In Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, What does Mercutio mean when he says "a plague o' both your houses?"

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Mercutio utters this line three times after having been run through by Tybalt in a street duel. He fought the hot-headed Capulet, who is Juliet's cousin, after Romeo, having just married Juliet (unbeknownst to everyone involved) refused to. Essentially, the phrase is a curse, wishing ill will on the "houses," or families whose feud he claims resulted in his death:

A plague o’ both your houses! 
They have made worms’ meat of me. I have it, 
And soundly too. Your houses!

There is a sense in which the families are, indeed, cursed. The Prologue refers to Romeo and Juliet as "star-cross'd lovers" that are essentially victims of fate. Certainly the events that take place after Romeo retaliates for his friend's death by killing Tybalt have an air of cosmic inevitability about them.


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