Romeo and Juliet, Act 3 Scene 1

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Romeo and Juliet
Act 3 Scene 1 - Verona, a public place

‘Verona, a public place’ is one of the most important, as well as dramatic scenes in the story of ‘Romeo and Juliet’. It leads us into the climax of the story, and brings out various emotions and feelings from the audience. However, the scene would never have been successful in engaging the audience if it were not for the build up of Act 1 and Act 2’s introduction. Therefore, it is necessary to consider to some extent what Shakespeare constructs on stage before Act 3 begins.

Before we enter Act 3, there are a few things we, as an audience, are already acquainted with. We know that Tybalt, Juliet’s cousin, is currently furious about Romeo showing up at their party. He is determined to seek revenge, to ‘teach him a lesson’, and he is not the type of man who would back down easily, as he says at the party “I will withdraw, but this intrusion shallNow seeming sweet, convert to bitt’ rest gall.” Meaning although he agrees not to start a fight at the party, he intends to go after Romeo on another occasion. Tybalt’s personality is very mechanical. He seems to be constantly infuriated, and the reaction and outcome we get every time he appears is inevitable; a fight is guaranteed. Mercutio, Romeo’s close friend, has the opposite effect. Like his name, Mercutio is very ‘mercurial’. He is witty and sharp, but he also has a very volatile and unstable personality. One minute he could be laughing and joking, the other, he could be in distress and annoyed. Yet, he is a likeable man, because we enjoy hearing his clever play with words. We never know what to expect from him when he appears on stage.

We know that with Tybalt on Romeo’s back, a conflict is on its way. However, just before the scene, we saw Romeo and Juliet bound themselves in a loving marriage; a marriage yet to be consummated. We also remember the Prince saying that if anymore fighting were to happen between the families, death would be the punishment.

In other words, we are aware of the trouble that is brewing, and the problems go beyond one another. We are hoping, expecting and worried of what might happen next. We arrive to the scene with questions and plot complications in our minds. What will Romeo do if Tybalt really does come challenging him? Will he be able to fight like a man and end up fighting his wife’s cousin, or worse, being executed by the Prince? Or would Juliet have softened him, and he would reject the fight, bringing shame to the family? Our awareness to this information is essential in order for us to have full engagement into ‘Verona, a public place’.

When we finally enter Act 3 Scene 1 along with our psychological baggage, a dramatic effect is already present. The name of the scene, “Verona, a public place” is already reminding us of trouble. We remember the Prince prohibiting anymore fighting between the families. ‘A public place’ was where they should not have been starting trouble again, but ironically, that was where they were.

The scene starts with Benvolio and Mercutio, out in the public and exposed to danger and trouble, immediately after the happy, peaceful wedding of Romeo and Juliet. The sudden change of atmosphere gives us a ‘slap in the face’; signifying how love and understanding diminishes all too quickly.

Benvolio tries to talk Mercutio out of hanging around, to ‘retire’, as the “day is hot, the Capels are abroad And if we meet we shall not scape a brawl For now, these hot days is the mad blood stirring.” Although Benvolio is trying to avert trouble and put Mercutio off from finding some, his choices of words are silly. Mercutio is in an awkward mood, and Benvolio just builds up the tension by using words like ‘hot’, ‘brawl’, ‘mad blood’, and ‘stirring’. He talks about dispute and madness, putting Mercutio into the mood of fighting. Mercutio ignores Benvolio’s advice, and responds in the way he always does; in a chain of humorous...
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