The order of events that occur in Act 3, Scene 1 is what makes Romeo and Juliet a true tragedy. The scene functions as a turning point in the story, as Romeo kills Tybalt, resulting in his exile. When Romeo first approached Tybalt, he refused to harm him, and didn’t seem to express any hatred toward him, but he seemed to “love” him instead, as Romeo is already married to Juliet:): “Tybalt, the reason that I have to love thee/ Doth much excuse the appertaining rage.” (3.1.33-34) The death of Mercutio is badly timed, because if he had left the street with Benvolio earlier, they would not have had an encounter with Tybalt. Shakespeare also describes Mercutio’s behaviour metaphorically when Benvolio asks to leave because of the heat, and that they wouldn’t escape without a brawl: “For now, these hot days, is the mad blood stirring.” (3.1.4). “Mad blood stirring” derives from the quote “blood boiling”, a saying often displayed to express anger. Also, if Mercutio was able to contain himself from Tybalt’s insults, then he would not have gotten himself into the fight which led to his unfortunate death. The character flaws of Mercutio and Tybalt evident in Act 3 Scene 1 contribute greatly to the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. As well as being hot headed, Tybalt is extremely loyal to the Capulets (meaning that he despises the Montagues), to an extent that he will kill for them. Mercutio is also angered easily, and is prone to starting a fight without difficulty.
Despite Mercutio’s playful accusations against Benvolio of being easily provoked (3.1.1-11), it is shown early in the scene that it is in fact Mercutio who takes action against Tybalt, not Benvolio. Romeo’s radical and extreme changes of emotions also contribute to the tragedy. Early in the scene, Romeo assures Tybalt that he wouldn’t harm him in any way, but later, he is enraged after Mercutio’s death and slays Tybalt. Act 3 Scene 1 suggests that Romeo and Mercutio’s impulsive nature and youthfulness are the reasons for the tragic ending of Romeo and Juliet. During this scene, Mercutio acts greatly on impulse, after being taunted by Tybalt. As stated previously, Romeo also acts on impulse throughout the play. The way he gravitates between his emotions – anger and love – leads to the tragedy clearly. This theme of Romeo’s demeanour is evident in not only this scene; it is shown throughout the play – where he falls in love from Rosaline to Juliet, their immediate vows of loves, Tybalt’s murder, the aftermath of the event, and eventually his suicide in the near end of the play. In Act 3 Scene 1, Romeo primarily declines to fight with Tybalt “…But love thee better than thou canst devise/ Till thou shalt know the reason of my love:/ And so, good Capulet – which name I tender/ As dearly as mine own. – be satisfied.” (3.1.**). Not soon after this, Romeo’s behaviour is altered yet again: “…That late thou gavest me; for Mercutio’s soul/ Is but a little way above our heads,/ Staying for thine to keep him company:/ Either thou or I, or both, must go with him.” (3.1.**)
The reoccurring trait of youth leads to difficulties and complications, then in due course, disastrous tragedies. Shakespeare places the audience in a position where they are able to see the unfortunate turn of events of Mercutio’s argument with Tybalt, and the sequence of events that add to the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. To an Elizabethan audience, who widely believed in fate, would pity for Mercutio with his badly timed death. However for a modern audience, they would probably feel misfortune for Mercutio, but he should have listened to Benvolio’s advice to leave the streets of Verona (3.1.**) A modern audience might also feel bad for Romeo; if he hadn’t encountered Tybalt, then he wouldn’t have killed him, and Romeo would not be exiled from Verona. Nonetheless, in spite of which perspective the audience takes, the audience is only able to see the events of the play unfold before them, helpless to change the sequence of the events that results in the star-crossed lovers’ deaths.