William Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is a story set in Elizabethan times. It is about two lovers in an unfortunate situation which, from the start, is certain to end in tragedy. In Elizabethan times, the ideas on family life, parenthood and ranking in society were very different to what they are now. This is where Shakespeare took ideas from. For example, children were thought of as small adults and were property of their parents and women were property of their husbands.
In act 3, scene 5 the tension, which is already quite high, builds quickly as a number of unfortunate events plague Juliet. The scene in general, is the beginning of the certain tragedy, which comes upon them. It shows how Juliet becomes completely alone and discarded. This creates a growing amount of sympathy, which grows throughout the scene. Shakespeare uses a number of clever techniques in the language of the characters, the link to society at that time and carrying on a general theme throughout the whole play.
The first point in which the tension begins to build in the scene is when Romeo and Juliet first wake up. Romeo and Juliet try to postpone their separation as much as they can. Juliet says ‘Wilt thou be gone? It is not yet near day. It was the nightingale and not the lark that pierced the fearful hollow of thine ear.’ The metaphor ‘fearful hollow of thine ear,’ could add tension. This is because Juliet is remarking on how terrible the morning birds’ call is to them because it means that its time for them to be separated. Tension is built in the audience because of the sympathy towards the fact they will be inevitably separated.
There is then a sudden rise in tension when Nurse bursts into the room and tells them, ‘Your lady mother is coming to your chamber. The day is broke, be wary, look about.’ Upon hearing this there is a desperate struggle by Romeo to get dressed. This builds more tension because Lady Capulet could walk in at any moment and catch them. The audience would feel nervous at this point because they wouldn’t want the two of them to get caught. The theme of love vs. hate runs strongly through this part of the scene because although they both love each other, it is Romeo’s fault that they are to be separated because he killed Tybalt. It must be hard for Juliet to make up her mind because Tybalt was one of her favourite cousins and she wont see her husband again.
At the next point, the theme of love vs. hate once again runs strong through this part of the scene. There isn’t much of a rise in tension. It rises a little at the thought of Lady Capulet walking in the room at any moment and catching the two of them but it is otherwise calm. The sympathy within the audience is what rises more than anything else. It rises most dramatically when Romeo says to Juliet, ‘Farewell, farewell, one kiss and I’ll descend,’ because they are being separated and becoming sadder and sadder.
When Romeo has descended, Juliet has a discomforting moment. She has a premonition of Romeo dieing. She says to herself ‘O god, I have an ill divining soul. Methinks I see thee now thou art so low, as one dead in the bottom of a tomb. Either my eyesight fails, or thou lookest pale.’ This adds to the tragedy because it involves the death of one of the protagonists. The audience would feel the add in tension because they will not want one of the main characters to die.
The next part of the scene is when Lady Capulet walks into the room. She thinks that Juliet is crying because of Tybalts death but really she is crying because she has just said goodbye to Romeo. Lady Capulet tries to cheer up Juliet by telling her ‘Marry my child, next Thursday morn, to the gallant young noble gentleman, the county Paris.’ Juliet is faced with a dilemma because in those days parents were the owners of their children and she is not really allowed to refuse them. The audience know that she is married but her parents do not so there is a bit of dramatic irony involved as well as the fact they feel more sympathy towards her ever-growing problems. This all adds to the tension because the audience don’t know how Juliet will react and how this will affect her mother.
Despite the fact she is not allowed to refuse her parents, she does it anyway. She tells her mother ‘ Now by Saint Peters church and Peter too, He shall not make me a joyful bride.’ This is because she doesn’t like Paris but most importantly because she is still married to Romeo, and bigamy and divorce were both against religion in Elizabethan times. The tension rises because Juliet suddenly bursts with anger and she might strike out at her mother. The audience would feel surprised because she has disobeyed her parents, which is unusual for the time the play is set. And also the audience would worry about her parent’s reaction to her defiance and her well being because of that.
The tension takes a sudden rise when Lady Capulet says ‘ Here comes your father, tell him so yourself, and see how he will take it at your hands.’ Juliet’s mother says that because she doesn’t want to tell Capulet herself. This is because men were considered the owners of their wives and they were able to do almost what they wanted to them for example, hit them. The tension could also rise because we know from earlier scenes in the play that Capulet has a short fuse and there is a chance that he will be fuming with anger, or even react with violence. The audience at this point will feel scared for Juliet for that same reason.
When Capulet first walks into Juliet’s room, he is in a relatively good mood. He asks Juliet why she is crying ‘ How now a conduit girl? What still in tears? Evermore showering?’ The tension drops because Capulet isn’t yet in a rage and doesn’t look as if he will react badly to Juliet. The three questions is a clever technique used to create sympathy. This does create sympathy in the audience towards Juliet because it makes her sound even sadder than she really is.
When Lady Capulet breaks the news to her husband, the tension takes a huge rise. This is because when she says ‘Ay sir but she will none, she gives you thanks. I would the fool were married to her grave,’ you don’t know how Capulet will react. The audience and characters would become scared and anxious as to whether Capulet will react angrily or calmly. The mystery adds to the tension. The theme of parent child conflicts is here more than anywhere else because, Juliet, by refusing her fathers offer, has initiated a certain argument that she definitely will not win. She recognises her limited power but she is determined to use it despite the fact she lives in a male dominated society.
The tension takes a rise when Capulet reacts to the news that he has been disobeyed. He gives many commands like ‘Thank me no thankings nor proud me no prouds but fettle your fine joints ‘gainst Thursday next, to go to Saint Peters church, or I will drag thee on a hurdle thither.’ These commands signal his immense anger and the fact that he is or should be in control. The audience will feel scared for Juliet because Capulet seems out of control and could use violence and this adds to the tension.
Juliet, after this, tries to reason with her father. She knows that she has limited power but she is determined to try and use it. This adds to the tension because she lives in a male dominated world and defying her father will add to dyer consequences. She kneels down and says ‘Good father I beseech you on my knees, hear me with patience, but to speak a word.’ Her father cuts her off and gives her even shorter and harsher commands which show his anger building. He tells her ‘Speak not, reply not, do not answer me.’ The audience will become even more scared for Juliet’s well being. This will add to the ever growing tension.
Capulet’s anger excels so much that he threatens to throw out Juliet if she does not comply. He tells her ‘Thursday is near, lay hand on heart, advise. And you be mine, I’ll give you to my friend; and you be not, hang, beg, starve, in the streets, for my soul, I’ll never acknowledge thee.’ The audience will feel sympathy and feel scared for Juliet because she is used to living being served hand and foot and if she were to be in the streets she would certainly die in the streets. This would be a tragedy as she is the main character and nobody wants her to die.
Capulet leaves Juliet’s room and leaves Juliet feeling rejected. She then turns to her mother and she once again gets rejected. Her final resort is to get help from Nurse. The tension then takes a rise when she stuns everybody by saying that she would commit suicide. She tells nurse ‘O, god! O, Nurse, how shall this be prevented? My husband on earth, my faith on heaven, how shalt that fait return again to earth?’ The audience would be surprised to hear this because it is not something that an innocent young girl would be expected to do in this situation. This links to the theme of fate and destiny because in the prologue it says that they will die.
The tension takes a final rise as nurse surprises everybody. She tells Juliet ‘I think it best you marry with the county Paris.’ The audience would be very surprised at this and the tension also takes another rise because this is not what you would think nurse would say because on previous impressions of nurse this is not in her personality. The most probable reason she would have said this is so she doesn’t get thrown into the streets for disobeying her superior, Capulet.
Shakespeare uses a wide range of techniques to build tension throughout Act 3, Scene 5 of ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ He tries to create an intimidating atmosphere to try and signal that there is tension in the scene. This tension at first gradually then rapidly increases as Juliet, a protagonist, becomes involved in more and more threatening and challenging situations which lead to a complete rejection from her family and end with her being in a potentially life threatening situation. In my opinion the tension doesn’t really drop at all at the end of the scene as it is left in sort of a cliff-hanger. This leaves an air of mystery as to what Juliet will do next and generally keeps up the tension. Generally, the tension in the scene is created by the thought of death and violence which rises and rises as the scene progresses and never drops as the scene ends in a sort of cliff-hanger.