Why is Act 3, scene one such a significant scene in the play?
Act Three, Scene 1 is important because it is a turning point in the play. We go from the happiness of the marriage of Romeo and Juliet to the deaths of Mercutio and Tybalt. This is the beginning of the tragic end for the young lovers. From this point on, everything will lead to their deaths. The Prince sentences Romeo to be banished from Verona instead of sentencing him to death, as he had said before. Since they are already married, now things get really difficult for Romeo, Juliet, and the Friar. The plan of the Friar depends on everything going right, and of course, that won't happen. Is it fate that causes the messenger of the Friar to be late in getting to Romeo? Is it fate that Romeo dies minutes before Juliet awakens? This scene sets up all of the events that follow in the play.
This scene introduces the element of literal death into the play. There has been foreshadowing and hinting at death, but this act beseeches death upon two characters (Tybalt and Mercutio). This scene enhances the tragedy that is to begin and haunts the characters until their later demise. Romeo is now a murder, and has killed his wife’s cousin. Romeo is also exiled from his home, his love, and all that he loves including Verona. We truly see Romeo unraveling as a character who has made hasty, poorly thought out decisions. The scene also lays tribute to Friar Lawrence’s plans to reunite the two lovers, end the feuding between the families, and bring peace back to Verona. Are the events to follow a series of predestined occurrences or merely the blundering plans of an apothecary?
Act 3.1 is so significant because the tragedy picks up speed. Romeo has killed Tybalt, exacting revenge for Tybalt's having killed Mercutio. Lady Capulet has asked the Prince to sentence Romeo to death, but the Prince opts for banishment of Romeo from Verona. Either way, it looks as if Romeo and Juliet will be separated.