Act 3, Scene 1 contributes to making Romeo and Juliet a true tragedy as this scene is the unfolding of a series of ill-fated events (3.1.84-87) ‘This days black fate on more days doth depend. This but begins the woe others must end’. Violence and blood is demanded early in the scene, as Tybalt is after Romeo in order to challenge him to a duel. Newly wed Romeo ignores Tybalt’s insults and respectfully declines his offer, as he knows he must respect and love the Capulet’s.
Irritated by Romeo’s calm submission, Mercutio steps up to the challenge to defend the Montague name. Outraged by Mercutio’s death Romeo lets rage control his actions as he seeks vengeance upon his friend’s death, forgetting his intentions to settle the family feud. The dramatic irony of this scene, will possibly affect the audience, as they know this will cause uproar within the family feud. The events in this scene impact greatly on Romeo and Juliet, as this is the breaking point of the play.
This scene also creates a domino effect on the events later on in the play.
The characteristics of Mercutio have a significant influence on the events that occurred during Act 3 scene 1. It is evident throughout the scene that Benvolio is the peacekeeper as he see’s a way around the brawling, (3.1.1-3) ‘ I pray thee, good Mercutio, lets retire. The day is hot; the Capulet’s abroad; and if we meet we shall not ‘scape a brawl.’ However, Mercutio ignores Benvolio’s attempts to bypass the Montague Capulet conflict, as he is quick to temper and always ready for a fight. His use of irony to provoke Tybalt (3.1.28-33) provides further evidence on his combativeness ‘But I’ll be hanged, sir, if he wear your livery. Marry; go before to the field, he’ll be your follower. Your worship in that sense may call him man. ‘ Mercutio’s argumentative attitude leads him into a brutal affair; he is left wounded blaming Romeo for his injury. It is unquestionable that Mercutio’s pugnacious, aggressive behavior led to the violence of this scene that has guaranteed an unfortunate fate for Romeo and Juliet.
Themes and Perspectives
Act 3 scene 1 provides perspective on the resentment between the two families, Montague and Capulet. The family feud holds a great deal of power throughout Romeo and Juliet, as it is the reason for many of the unpleasant events that occur throughout the play such as; Mercutio’s death, Romeo and Juliet’s secret marriage, Romeo’s exile and of course the feud itself which also provokes the tragic ending of the play. Evidence of the theme is seen throughout Act 3 scene 1 particularly towards the end when Benvolio is left to explain the tragedy to the Prince. Lady Capulet believes Benvolio is lying, as he is a Montague therefore Romeo must die for Tybalt’s death. (3.1.38-42) ‘He is a kinsman to the Montague. Affection makes him false. He speaks not true. Some twenty of them fought in this black strife, And all those twenty could but kill one life. I beg for justice, which thou Prince, must give. Romeo slew Tybalt. Romeo must not live.’ Throughout Romeo and Juliet there is persistent evidence that the resent between Montague and Capulet conduct the tragic events and heartbreaking end to the narrative.
Audience response; attitudes, values and beliefs
The audience is at an advantage as they are able to see both sides of the family feud, providing them with a true understanding of the tragedy. During this scene they observe the brutal affair between Mercutio vs. Tybalt and Romeo vs. Tybalt and finally Lady Capulet vs. Benvolio. There are various reactions the audience may have experience throughout this scene. Those in the Elizabethan times perhaps felt a sense of gratification towards Mercutio for standing up to Tybalt in order to defend Romeo and the Montague name. However the contemporary audience may declare Mercutio as arrogant or foolish. The audience can recognize that both Benvolio and Romeo gave warnings to Mercutio and Tybalt. They stated the brawl was not required neither did they desire one on numerous occasions however, both Mercutio and Tybalt would not take no for an answer. Either way the audience is able to experience the full effect of the events, which help mould this star crossed love story into a true tragedy.