“O Tybalt, Tybalt, the best friend I had! / O courteous Tybalt, honest gentleman, / That ever I should live to see thee dead!” – William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
Marching along successfully, the class has cleared through Romeo and Juliet all the way to the end of Act III. And quickly, these last sections have transitioned whimsical humors into depressive tragedies. Though yes, the entire plot in set up to a horrific ending, I suppose I wasn’t prepared for the scenarios to change so dramatically like the flick of a switch.
However, I do suppose it’s getting some interesting emotions out of the characters we hadn’t seen before. For example, despite being about Romeo’s extreme griefs and sadness, I found myself relating to the character perhaps a bit more in this section because not only was Romeo to the point in his statements, but even the play demanded stage directions to convey this emotion. Through a response Romeo gives on page 145 to Friar Lawrence, Shakespeare writes, “Thou canst not speak of that thou dost not feel. / Wert thou as young as I, Juliet thy love, / An hour but married, Tybalt murderèd, / Doting like me, and like me banishèd, / Then mightst thou speak, then mightst thou tear thy hair / And fall upon the ground as I do now, / [Romeo throws himself down] / Taking the measure of an unmade grave” (Page 145). When faced with the disaster, Romeo does what a normal teenager might as well do, especially so when regarding he saw both one of his closest companions die and the death of the man he murdered. Romeo shuts down his surroundings and simply seems to dissociate from anything his company tries to tell him. Strange to find myself relating to this, sure, but incredibly fascinating all the same.
But if I were to compliment this section for bringing in its raw emotion through a bare amount of lines, I’d argue that the play’s insight isn’t done enough for some dramatically necessary characters. For example, the play doesn’t give much input to the Montagues despite much of the action relating to their power. Though they had just lost one of their most loyal men in a duel and had their son banished from Verona, the readers and audience receive nothing much more than the small pleas to the Prince mentioned on one page. Yet I suppose I understand it the same time I complain about it. The Capulets do in fact have more of a situation with Juliet and her situations regarding marriage and the play is confined to only so much time when you consider it an acted out story outside of its written form. Hence, I can’t be angry at Shakespeare, per se.
Anyhow, moving on from the families themselves, those reading know by my previous posts that I was assigned to watch over the characters Mercutio and Tybalt. In the clearest way I can say it, though, these characters have met with an untimely death in the play. This, initially, led to an absolute flood of questions. Why did Mercutio let himself get so distracted if he seemed so experienced in fighting? Why, despite having enough pride to give to all of Verona by his attitude, did Tybalt run after killing Mercutio? Why did Tybalt then come back? All of these questions were tumbling through the lines and pages when I read along.
All of these questions have led me to some curious conclusions. Just by what I’ve experienced online, I’ve seen a lot of people call Romeo and Juliet a comedy up until the halfway mark, starting with the death of Mercutio. I agree with this especially, seeing as the line can be even drawn just by seeing that Mercutio was joking around seconds before the murder. Yet I don’t feel absolutely comfortable letting everything slide by for being in the “humorous” section, either. For example, Mercutio almost displayed full knowledge of what he was getting himself into by egging on Tybalt. In fact, the opening to the third act held Mercutio stating that, “thou art as hot a jack in thy mood as any in Italy” (Page 115) referencing he knew how easy it would be to start a fight.
Thus, this leads to a needed discussion on the overall conflict in Romeo and Juliet. While a lot of the story is admittedly surrounding the forbidden love between Romeo and Juliet, seeing as every action they do pushes the plot forward, the larger picture is still rolling behind them. In the most shallow way of “blaming” someone for who’s responsible for the plays foreshadowed end could be placing the blame on Rosaline. This would be imagined due to her rejection of Romeo and therefore sending him, inadvertently, toward Juliet. But for these same reasons we could blame Romeo’s friends for this, or blatantly blame Romeo.
However, there’s more to this story than the “blame game.” Both of the families are to blame, each member considered. From the unmentioned start of the feud between the families, kin and loyalist have turned against their own citizens in Verona like animals. Tybalt may even be the best example of this. He’s clearly an angry character, and even called the antagonist of the entire play by some due to kicking off the trend of death. Yet, one could argue he acted this way due to being so belittled and enraged through interactions and influences from his family. This evidence could be tracked even to Act one, wherein Capulet states, “…You are a princox, go. / Be quiet, or … for shame, / I’ll make you quiet…” (Page 57). While one may argue that this is a one-time occurrence, this motif is continued through many other main characters. Juliet is scolded by Capulet just the same, wherein Shakespeare writes, “An you be not, hang, beg, starve, die in the streets, / For, by my soul, I’ll ne’er acknowledge thee, / Nor what is mine shall never do thee good. / Trust to ‘it; bethink you. I’ll not be forsworn” (Page 171). Perhaps most tragically, even loyal Mercutio is split apart by the fight more than through his own death. Though in incredible pain, Mercutio spends the last of his energy declaring, “I am hurt. / A plague o’ both houses! …” (Page 121). Thus, who can be blamed but the environment the people have built around themselves? A place which has led toward depressive urges and self-hate is undoubtedly harsh enough to call forth dramatic and thoughtless action.
So, perhaps as I read ahead, I’ll be keeping an eye out for what may be between the lines. Though dialogue speaks and actions take what’s on the page to the stage, maybe readers should be putting their attention to what isn’t stated. Emotions, stability, Verona itself, may all be at question further on.
P.S. Looking for more content like this or an extension of what you’ve just read? Try the following links, like a playful admittance of love’s confusing troubles or other in-depth blogs regarding Romeo and Juliet.