In the previous scene Romeo and Juliet had just gotten married and the following scene takes place immediately after the wedding ceremony. This scene illustrates confrontation between Mercutio and Tybalt with Benvolio, Mercutio’s Page and ‘men’. This scene, the location Verona, Italy in what is known in the script as a ‘public place’ – this is quite a precise detail for the reason that The Prince has outlined in a previous scene that if the two feuding families fight in a public place they will be executed. This piece of information of the setting gives the audience a clue to the goings on in this current scene; it builds tension because the audience are aware of the significance and it is quite a subtle effect.
Act 3 Scene 1 starts with Benvolio commenting on how hot the weather is, wanting to go home,
“Benvolio: …Mercutio, let’s retire:
The day is hot, the Capels are abroad,
Thou Art A Villain Analysis
And if we meet we shall not scape a brawl,
For now, these hot days, is the mad blood stirring.”
In this quotation Benvolio is explaining to Mercutio how the hot weather is adding rage to people’s characteristics and how he wants to avoid a fight with the Capulets because he doesn’t want to die. Benvolio is nervous at this point; on the other hand Mercutio doesn’t have the same feelings, as he is confident and ready to fight; The Prince’s command of not fighting on the street does not at all bother him. Mercutio is prepared to be slaughtered; his character is rather conceited and over-confident,
“Mercutio: Come, come, thou art as hot a Jack in thy mood as any in Italy, and as soon moved to be moody, and as soon moody to be moved.”
Shakespeare uses aliteration and cleverly arranges Mercutio’s words to get a self-assured attribute that is key in this element of the scene. Tension already has developed between these two characters, making the atmosphere edgy.
“Benvolio: And I were so apt to quarrel as thou art, any man should buy the fee- simple of my life for an hour and a quarter.”
This quotation of Benvolio warning Mercutio how he will lose his life if he fights too quickly. The uses of words such as ‘thou’ and ‘thee’ build tension with a Shakespearean audience because they thoroughly understand the differences of the respect, although the tension Shakespeare anticipated may not have the same effect on a 21st century audience.
“Mercutio: By my heel, I care not.”
From a response by Mercutio when told by Benvolio of Tybalt’s sudden appearance it is apparent that he shows no interest in Tybalt at all. Mercutio and Tybalt engage in a dispute, with Tybalt insulting Mercutio and Romeo by saying,
“Tybalt: Mercutio thou consortest with Romeo,”
consortest meaning musician. Mercutio refers to Tybalt in the second person with ‘you’, which would be quite polite in Shakespeare’s time rather than ‘thou’ or ‘thee’, which is more frequently used although, Tybalt fairly regularly uses the more informal terminology ‘thou’ and ‘thee’ when talking to Mercutio. Tybalt and Mercutio have the same intention, which is to aggravate each other. However Tybalt takes things too seriously as he is known to like fighting unlike Mercutio who takes a sarcastic approach to the situation.
“Mercutio: Here’s my fiddlestick, here’s that shall make you dance.”
We learn from this part of the scene that these two characters are currently prepared to fight but Mercutio is not necessarily always up for a fight, on the other hand Tybalt is an aggressive character willing to battle no matter what the circumstances are.
The differences between the personalities of Romeo and Tybalt begin to have dramatic consequences as the scene progresses from Romeo’s entrance to Mercutio’s death. The previous scene was the scene of the wedding between Romeo and Juliet, Romeo is now related to Tybalt so is being very kind to him and Tybalt cannot understand why Romeo is being so pleasant.
“Tybalt: Romeo, the love I bear thee can afford
No better term than this: thou art a villain.”
In this quotation, Tybalt offends Romeo by calling him a villain meaning in this context an evil or common man. Romeo responds to Tybalt’s insult with a moderately unusual, but pleasant sentence.
“Romeo: Tybalt, the reason that I have to love thee
Doth much excuse the appertaining rage
To such a greeting. Villain am I none;
Therefore farewell, I see thou knowest me not.”
Romeo’s reply is quite the opposite of Tybalt’s destructive personality. As Romeo attempts to make the atmosphere a whole lot calmer in order to not start a fight and eventually die, but also is unwilling to fight a relative of Juliet’s, Tybalt continues to disrespect Romeo by referring to him as ‘boy’
“Tybalt: Boy this shall not excuse the injuries
That thou hast done me, therefore turn and draw.”
At this stage in the play the audience are aware of more than the characters on stage, which is known as dramatic irony; it adds more drama to the play making it a more enjoyable experience for the audience. Shakespeare creates dramatic tension throughout the scene with techniques such as alliteration, dramatic irony, he uses puns and ‘plays on the character’s words’. In this part of the scene where Mercutio is about to die, Mercutio talks using fencing terminology mainly because this would be shown on stage and the characters would be using swords such as in the 1968 Zefferelli filmed version of Romeo and Juliet, Romeo and Tybalt were fencing just as Mercutio was stabbed.
“Mercutio: O calm, dishonourable, vile submission!
‘Alla stoccata’ carries it away.
Tybalt, you rat catcher, will you walk?”
“Mercutio: Good King of Cats, nothing but one of your nine lives…”
Tybalt finally kills Mercutio by stabbing him. Mercutio speaks boldly as he dies, describing it to be just a scratch. The feuding families are the main cause of Mercutio’s death, this is why Mercutio curses the two families.
“Mercutio: Ay, ay, a scratch, a scratch, marry, ’tis enough.
Where is my page? Go, villain, fetch a surgeon.”
The death of Mercutio has built tension throughout the audience. Tybalt was quite disappointed when he discovered he had killed Mercutio because he had wanted to kill Romeo.
From Mercutio’s death to Romeo’s exit, Romeo lusts for revenge against Tybalt after the killing of his best friend Mercutio. After acting truly caringly towards Tybalt, Romeo has come back with a vengeance.
“Romeo: Again, in triumph, and Mercutio slain?
Away to heaven, respective lenity,
And fire-eyed fury be my conduct now!…”
Romeo gains so much rage over such a short period of time. He believed fate had a lot to do with the outcome of events.
“Romeo: This day’s black fate on moe days doth depend,
This but begins the woe others must end.”
Romeo’s actions are spontaneously carried out which ends up with him killing Tybalt.
Lady Capulet demands to know about the death of her nephew, Tybalt Benvolio reacts in a truthful manner,
“Lady Capulet: Tybalt, my cousin! O my brother’s child! O Prince! O husband! O, the bloodis spilled
Of my dear kinsman. Prince, as thou art true,
For blood of ours, shed blood of Montague.
O cousin, cousin!”
“Benvolio: Tybalt, here slain whom Romeo’s hand did slay.
Romeo, that spoke him fair bid him bethink
How nice the quarrel was, and urged withal…”
The dramatic tension in Act 3 Scene 1 has finally reached its peak; Romeo has been banished and the audience are left at the end of the scene wondering how Romeo and Juliet are going to meet again.
The audience of Shakespeare’s time would have expected the classic versions of Romeo and Juliet to be performed rather than Luhrman’s Romeo and Juliet. Luhrman’s version is comparative to Zefferelli’s 1968 version – both films contain the same amount of action, but are especially diverse. Both Directors have taken a different approach to each film, which makes them successful. Luhrman’s idea may be more successful in a modern day audience because the spectators will be able to relate the play more.
This scene is fairly important to the story line because this is one of the many climaxes of the play, Shakespeare thinks exceedingly carefully about the language structure and not just about the events of the play, which makes his plays extremely successful.