How does Shakespeare make Act 3, Scene 1 of "Romeo and Juliet" interesting?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Act III is the climax of "Romeo and Juliet," and like many dramas it presents a conflict of strong action.  Here in Scene I is the fight scene. It is a hot day, tempers are flaring; even the usually sanguine Benvolio is irascible and ready to fight the members of the Capulet family. (This builds the tension of the scene.) In an irony of ironies, after joking with Benvolio about his quarreling, Mercutio then starts an argument with Tybalt, who, of course, is the not the person with whom to argue.

When Mercutio--still half in jest--calls Tybalt "King of Cats," and taunts Juliet's cousin by declaring that he is going to take one of Tybalt's nine lives.  However, Tybalt is all seriousness and he shows Mercutio that he can scrap like a cat and draws his sword:  "I am for you," meaning "Let's do it!"  Mercutio, yet somewhat playful, says a fencing term and steps forward with a thrust of his sword.

Then, fatefully, Romeo intervenes and his well-meaning gesture ends tragically as Mercutio is fatally wounded because of Romeo's interference.  Devastated by his act, Romeo blames himself for being "effeminate,"  or weak, and a victim of fate:  "O, I am fortune's fool!"  Benvolio tells Romeo to flee, but a citizen apprehends him.

When Lady Capulet enters and discovers her nephew dead, she becomes enraged against the Montagues whereas in Act I she has tried to keep things quiet by deterrring her husband from engaging in the feud.  Now, however, the hatred of fire for the Montagues has flared to a great conflagration, and the Prince banishes Romeo although he could have condemned him to death by law.  Thus, the audience wonders what will become of Romeo and his dear, new wife, Juliet.

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Romeo and Juliet

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