Romeo and Juliet, Act III, Scene 5: How might this single scene function as a synecdoche for the entire tonal shift, from joy to tragedy, of the whole play? 

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A synecdoche is a literary term for a part that represents a whole. Act III, Scene 5 functions as a synecdoche because the entire sweep of action and the movement from joy to tragedy are expressed in the scene.

At the beginning of the scene, Juliet and Romeo are together and are so loathe to leave each other that they argue about whether they hear the lark, who sings at night, or the nightingale, who sings during the day. When the Nurse comes to tell Juliet that Lady Capulet is on her way, Romeo reluctantly leaves. He is banished, so Juliet does not know when she will see him again. At this point, the scene moves from joy to a foreboding of tragedy.

When Lady Capulet shows up, she thinks Juliet is upset about Tybalt, who Romeo has killed, and Juliet and Lady Capulet have a conversation in which Lady Capulet does not understand that Juliet is mourning Romeo's departure. This part of the scene again foreshadows later events in which Lady Capulet and her husband don't understand Juliet's love for Romeo. Lady Capulet tells Juliet that she will soon marry Paris, and, when Juliet says she refuses to do so, her father responds with great anger. The Nurse tries to convince Juliet to marry Paris, and Juliet ends the scene by vowing that she will be faithful to Romeo. The total sweep of action in the play is present in this scene, as Juliet is with Romeo and then he leaves her; her parents try to marry her to Paris; and she vows to be faithful to Romeo. The conflicts in the scene bring about Juliet and Romeo's demise and the tragedies that occur at the end of the play.

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Romeo and Juliet

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