When we left off yesterday in the midst of Act Three, Scene One of Romeo and Juliet, Romeo is a married man, a friend to a murdered man (Mercutio), and one who can see the future: “This day’s black fate on more days doth depend, // This but begins the woe others must end” (III.i.118-119). Tybalt, the killer of Mercutio (and the cousin to newly married Romeo), re-enters the scene and Romeo vows revenge.
The two fight and Tybalt dies. Benvolio urges Romeo to flee, but before he does, he cries out in anguish and frustration, “O, I am fortune’s fool!” (III.i.135).
As in our opening scene, as the conflict ends, enter the Prince, the Capulets and the Montagues. The Prince calls for witness testimony. When Benvolio steps forward (and it is here that we learn that Mercutio is the prince’s “kinsman” [III.i.144]), Lady Capulet objects, claiming his membership to the Montague family makes him false. Benvolio then recounts the fight. Now depending on staging, his testimony is either right on, or off only slightly (as to the sequence of events); he swears by his testimony, finishing: “This is the truth, or let Benvolio die” (III.i.174). Lady Capulet tries to put forth a different tale, but it is so outlandish that it cannot be believed (“Some twenty of them fought in this black strife, // And all those twenty could but kill one life (Tybalt’s)” [III.i.177-178]).
The Prince demands punishment, but Montague argues for his son:
Not Romeo, prince, he was Mercutio's friend.
His fault concludes but what the law should end,
The life of Tybalt.
It’s an extenuating argument and it works; instead of death, the Prince “exile(s) him hence” (III.i.186).
Act Three, Scene Two takes us to Juliet’s chamber where she impatiently awaits her wedding night, not knowing what has happened. Her opening soliloquy mixes joy (“Romeo // Leap to these arms, untalk’d of and unseen” [III.ii.6-7]), anxiety (“learn me how to lose a winning match, // Play’d for a pair of stainless maidenhoods” [III.ii.12-13]), impatience (“Come, night; come, Romeo; come, thou day in night” [III.ii.17]), and a buddy sexuality (“O, I have bought the mansion of a love, // But not possessed it, and, though I am sold, // Not yet enjoyed” [III.ii.26-28]).
When the Nurse arrives, what follows is a dance of miscommunication, which would be funny if it wasn’t so full of tragedy. The Nurse says that “he’s dead” (III.ii.37), which leads Juliet to believe that it’s Romeo who’s dead. When the Nurse says that Tybalt is dead, Juliet believes both are dead. Only then does Juliet get the news that Romeo has killed Tybalt. At first, she curses Romeo (“Just opposite to what thou justly seem’st– // A damned saint, an honorable villain!” [III.ii.78-79]), but when the Nurse agrees with her, she immediately defends him (“Shall I speak ill of him that is my husband?” [III.ii.97]).
Learning of his banishment, Juliet sends the Nurse to the friar’s cell to find Romeo, else she will “to her wedding bed; // And death, not Romeo, take (her) maidenhead” (III.ii.136-137).
In Act Three, Scene Three, Romeo is hiding at Friar Laurence’s cell and just now learning of his punishment, banishment. But Romeo sees this as worse than death:
There is no world without Verona walls,
But purgatory, torture, hell itself.
Hence banished is banished from the world,
And world's exile is death. Then "banished"
Is death mistermed. Calling death "banishment,"
Thou cutt'st my head off with a golden axe
And smilest upon the stroke that murders me.
For the first time in a long time, since maybe the balcony scene, Romeo verbal maturity shines, playing with the language. But Romeo’s rationality doesn’t last; before long, he is “on the ground, with his own tears made drunk” (III.iii.83). The Nurse arrives to find him in despair and her appearance does nothing to comfort him; instead, he feels even more guilt, even attempting to kill himself.
Finally, the friar steps in and chastises Romeo for his “desperate (and) womanish” (III.iii.108, 110) behavior. He outlines how, in fact, Romeo is fortunate (“There art (he) happy” [III.iii.137, 138, and 140]). He goes on to lay out a new plan:
Go, get thee to thy love, as was decreed,
Ascend her chamber, hence and comfort her.
But look thou stay not till the watch be set,
For then thou canst not pass to Mantua;
Where thou shalt live, till we can find a time
To blaze your marriage, reconcile your friends,
Beg pardon of the prince, and call thee back
With twenty hundred thousand times more joy
Than thou went'st forth in lamentation.
The friar still sees hope for the lovers, stills sees a possibility of ending the feud.
In Act Three, Scene Four, we see that Laurence is not the only one who has plans. Paris meets with Capulet (though “‘Tis very late” [III.iii.5]), and again puts forth his marriage proposal. And this time it’s accepted. Though Lady Capulet still wants to wait to “know (Juliet’s) mind early tomorrow” (III.iv.10) on the matter, Capulet is willing to “make a desperate tender” (III.iv.12) of Juliet’s love, and sets the wedding date. We learn that the current day is Monday and (though Wednesday is too soon) Thursday will be the wedding day. Capulet tells his wife to “go … to Juliet ere (she) go to bed” (III.iii.31) and tell her of the plan.