Considered by many as Shakespeare's most interesting and entertaining character in Romeo and Juliet, Mercutio is also intrinsic to the tragedy of this drama. For, his death in Act III, Scene 1 is the catalyst for the tragic events that follow.
Acting as the bridge between the comic and tragic events, Mercutio is witty when he is stabbed, calling it "a scratch," and saying that his wound is "not so deep as a well nor so wide as a church door," then telling Romeo that tomorrow Romeo will find him "a grave man." But, Mercutio is a lethal jester who asks, "Does Mercutio make Romeo look bad?" as his wit turns to curses: "A plague o'both your houses!"
This curse is uttered no less that the very symbolic and significant three times. And, it launches the unfolding tragedy as, indeed, the houses of Montague and of Capulet are indeed plagued. For, it is a very plague which deters the message of Friar Laurence from reaching Romeo. It is a curse upon the lovers that Friar Laurence abandons Juliet in the tomb when she awakens because he hears the guards. And, finally,it is a curse/plague that Romeo does not wait for only a few minutes as Juliet awakens so shortly after his suicide.
As was mentioned in the previous post, Mercutio's death is the catalyst for the tragic events that follow in the play. Shakespeare's expertise is also displayed in Mercutio's witty, symbolic comments before he dies. After Tybalt fatally wounds Mercutio, Mercutio immediately curses both of the families and attempts to dismiss his injury by telling Benvolio, "Ay, ay, a scratch, a scratch; marry, 'tis enough" (Shakespeare, 3.1.93). Mercutio makes use of a literary device known as understatement when describing the extent of his wound. Mercutio then employs a pun by telling Romeo that tomorrow they will find him a "grave" man. Mercutio's use of the word "grave" has a double meaning that implies his impending death. Mercutio then curses both the Montague and Capulet families before he dies. Mercutio's plagues are significant and foreshadow the tragic events that follow. Indeed, both the Montagues and Capulets are cursed; beloved members of both families tragically die.