English Literature / Drama GCSE: Romeo and Juliet - Act 3, Scene 1 - Death of Mercutio (workshop)

Michael Fentiman discusses ambiguity in Shakespeare’s text.

Does Tybalt intend to kill Mercutio?

Jonjo O’Neill explores ways of delivering Mercutio’s dying scene; playing bravado and then showing fear.

This short film is from the BBC series, Shakespeare Unlocked.

Teacher Notes

This short film demonstrates how Shakespeare's ambiguity allows each theatre company to make their own choices about the staging of the scene.

It offers different interpretations of the scene which will encourage discussion.

Explain to students that there is nothing in the text that tells us whether Tybalt means to kill Mercutio, or whether Mercutio's death is an accident.

As they watch the workshop, ask your students to observe how the actors stage the fight.

How is the fatal wounding of Mercutio staged? What do the actors say about the staging of Mercutio's death?

In small groups ask students to jot down their observations about the three different ways the actor played Mercutio's death: showing bravado; playing the fear; and doing both.

  • What did each interpretation highlight?
  • Which interpretation did they think was most effective? Why?
  • How does the way in which Mercutio's death is played affect the character of Romeo?

Curriculum Notes

This short film is suitable for teaching GCSE English literature and drama in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and National 4/ 5 in Scotland.

More from Shakespeare Unlocked - Romeo and Juliet

Act 3, Scene 1 - Spoiling for a fight (workshop)
Act 3, Scene 1 - The Fight
Act 3, Scene 5 - Juliet is abandoned (workshop)
About the 2011 RSC production
Act 2, Scene 2 - Juliet's soliloquy (workshop)
Act 2, Scene 2 - Lovers unite (workshop)
Act 2, Scene 2 - Romeo's soliloquy (workshop)
Act 2, Scene 2 - The Balcony