and still sees him as a Montague who invaded his families party. Romeo responds to Tybalt claiming he has never caused any injuries to Tybalt and says ‘And so good Capulet, which name I tender as dearly as my own’. This is Romeo dropping another hint that he is now part of the family and builds more tension between the two.
Mercutio then joins in by calling Tybalt ‘rat-catcher’. Shakespeare has put different types of names to each character depending the personality of that character, this creates tension as insults are flying around with a lot of anger which is pushing closer and closer to a fight. Mercutio then refers to Tybalt as ‘King of Cats’. The reason Tybalt has been referred to as the king of cats is because he is a skilled fighter and quite often rides his luck with his nine lives.
A fight then breaks out and Mercutio is stabbed, he starts to blame both the Montagues and the Capulets and says to them ‘a plague on both your houses’. Mercutio then tries to hide what is wrong and says to everyone ‘ay, ay, a scratch, a scratch’ this goes back to referring to Tybalt as cat. Mercutio then curses both families a few more times, using repetition.
Later on in this scene Romeo goes for revenge against Tybalt, he no longer thinks about his earlier marriage or his happiness, this is creating tension as the calm, peaceful Romeo has turned into hate and rage. When he is confronting Tybalt he says to him ‘Now Tybalt take the ‘villain’ back again’, Romeo is now saying he will now be the villain that Tybalt branded him, and tells Tybalt he is avenging Mercutio. Romeo then goes on to say ‘either thou or I, or both, must go with him’ Romeo is saying that at least one of them will join Mercutio. Romeo then kills Tybalt and realises what he has done and says ‘O I am fortune’s fool!’ here he has just realised what he has done and faces the possibility of losing his beloved Juliet.
As the prince comes along and finds Tybalt and Mercutio dead he demands to know what has happened Benvolio as the peacemaker knows he must tell the truth and he does however, as he describes what Tybalt has done he says ‘Of Tybalt deaf to peace, but that he tilts’ here he is saying Tybalt turned deaf to peace, he did not want peace and so the fight continued because of it, this is putting blame on Tybalt without lying, also as he describes Mercutio he says ‘at bold Mercutio’s breast’ this shows he was aggressive as he was bold and this makes Mercutio sound more in the wrong and so lightening the blame on Romeo. Finally he tries to make Romeo sound like the victim by saying ‘gentle breath, calm look, knees humbly bowed’ he is saying Romeo was calm and gentle and never wanted any trouble but got sucked into it.
Baz Luhrmann uses other devices to create tension through the props, lighting, sound and special effects.
During the fight scene in the film, Baz Luhrmann uses extra characters in the scene, although they aren’t involved in the main conflict, they act as the audience and so there is two audiences watching the fight, the audience and the audience within the film, this creates tension as it makes the characters aware that they are in the public eye. However the audience in the film are held behind barbed wire like a boxing ring, this emphasizes even more that the fight is in the middle of the public. Luhrmann uses a scene involving Juliet in the middle of the fight scene, this is effective as it leaves us on a cliff-hanger for the fight as we have to watch Juliet anxiously waiting for Romeo, this is also effective as it shows the contrast of the two Romeo’s the one that is loved by Juliet who longs for him to go back to her and the Romeo who wants revenge on Tybalt.
Before the fight scene, the scene is Romeo and Juliet getting married this scene relieves tension as it gives the audience hope however it also builds tension through the dramatic irony. After the fight scene the first scene shown is Paris being offered to Juliet, this creates tension as the audience become confused on which man she should be with and what her family want for her, and also brings up the main question of will her family ever accept Romeo. He uses sound effectively to create tension at the beginning of the scene, as he starts off with thunder which represents a storm, which is darkness, danger and evil, this creates tension as it shows a storm is brewing however it is a storm on land rather than the sky which this refers to. When Tybalt and Mercutio are fighting he builds tension by using a drum roll, this creates tension as it is building something up. This quickly reverts to the sea, which is calm, gentle and soothing, the complete opposite of what is happening. At the end the use of the echo and the thunder shows the hate, rate and revenge, the words that are echoed are ‘a plague on both your houses’ this is effective as Mercutio keeps using these words.
On music it starts with slow dramatic music, which is building tension as it is slow and waiting for something to happen. It then goes onto sad music when Romeo turns up which is a complete contrast to the mood Romeo is in as he has just married Juliet. This creates tension as it is showing what his mood will turn into rather than what he is feeling at this point. As the fight progresses the music becomes louder and faster, this creates tension as it is building up suspense making you think something is defiantly going to happen. At the end of the scene the music is Opera which represents heaven as Mercutio has just died.
The lighting starts off red which represents heat, anger and danger. This creates tension as it makes the audience feel that something is going to happen. As the conflict grows the sky becomes darker, showing hate and evil and creates more tension. As Romeo arrives the sun starts to set representing an end to his life as he now knows it. As Romeo as talking to Tybalt the sky lightens up to make the audience think that there is hope that everything will be ok. As fighting takes place the sky becomes brighter but darkens again when Mercutio is stabbed, at the end it is dark and there are shadows over Mercutio’s body showing his soul going to heaven.
For the setting/scenery it is a hot and humid day this builds tension as the heat makes the characters far more agitated than usual. The starts off on the beach in an open area where there are lots of people focusing their attention on these characters. As the fight starts lots of onlookers flee in the terror. As Mercutio, Tybalt and Romeo get caught in a fight they move towards an open stage arena. Later as Mercutio is stabbed he stumbles up onto the stage and begins to say ‘ay, ay, a scratch, a scratch’ this is effective as he is acting about his wound and he is acting on the stage.
The costumes are a complete contrast of one another the Montagues are wearing bright and colourful clothing showing they just want fun. However, the Capulets are in black, this shows they want death and shows their evil. Mercutio is wearing white so it emphasizes the blood stains from where he has been stabbed. Finally when Romeo arrives he is wearing a suit which is very formal this shows he has just been somewhere important and is not looking for a fight. In this scene there is a low amount of props which then shows that all the attention is drawn to the characters. One of the props the life guard post, this is shown at the start when Benvolio is sitting in it, this is to show he is above the rest and he is respected as he looks like a figure of authority. On each characters guns they have crests of their families, this emphasizes their wealth and power.