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Dramatic effects and significance in Act 3 Scene 1 of Romeo and Juliet
Another theme of the play that is strong in this scene is the idea that we are not in control of our
lives (the Friar will say to Juliet later: "A greater power than we can contradict/Hath thwarted our
intents"). Here when Romeo has killed Tybalt he cries out: "I am fortune's fool".
Feuding and language
1) Mercutio makes insulting remarks and ridicules Tybalt: he plays on his name
("ratcatcher...King of cats...nine lives")
2) Mercutio later curses the feuding families: "A plague on both your houses!".
3) Fights between Tybalt and Mercutio, and then after the fatal wounding of Mercutio,
Romeo fights Tybalt
Look at attitudes to social class. Why does Tybalt call Romeo a "villain" and why does Romeo
deny this? He also refers to Romeo as "my man", and Mercutio challenges this. Why?
Comment on the word "gentlemen" which appears several times, and "sir". Explain why Tybalt
calls Romeo "boy" more than once in this scene. Look at the form of the second person
pronoun. See whether people call each other "you" (formal) or "thou/thee" (also "thy" = your)
which is informal (less respectful). Tybalt usually calls Mercutio "you" but changes to "thou"
when he accuses him of "consorting" with Romeo. Why?
If you are puzzled by this, be aware that language use has changed since Shakespeare's time.
A villain in earlier times was a common person so the name, applied to a nobleman like
Romeo, would be an insult. In calling him my man Tybalt speaks of him as if he were a servant
which is why Mercutio says he won't "wear" Tybalt's "livery" the uniform of his servant). The 16th
century audience would understand this as they heard it today it needs spelling out.
What is the effect of Mercutio's response to Tybalt's request for a "word" "Couple it with
something make it a word and a blow"? Note also Mercutio's last words: "A plague" is a
powerful curse in Verona (the plague is in the city) and Shakespeare's audience would find it