In this essay I am going to analyse act 3 scene 1 of Romeo and Juliet to work out why it is the turning point of the play. I will analyse the characters; historical context; the structure of the play; the main characters and the language used by William Shakespeare. I will also analyse how Shakespeare built up tension within the audience. I have read the play and have watched the original movie directed by Zeffirelli’s and the modern version directed by Lurhmann. By watching both the traditional and the modern version I now have a clearer interpretation of the message that Shakespeare wanted to put across. It is acceptable for the play to be modernised as it gives the message to a different audience in a way that they can understand. Both of the versions were unique but they still carried the same message which is that love is blind and that although there are many different types of love, they can all lead to disaster.
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The genre of the play is a tragedy and this is clearly shown throughout the play especially in act 3 scene 1. The Capulet and the Montague families are both feuding. They are fighting because Romeo had gate-crashed the Capulets party; he gate crashed the party because he was hoping to see Rosaline, who he wanted to see as he thinks he loves her. Romeo has the personality of any other teenager and is prone to getting into fights. The weather was to blame for many of the fights as it was extremely hot and this was making many people agitated, so maybe if the weather was cooler Mercutio would not have been as argumentative and the fight would never have started. Also, if Romeo had not gate-crashed the party Tybalt would not want revenge. Also, if Romeo had stayed with Juliet, Tybalt and Mercutio would have just fought to let out their anger and nobody would have died but Romeo turned up just at the wrong point which meant Tybalt stabbed Mercutio. Romeo did not want to fight; in fact his original intention was to stop the fight and this was because he was now related to Tybalt so he did not want to hurt one of his relatives but he could not control himself after Tybalt had killed Mercutio and ended up fighting with Tybalt. Before the fight Romeo says to Tybalt
“Either thou or I must go with him”
and he is trying to implement the fact that Mercutio has only just died and one of them must join him. Even if the fight had not taken place and Romeo had not killed Tybalt, Romeo and Juliet would still not be able to live happily as the two families would still be fighting and would not agree with their marriage.
“The day is hot, the Capels are abroad, And if we meet them we shall not escape a brawl, For now, these hot days, is the mad blood stirring.”
This is very much foreshadowing what is to come as the minute the two families meet a fight does start. Benvolio highlighted twice that the weather was very hot and this was because Elizabethans believed the heat made men angry and they thought that there was even more of a chance that there would be a fight as the weather was hot. In the eyes of the audience this was the start of things to come as this was the start of the turning point of act 3 scene 1. This tells the audience what would happen if the two families meet but what the audience do not know is that the two families do meet which would have built up tension in the audience.
The way that Shakespeare puts Mercutio in the fight is showing that act 3 scene 1 is the turning point of play. This is because it is completely changing Mercutio’s character as he is always harmless and full of life and would never get into a fight, and would certainly not start one. This change to Mercutio’s character affects the play greatly because if there was no fight Mercutio would not be killed, which would of not triggered the fight between Romeo and Tybalt. This would then mean that Romeo would not be banished as he would not kill anyone. This would change the outcome of the play dramatically as Juliet would know where Romeo was and they could put a plan together to decide what they were going to do next.
Before Mercutio died he said
“A plague a’both houses!”
By saying this he was wishing the worst luck on both of the families as they are both as much to blame as each other for the fighting and all of the fall outs over the years. Shakespeare had used the plague as this was something that was spreading throughout the time the play was written and if a family caught it their future did not look good. This was also dramatically foreshadowing the future of the two families as even though the audience didn’t know it, this is what was going to happen; both families were going to have a great loss.
Romeo is another character that Shakespeare dramatically changes throughout act 3 scene 1 to show that this scene is the changing point of Romeo and Juliet. One way that Shakespeare uses Romeo to show that this scene is the turning point is in the change in his attitude. At the start of the play Romeo just wants to be left alone as he his thinking about Rosalyne, and then there is a point at the party where he gets back to his normal self and then falls in love with Juliet and this changes his thoughts and personality dramatically as he changes his views and thoughts on the Capulet family. He realises that if he wants his marriage to be successful he needs to make friends with Juliet’s family. But by the end of act 3 scene 1 this has changed completely and Romeo ends up killing Tybalt who was Juliet’s Cousin, a Capulet. This is what completely changed the outcome of the play as Romeo is banished for killing Tybalt which ends eventually in Romeo and Juliet both dying. This is why Romeo was the main cause for act 3 scene 1 being the turning point of the play.
Throughout act 3 scene 1 Shakespeare uses very dramatic and powerful language. One example of this is when Tybalt says
“thou art a villain”
this is aimed at Romeo. At the time the play was written this was intended as a very serious insult and was like calling him the lowest of the low an extremely bad person. Shakespeare uses this to show that this point in the play is changing the rest of the play. By Tybalt saying this to Romeo it is making it look as if all of the problems are caused by Romeo and he is the cause of the pain and suffering. This shows us that Romeo has changed; he is not seen as the one who stays away from the fights and wants to stop them happening; he is now seen as one of the people to start them.
Another example of Shakespeare using dramatic language is when Romeo says
“But love thee better than thou canst devise”.
He said this to Tybalt and he meant that he loves Tybalt in a way greater than he could imagine meaning he is now related to Tybalt as he is married to Juliet, Tybalt’s cousin. This is dramatic irony in the play as the audience knew that Romeo is married to Juliet but no one else does apart from the Nurse and Friar Laurence. By Romeo saying this it is showing how the marriage was affecting the lives of everyone. The marriage was the reason that Tybalt killed Mercutio as if Romeo had not of been with Juliet he would not have left her and interrupted the fight which would not have caused Tybalt to stab Mercutio.
“My very friend, hath got his mortal hurt. In my behalf; my reputation stain’d”.
Romeo is saying that Mercutio has been killed on his behalf. This is because the Capulets wanted to have revenge for Romeo gate crashing their party. This is the reason the fight started and if there fight had not have started Mercutio would not have been killed. So because of this Romeo is now blaming the death of Mercutio on himself even though it is clear that it is not his fault as he didn’t turn up until the end of the fight. This is another way that we are shown act 3 scene 1 is the turning point of the play as all of the characters feelings and thoughts keep changing dramatically throughout act 3 scene 1.
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The stagecraft of the play is another way that act 3 scene 1 was shown as the turning point to the play. One way that this was shown was the way that Shakespeare showed someone being stabbed. The actor would wear a pig’s bladder under his clothes, this would be full of blood and when another actor touched this with their sword it would burst and the blood would come out making the actor look as if he had been stabbed. This was very gory but very effective making the audience believe the actor had actually been stabbed. This was used in act 3 scene 1 when Mercutio was stabbed and would have dramatically affected the audiences mood and feelings this would have been because they would have felt as if the actor had really died and it would have affected them as they would of felt as if they had just watch someone die. This would have also entertained the audience as the Elizabethans loved blood and gore and would be something that they would want to see in a play.
In conclusion, Act 3 scene 1 has many reasons that show it is the turning point to Romeo and Juliet and this is shown by Shakespeare using the way the characters feelings and thoughts change throughout the act 3 scene 1. Also the way that Shakespeare used dramatic language to change the thoughts and tension in the audience. The fight between Tybalt and Mercutio completely changed the outcome of the play this was because this fight led to Tybalt killing Mercutio which led to another fight between Tybalt and Romeo which ended with Romeo killing Tybalt. This then meant Romeo had to be punished and this is done by banishing him from Verona which meant when Friar Laurence and Juliet made a plan for them to live together, the details don’t get to Romeo and in the end they both end up killing themselves which lead to the play ending as a tragedy. So if the fight in act 3 scene 1 had not taken place the ending to the play would not have been so sad. This is why act 3 scene 1 is definitely the turning point to the play as it seriously changed the rest of the play.
I have analysed the language used by Shakespeare and how he used language to change the mood of the audience and show that act 3 scene 1 is the turning point in Romeo and Juliet. I have also analysed the way that Shakespeare used characters and stage craft to show this. After analysing these points I think without act 3 scene 1 Romeo and Juliet would not be a tragedy as it would not have ended in the way it did.
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