What is the rising action for Romeo and Juliet?

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Rising action in a plot is a series of relevant incidents that create suspense, interest and tension in a narrative. In literary works, the rising action includes all decisions, characters' flaws, and background circumstances that together create turns and twists leading to the climax.

The rising action of Romeo and Juliet is the series of incidents that generate suspense and interest occurring after the exposition with its introduction of characters and situation. These incidents follow the exciting force, and they create the tensions which lead to the climax in Act III involving Mercutio, Romeo, and Tybalt that results in Mercutio's and Tybalt's deaths.

Exciting Force:

  • After being rejected by Rosaline, Romeo agrees to accompany his friends to the celebration of Juliet's birthday, which is held at the home of his family's enemy, the Capulets.
  • There he sees Juliet and is completely captivated by her, exclaiming that her beauty dazzles him

Like a rich jewel in an Ethop's ear--
Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear!(1.5.44-45)

Rising Action:

  • Risking recognition by the Capulets, Romeo approaches Juliet and speaks to her. He is even so bold as to kiss her.
  • After the masque is finished, Mercutio and Benvolio search for Romeo, but he hides from them.
  • Romeo scales the walls of the Capulet orchard and stands under the balcony of Juliet's chambers.
  • When Juliet discovers Romeo, she is embarrassed that he has heard her wonder aloud on her balcony why the names Montague and Capulet must determine a person's fate.
  • Romeo vows to change his name for Juliet and they declare their love for one another. Yet, Juliet fears the dangers of this declaration:

I have no joy of this contract tonight.
It is too rash, too unadvised, too sudden.
Too like the lightning, which doth cease to be
Ere one can say, "It lightens." (2.2.116-119)

  • Romeo, too, is anxious as he expresses his fear that because it is night, he may just be dreaming--"all this is but a dream"--and all is too good to be real.
  • Juliet promises to marry Romeo.
  • He is aware that they must marry secretly, so he rushes to the cell of Friar Lawrence. (Act II, Scene 6)
  • Friar Lawrence is surprised at the change in Romeo, whom he has believed to love Rosaline.
  • Romeo asks the priest not to scold him; he says that Juliet returns his love whereas Rosaline has rejected him.
  • After some thought, Friar Lawrence believes that a marriage between Romeo and Juliet may reconcile the two families, so he agrees to perform the marriage rites for the two young lovers.

The action and conflicts of Act I, Scene 5, and all of Act II comprise the rising action of Romeo and Juliet. During these scenes, conflicts and tension are generated and they arise from the exciting force of Romeo's meeting Juliet.  

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Rising action is the events between the exposition and climax of a story.  The climax is the turning point, or the most exciting point.  The rising action is a series of events that develop the plot and revolve around the initial conflict and other conflicts that appear.

To find the rising action, first you must identify the climax.  In Romeo and Juliet, much of the story revolves around Romeo and Juliet’s secret love for each other and their desire to find a way to be together.  The climax of the story is when Romeo kills Tybalt in a duel and is banished.  From this point on, Romeo and Juliet have a big problem, because Romeo cannot stay in Verona.

The rising action centers mostly around Romeo and Juliet.  When they meet at the ball, that is an important event leading us toward the climax.  The large street duel where the Prince decrees that any more duelers will be banished is also rising action, it leads directly to the climax.  When Romeo and Juliet profess their love for one another, that is part of rising action.  So just about everything that happens in Act I and the beginning of Act III is your rising action.

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