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In the play Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare has created several memorable characters, aside from the witty, humorous, and theatrical character of all time Mercutio. Mercutio is neither Capulet nor Montague, but is portrayed as a very close friend to Romeo. Yet Mercutio and Romeo both very dissimilar views on love and on life in general. This is clearly conveyed through Mercutios witty wordplay and language within the play.
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Primarily the prologue in Romeo and Juliet plays an important role in giving information on were the play is set and what it is about. Shakespeare begins with the most renowned line in literature “two households” emphasize the theme family, Montague’s and Capulet’s “both alike in dignity” yet involves another theme power. The prologue also introduces fatalism to the audience as the word “star-cross`d lovers” suggests “stars” determining destiny and the words “cross`d lovers” foreshadow the death of the lovers. The juxtaposition of antithetical ideas in the prologue creates the effect of anticipation and suspense , Shakespeare uses antithesis such as “Death” ,”love” and “life” to summarise the key themes and to foretell and intensify that a tragedy will take place.
Mercutio can represent a number of comparisons and contrasts to other characters by means of his quick wit and optimistic attitude. In Act 1 Scene1 the themes hate and conflict are extremely expressed through the characters Benvolio and Tybalt. The character Tybalt is seen as very vulgar and aggressive since he chooses to emphasise on the words “hate” and “hell”, he then goes onto say I “hate”, “all Montague’s” suggests he is only interested in fighting the Montague’s and everything he seems to say is negative and full of frustration and disgust. In addition Benvolio, one of Mercutios close friends is seen as the peace maker, unlike Tybalt he is determined to stop the fighting and “keep the peace “. While Benvolio is calm, sensible and reliable, Mercutio tends to be sarcastic that follows his emotions, but is still remembered as this distinctive dramatic character.
What’s more, Prince Escalus the voice of authority appears onto scene and demands for the fight to stop. Shakespeare uses antithesis in the Prince’s speech “you men, you beasts” to show his reaction, furthermore the prince can be seen as a character with such emotion as he begins to use violent imagery and says “quench the fire” of your evil hate and throw your “Mistemper`d weapons” suggests he is a mediator, like Benvolio and would like to see the feuds in Verona to stop. The juxtaposition of antithetical ideas in the quote “Disturb our streets again” he proclaims “your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace” foreshadows the death of Mercutio and Tybalt.
Later on in the Scene, the themes friendship, loyalty and love are expressed through Romeos unrequited love for Rosaline. When describing her physical beauty to Benvolio, Romeo’s descriptions are dreamy yet depressing. Shakespeare displays courtly love through the character Romeo and his infatuation for Rosaline when he begins to pine in despair “out of her favour” and then uses oxymoron’s “O brawling love! O loving hate!” to create a dramatic effect by swiftly switching two major themes together “love” and “hatred” , also creates confusion and gives an impression that he is self absorbed and immature. Throughout the scene Benvolio calls Romeo “coz” and this shows their extremely strong relationship also Benvolio is seen as a loyal and considerate friend when he continuously questions ” tell me in sadness “,the word “sadness” highlights the strong bond and respect between the two friends. On the other hand, Shakespeare presents the character of Romeo as over exaggerated and melancholy when Romeo uses hyperbolic language to convey his obsession with Rosaline he compares himself to a “sick man in sadness”, suggests his conceited mentality.
In addition another very close yet different friend to Romeo is a character called Mercutio. Shakespeare chooses to include this humorous and spontaneous character after the audience has seen Romeo and his lovesickness, to create a dramatic effect by showing their opposing views on love. Mercutio, Benvolio and Romeo all sneak into the house of Capulet’s hoping that Romeo will enliven as Mercutio tells Romeo he “must dance” shows their close and friendly friendship. Romeo can be seen as depressing when he using a metaphor on the word “soul” while talking about Mercutios “nimble soles” referring to his own “soul” being stuck to the “ground”. Then Romeo expresses his confusion by saying “is love a tender thing” he goes onto create bestial imagery by describing love as ” rude” , “boisterous” and “pricks like a thorn” gives us his mix yet positive views on love . Nevertheless Mercutios attitude towards love, contrast as he advises Romeo to retaliate back to love by “prick love for pricking” and “beat love down” shows he has a negative overview on love. The words “prick” and “beat” also show how frustrated he is and that he doesn’t want his infatuation to ruin their friendship, we begin to see a diverse side that conveys he is kind and caring.
Mercutio begins to mock Romeo with witty wordplay and sceptics when Romeo talks about having had a “dream”; Mercutio delivers a nonsensical speech on “Queen Mab” “being” “the fairies ” “midwife” who rides a “chariot” made of “an empty hazelnut” suggests that all desires and fantasies are corruptive and futile .Shakespeare juxtaposes certain words together with antithetical ideas ,giving a reflection on Mercutio by the use of vivid images of opposing “lawyers ” and “lovers” , “soldiers” and “fairies” also refers to some opposing themes in the play such as “love and hatred”. Moreover the misogynistic view in the speech about “Queen Mab” riding over “soldier’s neck” and violent vivid imagery of “cutting foreign throats” foreshadows death and fighting by giving a negative vision that the whole concept of “dreamers” and being in “love” is dangerous as well as substantial. Through the “Queen Mab” speech Mercutio degrades women, yet captivates the audience in talking “nonsense” creates humour.
In Act 2 scene1, the theme of true love is conveyed when Romeo has seen beloved Juliet he climbs onto the Capulet’s wall, whilst Mercutio and Benvolio call out for Romeo, Mercutio mocks Romeos infatuation for Rosaline shouting
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“Madman “, “lover” and refers to “Venus” the roman goddess of love. Then Mercutio uses the theme of petrachan love to describe Rosaline’s “high forehead” and “scarlet lip” to tease Romeo. Shakespeare uses dramatic irony as we as readers know it’s not Rosaline, Romeo loves. However Benvolio has a lot of concern for Romeo as he says if he will “hear” it will “anger him”; Mercutio on the other hand thinks it “cannot anger him” signifies Mercutio is a better friend as he tells the truth to benefit Romeo.
Shakespeare uses satirical irony when expressing the theme of loyalty between Mercutio and Romeo. He describes “Rosaline” as a “pale
Hard-hearted wench” and then uses imagery to describe Romeo as “dead” and “stabbed” , but due to love not hatred creates another dramatic effect of the role of Mercutio. Mercutios interaction with Romeo grows strong as he clearly states Romeo isn’t strong enough to “encounter Tybalt” at a “duel” he then begins to mock Tybalts “fashionable fighting ” by calling him the “prince of cats” tells us he is brave to protect Romeo. Mercutio also uses rhetorical language when insulting Romeo on “groaning for love?” conveys his cynical belief on love. Shakepeare has also displayed the character of Mercutio as both outrageous and fascinating when he mocks the nurse’s weight, comparing it to “a sail!” and calls her “ancient” tells us Shakespeare has done this to create wittiness and also to drive the entire play forward. Plus Mercutio and Romeos rapid interchange, indicates Romeo is quick to understand Mercutios witty wordplay.
Furthermore the character Benvolio is displayed as blood and patient, when he tries to stop Mercutio to “scape a brawl” Mercutio begins to aggravate Benvolio in saying he will “quarrel with a man for cracking nuts” suggests Benvolio isn’t quick to comprehend Mercutios clever wordplay. Mercutio also likes creating a scene when Benvolio tells Tybalt and Mercutio to ” reason coldly ” “of” their “grievances” , Mercutio seems to not “care” in saying ” let them gaze” ,his own arrogance is leading to the tragedy of his death. When Tybalt insists in fighting with Romeo , Shakespeare uses dramatic irony in portraying the character of Romeo to be an innocent , love puppy who talks about loving the “Capulet’s” “name” “as” his “own” foreshadows the relationship of Romeo and Juliet.
Ultimately the scene changes from bawdy comedy to dramatic tragedy when the role of the comic foil in the play comes to an end. Mercutio uses a metaphor and visual imagery when provoking Tybalt in comparing him to a “good king of cats” who has “Nine lives” represents his loyalty towards Romeo. Shakespeare dramatises Mercutios death as it hides his feelings over humour creating theatrical tension, Mercutio uses powerful language in cursing the two feuding families “a plague” “on” “both “of your “houses” he then goes onto using repetition whilst being sarcastic “Ay , ay ,a scratch” signifies his strong and brave personality all to protect Romeos Honour. By killing of the character of Mercutio, the character of Romeo changes from a romantic archetypal petrachan lover to a villian who kills Tybalt.
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