How does the play Romeo and Juliet utilize comic relief? 

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The comedic moments in Romeo and Juliet provide a counterpoint to its tragic plot. Instead of making the play lighter, these moments highlight the story’s heartbreaking elements by providing a contrast. Even the violent opening includes witty banter that makes the scene all the more engaging. There is the famous...

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The comedic moments in Romeo and Juliet provide a counterpoint to its tragic plot. Instead of making the play lighter, these moments highlight the story’s heartbreaking elements by providing a contrast. Even the violent opening includes witty banter that makes the scene all the more engaging. There is the famous conversation between a Capulet and a Montague in which one asks the other if he “bites his thumb” (a rude gesture) at him. The other denies this, “No, sir, I do not bite my thumb at you, sir,” but pointedly adds, “but I bite my thumb, sir.” This moment of humor creates tension as well as interest and quickly descends into a brawl.

Two of the play’s most memorable characters are also very funny: Juliet’s nurse and Mercutio. The nurse’s humor cuts tension and adds a sense of realism to her character. She is a bawdy, feisty, middle-aged woman. It is all the more tragic when she believes that she finds Juliet’s dead body because the normally upbeat nurse transforms into a despondent woman. Mercutio is a fanciful and hot-tempered fellow whose playfulness can turn aggressive on a dime. Even as he dies, he jests, “ask for me to-morrow, and you shall find me a grave man.”

By and large, the humor in Romeo and Juliet allows the audience a moment of relief. This release causes them to relax and let their guards down, often making them more vulnerable to to the play’s tragic and shocking moments.

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