Shakespeare is a very dramatic playwright and his works continue to affect people today. He evokes his audiences’ emotions, through the use of many dramatic techniques. Romeo & Juliet is an especially dramatic story of “two star-crossed lovers”; And Act 3 Scene 1, on which we are focusing this assignment, is particularly powerful.
Due to the theatre enacted in the previous scenes; much knowledge is brought through by the audience into Act 3 Scene 1. For example the Prince’s warning in Act 1 Scene 1, lines 98-99 “If you ever disturb our streets again, your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace!” foreshadows this scene as a prediction of the future, making the scene dramatic as the audience are kept in suspense as to whether it will come apparent or not; the warning also serves as an ultimatum used to discourage the vengant characters (i.e. Tybalt and Mercutio) from causing more trouble.
Another example is that of the preceding nuptial scene of Juliet and Romeo which we as an audience are aware of but the other characters, excluding the aforementioned and Friar Lawrence, are not. We as an audience therefore know that the two feuding families (the Montague’s and the Capulet’s) are now related and so this installs a sense of hope that the families shall cease the fighting and call a peaceful truce. The audience are also curious as there have been many questions left unanswered for example will Romeo and Juliet tell their parents? And if so, how will this affect the relationship between the two families? Shakespeare evokes these emotions because they make the scene more dramatic and involve the audience into the script as they feel for the characters ignorance of the change of situation.
The marital scene lulls the audience into a false sense of hopefulness for the young lovers, it immediately precedes the fight scene of Act 3 Scene 1 because in this way Shakespeare manipulates his audience to ensure the best reaction possible by using such a strong contrast between the scenes – one which entices feelings of hope and love; the other of fear and death.
As a recompense of the previous enactments we also know what traits each of Act 3 Scene 1’s characters have and what there motives are. E.g. We understand Mecutio to be a jokey and thrill seeking character his Queen Mab speech emphasizes these aspects of him but also show a darker side to Mercutio such as his quick temper. Despite this we know he is loyal to Montague kin and a great friend of Romeo. We also know that Tybalt has motives of revenge as he is angry at the Montague’s, especially Romeo, for gate crashing the Capulet party, seen as a great insult to Elizabethan audiences.
He shows his lust for revenge in Act 1 Scene 5, lines 91 and 92 where he expresses his anger at the offensiveness of the Montague’s “I shall withdraw but this intrusion shall, now seeming sweet convert to bitter gall.” Tybalt’s character is portrayed with villainous traits and is seen as rageful by the audience because of his fierce and angry nature and obvious experience with blades. This makes Tybalt a serious threat to Romeo’s ‘lover’-not-a-‘fighter’ characterisation. Shakespeare has portrayed the characters as such as their differences make the audience interested to see how Romeo would handle himself against an experienced guardsman like Tybalt as we have not yet seen him fight. This knowledge adds to the suspense and tension of the pre-scene melodrama making the audience more interested and focused on the events of the upcoming scene.
Shakespeare begins Act 3 Scene 1 with the stage direction “a public place”, he uses this setting to make the scene more dramatic as it creates tension and dramatic potential because the stage command serves as an echo of the Prince’s warning, forbidding brawls in ‘public places’. Due to this the audience are put on edge as they are aware that the consequences would be dear if a fight was to take place. Benvolio realises these facts and in his opening phrase he attempts to avert the danger; but ironically the page’s speech contains motives to fight as his words “hot days” and “mad blood stirring” are metaphors of anger seemingly to encourage a brawl. This tightens the tension of the opening scene’s atmosphere as it’s dramatic potential is realised by both the audience and the characters of the scene.
Mercutio responds in character as he replies to Benvolio’s anxious plea in a jokey manner teasing his cautiousness and accusing him of being of a moody character: “Thou art like one of those fellows that, when he enters the confines of a tavern, claps me his sword upon the table, and says ‘God send me no need of thee’; and by the operation of the second cup draws him on the draw, when indeed there is on need”. However the audience empathises for Mercutio and wishes that he would acknowledge the situation more seriously and heed his page’s warning in order to escape the possible dire consequences. On the other hand the audience also wants Mercutio to stay in the hope that, if a fight were to occur, he might beat Tybalt.
Although concerned for the characters in potential danger the audience enjoy Mercutio’s jokey speech as he brings comic-relief to the heavy dramatics of the scene. Mercutio’s speech also shows the audience his edginess as the description he uses of Benvolio actually matches that of his own prickly temper. As a reader I imagine his manner would be shown to be ‘edgy’ by him playing with his weapon; possibly twisting his sword’s blade in his hands as a metaphor for his differing edges and moods. A point on Benvolio’s speech also displays information about his character to the audience; he uses short sharp sentences such as “And what to?” which show his jumpiness and lack of focus on the conversation.
It will be interesting to see the effects of Tybalt’s entrance as the characters are held in suspense over whether he will heed the Prince’s warning or act upon the tension of the atmosphere on stage. All these factors make the Act 3 Scene 1 dramatic for the audience as they are drawn in by the dramatic potential and are held in the suspense due to the engaging theatre portrayed. To make the scene even more interesting Shakespeare suggests that Mercutio could be a match for Tybalt as once the Capulet is on scene Mercutio’s edginess fades and he is shown as a confident quick witted character “By my heel, I care not” this remark describes the Capulet presence with disrespect, showing that he is not threatened by their appearance. In this way he also provokes an attack “Make it a word and a blow”.
We as an audience feel overshadowed and nervous by the sudden entrance of the Capulet boys as it is obvious they are looking for a brawl and we fear the prince’s punishment for disobeying his orders. In this way the mood of the scene darkens as the potential of the fight could lead to banishment if not death.
Having just secretly married Juliet, we have mixed feelings on Romeo’s undoubted appearance on stage. We can sense from the atmosphere that tensions are high between the rival characters on stage, which if unleashed could lead to disaster; so we partly wish for Romeo to enter soon to diminish the hatred and anger with his news of a hopeful end to the feud ( his and Juliet’s marriage makes both the Montague’s and the Capulet’s kinsmen-in-law ). However the audience fear the fact that Romeo could be harmed if the other on stage characters do not accept his news. We, as an audience, feel so strongly for Romeo and Juliet “the two star crossed lovers” because they are the title roles and we therefore feel the most compassion towards their predicament and fate.