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Romeo and Juliet | Discussion Questions 21 - 30

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How does the fight between the Montagues and Capulets in Act 3, Scene 1, of Romeo and Juliet advance the plot?

Mercutio and Tybalt fight on behalf of the Montague and Capulet households, respectively. Tybalt, Lady Capulet's cousin, comes to fight Romeo, who offended him by attending the Capulets' party. Mercutio indicates that he fights on Romeo's behalf to make up for Romeo's "vile submission" in refusing Tybalt's challenge, but Mercutio picks a fight with Tybalt before Romeo even gets there. The fight advances the plot because in trying to separate the two, Romeo inadvertently helps Tybalt kill Mercutio. He then kills Tybalt in anger, leading to his banishment. This sets Romeo and Juliet on the course that eventually leads to their double suicide.

How do love and respect motivate Tybalt and Romeo during the fight in Act 3, Scene 1, of Romeo and Juliet?

Tybalt has no love or respect for Romeo and calls him villain. However, the audience knows from earlier in the play that Tybalt believes he is challenging Romeo out of love for the Capulet family. Romeo, on the other hand, respects Tybalt and claims he has a reason "to love" him because he is Juliet's kinsman, although he cannot tell Tybalt that. The audience knows that Romeo and Tybalt are related now.

Whom does Mercutio blame for his death in Act 3, Scene 1, of Romeo and Juliet?

Mercutio blames both the Montague and Capulet households for his death when he cries, "A plague o' both your houses." Mercutio is particularly angry that it was Tybalt who killed him. In Act 2, Scene 4, during a conversation with Benvolio, Mercutio calls Tybalt "king of cats." He makes fun of how Tybalt dresses and speaks, calling him a "fashion-monger" and a "pardon me," meaning someone who acts overly foppish. In Mercutio's moment of death, when he refers to "a cat, to scratch a man to death," he is talking about Tybalt, whom he then calls a "braggart," a "rogue," and a "villain." Mercutio also holds Romeo responsible by asking, "Why the devil came you between us? I was hurt under your arm." Mercutio curses both households because he has just been killed by someone he hates through the actions of someone he loves. He would not have died had the households been on better terms.

What is the meaning and significance of the lines about Phoebus and Phaëton in Act 3, Scene 2, of Romeo and Juliet?

In Greek mythology, Phoebus is the god of the sun. Phaëton is his son, who borrows the chariot that Phoebus normally drives across the sky every day (east to west), with dire consequences—the horses run away with the chariot, damaging Earth, and Phaeton dies. Juliet invokes this myth to speed the day along: "Gallop apace, you fiery-footed steeds," she says impatiently. She wishes the sun would set earlier, as though Phaëton were driving the chariot, and "bring in cloudy night immediately." The allusion to the myth shows Juliet's heedlessness and foreshadows the bad things that happen to her and Romeo because of their passionate actions.

In Act 3, Scene 2, of Romeo and Juliet, the nurse tells a halting story about Tybalt's death and Romeo's banishment. How do Juliet's responses help to define her identity?

Juliet is impatient for Romeo to come for their wedding night. When the nurse enters moaning, "He's dead," Juliet assumes she means Romeo. This puts Juliet into such a state of fear that she declares, "I am not I" if Romeo is dead. His loss undermines her newfound identity. The nurse then describes the wounds she saw on the dead man's corpse, and the brutality of the vision makes Juliet beg her heart to break and kill her. However, Juliet ultimately determines that Romeo has killed her "dearest cousin" Tybalt and been banished for it. Juliet's initial allegiance is to Tybalt, her kin. She condemns Romeo as a "damned saint, an honorable villain." Not until the nurse calls for shame to come to Romeo does Juliet shift her allegiance to her husband. During this part of the scene, Juliet responds in several ways that help define her loyalties and truly identify her as Romeo's wife.

After the fight in Act 3, Scene 1, of Romeo and Juliet, why does the prince choose to banish Romeo?

After the prince demands to know how the fight began, Benvolio recounts the fight, including Romeo's efforts to stop it. Lady Capulet insists that Romeo must be killed to pay for Tybalt's death. Lord Montague argues that Romeo killed Tybalt because Tybalt killed Mercutio, so justice has now been done. The prince, agreeing that Romeo is not guilty for killing Mercutio, who was Romeo's friend, still decides to punish Romeo because Mercutio was the prince's kinsman, and he wants to teach the Capulets and Montagues a lesson. He says he will be "deaf to pleading and excuses" to make them all sorry for the wrongs they have committed.

In Act 3, Scene 2, Juliet speaks poetically about wishing night would fall so she could be with Romeo. What does night symbolize for her?

Juliet waits in her room for the nurse to come tell her when Romeo will arrive to consummate their marriage. She begs the day to vanish, so night can come and bring with it her husband: "Spread thy close curtain, love-performing night ... [so] Romeo [can] leap to these arms, untalked of and unseen." Night provides darkness in which "lovers can see to do their amorous rites/By their own beauties." Romeo will be her "day in night." Night is where Juliet and Romeo can form a secret union.

In Act 3, how do Romeo and Juliet respond to Romeo's banishment from Verona?

For both Romeo and Juliet, Romeo's banishment is worse than death. Romeo cannot tolerate what his imagination jealously conjures, including "carrion flies" who can touch Juliet's skin when he cannot. For Juliet, the very word banished is deadly. She says, "To speak that word/Is father, mother, Tybalt, Romeo, Juliet,/All slain, all dead." In Romeo's absence, there is no longer the possibility of life for Juliet. However, banishment becomes less an evil when Romeo and Juliet know they will be able to complete their union physically and be truly wed.

In Act 3, Scene 3, of Romeo and Juliet, why do Friar Lawrence and the nurse chastise Romeo for his grief over banishment?

When the nurse arrives at Friar Lawrence's cell, she finds Romeo on the ground, weeping. "Stand an you be a man," she says. Later in the scene, when Romeo draws his dagger to hurt himself in a moment of intense self-loathing, Friar Lawrence remarks, "Hold thy desperate hand!/Art thou a man? Thy form cries out thou art./Thy tears are womanish." As a man, the friar and the nurse imply, Romeo should behave with self-control and restraint. The friar further points out that Romeo's impulse to suicide is irrational, given that Juliet is alive. Were Romeo to kill himself, his vows to Juliet would be rendered meaningless.

In Act 3, Scene 5, of Romeo and Juliet, how does the young couple's farewell foreshadow the end of their relationship?

As they say farewell, both Romeo and Juliet have visions of the other looking dead. Juliet says, "Methinks I see thee ... /As one dead in the bottom of a tomb." Romeo responds that Juliet looks equally pale to him: "In my eye so do you." Both their deaths will come to pass within days as foreshadowed here, though Romeo won't be separated from Juliet "in the bottom of a tomb," but instead will be beside her in the same tomb.

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