How does Shakespeare use irony in act 3 scene 1 to create tension and anticipation in the audience?Need an answer ASAP :)

Expert Answers
MaudlinStreet eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The irony in this scene is primarily verbal, & the conversation between Benvolio/Mercutio, and later Mercutio/Tybalt is rife with puns and hidden meanings.

Mercutio is portrayed as clever; smart; and a lover of words, puns, and figures of speech. He is able to joke even about death. When Mercutio is asked about his wound, he replies with a pun, a humorous use of a word to suggest two or more meanings, by stating, “No, ’tis not so deep as a well, nor so wide / as a church door; but ’tis enough, ‘twill serve. Ask / for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man.” "Grave" here, of course, serves 2 purposes. It means "serious", but in Mercutio's case, it also means dead. He is, in fact, so witty that no one takes him seriously when he is no longer joking.

The tension is built through the verbal wordplay of the young men. Each insult adds to the audience's anticipation of violence. Once Mercutio has actually been wounded, his verbal play makes the audience continually question if he is truly hurt, or simply joking around. It is the moment of his death which brings the irony home in a fierce way.

tinteet | Student

Thank you so much. This has helped a lot :)

I am truly grateful.