Mercutio Analysis

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Analyse the dramatic function of Mercutio in “Romeo and Juliet” with appropriate reference to social context, theme, character, setting and audience.

“Romeo and Juliet” was based on a narrative poem by Arthur Brooke. Shakespeare made the poem much more dramatic by making the events happen in five days rather than three months like the poem

The play is based on two “star-cross’d lovers” who fall in love, then take their lives.

Mercutio appears to be a minor character as he only performs in four scenes. Until the death of Mercutio “Romeo and Juliet” could have been a comedy, however, after Mercutio’s death, the play changes its pace and much darker in its themes and concerns.

Who Killed Mercutio

The Elizabethan audience would have had a different opinion on the play than we have today.

The Elizabethan males would have found Mercutio very funny as they believed they were superior to females and would have agreed with Mercutio’s bawdy sense of humour. We today find it funny and offensive as males and females have an equal place in today’s society.

Shakespeare’s theatre company was called the Chamberlain’s Men and had twelve leading actors. Shakespeare would have a particular actor in mind for each character in the play.

Mercutio has a minor role in the play, but his death brings the final tragic outcome which is the death of both “Romeo and Juliet”.

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Mercutio being a very bawdy person talks about women in a very sexual way and seems to feel that women are there for a man’s pleasure.

“I conjure thee by Rosaline’s bright eyes

By her high forehead and her scarlet lip,

By her fine foot, straight leg and quivering thigh,

And the demesnes that there adjacent lie.”

This speech made by Mercutio implies that Romeo only wants Rosaline for her feminine parts.

“O that she were

An open-etcetera, thou a pop’rin pear.” Mercutio is only interested in females for their feminine parts. Whereas Romeo believes in respect for women. Benvolio stands up to Mercutio by saying “And if he hear thee, thou wilt anger him.” This is said after Mercutio’s speech about Rosaline. By remaining silent, Benvolio is showing that what Mercutio is saying about Romeo and Rosaline is wrong and rude. Benvolio sticks up for Romeo although he, also, feels that Romeo needs to get over Rosaline.

“Come, he hath hid himself among these trees,

To be consorted with the humorous night:

Blind is love and best befits the dark.”

The Queen Mab speech shows a different side of Mercutio. At the start of the speech he talks about a fairy (Queen Mab) giving you your dreams and how “dreamers often lie.” This shows Mercutio has no belief in dreams, it shows to me that he is implying that dreamers “lie” as it is what we would like to happen not what is going to happen in reality. As Mercutio progresses into the speech it becomes darker and more menacing. This shows that Mercutio is a more complex character than we first thought. This speech shows us a lot about Mercutio’s mercurial character because it appears from nowhere, other than a wish to entertain his friends in a breathless, excited manner. It also makes us identify Mercutio, so that we feel sorry for him when he is killed and it helps to explain Romeo’s reaction to his death. The theme of the speech is that people of that time believed that dreams fore-told the future, and that Romeo should have followed his feeling’s and not gone to the party.

Mercutio’s attitude to the Nurse in Act 2 sc IV is bawdy. Everything the nurse says he replies to with a sarcastic remark. When the nurse bids him “good-morrow” Mercutio bids a “good-den” to confuse her. This shows the audience that Mercutio is very volatile and misogynistic.

Shakespeare makes the tension grow by contrasting scenes of love with scenes of hate. Although many scenes in Act 2 have a comic tone, the mood of the play quickly shifts in Act 3. At first the audience are indulging in tender love scenes between “Romeo and Juliet”, then next their plunged back into the violence of the street brawl.

Act 3 sc I is the fight scene. This shows off more of Mercutio’s darker character. The weather at the beginning is oppressively hot and tempers are short. Benvolio even says if they meet the Capulets “they will not escape a brawl.” Right from the beginning Mercutio is spoiling for a fight, even manages to argue with the peace making Benvolio. Further excitement is built up by Romeo’s refusal to fight Tybalt. Tybalt tries to manipulate him by calling him “a villain” and “a boy”, but this does not push Romeo. Romeo keeps his cool as he is now married to Juliet, Tybalt’s cousin. The fight its self is exciting as Mercutio is fighting to defend Romeo’s honour. Romeo stops the fight but everything escalates out of control. The drama continues with Mercutio’s death and the puns he made beforehand: “Ask for me tomorrow and you will find me a grave man.” Mercutio is saying if you want me tomorrow, I will not be here, I’ll be dead. The anger of Romeo over Mercutio’s death also adds to the tension of when Mercutio said “a plague on both your houses.”

Benvolio’s character is completely different from Mercutio’s. Where as Mercutio is hot-headed and bawdy. Benvolio is a pacifist and is quiet. Benvolio tries to stop the fight by saying “if we stay we shall not escape a brawl.”

Tybalt was introduced to the audience in Act 1 sc V as being very “fiery”. He admitted to the audience in a soliloquy that Romeo’s intrusion at the Capulets ball has caused him to feel bitter and angry, and that he is going to get his revenge on Romeo.

“I will withdraw; but this intrusion shall,

Now seeming sweet, convert to bitt’rest gall.”

The audience already know Tybalt as the Prince of Cats because Mercutio spoke about his good fencing skills in a mocking way in Act 2 sc IV.

“The very Butcher of a silk button, a duellist, a duellist! A gentleman of the very first house, of the first and second cause. Ah, the immortal passado! the punto reverse! The hay!”

Mercutio’s mercurial character associates him with passion and energy. Tybalt tries to act in a more honourable way to look the bigger man in front of Romeo and his friend’s as they gate crash the Capulets ball. Tybalt’s manner shows that although he was not happy about them being there he was not going to let them see it was bothering him.

Romeo does not want to fight Tybalt because in the scene before hand, Romeo had just married Juliet. Romeo says:

“I do protest I never injur’d thee,

But love thee better than thou canst devise,

Till thou shalt know the reason of my love:

And so, good Capulet, which made, which name I tender

As dearly as my own, be satisfied.”

This speech by Romeo proves that he has no intention of starting or enduring in a fight, especially as Tybalt is the cousin of his ‘wife’. But after Tybalt kills Mercutio it pushes Romeo over the edge and causes him to fight Tybalt without the intention of killing him.

Shakespeare makes the death of Mercutio seem tragic but comic by having him killed off in the middle of the play as everyone would have enjoyed his character. The comic part of Mercutio being killed off is conveyed by short and powerful speeches he gave before he died.

“Ask for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man.”

“A plague o’ both your houses!”

Mercutio’s last words are foreshadowing as he seems to be implying that it’s every one else’s fault apart from his own. “A plague o’ both your houses!” is him saying it’s the ancient grudge fault he’s dying and if they sorted out the family feud then it would not have come to his death.

“Ask for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man.” Is Mercutio’s way of telling everyone he’s dying! But because of his mercurial side they don’t believe him and think that he is joking.

Mercutio’s death leaves the Montagues and Capulets mourning as, his death leads to the death of “Romeo and Juliet”. At first I thought Mercutio’s death had a big impact on Romeo and Juliet’s deaths. Now I have read and studied the play I come to believe that it was “the ancient grudge” that caused all the deaths in the play. Mercutio’s death leaded to Romeo killing Tybalt, Romeo being banished, Romeo thinking Juliet was dead, Romeo killing himself at Juliet’s side with her just coming round, then Juliet killing herself.

If the families had left “the ancient grudge” in the past, it would never have been able to cause such grief. It must have been a stupid falling out between the families as neither family can remember what it is about! It has tragically separated each family from their child, The Capulets from the pretty, rather intelligent young lady Juliet, and the Montagues from the handsome rather soft and loving Romeo.

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Mercutio Analysis
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