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How does Shakespeare present the character of Mercutio and what role does he play in Romeo and Juliet?

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Introduction

How does Shakespeare present the character of Mercutio and what role does he play in Romeo and Juliet? In the famous Shakespearean play Romeo and Juliet the character Mercutio is a close friend of Romeos and has an arrogant and cynical personality. He only features in the first part of the play but despite this his character plays a very key role through his loyalty to Romeo in setting up the rest of the story. His character is clearly very comic in the sense that he is constantly joking and using puns right up to his death. A key example that I feel expresses the comedy of his character is how he mocks Romeos sworn enemy Tybalt: Because there is a feud between the Montague (Romeos) and Capulet (Juliets) families Mercutio feels it is his duty as a friend to Romeo to side with the Montagues. Firstly in Act 2 scene 4 he insults Tybalts name as it is also a popular name for a cat. Mercutio: 'More than Prince of cats.' Also he insults the way in which Tybalt fights suggesting it is predictable and effeminate. 'He fights as you sing prick song, keeps the time distance and proportion; he rests his minim rests one, two, and the third in your bosom.' ...read more.

Middle

Until this speech begins the conversation between Romeo and Mercutio consists of generally relaxed banter and has a fairly gentle mood, this all changes when Mercutio produces this great 42 line speech beginning with the words: 'O then I see Queen Mab hath been with you' Suddenly he speaks to Romeo in a much faster pace, with fewer breaths; with the purpose of convincing Romeo that he is being silly for having reluctance to enter the party and that people should not put faith in dreams: 'Dreamers often lie.' Mercutio has a clear changeable character which develops from swift puns with witty joking to quick tempered seriousness. Beginning with fanciful charming imagery his words lead into more alarming ideas on how for example the cover for Queen Mabs' chariot is formed from the wings of grasshoppers. The speech foreshadows the structure of the play as a whole: Beginning with dreaming and harmless light- heartedness: reflecting when Romeos love for Juliet is acquired and no more than verbal fighting takes place between the Capulets and Montagues; gradually developing to increase pace and resulting in nightmares: spurring from Mercutios stabbing which is later followed by the poisoning of Juliet. Due to the speech's early positioning within the play its purpose is not only to prophesise what is yet to come but also to act as an introduction to Mercutios' part; ...read more.

Conclusion

In modern day English he is effectively saying that the nurse is old and past her time, not only that but she's a whore who no one would go for unless desperate. This is extremely rude so again would have appealed to the groundlings immature sense of humour. Seated more wealthy audience members however would have approved of Mercutios wit and loyalty to Romeo because of their higher level of intellect. When in Act 3 scene 1 Benvolio suggests that Mercutio and Tybalt retire to some place less public, Mercutio stands firm and prepares to fight standing up for Romeo. 'Men's eyes were made to look and let them gaze; I will not budge for no man's pleasure , I.' This also shows Mercutio to be quite a stubborn character as he ignores Benvolios advice. Secondly those whom were seated would be of greater intelligence giving them better understanding of some of the poetry and puns his character used to express his feelings. In conclusion Mercutios character is a very unique one and a foil to Romeo. His death is a major turning point after which the play changes from light heartedness to tragedy. Not only appealing to one class of audience members but to all with his different attributes. His character is fundamental for helping to unfold the play. ...read more.

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