Shakespeare's Tension Build-up in Act Scenes

Categories: William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, allegedly on April 23, 1564. Church records from Holy Trinity Church indicate that he was baptized there on April 26, 1564. Young William was born of John Shakespeare, a Glover and leather merchant, and Mary Arden, a landed local heiress. William was the third of eight children in the Shakespeare household-three of whom died in childhood.

Altogether William Shakespere had three children, Susanna born in 1583, and twins Hamnet and Judith born 1585-but sadly in 1596 Hammet died at the age of 11.

Baptism records show that William's first child, Susanna was baptized in Stratford in May, 1583. Hamnet and Judith were named after William's close friends, Judith and Hamnet Sadler. William's family was unusually small in a time when families had many children to ensure parents were cared for in later years despite the very high mortality rates of children and also their life expectancy in the 1500s.

William Shakespeare later died in 1616, and was buried in the holy Trinity church in Stratford upon Avon.

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Altogether Shakespeare wrote 34 plays including;

* Hamlet

* Macbeth,

* The Tempest

* Henry VII

* Romeo and Juliet-which I will now go on to discuss in detail.

In the heritage of literacy, William Shakespeare could be described as the greatest play writer ever, because of the quality and quantity of his work, and the effect which he has had on modern day play writers!

The Montagues and Capulets are two families which despise each other in the city of Verona. The feud between the two families has been happening for many years.

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The two families both have teenage children, Romeo, a Montague, and Juliet, a Capulet. They instantly fall in love by accident at a Capulet party. They marry in secret with only Friar Lawrence and the nurse knowing. Romeos best friend Mercutio is killed by Tybalt, Juliet's cousin. In revenge Romeo kills Tybalt and is banished from Verona. Friar Lawrence helps Romeo and Juliet be together but the plans go terribly wrong. Romeo believes Juliet is dead, and kills himself so that they can be together. Juliet finds Romeo dead, also kills herself, not wishing to live without him. Both Romeo and Juliet's death ends the feud between the two families, and Verona's streets are now at peace.

Audience interest is achieved in the play by, foreshadowing, dramatic irony, juxtaposition, contrast, oxymoron's and humor. I will explain these in more detail:

* Foreshadowing is a technique used by many writers to hint to the audience that something is going to happen before it actually does. Example, Benvolio says to Mercutio, 'I pray thee good Mercutio, lets retire; the day is hot, the Capels are abroad, and if we meet we shall not scape a brawl.' Basically it s another way to prepare the audience for what happens next.

* Dramatic Irony is when the audience knows more than the characters. Example, When Romeo and Juliet get married, no other characters know, but the audience does.

* Juxtaposition is two things which contrast each other which are different. Example having a happy wedding sc�ne which then follows by a violent fighting scene. Juxtaposition is very effective in Romeo and Juliet because, it makes the fighting scenes look more dramatic, compared to an optimistic wedding scene. This also keeps the audience from loosing interest.(this is also very similar to contrast)

* Oxymorons are adjectives which describe the opposite. Example loyal traitor. Juliet uses many oxymorons's to describe how she feels over Romeo killing her cousin. Tybalt. These show her conflicting emotions, which makes it very effective. AN example she uses is, 'dove-feathered raven'

* Humor in a play breaks up the tension, and varies the pace of it. Shakespeare mainly uses humor through the character of Mercutio. He wants the audience to take a liking to Mercutio, and relate to his feelings. When Mercutio finally dies, Shakespeare wants the audience to be upset, and make it seem more like a dramatic tragedy. Example, when Mercutio is in pain he still tries to make a joke of it, and make the audience admire his positive nature, 'ay, ay, a scratch, a scratch.'

Act 3, Scene 1!

At the beginning of Act 3, scene 1, Benvolio fears for the meeting of the Capulet's, knowing that a fight will surely follow. Mercutio laughs at Benvolio fears, accusing him of being a 'peacemaker.' When the Capulet's finally arrive, Mercutio taunts Tybalt, to cause an argument. Tybalt ignores Mercutio's insults, as he isn't interested in him, but instead, with Romeo. Romeo then refuses to accept Tybalt's challenge to fight, 'I do protest, I never injured thee, but love thee better than thou canst devise,' and tries to placate him, much to Mercutio's disgust, which cause him to become very angry, so instead he then challenges Tybalt himself.

As Romeo tries to make peace between them both, Mercutio is brutally injured. He then notices what has happened and curses both of the families before he eventually dies, 'A plague upon both your houses!' Romeo then feels guilty and blames himself, for his friend's death. Romeo becomes very angry, and vows to slay Tybalt. When he later finds him, they have a duel, and Tybalt is killed. Romeo understands the consequences for his actions so he later flees to a safer place. When Lady Capulet hears about Tybalt's death, she demands that Romeo must die (a life for a life) while Benvolio tries to explain to Prince Escales how and why Mercutio and Tybalt were murdered. Automatically Lady Capulet accuses him of lying in order to protect his cousin. Therefore the Prince comes to the conclusion that when Romeo is to be banished from Verona for eternity for killing Tybalt, 'Let Romeo hence in haste, else, when he is found, that hour is his last!'

In this scene Shakespeare has built up audience involvement to prepare us for the fight scene by using juxtaposition. It is in contrast with the previous optimistic wedding scene, which is very calm peaceful. This makes the deaths seem more disturbing for the audience watching. Dramatic irony is also used because the only character who knows about Romeo and Juliet's wedding is Friar Lawrence, so the audience can judge their actions around their families, and reflect on what they would have done different.

Foreshadowing is also another technique which is used by the character of Benvolio, before the fight actually happens because, he is suggesting how a fight might occur if they stay there any longer.

Benvolio also has a self fulfilling prophecy in act 3, to prevent the fight from occurring, by asking Mercutio to retire, but it seems as if Mercutio wants to quarrel with Tybalt maybe to pass some away on the tedious day, 'By my heel I care not!'

This gives the audience the impression that something is wrong, because Mercutio is in a very arrogant, argumentative mood, which makes him restless. As the scene continues, he builds up anger by describing Benvolio, but in fact, he is describing himself, 'wilt quarrel with a man for cracking nuts, having no other reason.' Just as he builds himself up into a crescendo of rage, Tybalt appears as expected.

Tybalt becomes easily provoked by Mercutio, but Tybalt tries to ignore him because he is seeking Romeo. Mercutio also continues to taunt Tybalt by making a joke of it, 'And but one word with one of us? Couple it with something; make it a word and a blow.'

At this point the audience would be blaming Mercutio, because Tybalt had not done anything offensive towards him. It is obvious throughout the scene that Mercutio is seeking an argument for entertainment.

Benvolio tries to prevent the fight between Mercutio and Tybalt by, asking Mercutio to retire at the beginning of the scene but Mercutio refuses to listen to him. When Romeo arrives, he also tries to prevent it by talking sense to them both, and by referring to their better natures. Romeo then refuses to accept Tybalts challenge, which makes Mercutio become even more irritated. 'O calm vile submission!'

The audience is then encouraged to be on Romeos side, through the use of dramatic irony. The audience already knows that Romeo is married to Tybalt's cousin Juliet, so Romeo is thinking on behalf of his wife. On the other hand, Tybalt is yet to find out this, and accuses Romeo of being a villain, 'No better term than this; thou art a villain.' The audience is then sympathetic towards Romeo, because of the complicated circumstances which he is in. Romeo feels more or less the same for Tybalt as a family member, even though he may dislike Tybalt, and he cannot let this be demonstrated, for Juliet's sake. Romeo does not rise or become provoked by Tybalt's insults and does the right thing and walks away, 'And so, good Capulet, which name I tender as dearly as mine own, be satisfied.'

Romeo is acting in a mature way by not retaliating to Tybalt's insults, and throughout it tries to remain civil towards him. Tybalt tries everything to aggravate Romeo, but he continues to refer to Tybalt's better nature. Tybalt is then baffled on why Romeo keeps refusing to fight so then in the end; the outcome was for him to use violent behavior.

Romeo stands up for what is right by trying to prevent Mercutio and Tybalt from a brawl and disobeying the Princes rule of no fighting in the streets.

When Mercutio does finally pass away, it affects Romeo really terribly, by having a combination of feelings and emotions. At first he is extremely distressed, but then it rotates to becoming outraged and he realizes that he will never set eyes on his best friend again. The conclusion is that either himself, Tybalt or both of them must die, in order to have some payback for Mercutio's death, which is only reasonable, 'This days black fate on moe days doth depend, this but begins the woe others must end.'

At first the audience would be disappointed on the decision which Romeo had came to but would steadily begin to appreciate the uncomfortable situation he was in.

All Romeo can think about is revenge and to get justice for Mercutio's murder, 'again in triumph, and Mercutio's slain? Away to heaven, respective lenity and fire-eyed fury by my conduct now! Now, Tybalt, take that villain back again that late thou gavest me, for Mercutio's soul.' At this point in time, the audience sympathizes with Romeo, as they know he is grieving and in shock because of what happened to his best friend.

Romeo hints his intensions to the audience before he actually kills Tybalt by making an ultimatum, ' either thou or I, or both must go with him', meaning that no matter what the outcome will be one of them will pay for what happened, to accompany Mercutio in heaven. This quote shows maybe, how annoyed Romeo is at himself for not preventing the ending on what happened. This is another example where Shakespeare uses foreshadowing.

The effect which Tybalt's death has on Romeo is that it makes him come to his senses. He now realizes and understands the consequences his moment of madness has caused and how much outraged. On the other hand Romeo does not regret killing Tybalt but he knows his emotions took over at the wrong time, 'O, I am fortunes fool.' That quote shows how Romeo realizes that he will be punished for murdering Tybalt-he could be banished from Verona, or even worse, executed.

Approaching the end of Scene 1, most of the characters have different thoughts on the events what happened. Romeo is disappointed in himself, and his actions, while the Capulets are infuriated at what he did. Increased tension is created by the added effects, such as foreshadowing which Shakespeare includes in his writing.

Lady Capulet demands to the Prince that Romeo should be executed to get the justice deserved, 'I beg for justice, which thou, Prince must give; Romeo slew Tybalt, Romeo must not live.' When the Montague's hear about the occurrence they plead with the Prince, and explains how much Romeo cared for Mercutio, and that Tybalt isn't as innocent as his family believe, 'Not Romeo, Prince, he was Mercutio's friend, his fault concludes but what the law should end, the life of Tybalt.' The Prince announces that Romeo will be able to live, but must be punished-banished from the streets of Verona, 'Let Romeo hence in haste, Else, when he is found, that hour is his last.'

The effect that the deaths of both Mercutio and Tybalt haves on the play is that, it makes the feud between the families appear more dramatic and serious. Lady Capulet is fuming at the Montagues because the outcome has become two violent deaths. The two deaths should make the families resolve their issues, but instead it makes people more furious and wants justice. It also makes the play seem like an inevitable tragedy, because it was likely that the most likeable characters were going to be killed off.

Act 3, Scene 2!

At the beginning of Act 3, scene 2, Juliet is oblivious to the events that have happened in the day. Juliet is filled with love for Romeo and wants to loose her virginity to him, 'Come, night, come Romeo, come, thou day in night.' The nurse then eventually, reveals to Juliet that Tybalt has been murdered, and immediately believes that Romeo has died too, 'Is Romeo slaughtered? And is Tybalt dead?' She is more concerned about Romeo, and wishes she could die too, so she can lay beside Romeo in death.

The nurse then reveals to her that Tybalt s dead, but Romeo has been banished from Verona. Juliet begins to accuse Romeo of seeming beautiful, but acting violently. She uses a lot of oxymoron's to describe her feelings towards what has happened. When the nurse gives Juliet her opinion about all men, Juliet becomes angry and stands up for Romeo, even after what he has done, 'Blistered be thy tongue for such a wish!'

In Juliet's soliloquy it reveals how devoted she is to Romeo. She even says that once she is dead, she wants her Romeo to be cut into tiny stars in the sky, 'Give me my Romeo, and when I shall die, take him and cut him into little stars.' This shows the audience that she will choose and side with Romeo, and forgive him for what he may do wrong. Juliet longs fro Romeo to come and be with her, 'O, I must bring the mansion of love.' Romeo does not realize though how he has affected Juliet by his actions in both a mental and physical way.

Shakspere heightens the suspense again, between the nurse and Juliet, when the nurse finally gets around to telling Juliet about the goings on. He does this when the nurse says, 'Ah weraday, he's dead, he's dead, he's dead!' The nurse doesn't actually mention who is dead, so it leaves the audience in suspense waiting to see Juliet's reaction. At first Juliet gets confused and thinks that it is Romeo who is dead, which keeps the audience's attention to see the conclusion.

Juliet's initial reaction to the news when she finds out that Romeo has murdered Tybalt is angry but forgiving. She uses a series of oxymorons which reflect her emotional conflict -Part of her is still in love with him, but part of her feels very disappointed. She is torn between two opinions. She is very surprised to hear what Romeo has done, because she has never seen this side to him where he is aggressive and violent.

Juliet's loyalty to Romeo shows the audience how much she loves him, leading her to forgive him no matter what he does. Juliet also rebukes herself for even speaking about Romeo in a shocking way. She begins to argue and persuade herself that Romeo isn't completely incorrect because she realizes how Tybalt could have provoked Romeo. Tybalt is Juliet's cousin, so she obviously knows that Tybalt isn't as innocent as her family is led to believe. The audience admires her loyalty to Romeo, but is sympathetic towards her because she is a young adult and can't really cope with certain situations as well as adults.

Shakespeare builds up foreshadowing in this scene, when Juliet is discussing death on her wedding bed. Juliet says how she believes that death will take her virginity instead of Romeo. She also fears that she will never set eyes on Romeo again, 'Both you and I, for Romeo is exiled, He made you for a highway to my bed.' Juliet senses that something unpleasant is going to happen, and she is correct. This makes the audience question, 'Will Juliet die?' because before she does, she must consummate her marriage.

The decision to catch sight of Romeo once again, makes the audience believe that Juliet is making the correct choice. There are a lot of problems and obstacles for both Romeo and Juliet to overcome, involving many risks. If she sees Romeo again, she will be able to listen to his side of the story. Juliet adores him so much she will jeopardize everything and anything for just a couple more hours spent alone with him, 'O find him! Give this ring to my true Knight. And bid him come to take his last farewell.'


The two scenes which I have studies for my coursework are a few of the main and most important scenes of the play. A lot of techniques are used to increase audience involvement and increase the tension and effect of the play.

The characters which Shakespeare encourages the audience to be fond of are:

* Mercutio because he is the joker in the play, and he wants the audience to express amusement from his lines. Also, when he dies he wants the audience to be saddened by his departure and feel the emotions that the other characters are feeling. To have a character in a play like this, also increases audience involvement.

* Juliet because Shakespeare encourages the audience to feel sorry for Juliet because of the situations which she is in. He makes her out to be an innocent little girl, who is swayed easily by other people's opinions. He also wants people to pity Juliet, but hopes everything will work out to her advantage.

The characters which Shakespeare encourages the audiences to have an aversion to are:

* Tybalt because he is made to look out to be a violent short tempered man, who enjoys fighting. Tybalt is always ready to begin a fight, and also despises Romeo, even though Romeo has never been offensive towards him. Tybalt is very protective of his family and doesn't want his cousin to be made unhappy.

* Capulet because e is very argumentative and arrogant. He is very aggressive to Juliet and Lady Capulet. He believes that he is in charge and whatever he says goes.

The early death of Mercutio would have a massive effect on the audience and the rest of the play because he is already a much loved character. The audience would then blame Tybalt and hold a grudge against him, wanting revenge.

The reaction of the audience towards Tybalt's death would be rather different to that of Mercutio. The audience would be shocked at Romeo, for not thinking about the consequences of his relationship with Juliet and his own safety.

On stage I think that the most powerful character would be Romeo because he is physically and emotionally a strong character. He would be remembered for his loyalty to Juliet, and his courage against Tybalt. He also makes a great impact on the play, making the audience feel more involved.

Updated: May 03, 2023
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Shakespeare's Tension Build-up in Act Scenes. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

Shakespeare's Tension Build-up in Act Scenes essay
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