Everything that has been before this has been closer to one of Shakespeare’s comedies, rather than his tragedies. There are comic figures in the play such as Mercutio and even one of the main protagonists in the tragedy, Romeo. He fits the comic role because he falls in and out of love very quickly. We see this as when we first meet him at the beginning of the play he is in love with Rosaline, yet as soon as he meets Juliet he falls in love with her. To us this seems quite ridiculous and quite hilarious. In fact most of the events before Act 3 scene 1 have been largely positive, but it is at this point in the play where the happiness, from the previous scene, is shattered and the course of action of the play is now a relentless path to tragedy.
We can tell that this was going to be a tragedy because even though the events before this have been positive, the language that is used reflects the fact that this play is a tragedy. It refers to fate and stars many times throughout the play. They play opens with the chorus describing Romeo and Juliet as
Meaning that they are ill fated from the moment the meet. Again, before Romeos and his friends reach the party he dreams that,
“Some consequences yet hanging in the stars
Shall bitterly begin this fearful date
With this nights revel”
Romeo here is using the same language before “yet hanging in the stars” is showing that this night is going to change his life for the worse. We, as the audience, don’t realise why at the time but it is setting up the path for tragedy. But it is not until Act 3 scene 1 that we see the tragic actions come in to the play.
When the actual scene starts it is a completely different image than the last scene. The scene before was set in a church, a wedding where everything looks happy. Act 3 scene 1 starts off in Verona, and Benvolio tells us that it is a hot day. This paints imagery in the audiences’ heads, as everyone will be agitated and not cool and calm. He tries to get Mercutio to leave as he can tell that something bad is going to happen.
“For now, these hot days, is the mad blood stirring.”
He is the wise one, the peacekeeper. Shakespeare also shows that Benvolio is calmer than Mercutio as Benvolio’s speech is written in blank verse, showing calmness, whereas Mercutio”s speech is written in prose antagonising the mood to indicate a chaotic force. Benvolio is trying to keep the peace but Mercutio says to him that he is just as fiery as himself. Mercutio is making jokes and puns, playing on words. Wordplay was very popular in the Elizabethan time so this works well. He continues to makes puns even when Tybalt is creating a challenge for him. Tybalt does this by using polite sarcasm,
“Gentlemen, good e’en! A word with one of you”
There is joking from Mercutio’s part for a lot of this scene, even when he is dying, although I will discuss this later in my essay. There is aggressive converse between Mercutio and Tybalt; they are ready to fight as when Mercutio says,
“Make it a word and a blow,”
Tybalt replies with,
“You shall find me apt enough to that, sir, and you
Will give me occasion”
This shows that he is ready and looking for a fight. Benvolio still tries to keep the peace but with all this talk between Mercutio and Tybalt makes the fight between Romeo and Tybalt more effective as it is unexpected.
When Romeo enters Tybalt immediate stops his fight with Mercutio, as he was to fight Romeo. Tybalt insults Romeo by calling him a “villain” before Romeo gets to say a word. Romeos reply is very cryptic and it is effective because when he says,
“The reason I have to love thee
doth much excuse the appertaining rage”
This is effective, as we know why he has to love him, but no one else does. Tybalt continues to insult Romeo by calling him “Boy”, but Romeo
Continues to protest. This is where Mercutio intercedes and as Tybalt says,
“I am for you”,
This shows that he is ready for a fight with anyone, but he had an excuse to fight Romeo, as Romeo turned up uninvited to his party.
Mercutio doesn’t like seeing his friend being hurt so decides to fight Tybalt instead. Here Romeo and Benvolio’s are trying to stop this fight. In the play it tells us they fight and Mercutio is wounded. This is more effective on stage as the director can use visual aids.
What is effective though is the curse that Mercutio cast,
“A plague o’ both your houses”
It is repeated 3 times. This is effective, as the Elizabethans would have picked up on this being repeated on stage. It is also very effective as he casts a curse that later comes true as one person from each house dies, Romeo and Juliet. His last words have a big effect on us as the audience as he tries to repeat the curse but only manages to get out,
What is effective is the way Mercutio dies. Romeo tries to stop them fighting and in the process of this Mercutio gets hurt under Romeo’s arm. This is ironic because Mercutio dies because Romeo intervenes trying to stop the fighting and anyone getting killed, yet someone on his own side of this feud ends up getting killed.
The curse that Mercutio declares is a signal to the audience that something dreadful is on its way. This is a dramatic moment in the play, and so is Romeo’s reaction. At first he seems to be blaming his love for Juliet, because if it wasn’t for his love for Juliet he would have fought Tybalt, and Mercutio wouldn’t have been killed.
“O sweet Juliet!
They beauty hath made me effeminate,
And in my temper soften’d valour’s steel!”
Here Romeo’s mood turns to anger, especially when Benvolio comes back and tells him that Mercutio has died. Now he allows himself to be angry and doesn’t hold back because of Juliet. So when Tybalt enters,
Romeo is in anger and is ready not just to involve himself in a friendly fight; he clearly has the intent of killing. He makes a threat to Tybalt,
“Either thou, or I, or both, must go with him”
The actual fight written in the play is only written as “they fight, Tybalt falls” and is not that dramatic in itself but the after events are. Particularly because the only thing that Romeo says is
“O, I am Fortune’s fool”
He says this because he knows what lies next cannot be good, as he knows the extent of what he has done. This also relates to how the play keeps referring to fate and at the beginning it describes Romeo and Juliet as,
And again when Benvolio describes then fight he describes it as
Here fatal has a double meaning, obviously meaning deadly as it was a deadly fight. But it also is implied as fate as this scene begins with Romeo and Juliet’s deadly fate. The scene ends on a dramatic note, the fact that Romeo is banished. This may not sound that terrible to us in this society, but in Elizabethan times this is dreadful. Romeo’s whole world is in Verona, all his family and everything. Once he was outside the walls of Verona he would have no contact, he is cut off from his world. This scene, I think, has so much dramatic effectiveness because this is the scene that brings the play into tragedy.
Different directors choose to interpret Shakespeare’s play in different ways. The Zeffirelli version, an older version is not as violent as Lurhman’s version. The Zeffirelli version sticks to the script a lot more. It is set in a public square; this is effective in itself because it is public where everyone is around so can see what”s going on. You can tell that it is a hot day as Mercutio has a handkerchief on his head. He gets into a fountain, which contributes to the mood. When the Capulets arrive there is a huge group of them, Mercutio and Tybalt both show off and play to the crowd. This is effective because the camera shot uses a wide aerial view that shows us a crowd of loud young men surrounding them. All this playing to the
Crowd affects the tone; it makes it more light-hearted even when Tybalt points his sword at Mercutio’s throat the seriousness is diffused, because Mercutio’s gets a laugh out of people.
The Lurhman’s version is set on a beach, this is a public place but this is a more contemporary image as there are bars, umbrellas, music which is appealing to the youth culture fun, picking up on the themes of youth and age. Also the very fact that they are on a beach, everyone is having fun and enjoying themselves on a beach and the clothes they are wearing emphasise the heat. This gets across in both versions what Shakespeare tells us, that they will be more agitated because it is hot. This is highlighted more in the Lurhman version because the mood turns from to fun to anger quite quickly.
In the Lurhman version the mood is very different. It is quite light at first but Mercutio gets angry very quickly and the intent isn’t on a playful fight, these two clearly have the intent on killing each other as they load up there guns. In this version, everything is a lot more violent, including Tybalt. In this version Tybalt is portrayed as an obnoxious character who wants revenge, who seems to hold a grudge,
“This shall not excuse the injuries
That thou hast done me”
In the Zeffirelli version Tybalt is portrayed as no more violent than Mercutio, he is also just trying to show off. In this film when he kills Mercutio it is seems like an accident, and he regrets it very much. We can see this because there is a close up shot of the sword with blood on and then a close up view on Tybalt and there is remorse on his face. In the Lurhman version on the other hand, Tybalt meant to kill Mercutio, he sees his chance while Romeo intervenes and takes it. He does seem a little regretful after he has done it, but not a lot. Not enough to make him stay and see whether Mercutio’s is going to live or not.
In the Zeffirelli version Romeo runs at Tybalt. He looks warn out but he runs at Tybalt with 2 swords in his hands. He is hurt and his actions take place while he is angry but when he takes a step back and realises what he has done, he says his line, not very loudly but almost to himself,
“I am fortune’s fool”
In the Lurhman version, there are contemporary images as he drives at Tybalt in a car. He then kills Tybalt with a gun. Leading up to this you can see the anger in his eyes and you do sympathise with Romeo. You also sympathise with him because you see the guilt, and the regret in his face
When he does shoot Tybalt as the camera zooms into his face. One of the most dramatic moments in this scene is where Romeo realises what he has done and says the line,
“I am Fortunes Fool”
This is effective because he shouts it and it echoes to make it more dramatic. What else is effective is again echoing at the end of this scene, where the prince shouts,
“Romeo is banished!”
This echoes and it gives us as the audience time to reflect on what has
happened to Romeo before it moves on.
In conclusion I would say that this is the one of most dramatic
Scenes in the whole play, apart from the end scene. You see the true
colours of some characters, we see murders and the guilt it brings.
We see many themes, obviously the main one being love. The play
focuses on romantic love, specifically the intense passion that springs
up at first sight between Romeo and Juliet. In “Romeo and Juliet”, love
is a violent, ecstatic, overpowering force that replaces all other values,
loyalties, and emotions. In the course of the play, the young
lovers are driven to defy their entire social world. Romeo watches his
best friend dying as he wouldn’t fight because of his love for Juliet. They
both defy their families. The powerful nature of love can be seen in
the way it is described, or, more accurately, the way descriptions of it
so consistently fail to capture its entirety. At times love is described
in the terms of religion, when Romeo and Juliet first meet.
“Romeo and Juliet” does not make a specific moral statement about the
relationships between love and society, religion, and family; rather, it
portrays the chaos and passion of being in love, combining images of
love, violence, death, religion, and family in an impressionistic rush
leading to the play”s tragic conclusion,
“For never was a story of more woe
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo”.