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Shakespeare's Use Of Mercutio

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 3712 words Published: 25th Apr 2017

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In William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the character Mercutio mood represent the mood of the play itself, and when Mercutio Dies the Mood of the play changes from a comedy to tragedy , When he is joyful and comic so is the play, When he is dark and grim so is the play. This can be seen thought out the play in numerous acts, When Mercutio Give his Queen Mab speech the plays mood is of romance giving comic relief but foreshadowing tragedy or when Mercutio is killed and he gives his famous “A plague on both your houses” line and the play spirals in to tragedy, And when he dies the last mood of Mercutio becomes the mood for the rest of the play. Even if you look at Mercutio’s name, It is derived from the Roman god Mercury who was the Messenger god, Mercutio plays a similar role. He is the messenger for the mood, He brings laughter or tragedy.

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Shakespeare use Mercutio to show the mood of rest of the play. In the beginning Mercutio is a free spirited jokester who sometimes suggest that tragedy with fall upon them, and the play is the same, It is essentially a comedy the foreshadows tragedy. When Mercutio first appears in the play he brings the play out of the Introduction, After all of the main characters have been introduced: The Capulet’s, The montages, The prince Escalus, Paris, ect. He pushes the play forward By convincing Romeo to go to the “Mask” held by the Capulet’s where he meets Juliet which set the play in to a happy and upbeat mood.

In Act III, scene I Mercutio and Tybalt clash in a tense sword fight which shows the tension of play, and as the fight goes on Mercutio starts to become more serious and begins to be less comic and this can be seen in the play as it start to lose it comic side and starts to become a tragedy, at the beginning when Mercutio is the Joker, the nurse is used as another source of comic relief but in the Third act she become a more serious character trying to help Juliet from the climax of Romeo killing Tybalt.

When Mercutio Dies it is a turning point and the play begins to start a rising action, it is when the plays comedy fades that begins the tragic chain of events begins. when Mercutio dying he gives the last lines of comedy in the play, after he is stabbed Benvolio ask him “art tho hurt” and Mercutio brushes it off in a manly remark “a scratch a scratch” and then gives final comic line “ask of me tomorrow and you shall find me a grave man” and then Give his famous line “A plague on both your houses” and this changes the play from a comic mood to a tragic, and stay tragic throughout the rest of the play.

Shakespeare use of Mercutio’s comic side can be argued that the role of Mercutio as a comic relief is only to think the tragic tone of the play by presenting a contrast of light humor to dark tragedy, this use of comic relief can be seen in all of Shakespeare’s tragedies from “the porter” in Macbeth to “the gravedigger” in Hamlet. Shakespeare’s reason to have these comic reliefs in his tragedies has been argued that it was to appeal to the lower class of audience during the Shakespeare’s time.

II.Enter Mercutio

We are introduced to Mercutio in act I scene IV, And the dialogue between Romeo and Mercutio foreshadows the mood for the rest of the first act. In the begin of the scene Mercutio Is trying to convince Romeo to go the Capulet “mask”, But Romeo does not want to go because he is still upset because Rosaline rejected Romeo’s love, so Mercutio convinces him to go by giving a light hearted speech using playful imagery such as saying Romeo has a “soul of lead” (23) and then presenting a contrast of lead and that Romeo should “borrow Cupids wings and soar with them above a common bound”. The vocabulary that Mercutio uses during the act to convince Romeo to go to the “mask” is one of a upbeat tone, Shakespeare’s use of this is similar compared to his other tragedies, in Shakespeare’s other tragedies the first acts vocabularies is of a lighter tone like Othello and Rodrigo’s comic rambling. The effect of this lighter vocabulary and contracting is that it thickens the mood of the second half an making the rising action more apparent.

Mercutio’s attitude towards love also shows how Romeo’s and Juliet view their love. Mercutio believes that love is a “tender thing” (23) and tells Romeo not to be burden by love and that “if love” is “rough with” him he should be “rough with love”, and this is how Romeo and Juliet view their love, they Refuse to let their families “ancient grudge” stop their love. Shakespeare continues with this idea further by how he shows Mercutio being happy that that Romeo has found another love, Even though he is unaware that it is Juliet. And this shows that Mercutio Attitude or mood towards the themes brought up are the same that Shakespeare’s try to get the audience to go along with.

In the first half of the play, the play has one constant comic mood which is sometime replaced by a warning of impending tragedy; an example of this is Mercutio’s queen Mab speech. It starts out as a comic rant about “the fairies midwife” who is ” no bigger than an agate-stone on the fore-finger of an alderman” who “Athwarts men’s noses as they lie asleep” then goes “through lovers brains, and then the dream of love”, then toward the end Mercutio Start to change the mood by saying that sometimes queen Mab drive though “soldiers” necks “and then he dream of cutting foreign throats”. Then Mercutio starts to continue only to be calmed down by Romeo saying that he “talk’st of nothing” and this structure of having a comic mood that is sometimes replaced by a darker warning, helps build up to the pivotal turning point of Mercutio death changing the play from a comedy to a tragedy.

Shakespeare often presents Mercutio mood by long speeches, which is usually brought on by another character stating something ponder. An example of this is the opening of the second act when Romeo leave his group to search for Juliet and Benvolio and Mercutio go running after him. After Benvolio and Mercutio lose track of Romeo, Benvolio ask Mercutio to simply “call” out to Romeo, But instead he conjures out to him going on rant calling out “Romeo! Humours! Madmen! Passion! Lover!”, and screaming out to so that he “Speaks but one rime” to make him “satisfied”, This rant bring the 2 act to a comic mood that does not change until we Mercutio comes back in scene III. The seconed act is filled with comedy for example this is when “the nurse” does hers famous sketch by making Juliet rub her back to get the information on Romeo.

Mercutio foreshadows the mood that will be brought up in the climax during the third act in scene III by expressing his dislike for tybalt. He dislikes tybalt for trying to act as if he is “More than the prince of cats”, saying that he is a part of the fashion mongers calling him a “very good whore”. Mercutio look down on Tybalt because he feels that he is an imposter and act as if he is royalty, And this bother Mercutio because Mercutio is a kinsmen to the prince making Mercutio royalty. And Shakespeare’s use of this shows us how Mercutio leads the mood of the play by always keeping the viewer content.

III.. Mercutio’s death

In the beginning of Act III Mercutio and Benvolio are confronted by Tybalt and this is where shakspeare begins to speed up the pace of the play. From the beginning Mercutio shows his dislike for Tybalt and this begins to set the tension for the climax. The significants, of the Mercutio teasing of Tybalt is the effect it has on the mood and tone. In the first half the play Mercutio is the comic relief to more of a violent character build tension and provides a red thread to the understanding of the climax. This turning point of the whole play and Mercutio giving Romeo his last line of comic relief telling Romeo that If he “asks for” him “tomorrow and you shall find me a grave man” shocks the audience and starts a rising action that continues in the rest of the play, This last line of comedy in the entire play and the turning point of the play form a comedy to a tragedy. As the comedy dies in Mercutio so does it die from the play. One of the effects of Shakespeare’s sudden change in mood is the viewers understanding of the Mercutio’s role.

When Mercutio dies the final mood that he presents to play, is the mood that the play never leaves the play. This foreshadows the plot and foreshadows the mood that the play will take; When Mercutio wishes “a plague on both” their “houses” Mercutio set that tragedy with come to Romeo. And from this view is able to predict that the mood of the play is going to do a falling action drastically, which it does. When Mercutio dies his speech that he gives and his death act as the turning point of the play and since the mood of the play follows the mood of Mercutio, when he dies the play is unable to change its mood since Mercutio is unable to change it.

Mercutio’s dying is a pivotal act in the play because it brings an imminent change in mood that has been looming over the play. Before in previous scene, Mercutio was a character full of life making the scene Humorous by being the comic relief and bring up the mood of the play. But when Mercutio is killed the mood to the rest of the play becomes more serious, violent, and tragic changing the play from what seemed to be a comedy into a tragedy. At this point Shakespeare uses Mercutio shock the viewer by Tybalt killing Mercutio and make their mood towards Tybalt the same as Mercutio, Because even though the fight was brought on by Mercutio it was never meant to be a fight to the death and during the fight Mercutio often makes witty pun as they fight bring in a slight comic mood in to this tense violent fight. Tybalt kills Mercutio when Mercutio even thought there was a feud between them he Mercutio had no intent of killing Tybalt He only wished to fight with him. This help viewer understand why Mercutio’s death is so powerful and able to change the mood of the play from a comedy to a tragedy.

As Mercutio is dying he curses both households by wishing “A plague o’ both” their “houses.” Three times. Repeating the curse three times Shakespeare wants to show the viewer and make them realize the impact of Romeo and Tybalts actions (In the 15 century to do something three times was considered to invoke magical powers which would make whatever wish action to become true, this is where the expression”three is the magic number” comes from -page 237 “will in the world”) and shows why Mercutio does not forgive Romeo just before he dies, and this brings the viewer to fully understand the how dark a mood Mercutio is bring the play.

The reason why Mercutio mood changes so drastically is because Mercutio’s death is as a direct result of the feud between the Capulet’s and the Montague’s or to be more specific the hatred Tybalt has towards Romeo. Mercutio tries to help Romeo a Montague’s but does not receive anything in return but his own death. Mercutio blames his injury on Tybalt and Romeo, and wonders “Why the devil did” Romeo go “between them?” and states that he was “hurt under” Romeos “arm.”, Romeo responds by saying that he did what he “thought” was ” all for the best”, without listening Mercutio continues to curse which Romeo explain himself for forgiveness is seen as and attempt to bring the mood of the play up, but by Mercutio refusing to listen can be seen as Shakespeare’s way of saying that the play is not going to go back to the comedy at that from this point the mood will proceed to do its falling action.

V Romeo Slays Tybalt

Romeo’s soliloquy reveals his mood to the viewer and shows that he is enraged what has happened to about killing of Mercutio and that he will seek revenge on Tybalt and this show just how Mercutio affect the mood of the play and how his death acts as the turning point of the play and how his death will spiral the plays mood downwards. Romeo feels that Mercutio’s death is somewhat his fault and feels guilty because if he had not intervened Mercutio would have probably lived Romeo reason he action because of his marriage to Juliet.

Romeo’s mood changes after Mercutio mood has changed; it changes from when he first enters the scenes he was feeling happy and joyful because he had just been wedded to Juliet in the final scene of act II. And now after Mercutio’s death his mood has changed to be moods of guilt and anger, and like Mercutio’s words comedy Romeo no longer speaks of love in the same joyful mood. Romeo’s changing in mood show how Mercutio’s death turned the play from an upbeat mood to a dark and sad mood, He enters the scene showing feelings love and compassion towards Tybalt and after the death of Mercutio, Romeo exits the scene with a feelings of bitterness and anger towards Tybalt. Romeo reaches a point of no return when He fights Tybalt to avenge Mercutio, and after he kills Tybalt there is no chance of Him and Juliet living haply ever after. When Tybalt returns after Mercutio dies Romeo does not show Tybalt any previous his ‘Compassionate’ moods and instead challenges Tybalt to fight to the death and blaming him for the killing Mercutio and that “Either thou, or I, or both, must go with him.”. This is the first escalation after Mercutio’s death change the play. Romeo kills Tybalt causing “a plague on both” their “houses” and fulfills the foreshadowing done by Mercutio and at this point the viewer fully understands the mood will no revert to Its cheerful mood. When Romeo kills Tybalt and Tybalt lifeless body falls to the ground, Romeo immediately regrets his actions stating that he is “fortune’s fool.”. Shakespeare shows the viewers through Mercutio that mood he presents before he dies is on going to continue. Romeo killing Tybalt was a very non-intelligent because Tybalt was Juliet’s favorite cousin and since Romeo married Juliet, Romeo has become part of the Capulet family and killing Tybalt would mean that the Capulet’s would never be accepted his and Juliet’s love, And by doing so sealing his fate. This shows us that Mercutio’s mood dictates the mood of the play


After Romeo kill Tybalt Escalus the Prince come to the scene where Romeo killed Tybalt. Romeo killing of Tybalt continues this chain of tragic events and the Prince enraged by this chain of events, banish Romeo showing kindness and spares his life because he believe that there has been too much killing and that if Romeo is executed that this brawl would continue. And this is the seconded tragic event that follows Mercutio’s death. And this continues to follow the tragic mood that Mercutio started. And this show that Shakespeare uses Mercutio as a device to control the mood of the play. After Romeo is banished Juliet is to be married to Paris but Friar Laurence cannot let this happen so he give Juliet a potion that will give her the appearance of being dead so that she can fake her death and the be together with Romeo. But Romeo fails to get the message from Friar Laurence saying that Juliet is not dead so Romeo Rushes back to Verona to see if it is true. On his way to the church he is confronted by Paris how thinks that Romeo has come to defile the tomb of Tybalt and Juliet Romeo tries to explain but instead the to fight and Romeo kills Paris. Romeo continues to Juliet and finds her body. Romeo see no point in living and he takes his own life by drinking a vile of poison he bought, after Romeo dies Juliet awakes, she sees that Romeo is dead Juliet stabs herself through the heart with a dagger. This chain of events that happen show us that Mercutio’s Mood never leave the after he dies, and that everything that happens after Act III scene I is because of Mercutio’s death and we can assume if Mercutio had not died, the play would have ended on a more Happy note.


If you examine the research question: “In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, to what extent does Mercutio’s death change the mood of the play?”, it is clear that Mercutio death plays a drastic role in changing the mood of the play for a comedy to a tragedy, and that Mercutio death starts a chain reaction that bring the play to end on it dark mood. Mercutio lead both the mood of the first half of the play as the comedy and the second half the is the tragedy, and shows us the viewer that his death is the turning point of the whole play, and this shows us the extent that Mercutio death changes the mood of the play by looking at the first part and comparing it to the seconded. Shakespeare show us that Mercutio Mood controls the mood of the play and what every mood Mercutio takes the play follows.

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From understanding Mercutio’s roll it can lead to more exploration of Shakespeare’s motivations for writing the play and why Mercutio Has a much more substantial role in the play compared to the other comic reliefs such as the porter or the grave digger in his other tragic works. The understanding of Mercutio can lead to further questions of themes such as the theme of death and hatred. The connection between hate, violence, and death can be understood from understand Mercutio because of his role in the climax.


William, Shakespeare. Romeo and Juliet. CRW Publishing limited, 2010.

Stephen, Greenblatt, Will in the world, Norton Publishing

Edward, Arnolds, Shakespearian tragedy, Stratford-upon-Avon studies

Edited by David Young, Shakespeare’s middle tragedies, New Century Views

In William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, How does Mercutio’s function as the comic relief adjust the mood the play?


Romeo and Juliet is considered by many to be one Shakespeare’s most know play and is Shakespeare’s most performed play besides hamlet, It is famous because of it iconic love story turned tragic because of the hated of other. The play has been praised by many because of its relevance even now 400 years later people are able to relate to the characters because of its universal themes such as love, fate, time, and light and dark.

Vet is a violent, ecstatic, overpowering force that supersedes all other values, loyalties, and emotions. In the course of the play, the young lovers are driven to defy their entire social world: families (“Deny thy father and refuse thy name,” Juliet asks, “Or if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love, / And I’ll no longer be a Capulet”); friends (Romeo abandons Mercurial and Ben olio after the feast in order to go to Juliet’s garden); and ruler (Romeo returns to Verona for Juliet’s sake after being exiled by the Prince on pain of death in 2.1.76-78). Love is the overriding theme of the play, but a reader should always remember that Shakespeare is uninterested in portraying a prettied-up, dainty version of the emotion, the kind that bad poets write about, and whose bad poetry Romeo reads while pining for Rosaline. Love in Romeo and Juliet is a brutal, powerful emotion that captures individuals and catapults them against their world, and, at times, against themselves.

The powerful nature of love can be seen in the way it is described, or, more accurately, the way descriptions of it so consistently fail to capture its entirety. At times love is described in the terms of religion, as in the fourteen lines when Romeo and Juliet first meet. At others it is described as a sort of magic: “Alike bewitched by the charm of looks” (2.Prologue.6). Juliet, perhaps, most perfectly describes her love for Romeo by refusing to describe it: “But my true love is grown to such excess / I cannot sum up some of half my wealth” (3.1.33-34). Love, in other words, resists any single metaphor because it is too powerful to be so easily contained or understood.

Romeo and Juliet does not make a specific moral statement about the relationships between love and society, religion, and family; rather, it portrays the chaos and passion of being in love, combining images of love, violence, death, religion, and family in an impressionistic rush leading to the play’s tragic conclusion.

Love as a Cause of Violence

The themes of death and violence permeate Romeo and Juliet, and they are always connected to passion, whether that passion is love or hate. The and Romeo and Juliet belongs to a tradition of tragic romances stretching back to antiquity. Its plot is based on an Italian tale, translated into verse as The Tragically History of Romeos and Juliet by Arthur Brooke in 1562, and retold in prose in Palace of Pleasure by William Painter in 1582. Shakespeare borrowed heavily from both but, to expand the plot, developed supporting characters, particularly Mercuric

Use of dramatic structure, especially effects such as switching between comedy and tragedy to heighten tension, his expansion of minor characters, and his use of sub-plots to embellish the story, has been praised as an early sign of his dramatic skill. The play ascribes different poetic forms to different characters, sometimes changing the form as the character develops. Romeo, for example, grows more adept at the sonnet over the course of the play.


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