Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is a romantic tragedy. We first learn this in the Prologue, as the audience is told: “Doth with their death…Their death marked love”. The Prologue tells the audience key events in the play and is a good source of dramatic irony, as the audience knows that the characters will die at the end, although the characters themselves don’t. The story of Romeo and Juliet is set in Verona, Italy, and tells of two star-crossed lovers, Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet, who belong to enemy families. They first meet at a Capulet house party.
When they see each other from across the room they instantly fall in love, and are married the next day. However, in Act 3 Scene 1, the day after the marriage, Romeo’s best friend Mercutio is killed by Tybalt; a member of the Capulet family. Because of this, Romeo kills Tybalt and is banished from Verona. After Romeo leaves Verona, Juliet’s parents tell her she is to marry Paris; she is devastated. Friar Lawrence then comes up with a plan to allow Romeo and Juliet to be together; he gives Juliet a sleeping drug that makes her family think she is dead.
When her family leave her tomb, Romeo comes back to Verona, and they plan to run away together. However, this does not go to plan. Romeo does not get the message and thinks Juliet really is dead. When he arrives and finds her in a tomb, he commits suicide. Eventually Juliet wakes up and finds Romeo lying beside her, dead. She stabs herself. The families then arrive, see what has happened, and agree to stop fighting. There are three main themes in the play; one of them being love. When Romeo first meets Juliet at the Capulet party, he instantly falls in love with her and says: ‘Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight! or I ne’er saw true beauty till this night. ’ Romeo is saying that now he’s seen Juliet, he’s fallen more in love with her than he has ever loved before. Another important theme in the play is hate. Later in the play, when the Montagues and Capulets confront each other in the street, Tybalt, Juliet’s cousin tells Benvolio: “What, drawn and think of peace? I hate the word; as I hate hell; all Montague’s and thee…have at thee coward. ” By saying this, Tybalt insults Benvolio, calling him a coward and telling him he hates his entire family as much as he hates hell, therefore, trying to provoke a fight with him.
However, another important theme of the play is fate. Romeo and Juliet’s fate is set from the start of the Prologue when the audience is told: ‘A pair of star-crossed lovers, take their life. ’ This tells the audience Romeo and Juliet’s fate before the play has even started. Elizabethans believed strongly in fate and thought their fate was controlled by the heavens. When Romeo is banished from Verona, Juliet declares: “O’ fortune, fortune, all men call thee fickle… Be fickle, fortune: for then I hope thou wilt not keep him long, but send him back. Juliet asks the heavens, who she believes control their lives, to send Romeo back to her. However, the audience knows the lovers’ fate – this is dramatic irony. Act 3, Scene 1 is in my opinion, the most important scene in the play. This is because it’s in juxtaposition to Act 1 Scene 5, the wedding scene, and is the first point in the play when things start to go wrong and what is said in the Prologue starts to become reality. All comedy and wit previously in the play is killed with the death of the most positive character, Mercutio.
Mercutio brought comedy and brightness to the story but once he had been killed, the play loses its happiness. The seriousness of the situation is emphasized by his repeated curse: “A plague o’ both your houses! ” Although not as superstitious as Elizabethan audiences, even 21st century audiences would react to the strength of this repeated curse. After Tybalt kills Mercutio with his rapier, Romeo avenges the death by killing Tybalt. This would satisfy an Elizabethan audience because of their belief in honour.
They would have believed that Romeo did the right thing by killing Tybalt and that he should even be honoured because of it. At the start of Act 3 Scene 1, Benvolio pleads with Mercutio to leave the street. He says: “I pray thee, good Mercutio, let’s retire” Benvolio says this because he knows that, because of the fight in Act 1 Scene 1, if they meet the Capulets again, there will no doubt be a huge fight between them. Benvolio continues: “And if we meet, we will not ‘scape a brawl; for now, these hot day, is the mad blood stirring” His concern is, because the day is hot, tempers will be frayed.
The hate shown in the fight between Mercutio, Benvolio and Tybalt is in contrast to the love shared between Romeo and Juliet in Act 2 Scene 6, the wedding scene. Before Tybalt enters, Mercutio and Benvolio laugh and joke, however when he arrives, the mood of the scene changes from being relaxed to being tense and serious. The audience expect Tybalt to want revenge for Romeo’s uninvited presence at the Capulet house party. However, in addition, they expect Romeo to explain to Tybalt that he has married his cousin, Juliet, and he is now family.
When Romeo enters, Tybalt addresses him with these words: “Well, peace be with you, sir: here comes my man”. This is obviously sarcastic; as Tybalt and Romeo are enemies. However, it also shows dramatic irony, because without Tybalt knowing it, Romeo and Juliet’s marriage actually has made them kinsmen. The audience knows about this wedding, whereas, Tybalt, Mercutio, and Benvolio do not. This technique is used because it helps engage the audience to the storyline. Mercutio’s death has a particularly dramatic impact on the audience towards the end of this scene.
Although he is aware that he has been fatally stabbed and is probably going to die, he declares: “Ay, ay, a scratch, a scratch. ” As a character, even when dying, he continues his comic role, making the audience feel even more sympathy for him. Romeo reacts violently to Mercutio’s death, telling the audience he is full of: “fire-eyed fury” which results in the death of Tybalt. This is to be expected, because Romeo does bare some responsibility for Mercutio’s death as Romeo should had fought with Tybalt, rather than letting Mercutio fight in his place.
When Prince Escalus arrives, Benvolio explains to him the “fatal brawl”, he does this in rhyming verse: “There lies the man, slain by young Romeo, / That slew thy kinsman, brave Mercutio. ” However, because of grief, he is unable to maintain his use of rhyme and continues his explanation in blank verse: “Tybalt, here slain, whom Romeo’s hand did slay. / Romeo, that spoke him fair”. Prince Escalus remains in control and states in rhyming verse that Romeo shall be banished from Verona, because he has been involved in two murders: “And for that offence / Immediately we do exile him hence”.
The use of rhyming verse emphasizes the Prince’s status and the importance of his words. He also says: “I will be deaf to pleading and excuses” The Prince is not aware that in banishing Romeo, he is destroying Romeo and Juliet’s marriage, and in a similar way to Juliet’s father, he is dividing the two families rather than uniting them which is his aim. In conclusion, Act 3 Scene 1 is one of the most important scenes in the play because it strongly effects what happens in the remainder of the story. In this pivotal scene, which is a turning point in the play, the play goes from eing romantic to tragic. The tragedy is shown through the deaths of Mercutio and Tybalt, followed by the banishment of Romeo. This, in turn, leads to the deaths of the main characters. Fate, another important theme is strongly developed also, from the Prologue which tells the audience the fate of Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare has written Act 3 Scene 1 with great dramatic significance. Dramatic irony and intense language are used to good effect. The two opposing main themes of the play; love and hate, both very strong emotions, destroy the main characters.
Love is what kills Romeo and Juliet, and is in contrast to the hate that kills Mercutio and Tybalt. In conclusion, Act 3 Scene 1 is, in my opinion, the most important scene in the play; it strongly effects what happens in the remainder of the story. In this pivotal scene, which is a turning point in the story of Romeo and Juliet, the play goes from being romantic to tragic. The tragedy is shown through the deaths of Mercutio and Tybalt, which is soon followed by the banishment of Romeo. This in turn, leads to the deaths of the two main characters.
Fate, another important theme, is strongly developed also, from the prologue, which tells the audience the fate of Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare wrote Act 3 Scene 1 with great dramatic significance. Dramatic irony and intense language are used to good effect. The two opposing main themes of the play, love and hate, both very strong emotions, destroy the main characters. Love is what kills Romeo and Juliet, in contrast to the hate that kills Mercutio and Tybalt. Fate, another important theme, is strongly developed also, from the prologue, which tells the audience the fate of Romeo and Juliet.