What have I done?!! (3.1.121-127)

TYBALT          Thou wretched boy, that didst consort him here,

                        Shalt with him hence.

ROMEO                                               This shall determine that.

                                    They fight; Tybalt falls.

BENVOLIO      Romeo, away, be gone!

                        The citizens are up, and Tybalt slain.

                        Stand not amazed, the Prince will doom thee death

                        If thou art taken. Hence be gone, away!

ROMEO           O, I am fortune’s fool.

BENVOLIO                                          Why dost thou stay?

                                                                       Exit Romeo     (3.1.121-127)

I’m intrigued, again, by Tybalt’s rigidity, and how little the actor has to work with, although clearly he can pull some brilliant moves with his blade. He has so few lines in this scene, but here he repeats some of the terms in which he had earlier spoken to Mercutio as well as Romeo, the slightly odd verb consort, especially used like this; he accused Mercutio of consortingwith Romeo, which prompted Mercutio into a baroque and vaguely homoerotic riff on musicians. And boy, with which he’s already insulted Romeo. But he’s also responding immediately and specifically to Romeo’s own desperate invitation – Either thou or I, or both, must go with him: you’re Mercutio’s mate, you came here with him, so you can follow him out of here too. Romeo’s in – This, this blow, this fight – shall determine that, whether it’s you or me. It’s going to be one of us. They fight; Tybalt falls. And just that stark, brief stage direction, which is in the earliest printed texts, which might well describe an extended, carefully choreographed action. But Romeo here is so crazed, so full of pain and grief and passion (and perhaps Tybalt is too) that surely this isn’t going to be a display of fine fencing, all those Italianate poses and flourishes so mocked by Mercutio, but rather an ugly, scrappy, vicious fight to the death. (Baz totally gets this.) Either way, it’s over, and I think it’s more effective if it’s incredibly fast. Because Romeo can’t believe what he’s done; he was in shock already and now he stands amazed, stricken, literally as if in a maze, lost and bewildered. It’s left to poor Benvolio, yet again, to move things on: get out of here, you idiot, can’t you hear that the people are in the streets. We have to imagine a crowd gathering, or at least noises off, and a rerun of the aftermath of the brawl in 1.1 (which was, after all, only yesterday) – and the most important thing, established in that opening scene: the Prince’s doom. Romeo has committed a capital crime; he is now facing the death penalty. It’s not just the scene of the crime that he needs to leave – he has to leave town. Yet he seems to remain frozen, even as Benvolio yells at him, three times, to get out of there. What has he done? O, I am fortune’s fool, another howl, as his unbearably raw, shocking burden of grief for Mercutio has to accommodate not only the knowledge that he’s just killed a man, which we assume he has never done before, the very real possibility of his own imminent execution – and, possibly, just, the dawning realisation of what this means for him and Juliet. And, once again, Romeo runs, runs for his life.




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