Dramatic Tension in Act Three, Scene One of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

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Dramatic Tension in Act Three, Scene One of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

Although the plays of Shakespeare were written for a mixed audience, anyone watching Romeo and Juliet would appreciate the tension and drama in act three, scene one. It is unusual for two major characters to die so early on, but Shakespeare was a master playwright, and this is arguably his dramatic best.

The scene opens with light humour from Mercutio and Benvolio, and follows on from the relaxed atmosphere of the previous scene, the wedding. Benvolio, however, is worried, and tries to persuade Mercutio to 'retire'. He talks of the days stirring 'the mad blood' of the family feud. He knows that if they meet the
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By this point the tension is high, and the audience know that a fight will soon start, and they are not sure who will win. The words between the two men are quick, and help raise the pace of the scene.

When Romeo enters, the tension dips slightly between Mercutio and Tybalt, as Tybalt says 'peace be with you, here comes my man'. He is making it clear that he has finished with Mercutio, and will fight it out with Romeo instead. Mercutio is having none of it, but holds back to allow Romeo to handle the situation. The dramatic irony of Romeo's love for Tybalt adds to the audience apprehension of bad things to come, with Tybalt hurling insults, Romeo pleading for peace, and Mercutio's obvious anger at Romeo's 'Vile submission'. Romeo's cowardice moves Mercutio to fight; he draws his sword again, and mixes jokes on Tybalt with violent suggestions. Tybalt responds and draws. The relentless hostility of the scene so far comes to a climax at this point, and as Mercutio is wounded from Romeo's intervention, he curses both the families, and describes his downfall with macabre images of death and decay. He knows that he will die, the audience should have realised that he will die, yet Romeo and Mercutio are optimistic. They can still see life in the corpse of their friend, but when he exits with Benvolio to find a surgeon, leaving Romeo alone, it is clear

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