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Comment on the importance of Act 3, Scene 1 in the play 'Romeo and Juliet' by William Shakespeare

The Play ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is a Shakespearean tragedy about the love between two people that is doomed to fail from the start. Set in Verona, Italy, the two young lovers have to face a number of complications along their way to love. But, when a message fails to reach Romeo, things get missed and misunderstood.

The main themes in this play concern love of different kinds. Courtly love is a conventional view of love. For example Romeo is in love with Rosaline but he knows he cannot force her to love him.

“Is love a tender thing or is it too rough, too rude, too boisterous and it pricks like a thorn?”

Sexual love or infatuation is the state of being completely carried away by unreasoning passion or love and this is what Romeo feels when he first sees Juliet. He is strongly impacted by Juliet and forgets about Rosaline. “Did my heart love till now?” “For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night.

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Dutiful love is a love that is required because of position or situation. Paris and Juliet are arranged to be married so it is her duty to love him even if she does not. Paris’ love for Juliet is a dignified one. “O nurse, how shall this be prevented?”

The love between Romeo and Juliet would be described as true love, the strongest, most sincere type of love. The couple, described as ‘star-crossed’ lovers, are destined to be together as their paths are ‘crossed’ and their love lights up the skies.

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“…when he shall die, take him and cut him into little stars, and he will make the face of heaven so fine that all the world will be in love with night…”

There are also other themes such as hate and death in the play. The hate is portrayed strongly through the relationship between the Montagues and the Capulets. What makes Romeo and Juliet’s love so tragic and yet so beautiful is the fact that the society is effectively at war with itself. Love against the odds. Even though the two families detest each other, an innocent, yet illicit love can still blossom.

Romeo and Juliet die at the end of the play; this is because of how the hate in the society they are in. Their deaths show how love conquers all and is fated to show the damage a divided society can do. At the end of the play, both the Montagues and the Capulets are united in the grief of their children.

There is also a theme of destiny and fate running throughout the play, a sense that everything had been planned out and that there was nothing that they could do to stop it.

In the Oxford English Dictionary, a tragedy is described as an event causing great sadness or a serious play with an unhappy ending. There are a lot of elements of a typical Shakespearean tragedy in ‘Romeo and Juliet.’

Usually, Tragedies end with the death of the tragic heroes (Romeo and Juliet) and this would have a big impact on everyone around, other people might die, too, as a part of the tragic events, for example; Tybalt, Paris and Mercutio. The heroes reach a ‘peak’ in the play – of happiness or achievement, for instance, when Romeo and Juliet get married. This usually happens about half way through the play. After this, events take a terrible turn for the worse (Mercutio’s and Tybalt’s death). The heroes are usually in some way, responsible for this change in events. There is also an element of fate – something that’s inevitably going to happen, but it can still seem like a terrible accident.

As you can see the play ‘Romeo and Juliet’ follows all of these patterns and examples.

The play set in 13th century Italy and was written in 16th century England, so the ideas and acceptability would be different to the values which exist now. In the 13th century it would be acceptable to get married at the age of 14 but today, you are not even allowed to be married legally, without parental consent, until the age of 18. The big feud between the families would have been common place then too but now it would be gang rivalry that would take its place.

In this essay I am mainly going to concentrate on what makes act 3, scene 1 of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ Important to the play

This seen concentrates mainly on the arguments and fight between Mercutio, Romeo and Tybalt. Before this scene we see Romeo and Juliet getting married. From this you almost get the feeling that the two scenes are happening simultaneously and that they will coincide, pure love and pure hate being practiced at the same time. After Mercutio is killed, Romeo goes to avenge his death by killing Tybalt, and is banished because of it. This is an example of a ‘peak’ that Romeo and Juliet experience, by getting married, but straight afterwards it is as if their fates are sealed, no matter what, they cannot be together now, even if they wanted to. After this we see that Juliet finds out about Tybalt and Romeo. This crushes Juliet as she was very close to Tybalt and she is in love with Romeo. This makes her predicament very difficult as she is grieving for both of them, and she and Romeo cannot be together.

The main characters in this scene are Romeo, Mercutio, Tybalt and Benvolio. All of their personalities and motives towards each other are very different.

Romeo is being neutral towards Tybalt now as he is married to Juliet, they are now related to each other, but obviously he does not know that. Romeo does not want to fight him and steps down. Mercutio sees this as cowardice and decides to fight Tybalt. Mercutio feels pure hatred towards Tybalt, and the feeling is mutual. Tybalt does not really want to kill Mercutio, it was an accident, he just wanted to scare and humiliate him. Once Romeo realised what Tybalt did, he loses all common sense and is consumed with rage and grief for his friend Mercutio. Benvolio is the only one that does not get involved in the fight. He gives a truthful account of what happened to the Prince. Benvolio wanted to avoid a conflict from the beginning of the scene, so he does not get involved and stays out of the way.

At the beginning of the scene, the atmosphere is tense as a fight is expected. Benvolio points this out, “The day is hot, the Capulets abroad, and if we meet we shall not scape a brawl…”

The previous scene of Romeo and Juliet’s marriage contrasts completely with this scene as the marriage scene is full of happiness, love and celebrations as they are going to be together. But the next scene is full of hate, anger and grief. This gives the audience a ‘high’ before the ‘low’ of the next scene and makes them believe that it could work out between the two lovers but then all the chances that they ever had are dashed and makes everything seem hopeless.

The scene links to lots of previous events in the play, it links to the feud between the Montagues and the Capulets and the previous public brawls that they have had and the Prince’s warnings about them. For the audience, this emphasises the fact that Romeo and Juliet will never have a chance and always puts that question of failure over their relationship as there is always going to be conflict and hate surrounding them.

****Before Romeo’s entrance, there is a lot of built up tension between Mercutio and Tybalt. Shakespeare does this by creating an argued that was intended to be insulting and

Because Romeo gate crashed the Capulets party, where he met Juliet, Tybalt’s cousin, Tybalt challenges him to a duel. But as Romeo is married to Tybalt’s cousin, Juliet Romeo wants to keep the peace.

“I do protest I never injured thee

But love thee better than thou canst devise

Till thou shalt know the reason of my love;

And so, good Capulet – which name I tender

As dearly as my own – be satisfied”

At this point, Tybalt is confused about why he would not fight him, even after he calls Romeo a “villain”. Tybalt probably thinks of Romeo as being scared of him and that he does not want to get hurt. Tybalt does not know that Romeo and Juliet are married, so he does not understand what Romeo means about loving him.

Romeo is worried and does not want to cause a fight between him and his step-cousin as he knows that Juliet would be upset. He wants to avoid a brawl between the two of them by telling him that he has reason not too, but as Tybalt does not know what the reason is, he still wants to fight, but Mercutio steps in instead, disgusted by Romeo’s “cowardice”. Romeo panics at this point and tries to break it up but just causes more trouble as Mercutio gets stabbed under Romeo’s arm.

From this, the audience can see that Tybalt is violent and that he has a great hate for the Montagues, his family’s rivals, this creates a lot of tension in the audience because it shows the intensity of the dispute between them. The audience can also see that although Romeo may hate Tybalt, he is respectful and would not do anything to jeopardise his relationship with Juliet, this shows how committed to her Romeo is and that his love for her is more powerful that his hate for the rest of the Capulet family.

Mercutio and Tybalt interpret Romeo’s actions as cowardice but as the audience and Romeo know, there is another reason. This creates dramatic irony in the scene as everyone, but the characters that it affects, know what is going on and that it is because of his love for Juliet that is stopping him from fighting Tybalt. But as the other characters in the scene do not know this, they all believe that he is too scared fight and see him as a coward. They see it as dishonourable;

“O calm dishonourable, vile submission!”

After Tybalt has killed Mercutio, Romeo realises what just happened, and that it should’ve been him. He puts his actions down to his love for Juliet and how it has made him weak.

“Thy beauty hath made me effeminate,

And in my temper softened valour’s steel!”

He thinks that he was wrong and that he should’ve fought Tybalt himself instead of letting his friend get involved and take his injury. He is angry with himself for letting Mercutio pay the price for his hatred, and angry with Mercutio for getting involved and also angry with Tybalt for hurting his best friend.

While Mercutio is dieing, he curses the houses of Montague and Capulet.

“A plague a both your houses!”

This is a significant part of the scene as it can be linked to all the happenings afterwards. Tybalt and Juliet die in the end as well as Romeo from the Montague side. This causes sorrow and despair to both of the houses. This could be because of his curse, because of destiny or because of choice, but whatever conclusion you come to, it has an effect and a huge significance to the rest of the play, because from here on in the fortunes of the two lovers get worse and worse.

Once Romeo has killed Tybalt, he realises what he has done and regrets it immediately. He knows that this is going to cause Juliet sadness and pain and that it could cause them to be apart. Romeo describes himself as fortunes fool, this could mean that he believes that it was written out already and that no matter what happened, this situation could not be avoided. Although he made a conscious choice to kill Tybalt and avenge Mercutio’s death, perhaps it was meant to happen and that there was nothing that they could do to stop it. That point links well with the main theme of destiny and fate running throughout the play. Calling himself a fool shows that he acted unwisely and that he didn’t judge it properly because of the consequences that would follow.

When everyone enters the scene after Tybalt’s death, Lady Capulet requests that Romeo is killed;

“For blood of ours shed blood of Montague.”

She wants to get revenge on the Montagues as one of their kin has killed one of the Capulet’s. Benvolio tells a truthful account of what happened to the prince but Lady Capulet refuses to believe it as he is a friend of the Montagues and therefore would obviously lie to cover up for Romeo.

“He is kinsman to the Montague,

Affection makes him false, he speak not true.”

She also thinks this because Benvolio mainly blames the brawl on Tybalt, and Lady Capulet resents this, as she obviously wouldn’t want anyone to think badly of her family. Benvolio tells of how Tybalt started the fight and antagonised Mercutio into taking action, but Lady Capulet refuses to take that as the truth.

I think that it is just to exile Romeo as he did kill someone which I think is a punishable crime, but I also think that it is a bit unfair as he was only avenging Mercutio’s death, and if Tybalt had not of killed him, then Tybalt himself would still be alive. I think that both Romeo and Juliet will suffer equally as Juliet will be forced to marry Paris and Romeo will miss her terribly and blame himself for the rest of time. I think both of their situations are difficult and upsetting and even harder as there is nothing that they can do to make it better.

Act 3, scene 1 is a turning point in the play as this is where everything starts to go wrong for the lovers, because Romeo is exiled all of the events that follow lead to their deaths. I think that this scene is extremely significant as it seals the fate of the young couple, it is the point in the play which makes you realise that everything is doomed no matter what they try, it makes you sad to know that it’s over before it even got properly started.

For the audience, this is a major turning point in the play where everything declines rapidly and you go from the romantic blossoming love of the young couple and sink into the sadness of their separation. It pulls the audience in at this point as it makes them wonder if there is any hope at all.

This scene is so important to the play as it is the point where everything turns from good to bad, and decides the fate of the young couple.

I like this scene as it is so intense and emotional, there are so many emotions running through the scene as well. There’s the love for Juliet and the hate for Tybalt, the grief for Mercutio and the rage and passion to avenge his death. I think that it’s extremely powerful and emotional. It makes me very upset for Romeo and Juliet as they cannot be together now, it also makes me angry at Tybalt for how he started the fight and caused the two lovers to be separated even though they were bringing the two families together, he pushed them further apart, further into the hate for each other.

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Comment on the importance of Act 3, Scene 1 in the play 'Romeo and Juliet' by William Shakespeare. (2020, Jun 01). Retrieved from

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