Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet are teenagers who fall deeply in love but their families are bitter enemies. They seize the moment and marry in secret, making every effort to conceal their actions but these end in tragedy when Romeo, Juliet, Tybalt, Mercutio and Paris all die.
The themes in Romeo and Juliet are “fate”, “conflict”, “love”, “honour” and “tragedy”. These themes are all relative to tragedy as they assist with the lead up to Romeo and Juliet’s bitter demise and increase the sense of tension throughout. Tragedy is a form of drama that deals with human actions and issues. Most tragedies in literature show the collapse and death of a great man or woman, written with the intent to prove to the audience, the dilemma that not everything in life ends happily.Tragedies raise deep philosophical questions about morality and the control human beings have over their fate. It was inevitable that the lives of the two rebellious young lovers would end in tragedy due to the nature of 16th century society as children were expected to listen to their parents and to marry who they were told. Romeo and Juliet portray rebellious teenagers and to a 16th century audience their rebellious actions left them no other path but one filled with tragedy.
Fate is an important theme in Romeo and Juliet; this however would be more important to a 16th century audience than a 21st century one. In the sixteenth century superstition was widely and strongly believed in.Act III Scene 1 creates tension and the chain of events towards Romeo and Juliet’s death at this point in the play. This is because as the fight scene is after the marriage scene, Romeo is already married and does not want to fight as Tybalt is now his family. If the fight had occurred before their marriage then Romeo may have fought as it was a man’s honour to fight and his reputation would have been tarnished had he not.
Therefore the placement of the scene in the play is vital to reach the ending with Romeo and Juliet both dying. Act III, Scene I is the pivotal point of the play and start a chain of events which lead up to Romeo and Juliet’s death. Shakespeare establishes the sense of tension straight away in this scene with initial dialogue between Benvolio and Mercutio.The tension is already heightened by the setting of the scene “a public place” this is because of the Princes warning to the two families in the first scene ‘If you ever disturb our streets again, your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace’. Shakespeare then plants a seed of tension in Benvolios’ opening four lines stating “For now, these hot days, is the mad blood stirring”. This creates a sense of drama as it makes a reference to the heated feud between the two families.
Benvolio’s words “mad ” and “stirring” emphasise his fear of the dangerous effect this heated tension could have if the two families were to meet. This tension may come as a surprise to the audience as it is contrasting to the previous scene.The previous scene, the marriage of Romeo and Juliet, was joyful and happy as the audience may think that they have been able to override the fate destined to them in the Prologue and are finally together to live happily ever after. This is then contrasted by Act III, Scene I in which tension is immediately sprouting and the whole tone of the play changes. The tension in this scene is gradually built up and in places displaced by comedy, relaxing the audience, and increasing the drama of the fight. Shakespeare accomplishes this by using different dramatic devices throughout the rest of the scene such as his use of entrances of the characters.Despite the initial tension at the beginning of the scene there is still comedy present. This is in the form of Mercutio teasing Benvolio.
He uses a lot of puns and although what Mercutio is saying is in a teasing manner there is still an undertone of violence. “Thou art like one of those fellows…
when indeed there is no need”. By doing this Mercutio relaxes the audience from the tension but annoys Benvolio. This calming moment is then spiralled by Tybalts entrance, which brings back the tension at a heightened level due to the sudden calm. The tension is also increased as the audience know of the hate between the two families. The conflict that develops between Mercutio and Tybalt is still comedic even at this point in the scene.When Romeo enters on the tension is increased as Tybalt has been looking for him. This is evident as Tybalt states ‘here comes my man’ upon the arrival of Romeo.
Tybalt’s use of language changes towards Romeo, although having a comical edge, his language is patronising as he is starting to take his anger out on Romeo. This adds to the change of tone as the audience would be on the edge of their seats expecting a fight. Shakespeare uses the entrance of his characters to gradually build tension. He does this firstly by creating tension between Benvolio and Mercutio and escalating that with the introduction of Tybalt and Romeo.Romeo’s reaction to Tybalt in the scene, although confusing to the other characters, is justified to the audience and Romeo as they are both aware of Romeos marriage to Juliet.
Romeo’s use of language adds to the sense of dramatic irony as he tells Tybalt that he treats the Capulet name equal to Montague even though previously they were enemies.”And so, good Capulet, – which name I tender as dearly as my own”. This allows the audience to understand Romeo’s true feelings towards the feud. Although the two families are enemies, Romeo’s love of Juliet clearly outweighs the war between the Montague’s and the Capulet’sAs Mercutio is dying his use of language changes from his light hearted puns earlier in the scene to a darker humour as he jokes about his death “ask for me to-morrow , and you shall find me a grave man”. Shakespeare’s use of paronomasia, gives the audience two different possible meanings of this quote. Mercutio, a light humoured person at heart, could be implying that if he were to survive his wounding, his outlook on life would change as he would take it more seriously.
On the other hand, he could also be implying that the severity of his wound will be the cause of his death leading him to an early grave at the hands of Tybalt.The audience who were, earlier in the scene, amused by Mercutio’s puns are now scared by the sudden change of tone and his use of darker language. Mercutio’s death is a pivotal moment in this scene; it leads the play down a very distinct tragic path which can only be resolved by the deaths of Romeo and Juliet. This is the point in the play at which it turns from a comedy to a tragedy. Mercutio’s last words to Romeo change his mood and the atmosphere on stage. Mercutio states “I was hurt under your arm”.
This affects Romeo greatly as Mercutio is blaming Romeo for his death as he came between Mercutio and Tybalt. Romeo is affected deeply by this comment and he develops a rage towards Tybalt for the murder of his close friend. This in turn leads to Romeo’s murder of Tybalt. Mercutio also states “A plague o’ both your houses!” Here he is cursing the Montague’s and Capulet’s as if it wasn’t for their feud this wouldn’t have happened. This famous quote is also very ironic later in the play when Friar John tries to deliver Friar Lawrence’s message to Romeo that he is not allowed into Mantua, due to fear of the plague.In this scene, the play has shifted into that of a tragedy. The characters have set off a chain of events which can only be resolved through the deaths of Romeo and Juliet. This is the pivotal point of the play and changes the tone for the remainder.
It is now impossible for Romeo and Juliet to be together as their fate, set in the prologue, has been triggered and they are both destined to die.In conclusion, Shakespeare’s use of dramatic devices in the play Romeo & Juliet are significant as they help to drive the plot and keep the audience entertained. This is justified by analysing the themes in the play; Fate, Conflict, Love, Honour and Tragedy. In addition, certain events in the scene such as Mercutio and Tybalt’s deaths are relevant as they influence the behaviour of characters.
Romeo’s behaviour following these events changes almost immediately as he knows he is now destined to lose the love of his life.