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Act 3, Scene 1 in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is very important to the play as a whole, and has a big impact on what happens in the remainder of the play. I think this because in my opinion, it is the big turning point in the play. The sudden and fatal violence in Act 3, Scene 1, as well as the angry build up to it, serves as a reminder that for all its emphasis on love, beauty and romance, ‘Romeo and Juliet’ still takes place in a world in which notions of honour, pride and status are always likely to erupt in a fury of conflict.
In Act 3, Scene 1, Tybalt of the Capulets is determined to fight with Mercutio of the Montagues. Romeo turns up and tries to prevent any fighting from taking place as he has just married Juliet and does want any harm to come to either his good friend Mercutio, or his new family member Tybalt. Tybalt is determined to fight with Romeo, but tells Tybalt that he loves ‘thee better than thou canst devise.
’ Unfortunately, Romeo’s refusal to fight actually intensifies the violence he was seeking to prevent. Mercutio and Tybalt draw swords and fight, resulting in Tybalt striking a fatal blow to Mercutio. Romeo is incensed by this, and all his previous thoughts are forgotten as he goes after Tybalt, seeking revenge. After a short duel, Romeo murders Tybalt. Romeo flees, fearing the consequences of his actions, and after the Prince has assessed the situation, Romeo is banished from Verona.
Tybalt’s initial anger towards all the Montagues, Romeo in particular, at first looks quite mindless and unnecessary, but when you consider certain incidents that have already happened in the play, and what we already know about the relationship between the two families, you begin to understand the reasons for his anger. Tybalt was the first Capulet who noticed Romeo was at the banquet of Act 1, Scene 5, and tried to get him thrown out of the party. Capulet does not want to cause a scene at his party though and does not mind Romeo staying there. This angers Tybalt even more, and he pleas with Capulet relentlessly to get rid of Romeo and even goes as far to say, ’tis he, that villain Romeo’, which shows the hatred he has towards Romeo. By the time Act 3, Scene 1 arrives, Tybalt has certainly not forgotten about this incident, and his anger is carried over into the violence he shows in Act 3, Scene 1.
In addition to this, there is already the great hatred between the two families that the audience has already been made aware of in the Prologue. There is a lot of hate between the families, and Romeo has given Tybalt the perfect excuse to turn this into violence by attending the party.
After Act 3, Scene 1, everything happens a lot quicker, and the whole tone of the play has changed, with the tragedy of Act 3, Scene 1 fresh in the audience’s mind. Almost everything after this scene happens as a direct consequence of the events of this pivotal scene. After the violence, Romeo is banished from Verona, something that lovesick Juliet finds almost impossible to cope with. This event puts Juliet in a very upset and volatile mood for a while, which contributes to the next major event in the play.
The marriage of Juliet and Paris has been arranged by Capulet, and Juliet has reluctantly decided to go ahead with this, despite her love for Romeo. Through speaking to Friar Laurence though, she finds an escape route, after he offers her a drug which would avoid her having to marry Paris, but also at the same time, allow her to be with Romeo forever. She would take it and appear dead on the morning of the marriage, but would then awake with Romeo by her side after he is summoned back to Verona by Friar Laurence. Juliet’s unstable state of mind tells her this is a good idea, when clearly it is not foolproof. This decision however, has been made as a result of the events of Act 3, Scene 1, as she is still very unstable after apparently losing Romeo forever.
Friar Laurence’s message never gets through to Romeo though, and when he finds out she is dead off a friend, immediately returns to Verona to see her. When he arrives, Juliet is still being controlled by the drug and is minutes away from awaking again. On seeing Juliet, Romeo cannot control himself and is terribly upset, and thinks it best to end his own life while he is close to Juliet, and then takes his own potion that actually kills him. Seeing him dead, Juliet stabs herself through the heart with a dagger. The audience is obviously very shocked, and a play that for a large part had been a love story, had ended in tragedy.
However, had the events of Act 3, Scene 1 been slightly different, the play could not possibly have ended in this sad and heartbreaking. For example, if Romeo had not reacted to Tybalt in such a mindless way and not killed him, he would clearly not have been banished from Verona, and then Juliet would not have been deeply upset and make rash decisions. So in that one scenario, neither of them would have died, and the play would have probably ended with them happily married, and both families knowing and having to put up with this. The fact the play could have been so different with the change of one detail of one scene, shows how important Act 3, Scene 1 is to the play as a whole, and is without doubt the most significant scene in the play.
The audience’s feelings also play a vital part in the play, as they will feel so many different feelings at different points in the play. Several of the early scenes in the play have a certain element of comedy and will no doubt have put the audience in good mood and spirits, little do they know what tragedy is just around the corner. Also they would be happy, as it seems Romeo and Juliet are going to get their way and be happily wed. The last thing the audience would expect after their marriage would be such violent events, and events that change the course and whole atmosphere of the play.
The audience at the point of Act 3, Scene 1 would probably feel on Romeo’s side as well, having witnessed what has happened and how his love with Juliet has blossomed. The audience are in a more advantageous position than most of the characters in the scene because they know exactly what’s going on. Had Tybalt known this, would he have reacted and behaved in such a way? Probably not.
You can often tell Romeo’s mood in the poem by the way he speaks and in what way. When he is at his happiest, probably throughout Act 2, he speaks in long verse, often romantically and thoughtfully. One of the many examples of this is in Act 2, Scene 3, where he is talking to Friar Laurence. He says, ‘Then plainly know my heart’s dear love is set, On the fair daughter of rich Capulet, As mine on hers, so hers is set on mine, And all combin’d save what thou must combine.’
This is a great example where he speaks romantically about Juliet using rhythm and rhymes some words, for example ‘set’ and ‘Capulet’ rhyme and maintain the rhythm of the passage of speech.
However when Romeo is not in a good mood, he completely changes his method of speech, changing to blank verse, which is very boring and to the point. He just says how he feels and doesn’t go round the houses thinking up a nice way to say it. In Act 3, Scene 3, Romeo does not yet know what his punishment is because he fled the scene of the murders, so is desperate to find out what the Prince said. He asks Friar Laurence. ‘Father, what news? What is the Prince’s doom? What sorrow craves acquaintance at my hand, That I yet know not?’ If he was asking about something nice and he was in a good mood he would probably not have asked questions so directly and would have spoke in verse.
In Act 3, Scene 1, Romeo is trying to be nice to Tybalt and not cause any trouble, and is almost trying to make friends with him. He says, ‘I do protest I never injur’d thee, But love thee better than thou canst devise, Till thou shalt know the reason of my love’ almost saying he loves Tybalt. But he knows Tybalt cannot understand this because he doesn’t know about his marriage with Juliet, and he is kind of apologetic towards Tybalt, he is trying to get Tybalt to like him.
But Tybalt is having none of this, and continues to direct anger and rage towards Romeo, using short sentences which are sharp and snappy, almost seeming aggressive. All Tybalt wants is to fight Romeo, which can be seen by the line ‘turn and draw’. He wants revenge with Romeo but Romeo doesn’t want to for reasons Tybalt does not know.
I feel the play as a whole is filled with a great sense of irony, every major event could have happened so differently, and ultimately completely changed the whole outcome of the play. Another pivotal moment in the play is Capulet’s decision to force Juliet to marry Paris. In those days, this was common place among wealthy families, and although Capulet’s decision seems harsh on Juliet he would just see this as normal and he was probably actually looking after the interests of both Juliet and the family. Today, Juliet would have just turned around and said no, but in that era she would have most certainly not wanted to disappoint her father but at the same time knew it wasn’t what she wanted, and eventually she tried to do something that would please or satisfy everyone. This eventually led to tragedy that could have been easily avoided by one of Capulet or Juliet changing their actions and decisions.
Today everyone is treated as an individual and most people from today look back at Capulet’s era and would find it hard to agree with his decision, feeling that everyone is entitled to decide themselves how to run their lives. Society has certainly changed dramatically and hardly anyone finds themselves in a situation like Juliet.
Act 3, Scene 1 in my opinion is without doubt the pivotal stage of Romeo and Juliet and contributes to the play being recognised as one of the greatest tragedies ever. I think the reason it’s such a classic is that it still can be understood and appreciated by young people today and is still relevant to them, even hundreds of years after it was first written.
People of today can most certainly still learn from the play and apply it to their lives. For me personally, it has made me realise that everyone is individual, and should be able to get what they want, regardless of what other people think. Also I think its made me not waste time, because the chance to do something may never come round again, and you will regret missing a chance afterwards. Overall I do feel this is one of the all time classic plays, and will probably still be relevant in another three hundred years, as it can mean so many things to so many people.
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