Evaluate the importance of Act III Scene I to William Shakespeares Romeo and Juliet
Williams Shakespeares Romeo and Juliet revolves around love, fate and violence to reflect the views on women, men, superiority and marriage in the society during Shakespeares time period. This was a time where the status of men dominated to what minor rights women had who were clearly seen as a possession to their husbands of their fathers choice on the assumption that they were pure. This feminist view can be seen through the fact that Juliet is defiant as she goes against the patriarchy of her family of marrying Paris in order to be with Romeo (the man who she loves). This during Shakespeares era would have been seen as highly unacceptable and she would be considered an outcast of the community and possibly impure. Therefore, some people may argue that Romeo and Juliet is very biased towards its time period expressing most of these factors of feminism, marriage and status.
Act III Scene II however, can be interpreted as the most significant point in Romeo and Juliet for many key reasons. Firstly, it includes many leading characters in vital situations involving the death of Mercutio, Tybalt and also the exile of Romeo. All these situations symbolise the moment where the play now becomes a tragedy. Up until this moment, the play has been warm and light-hearted however, in Act III scene I, the death of Mercutio and Tybalt eventually reach to a reconciliation of the two feuding families altering the overall spiritual atmosphere of the play. Furthermore, throughout this essay, I will be investigating into the dramatic genre of the Shakespearean tragedy and the techniques used to express certain situations. I will also compare and contrast the two different versions of the play (21st century and 13th century) and how each reflects the impact of Act III scene I.
Romeo and Juliet fit into the genre of traditional Greek tragedy which is caused by 3 things; Tragic flaw which is where one of the main characters has a flawed personality which leads to such tragedy, hamartia, which is when one of the main characters makes decisions which resulting in accidents that they cant see and finally fate, which is described as the self explanatory. These all encourage fear, benevolence and a sense of preconceived ideas from the audience. Fate definitely plays a huge part in this Greek tragedy as from the prologue; Romeo and Juliet are both described as a pair of star-crossed lovers creating an atmosphere of love empowering the dark society they lived in. This description is almost as if Romeo and Juliet were meant to love right from the beginning however, throughout the story, we the audience are put in God-like positions in order for us to think about fate and to what extent we are reliable of our actions leading to our destiny. Although we are aware of Romeo and Juliets fate from the beginning, we are yet constantly hoping that perhaps a different path may arise for Romeo in order to alter the tragic fate awaiting. This is therefore seen as dramatic irony which is a technique Shakespeare has used throughout the play in order to allow the audience to be a part of the characters destiny.
As well as the dramatic effect of fate in Romeo and Juliet, we can also identify that it Is part of a classic Greek tragedy literary genre as both the protagonists belong to rich families (Montagues and Capulets) who have been forever fighting which reflects the power of their love as, despite the hatred of both families, who are in fact seen enemies to each other, their love still stays intact no matter which also makes it a part of the romance genre.
The main hero also has a fatal flaw. This is seen as Romeo is one to fall in love far too easily as earlier in the play; he seemed to be having mixed feelings towards Rosaline. This can be seen as he talks about her in a Petrarchan sonnet form which was usually used by men in order to exaggerate the beauty of women which were actually impossible to attain. He also describes Rosaline with a series of paradoxes, Brawling love and loving hate. This demonstrates Romeos confused state of mind as how can love be described as brawling and then juxtaposed with hate? Then however when Romeo sees Juliet for the first time, he questions his love for Rosaline, did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight!/ For I neer saw true beauty till this night despite insisting that no woman could ever compare to Rosaline to Benvolio in Act 1 scene I Thou canst not teach me to forget suggesting that it is impossible to forget Rosaline. This further reinforces Romeos fatal flaw of being love sick that it may be argued he is more overwhelmed and charmed by the concept of being in love rather than love itself as a whole.
Romeo also has a second flaw which is his impetuousness. This is seen all throughout the play as he is constantly acting on his decisions without thinking and therefore leading to possibly bigger consequences. This can be seen when Romeo and his friends took the risk of sneaking into the Capulets party aware of the fact they are his enemies. This risk is indicated through Tybalts reaction after recognising Romeos voice. Secondly, Romeo kills Tybalt out of rage to avenge Mercutios death knowing that it would worsen the situation he is with at the moment with Juliet. However he then grieves his mistake by saying O, I am fortunes fool! possibly highlighting the tragic fate of his to come.
Finally, a typical act of his everlasting love for Juliet, he poisons himself as he assumed that Juliet was dead although if only he had maybe waited a bit more or said some prayers, he could have been in the tomb in time for the friar to arrive and explain to him what was happening and the play may not have ended in such a tragedy. However he immediately and without thinking, resorts to suicide. Juliet then wakes up to find her love dead and consequently in the act of pure love, kills herself too in order to be with him. This comes to show the bond and love they both shared and how they could not live without one another.
This is the central irony which Shakespeare has powerfully used to engage with us the audience in a way which maybe to an extent very frustrating. This is because we are aware of everything which is going on and the fact that Juliet was not really dead. Therefore it immediately makes us want to play a part in the play and change the fate which waits for both Romeo and Juliet. However can it be said that some good may come from deaths? As despite the death of these heroes at the end, the plays conclusion however, seems to have promised the restoration of the social order in Verona although the parents of Romeo and Juliet promised to end the feud in honour of each others children which comes to show that some good did come after all. This gives this play a moral which is appreciated by Shakespeares intelligence of being capable of using humour through such characters like Mercutio and the nurse into the tragedy and also resulting in an ending with both good and bad connotations.
The reason for this downfall was mainly due to the love and bond Romeo and Juliet belonging to two opposing families had together. The plot of this story was originally taken from Arthur Brookes poem Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Iuliet of 1562. Due to one of the main running themes (love) Shakespeare perhaps set the story in Italy, Verona to create an ambiance displaying this extravagant love. This may be because Verona is said to be a very romantic city and therefore would make the romance in the story seem more alive and help the audience engage better with the play. Verona is also known to be very hot in summer which the heat may help ignite the passionate love between Romeo and Juliet. Therefore not only does this setting allow build up the romance in the play but also creates a clearer ambiance to reflect the tension that may rise which I further building up with the heat like as if speeding up a chemical reaction to a point where it reaches its peak and hence the tragedy of Act III scene I.
However, the English people of Shakespeares time regarded Italy as a death defying country where it was most known for its illicit sexual affairs and violent crimes. Shakespeare interprets this through the fights and feuds between the 2 families and therefore the setting Verona can be said to be the perfect illustration for this as the summers heat of Verona is likely to encourage hot tempers resulting to a fight which can be clearly seen through Benvolios warning to Mercutio in Act III scene I- We shall not scape a brawl; for now, these hot day, is the mad blood stirring. Also more to the fact that there was the controversy about politics where after the English became protestant, a lot of authors and playwrights were able to write stories involving behaviours like betrayal, murder, affairs etc in catholic countries and hence making the English Church seem more pious. Also the idea that being set in Italy, Shakespeares play could work out without any hitches whereas if he located his play in England, there may have been the issue of unintentional resemblance to English noble families which may well have caused his political issues if any offence was taken.
During the 13th century, Italy was divided into city states, each of which had their own rules and regulations. However, the city states often ended up fighting each other for reasons which mainly involved the difference between the wealthy and the poor which dominated all mankind.- While the rich expected the poor to follow their orders, the poor were not satisfied by this and thus refused to do what they were told. Another reason was due to the lack of enforcement which existed within the city states as although some people were loyal to the pope, others followed the German emperors whilst some followed the old feudal system of there being a natural social order of God, King, Noble men and peasants. This was in contrast to some who thought the only system which made sense was to take what they wanted by force!
Up until now, we the audience have experienced humour and have adapted to the romance between Romeo and Juliet, however, Act III scene I changes this easy going aura as the tempers of many characters are heightened in the hot days leading to many deaths and tragedies which turn the whole play upside down. We the audience are in awe at the beginning of this scene through the references of hot days and the mad blood is stirring as from this, Shakespeare creates a powerful imagery as we are expecting a scene full of blood filled action. Through this scene we are also again reminded of the fate that waits for Romeo as when Mercutio shouts a plague o both your houses we are given a glimpse of what fate Romeo has in store and marks his and Juliets tragic downfall. Therefore, Mercutios death in this scene acts as a sort of catalyst in which speeds up the tragedy leading to the death of the protagonists.
Act III scene I begins off with Mercutio humouring everyone on a hot day set in the beach. This setting helps the audience know exactly whats happening and ironically contradicts the scene towards the end of Act III scene I. Shakespeare creates a likeness towards Mercutio through his comical character which highlights the tragedy to come. Firstly, Romeo states Tybalt, the reason I have to love thee Doth much to excuse the appertaining rage to such a greeting. This represents Romeos respect for Tybalt for he is now his relative and has no intentions to fight him. This may further symbolise the importance of family pride as Shakespeare creates a perception of family love to show that bonds and relationships are anything but surreal even in a world where masculinity overpowers. This moreover shows the big difference between the 2 characters as Romeos life seems to be defined by his love for Juliet whereas Tybalt who is very aggressive and hot tempered has no respect for Romeo which can be seen through Boy, this shall not excuse the injuries that thou hast done me. Turn and draw. The use of boy questions Romeos manliness and may as well put him in a much inferior position to Tybalt. He also challenges him by calling him a boy and this shows that he is stubborn and will not leave until a fight takes place. However much to the fact that Romeo realises he must love Tybalt which is a strong use of verb which further emphasises Romeos respectful character in comparison to Tybalts. Shakespeare may also be trying to convey the point that through the goodness of love must come the badness therefore leading to such consequences which is the death of many characters in the play.
Moreover, Shakespeare has created a sense of dramatic irony when Romeo refuses to fight Tybalt through I do protest, I never injured thee, But love thee better than thou canst devise, till though shalt know the reason of my love: And so, good Capulet, --which name I tender As dearly as my own, --be satisfied. We are aware that the reason Romeo does not want to fight Tybalt is because he has just married his cousin Juliet, however Tybalt is not aware of this which builds up tension and therefore it can be seen that Shakespeare has made the audience be a part of the play however without taking part (like a catalyst) which in a way further reflects the effect of Mercutios death which played a huge part in the downfall of the play without Mercutio further being a character after his death. Another Irony is the fact that Romeo refuses to fight Tybalt bringing out the lovable effeminate Romeo whereas by the end of act III scene I, it is him who kills Tybalt therefore bringing out the murderer in Romeo.
Not only did Tybalt undermine Romeos manliness, but he himself questioned whether Juliets love had made him effeminate. During the Elizabethan society, it was believed that men who were lost in love, had become effeminate and therefore Romeo realises this My very friend hath got this mortal hurt in my behalf. Tybalt that an hour hath been my cousin. Oh sweet Juliet, thy beauty hath made me effeminate. Here Romeo realises that his friend Mercutio has died (under his arm) because of his love for Juliet and therefore blames himself for his death. There is also an oxymoronic quality to Romeos speech as Romeos cousin who he should in fact hate due to being from opposing families, is forced to love due to his relationship with Juliet who he loves and therefore his refusal to fight Tybalt, had got Mercutio his friend whom he loves killed. There is a constant repetition of love and hate which emphasise ironically that love and hate run on the same thin line although are two different emotions. Some may argue, is it coincidental that Romeos love for Juliet has caused many hatred towards the two feuding families? As again, hatred and love seem to contradict each other all throughout the play. On the other hand, it can be viewed that Romeo and Juliets rendezvous takes place in a society where family honour, pride and status dominate all human mankind which can evidently escalate into violence. This is pretty much shown through Act III scene I. Shakespeare however, used this violence in the plays social environment as a dramatic tool to highlight the young love which in the eyes of society is seen as insignificant in contrast to the significant world of violence and social differences.
Finally, when Romeo says this days black fate on moe days depend, this but begins the woe others must end his dramatic tone shows that he means to avenge Mercutios death and that Tybalt will be punished for what bad he has done. The rhyming couplet and the use of alliteration here highlight the fact that the bad happenings (Mercutios death) didnt just come about naturally, but were the result of many things accumulating beforehand. Therefore this quote expresses strongly that it is just the beginning of the bad things to come again reminding the audience of Romeos fate. This also now warns the audience that the play is about to change for the worst and later on in this essay I will be analysing how Baz luhrmanns version of Act III scene I alerts the audience of this change of mood.
The characteristic role of Tybalt in Act III scene I is clearly depicted as a resentful, stubborn, and aggressive man which he demonstrates throughout his minor role of the play. However, although he Is a man who does not speak many lines, he yet has a big impact on the play to an extent which exceeds his presumptuous minor role in the entire story which could be argued that Shakespeare intentionally used to express that the bigger consequences often begin with the smaller actions referring to what possible minor role Tybalt played earlier on in the play up until Act III Scene I that the cause of his actions, led to the central tragedy of the play.
Tybalt articulates Well, peace be with you sir, here comes my man. This shows that he has forgotten his quarrel with Mercutio and has no intention to fight him but is more determined to settle the score with Romeo. The use of blank verse in Tybalts speech helps sharpen the distinction of his status as a high status man who has come for one reason and one reason only Romeo. His respectful use of sir not only shows that Tybalt possesses respect, but merely shows that he is not interested at all in Mercutio as despite the knowledge that he embarrasses Tybalt before Romeos arrival, he is able to put that aside for his main purpose, his man.
He then mentions directly to Romeo, Romeo, the love I bear thee can afford no better term than this: thou art a villain. Through this, Tybalt shows his hatred towards Romeo by the term villain. This term during Shakespeares time would have been seen as very derogative however in our standards this would not be the case which therefore is used to express Tybalts anger as he felt humiliated and powerless when Romeo gate crashed the Capulets party. This to an extent suggests that all reckless behaviour have their consequences to which refers to the drama filled action in Act III scene I.