Violence and conflict are central to "Romeo and Juliet". Discuss these themes with close reference to Act III, scene 1.

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madelynfair eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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To discuss violence and conflict as "themes," you must move these topic words into thematic statements. To do that, you must question the violence and conflict. There are many types of questions you might ask, but I've provided you with three questioning categories below to consider.

Cause and Effect Questions: What creates conflict? Why do characters choose violence rather than other options? What are the consequences of character choices?

Note how the opening lines from Benvolio point to the potential causes of conflict:

I pray thee, good Mercutio, let's retire.
The day is hot, the Capulets abroad.
And if we meet, we shall not scape a brawl,
For now, these hot days, is the mad blood stirring.

Benvolio warns that hot weather and the Capulets roaming the streets might cause a brawl. He also points to the the zeigeist (the spirit of the times), saying that it's a violent time to be living in. He says "the mad blood" is "stirring." Would you agree that these are likely sparks to the conflict?

Some might argue that character is the true powderkeg. When Benvolio warns Mercutio that the Capulets are headed this way, Mercutio says:

By my heel, I care not.

Mercutio is a catalyst for action in the play, and here, he is a spark to conflict. His insouciance, his rebellious attitude, his willingness to be out and about and sass anyone who looks at him all help make for conflict.

Interesting, isn't it, how Benvolio and he are such opposites? Benvolio, ever-cautious, tries to steer Mercutio away. Later Romeo is also a foil, trying to stop the fight that's started. But Mercutio won't have any of it: he must have a fight.

So we have so far these factors that lead to conflict -- setting and character. Within each area you can analyze more for conflict.

Here are some other questions to use as you examine act 3, scene 1:

Dissection Questions: What are the stages of conflict?

If you could graph the energy of the scene the way a cardiogram of a hearbeat might look, where would the energy begin and how would it end?

Preference/Evaluation Questions: Did Mercutio make the right choice regarding Tybalt? Did Romeo do right to come between them?

There are...

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