Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Act III, Scene 1

Summary

Benvolio and Mercutio are once again hanging out in the Verona streets. This time, Benvolio urges Mercutio to leave, as it is so hot and tempers are running so high that they will surely get into a fight if they encounter any Capulets. While Mercutio is mocking Benvolio for playing the peacemaker, Tybalt appears and demands to know where Romeo is.

As Tybalt and Mercutio argue, Romeo enters, having just returned from his marriage to Juliet. Tybalt calls Romeo a villain, but Romeo tries to avoid a fight, realizing that since he is now married to Juliet, he and Tybalt are related. Mercutio, however, draws his sword and begins to duel with Tybalt. Romeo tries to break up the fight, but Tybalt stabs Mercutio under Romeo’s arm, then flees. Mercutio dies, but not before cursing both the Capulets and the Montagues.

Tybalt returns, and Romeo draws his own sword, goaded into action by Mercutio’s death. During the fight, Romeo kills Tybalt. As a crowd forms, Romeo flees; Benvolio explains what happened to Prince Escalus, who banishes Romeo from Verona for life.

Analysis

Like Scenes II and IV of Act II, the final scene of Act II and the first scene of Act III form a contrasting pair. In the marriage scene, Romeo and Juliet speak of their exalted, all-consuming love for each other in rhymed poetic couplets; here, Mercutio and Tybalt speak of bawdy jokes and threats in prose. To add to the irony of the play, Mercutio, who has played a key role in revealing the two-sided nature of reality, dies never knowing that Romeo is out of love with Rosaline and in love with Juliet.

With Mercutio and Tybalt dead and Romeo banished from Verona just hours after his secret marriage to Juliet, the stakes are mounting rapidly. The tension is further developed in the coming scenes.

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