Describe Mercutio in his last fight and treatment of Romeo in Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. 

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mercutio serves as a foil for Romeo. Unlike his friend, Mercutio is not attractive to women which inspires him to admit a dislike of women.  Romeo is serious and sensitive.  Mercutio, also sensitive, covers his feelings with joking and crazy speeches about essentially nothing.  Yet, Mercutio is one of the most popular characters in Shakespearean literature.

In the tragedy Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, Mercutio, whose name is derived from the world mercurial which means explosive, never backs down from a fight.  He enjoys dueling and involves himself in the battles between the two feuding families because of his friendship with Romeo.  In fact, Mercutio is Romeo’s best friend.  

What character traits does Mercutio exhibit? He is a witty, young man who appears to think that love is only about sex. His fear of women and self-hatred make him dangerous to those around him and himself.    

Mercutio is clever and quick.  He constantly uses puns, jokes, and teases.  Sometimes he is bitter, and other times he is just a mischief-maker.   Within his wild speeches, his speaks disdainfully about romantic love and the arrogance of self-love. 

Unfortunately, Mercutio goes one step too far when he involves Tybalt, the Capulet cousin, in his mockery.  He ridicules Tybalt and his fancy fashion.  With his wild words, Mercutio  mocks Romeo’s self-indulgence. 

Although Mercutio is Romeo’s beloved friend, Romeo does not always confide in him. Mercutio’s sharp tongue and scorn for romance keep Romeo from telling him about his love for Juliet. 

When Tybalt challenges Romeo, Mercutio does not understand why  Romeo does not accept his challenge.  Deciding that Romeo is not capable of fighting Tybalt, Mercutio with his quick wit and temper takes him on. He has no fear of fighting Tybalt. Unhappily, he is fatally wounded.

Even in death, Mercutio begins his last speech with humor about his wound from Tybalt. 

No, ‘tis not so deep as a well, nor so wide as a church door, but ‘tis enough, ‘twill serve.’

As Mercutio grows closer to death,  he places a curse on the two houses of Capulet and Montague for his death: '...a plague on both your houses!'

Clever to the end, he finds one more pun to throw at the audience:

‘Ask for me tomorrow and you shall find me a grave man…’

Romeo actually causes the final blow to Mercutio.  So Romeo in his rage and grief attacks and kills Tybalt.  This, of course, begins the tragedy that will carry through  until the deaths of Romeo and Juliet end the long standing feud of the families.