In what ways is Act 3 Scene 1 a turning point in the play Romeo and Juliet?

Categories: Romeo And Juliet

This essay will look at the events which caused the inevitable downfall of Romeo in act 3 scene 1. It will also look at how this event is associated with the main tragedy of the play.

The first event which sparks off the fighting in the play is that of Sampson and Abraham, servants of the two households. Sampson of the Capulet family throws an immense insult at Abraham; the biting of the thumb (back in Shakespearean times) .

Sampson then says, when asked if the insult was aimed at Abraham.

"No, sir, I do not bite my thumb at you, sir, but I bite my thumb, sir."

By saying this Sampson gets away with insulting the Montague's as the law would have been against them if he was to say yes.

"Is the law of our side, if I say ay?


The two servants then fight but Benvolio enters shortly after and breaks it up. At that moment too, Tybalt enters and challenges Benvolio to fight him.

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Prince Escalus enters to break up the fight. He then threatens the two houses with a penalty of death for the one who disturbs the streets of Verona.

"If ever you disturb our streets again,

Your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace . . ."

All this show to the audience that there is tension between the two families even before the play starts and that there is a deep history in to how the arguments first started. This part of the play also informs the audience of this so they can later understand why Romeo and Juliet's romance is so prohibited.

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In Act 1 Scene 5, Romeo attends the Capulet party with the intention of seeing the woman he thought he loved, Rosaline. However, he is recognised by Tybalt by his voice.

"This, by his voice, should be a Montague."

Tybalt consults his Uncle and tells him that he is intending to kill Romeo. Tybalt's uncle tells him not to carry out the scheme as it would ruin the party. This causes Tybalt to feel deep resentment for the Montague's and in particular, Romeo.

This part of the play is a turning point because Romeo has turned up uninvited to a momentous occasion of the Capulets. Tybalt is angry to Romeo; however can not do anything at the time to defend his family's honour, therefore the rage builds up inside him. The audience are not meant to feel sympathy for Tybalt though as there is a larger focus on the meeting of Romeo and Juliet; the start of the advancing events.

This scene is also a display of the feelings which Romeo feels for Juliet. At the start of the play Romeo tells Benvolio that he is very much in love with a girl called Rosaline. The only reason he is at the party is that he knew Rosaline would be there. However, when he sees Juliet his feelings for Rosaline are dismissed and replaced with ones for Juliet.

"Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight,

For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night"

This sudden change in emotions that Romeo has makes the audience question Romeos true feelings, for one minuet he is rejoicing his love for Rosaline and the next he has no feelings for her anymore and has moved on to loving another girl.

Throughout the course of the play, Romeo and Juliet have to keep the fact that they are in love and towards the end, that they are married, a secret to stop further outbreaks of violence between the two houses. The only other people which knew about their love for one another were Friar Lawrence and the Nurse. In Act 2 Friar Lawrence and the Nurse both play a large part in helping arrange the marriage. Friar agrees to marry Romeo and Juliet in hope to heal the hostility between the two feuding houses.

"In one respect I'll thy assistant be;

For this alliance may so happy prove,

To turn your households' rancour to pure love."

Nurse's part in the getting-together of Romeo and Juliet was as a go-between for the two lovers. Romeo gives Nurse Information to which he asked is passed on to Juliet. Both Friar Lawrence and the Nurse had the power to help stop the marriage of Romeo and Juliet and, in turn, the events in Act 3 Scene 1.

Benvolio and Mercutio represent opposite sides of Romeos personality. Benvolio suggests going inside to avoid potential problems, showing that he is the rational thinker.

"I pray thee good Mercutio, let's retire;

The day is hot, the Capulets abroad,"

This shows how Benvolio is anxious about the threat of a fight with the Tybalt or any other Capulet.

Mercutio repeatedly inflames Benvolio for his suggestions of getting off of the street to avoid a disturbance; however, Benvolio manages to fight off Mercutio's taunts by humouring him.

"Am I like such a fellow?"

This is a good display of Benvolio's clever and rational thinking; something which Mercutio lacks, as shown by his attitude towards a fight. Benvolio says...

"By my head, here comes the Capulets!"

To which Mercutio replies

"By my heel, I care not."

This not only shows that he is thinking differently to Benvolio, but the he also isn't worried about the Capulets or getting into a fight with them.

Romeo enters the scene and Tybalt feels that it is the perfect time to execute his revenge for crashing the party in act 1. Tybalt tries to taunt Romeo into a fight however, Romeo refuses and tries to mollify him. However, this backfires as Mercutio stands up for Romeo and fights Tybalt, who eventually kills him.

Romeo pursues Tybalt and kills him. This is the turning point in the play which this essay is looking at.

Romeo feels that Mercutio's death is his fault.

"My very friend, hath got this mortal hurt in my behalf,"

Because Romeo feels this he is forced to take action to deliver justice upon Tybalt and so his cognition can be at rest.

When Tybalt re-enters the scene, Romeo tells him that his actions will be based on the anger he feels for him.

"And fire-eyed fury be my conduct now!"

Romeo continues to say that he must do right the actions, as Mercutio's soul is waiting above their heads for it; fighting to the death with Tybalt.

Romeo killing Tybalt is the biggest turning point in the play. Up until then, there was a chance of a happy ending and both families coming round to accepting one another. However, the arrogance of Mercutio and Tybalt force Romeo into a position where he has to defend the honour of his murdered friend. Killing Tybalt was the main action that Romeo took to loose a happy ending, Shakespeare even lets the audience know of this be Romeo saying...

"This day's black fate on more days doth depend;

This but begins the woe others must end"

This turn of events caused Romeo to be punished by the prince with banishment from Verona. Consecutively his relationship with Juliet was bound to suffer. In many ways his banishment also contributes to his own death and that of Juliet's as when he hears of Juliet's death, at the end of the play, he buys poison in Mantua, to end his own life in grievance.

Romeo's relationship also suffered because he killed Tybalt. Juliet's likelihood of getting to see Romeo again continuing their relationship was completely jeopardised.

Updated: Nov 01, 2022
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In what ways is Act 3 Scene 1 a turning point in the play Romeo and Juliet?. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

In what ways is Act 3 Scene 1 a turning point in the play Romeo and Juliet? essay
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