Mercutio is one of the unique characters in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. His language is powerful and imaginative. He represents many different things in the play and holds an important role. Mercutio is Romeo’s friend. He is not a Montague or a Capulet. Therefore, he has not been born into a feud and has no side; however, his friendship with Romeo associates him with the Montagues. Mercutio’s character stands out from the rest because of his energy in everything he does and says. He is always living his life on the edge and always looking for something new and exciting to do. He is constantly playing on words. Romeo once describes him as:
“A gentleman …who loves to hear himself talk.” His Queen Mab speech in Act 1 Scene 4 shows that he is very imaginative. He describes in vivid detail everything about a bit of the world he has imagined. He creates this little story which he uses to explain how we get our dreams. In that scene, Mercutio shows how he believes you should chase after what you desire. He tells Romeo not to be afraid to take charge, saying: “If love is rough with you, then be rough with love.”
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Mercutio teases Romeo in Act 1 Scene 4: “Romeo! Humour! Madman! Passion! Lover! Appear through in the likeness of a sigh.” This shows how Mercutio cannot understand Romeo’s love for Juliet, and that he sees his love as a confusion of emotions, and that it is not true love. Mercutio is very independent and free and does not understand how someone could want or need anyone else in his life. Mercutio wants to live his life as it happens. He wants to be free to do what he wants when he wants. He is not interested in being in love with anyone. There are two main reasons Mercutio’s character is essential to the plot of Romeo & Juliet.
Firstly, Mercutio manages to get Romeo to go to the party at the Capulet’s house, where he meets Juliet. Romeo is against the idea of going to the party; however, in the end, Mercutio manages to convince Romeo, and Romeo decides to go. Thus, it is because of Mercutio that Romeo goes to the party. Secondly, Mercutio’s death leads to the chain of events that finally lead to Romeo’s banishment. First, Tybalt kills Mercutio in a dual. Romeo is so angry by this that he kills Tybalt. As a result, the Prince of Verona decides to banishes Romeo rather than execute him.
During Act 3 Scene 1, Mercutio is his regular, quick-witted self. He is very sharp in his language but perhaps too sharp. He deliberately annoys Tybalt by doing things like mistaking the meaning of words. Like in Act 3 Scene 1, Tybalt begins speaking to Mercutio about the relationship between him and Romeo, and Mercutio takes the word ‘consort’ to mean a group of musicians, instead of meaning that he associates himself with Romeo:
“Consort? What, dost thou make us minstrels?” Instances like this make the argument more and more aggressive until Mercutio takes Tybalt’s final blow, while Romeo is standing between them trying to stop the fight. This shows how Romeo tries to end the fighting between the Montagues and the Capulets, but how he cannot and that he only makes it worse.
Mercutio’s death is a major event in this play. When Tybalt kills Mercutio, the comedy in the play is lost. From now on, this play becomes a Tragedy. This shows how Mercutio is such an important asset to the plot, and how the language and attitude he has can affect the play so greatly. Mercutio does not seem to change very dramatically in this play. The only slight change a reader may see is when he is about to die, he yells:
“A plague on both your houses!” This may be regarded as a change because Mercutio has never been so serious before. He has never expressed any disagreement about the relationship between the Montagues and the Capulets. Now he seems to realize the damage the feud is capable of, but unfortunately, it was too late for him to do anything. Mercutio’s character is vital to the plot of this play. He represents independence, youth, and freedom, and makes the storyline a lot more interesting.