Why is scene v of Act I of Romeo and Juliet an effective piece of drama in regard to action and excitement?

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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In scene v of Act I, the Capulet's host a ball. A great deal of time is elapsed in a very little space. Shakespeare jumps from the servants finishing the setting up to Lord Capulet greeting and teasing guests into merriment with Juliet at his side ("Ah ha, my mistresses! which of you all / Will now deny to dance?") to frolicking dancing ("And quench the fire, the room is grown too hot") to Tybalt recognizing Romeo in the midst of the gaity ("Fetch me my rapier, boy. What dares the slave / Come hither,") to guests departing and host going off to rest ("honest gentlemen; good night. / ... / Come on then, let's to bed.") to Juliet learning who Romeo is ("My only love sprung from my only hate!").

The momentum of rapidly changing scenes builds frenzied excitement that matches the frenzied dancing that requires the fire to be snuffed out for the heat created. The scene crescendos through the dancing and reaches forte at Tybalt's quarrel with Capulet:

He shall be endured: ...
Am I the master here, or you? go to. ...
You'll make a mutiny among my guests!
You will set cock-a-hoop! you'll be the man! ...
Be quiet, or-- / ... / I'll make you quiet.

In addition, the characters who hold the focus changes as often as the time sequence does. First the focus is Capulet, then Tybalt and Capulet, then Romeo, then Romeo and Juliet, then Capulet and his parting guests, then Juliet and Nurse. These rapidly moving chords of orchestrated character changes adds to the excitement as the action moves from one focal character to another. The action also moves from mood to mood as well as it goes from gaiety to anger to quiet romance to exhaustion to shock. This also keeps the scene reeling in excited flux. These are three characteristics of the scene that make it a highly effective piece of drama.

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