Shakespeare's Tension in Romeo and Juliet Act

Categories: Play

Romeo and Juliet is a classic example of Shakespeare's ability to write a play with both funny aspects and a tragedy, and in this case, many tragedies. In Romeo and Juliet there are many moments of tension which are made to keep the audiences attention and on the edge of their seats as well as interested. Both of the scenes I am writing about fit this agenda. Romeo and Juliet are both apart of different families, the Montagues and the Capulets.

These families have being feuding for a long time about who is more royal and worthy etc.

Romeo is a Montague and Juliet is a Capulet and this obviously creates a lot of trouble when the two fall in love and, very hastily, get married. This leads into Act 3 Scene 1. In Act 3 Scene 1 it is a very hot day. This means everyone is on edge in Verona and there is a feeling of oppression. This is shown when Benvolio says 'For now these hot days, is the mad blood stirring'.

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This simply means because of the weather spirits are high and everyone is tense. Benvolio wants to go indoors because of this and he knows if the Capulets show up there will be trouble but Mercutio refuses and isn't bothered if the Capulets show up.

Benvolio is a known peace maker while Mercutio is known to be the exact opposite and rather mischievous and this is why they have differences in opinion of what to do. Mercutio then talks about Benvolio.

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He says 'when he enters the confines of a tavern claps me sword upon the table, and says "God send me no need of thee! " and by the operation of the second cup draws him on the drawer, when indeed there is no need. ' This means Benvolio tries to keep peace but can't resist attacking the barmen with his sword even with just a few drinks. He also says 'moved to be moody, and as soon as moody to be moved. This means that Benvolio is easily provoked to anger. Mercutio then goes onto talk about how Benvolio will quarrel with a man even for the slightest of wrong doing.

This is Shakespeare's way of tell us about Mercutio. When he talks about Benvolio he is in fact talking about himself. This raises the question what will happen when Mercutio actually meets up with the Capulets. Unfortunately, this is what happens, Tybalt and some other Capulets show up and tension is instantly added because of the intense rivalry between the two houses. Although Mercutio is not a Montague himself he is a kinsman to the house so his loyalties lie there.

Tybalt is a trouble maker and likes violence, he can also be known as 'Fiery' Tybalt. This is because of his fiery temper and this adds to the tension because both Mercutio and Tybalt are in the mood for fighting. Tybalt and Mercutio now begin talking. Tybalt says 'good den' which means good afternoon and this could mean that the Capulets are not intending to fight but this is clearly not the case when Tybalt says 'you shall find me apt enough to that, sir, and you will give me occasion' which was in response to Mercutio's 'make it a word and a blow'.

What Tybalt is saying is give me an occasion or opportunity and we will beat you up. Tybalt then says 'Mercutio, thou consortest with Romeo' this means Mercutio and Romeo are a bit too friendly although consort can also mean a band of musicians or entertainers and Mercutio uses this. Mercutio takes consort the wrong way on purpose and says 'dost thou make us minstrels' this means does that make us musicians. He takes it further by saying 'Here's my fiddlestick, here's that shall make you dance. ' What he means by this is that his fiddlestick is his sword and it shall make Tybalt duel.

This is provoking trouble and so adding more tension. Mercutio backs up his anger by saying 'Zounds' which was a very bad swear word in Shakespeare's time and this shows just what a bad mood Mercutio is in and this again is provoking trouble. This is exactly what Mercutio is known to do. When Benvolio tries to make peace 'Either withdraw unto some private place, or reason coldly of your grievances, or else depart; here all eyes gave on us. ' Benvolio is saying here that they should depart as everyone can see them here and since none of them respond to this it is obvious they both want to fight.

Romeo now enters and is joyful after just being married to Juliet. But Tybalt is still unaware of this adding more tension. More tension is added because we know Tybalt is after Romeo and we are waiting to find out what he is going to do with him. When Romeo enters Tybalt says 'here comes my man' and again Mercutio takes this the wrong way and pretends Tybalt means servant. Mercutio says Romeo will never wear the uniform of Tybalt's servants 'I'll be hanged, sir, if he wear your livery' and only if Tybalt challenges Romeo to a duel will Romeo be his man.

Mercutio says 'go before field' and this means a duelling place. Tybalt begins by saying 'thou art a villain' to Romeo and this was a very bad swear word in Shakespeare's time and this shows how bad of a mood Tybalt is in. But Romeo takes this and walks away. Tybalt then calls Romeo a 'boy' and then says 'this shall not excuse the injuries that thou hast done me, therefore turn and draw' this is in reference to the party that Romeo and the Montagues crashed earlier in the play. But again Romeo just takes what Tybalt is saying, much to Mercutio's anger.

Mercutio screams 'O calm, dishonourable, vile submission! and then says 'Tybalt, you rat catcher, will you walk? ' When Tybalt says rat catcher it is in reference to Tybalt's nickname 'King of Cats' so by insulting his nickname he is provoking more trouble. Again because of Tybalt's nickname 'King of Cats', Mercutio says 'but one of your nine lives that I mean to make a bold withal, and as you shall use me hereafter, dry-beat the rest of the eight. ' Cats are known to have nine lives and Mercutio says here that he is going to dry-beat all but one of Tybalt's nine lives and is going to kill the other one honourably.

Tybalt has had enough now and begins to fight Mercutio. Romeo tries to stop the madness and jumps in between the pair of them but as he does this Tybalt stabs Mercutio under Romeo's arm where Mercutio could not see. Tybalt and his followers now flee. Mercutio, angered by both Romeos interference and Tybalt, says 'A plague a'both houses! ' which means a plague on both the Montagues and Capulets. He repeats this later for added affect. Even though Mercutio is on the point of death he still insists on being his old self and playing word games.

He says 'ask for me tomorrow and you shall find a grave man' grave can mean a person who is sad and serious but can also mean the grave of a man where a person rests when they are dead. So by saying grave he means he is going to die. Another play on words Mercutio uses is 'scratch a man to death' which he is using because of Tybalt's nickname 'King of Cats' When Benvolio breaks the news that Mercutio is dead Romeo says 'This day's black fate on moe days doth depend, this but begins the woe others must end. ' This is the point in the play where all the tragedy begins.

Romeo is saying here that a bad chain of events is going to happen and Shakespeare often uses signs like this to show what is going to happen in the future. When Tybalt enters again Romeo does what he is known for and hot-headedly rushes to fight Tybalt. Tybalt repeats the insults which he used before 'villain', 'boy', and 'consort'. The tension is created once again when the two characters meet because of the rivalry but this tension is boosted because Tybalt has just slain Mercutio. Romeo adds more to the tension by saying 'Either thou or 1, or both, must go with him' when referring to Mercutio's death.

This confirms that there is going to be a death making more tension and encouraging the reader to read on. Romeo and Tybalt fight and Tybalt falls. Benvolio then says 'Romeo, away, be gone! ' This is what Benvolio is known for. He is the natural peacemaker and the sensible one. He knows that the prince will give Romeo a bad punishment after he gave a strict warning earlier in the pain. Romeo then says 'O, I am fortune's fool' he says this because he realises what a bad situation he is in. Later when everyone is discussing what actually happened with Romeo, Tybalt and Mercutio Lady Capulet is so shocked at what is happened she gets very mad.

Tybalt, my cousin! O my brother's child! O Prince! O husband! O, the blood is spilled of my dear kinsman. ' By using lots of exclamation marks and short sentences Shakespeare creates this worried, angry and tense lady. The next scene I am writing about is Act 3 Scene 5. Between the end of Act 3 Scene 1 and the beginning of Act 3 Scene 5 Romeo is told he is to be exiled from Verona and is never to return. Romeo and Juliet have just spent the night together in Juliet's house, without her parent's knowledge. Romeo departs, never to return, and Lady Capulet enters.

Lady Capulet entering so early means that she has something very important to say to Juliet. This builds tension as we do not know what it will be so keeps us reading and it also builds tension as Juliet will be trying to cover up Romeo has been there. Juliet says she is weeping over Tybalt and that she is feeling under the weather 'Madam, I am not well'. But this in fact because she has just parted with her husband. Juliet says several lines which have double meanings throughout this scene and all these add to the tension as she is completely lying to her mother.

Lady Capulet talks extremely harshly of Romeo saying things like 'villain' and 'murderer' and this is ironic how she is talking to Juliet, who has just married Romeo. Juliet wishes she could stick up for Romeo and she does, but she says it aside not to Lady Capulet 'God pardon him, I do with all my heart' When Lady Capulet says 'But now I'll tell thee joyful tidings, girl' it seems as if Juliet is going to get a unexpected treat or some good news but when Lady Capulet reveals it, it is far from joy 'Marry, my child, early next Thursday morn... The County Paris' This is obviously shock horror and adds a lot of tension.

When Juliet rejects Lady Capulet offers she says 'Here comes your father, tell him so yourself' this suggests that her father will do something about it and this adds tension as we do not know what he will do whether he punishes her, hits her or whatever. She is also speaking as if she does not care Juliet. When Capulet enters he begins confidently and by offering fatherly comfort to Juliet 'How now, a conduit, girl? What, still in tears? ' among other things to comfort her as he thinks she is crying over Tybalt's death. But when Juliet rejects his fatherly comfort he completely changes his tone.

He then says 'how, will she none? Doth she not give us thanks? Is she not proud? Doth she not count her blest, unworthy as she is, that we have wrought so worthy a gentleman to be her bride? ' Capulet is not talking about Juliet in the 3rd person. This is alienating her and making her feel not part of the family and not cared for, even though he is her father. Although Lord Capulet is known for having a bad temper so this may be a usual thing for him to have outbursts like this. In Shakespeare's time it was very unheard of for a daughter to disobey her father and this makes this scene even tenser.

Capulet finds out that Juliet is talking in riddles when he says 'how how, how how, chopt-logic? ' This is then followed by 'To go with Paris to Saint Peter's Church or I will drag thee on a hurdle thither. Out, you green-sickness carrion! Out, you baggage! You tallow-face! ' You can tell that Lord Capulet has completely lost it here. He is talking in very short sentences as if he is just making it up as he goes along and is just saying it in a spur of the moment thing. By saying he is going to drag her by a 'hurdle' he is implying that she is a villain or a murder as this is what prisoners were dragged to executions with.

Tallow-face' is referring to her crying. He is saying that her face looks waxy, like a candle because of all the tears. Juliet turns very dramatic in response to this 'Good father, I beseech you on my knees'. This should be enough to soften a father especially after '[She kneels down]' but Capulet remains strong, as he is well known for, and goes even further saying 'I tell thee what: get thee to church a'Thursday, or never after look me in the face. Speak not, reply not, do not answer me! My fingers itch'. It sounds as if Capulet is very serious now saying that if Juliet doesn't attend church then she should never see Capulet again.

This is completely abandoning her and Juliet must be absolutely distraught. 'My fingers itch' means he wants to hit her. Capulet then says 'we have a curse in having her' this is a horrible thing to say, especially in front of your own daughter, and shows what an enormous rage Capulet is in and then says 'O God-i-goden! ' this is a very bad way of saying 'get lost! ' and shows that Capulet is at the end of his tether. All this builds up a huge amount of tension because of what a rage Capulet is in. Lady Capulet in response to all this says 'You are too hot' this is what Benvolio said in Act 3 Scene 1 and what a disaster happened there.

Capulet now leaves. Juliet then turns to her mother and says 'O sweet mother, cast me not away! ' but Lady Capulet says 'Talk not to me, for I'll not speak a word. Do as thou wilt, for I have done with thee' and exits. Now both her Mother and Father have completely disbanded her. With her Mother and Father gone Juliet realises what a terrible situation she is in, but things get worse when she realises that her religion forbids her to get married when she is already married to another person so her religion has turned on her too.

In a desperate attempt for help she turns to the nurse 'Some comfort, Nurse' but Nurse says 'I think it is best you married with the County'. Now everyone has turned on Juliet and she has no one else to turn to, apart from Romeo who has been expelled from Verona. Her last words in the scene are 'If all else fail, myself have the power to die' this could be an indication that later in the play Juliet is going to commit suicide, Shakespeare uses several of these indications during his play writing to keep the reader hooked and keep them guessing therefore adding tension.

Updated: May 03, 2023
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Shakespeare's Tension in Romeo and Juliet Act. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

Shakespeare's Tension in Romeo and Juliet Act essay
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