Mercutio in William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet
Mercutio adds energy to the play yet ironically also hastens the
tragedy with his impetuous actions. He has a vivid imagination and
frolicsome personality with his name derived from the adjective
'mercurial'. This gives an excellent description of the young man's
vibrant, quick-witted, volatile nature. His strong sense of humour
often turns into bawdy innuendos; "open arse and thou a poperin pear,"
as he teases Romeo the romantic. Indeed Mercutio is used as a dramatic
foil to Romeo's love loin "soul of lead." The death of this vivacious
character suddenly creates a tragic, disconcerting impact on the
His colourful imagination is seen from the powerful portrayal of Queen
Mab, "the fairies' midwife." During his description of the "angry"
"hag", the subject of dreams changes to match his own cynical view on
life. His focus on soldiers dreaming of "cutting foreign necks" gives
us a small insight into his own inner thoughts and ironically it is in
a sword fight that Mercutio is to die.
The death of this exuberant man appears as unnecessary waste. Upon
Tybalt's fatal blow, Mercutio, the wounded man, curses the two
families three times, " a plague a'both houses." This shows that
people outside the feuding families are involved in the "ancient
grudge" whether they wish to be or not. It also indicates, as his name
can be linked with Mercury - messenger of the Gods, that he is a
messenger, prefiguring the death of the "star-crossed lovers."
Mercutio's verbal attack of Romeo, as he "was hurt under...
(Romeo's)... arm" represents the many barriers in the play especially
that between the protagonists and their "death-marked love."
He rivals Romeo in wit and intelligence, whilst occasionally indulges
in vulgar, clever retorts shown through badinages like "if love be
blind, love cannot hit the mark" and the verbose repartee. His
vibrance and boisterousness causes Romeo to say he has "dancing shoes
with nimble souls" contrasting his own "soul of lead."
Mercutio believes in himself and is willing to stand up for his
rights; "I will not budge for no man's pleasure" and "By my heel, I
care not." He is also sincere, able to admit when he is wrong and can
take a laugh at himself, accepting that " True, I talk of dreams,"
after the Queen Mab...