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Violence and Conflict Are Central to ‘romeo and Juliet'.Discuss This Theme with Reference to Act 3, Scene 1 and one Other Scene.

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Violence and Conflict are central to ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Discuss this theme with reference to Act 3, Scene 1 and one other scene.

The play ‘Romeo and Juliet’ was written by William Shakespeare sometime between 1594 and 1596. It is set in the Italian city of Verona and tells the tale of the tragic demise of two lovers, Romeo and Juliet, attributable to the bitter blood feud between their families, the Capulets and the Montagues. In this essay I will explore the violence and conflict which is generated by the two families with particular reference to Act 3 scene 1 and I will then compare that scene with Act 1, Scene 1. In the course of comparing the two scenes I will also comment on Shakespeare’s use of language and dramatic effects, the themes he sets within the play and their intended effect on the audience. I will provide an in-depth analysis of the characters present in the scenes and explore what made ‘Romeo and Juliet’ the play it is today by examining its historical context and the literary traditions Shakespeare drew on for inspiration.

Act 3 scene 1 is the pivotal scene in the play; as it sets in motion the chain of events which results in the death of not only Mercutio and Tybalt, but also Paris, Romeo and Juliet. The scene begins with Benvolio’s speech and Mercutio saying he basically doesn’t care. The Capulets then arrive on stage and a fight almost commences between Mercutio and Tybalt as they exchange pointed barbs with each other. However, Tybalt loses interest as he spies Romeo who is the one he really wishes to slay and so, hoping to goad Romeo into a duel, he unleashes a verbal assault on Romeo’s integrity. On the other hand Romeo has just wed Juliet and as such has no wish to slay her cousin so he tries to placate Tybalt. Mercutio is horrified that Romeo is letting Tybalt’s insults pass without incident and consequently challenges Tybalt. Tragically Mercutio is slain when he is stabbed under Romeo’s arm as Romeo tries to restrain him. In a fit of rage Romeo attacks and kills Tybalt and then flees, at which point Escalus comes on the scene and pronounces Romeo banished, which turns out to be fatal in the closing scenes.

Act 1 Scene 1 begins with Sampson and Gregory bantering with each other in a playful, but vaguely threatening way, however once they encounter the Montagues the tone changes to a very hostile, unpleasant air. After a short time exchanging insults, a fight breaks out despite Benvolio’s attempt to head it off. His efforts were confounded by his Capulet counter-part Tybalt. After a short, ugly street brawl the prince is summoned who warns both Montagues and Capulets that another breech of the peace will result in death to whoever started it. Honours even, both sides withdraw from the scene. The audience is then taken to where a young Romeo is feeling melancholic over his latest love interest, who does not return his fancies. He explains himself to Benvolio who seems to understand Romeo better than Romeo himself does at this point and tells him to “Examine other beauties”. This scene is very important as it loosely reveals the central themes of the play. You know from this scene that violence and conflict are going to play a large part in the rest of the play, but the contrasting end of the scene also informs the audience that there will be a backdrop of love.

The tone in Act 3 Scene 1 is quickly set by Benvolio’s speech. Use of phrases such as “Mad Blood Stirring” and “we shall not ’scape a brawl” immediately informs the audience of the impending violence and conflict that will occur in the scene. This is the same violence that Shakespeare will use to further the plot, as Tybalt’s slaying of Mercutio, and his consequent death at the hands of Romeo, is what paths lays the way for the final tragedy. The build up to the fight is littered with Elizabethan profanities, such as “Zounds” which is Shakespeare’s way of introducing dramatic tension and is also evidence of his drawing on the literary precedent of Seneca, who used such vocabulary and violent and bloody scenes to shock the audience and make his plays have more of an emotional impact. The stereotypes of the characters are brought to the fore here as well. Benvolio is obviously the peace-maker and level headed thinker as portrayed by his opening speech “I pray thee, good Mercutio, let’s retire” and “We talk here in the public haunt of men: Either withdraw unto some private place or reason coldly of your grievances.” This is Shakespeare once more demonstrating Benvolio’s purpose in the play, that of peacemaker. Tybalt is the exact opposite to Benvolio; he is the hot-head, always spoiling for a fight and not prone to being reasonable. This is illustrated by lines such as, “You will find me apt enough to that sir, and you will give me occasion” and his

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