How does Shakespeare generate suspense in the first act?

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malibrarian eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is interesting to note that although Shakespeare tells his audience in the Prologue exactly what is going to happen - these two young lovers are going to die - he still manages to build suspense through the conflict we see in scene 1 between the servants of the Capulets and the Montagues.  He also generates suspense by showing the character of Romeo and how forlorn he is for the love of someone...Juliet?  We don't know, but we want to know what's going!

Scene 2 lets us know that more is going to happen, particularly with this guy, Paris, who wants to marry Juliet...wait a minute!  This is supposed to be Romeo and Juliet, not Paris and Juliet! Also we have a ball coming up...a party...something is bound to happen there!

Those are just examples from the first two scenes of Act I. Re-read this act and notice more examples from the other scenes that make you want to keep reading.  Also check the links below!  Good luck!

mm1771 | Student


      Romeo and Juliet begins in media res. This means that the scene starts in the middle of a conversation/action. As is the case with Romeo and Juliet, the first scene opens in a battle. This immediately grabs the attention of the audience since fight scenes are usually sources of suspense and capture the attention of the audience. Since the fight is between Montague and Capulet men, it is also the beginning of the action/feuding between the two families for the play which creates suspense since the audience waits and expects similar encounters to occur as the play progresses. The fight in scene one also gives the audience an understanding of the tension and hate that exists between these two families which guarantees suspense for the rest of the play.

Read the study guide:
Romeo and Juliet

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