In Romeo and Juliet, what are the duties of Queen Mab?

In William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, the duties of Queen Mab, “the fairies’ midwife,” include influencing people’s dreams and teaching women to endure sex and childbirth.

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In act 1, scene 4, of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Mercutio delivers a long speech in iambic pentameter describing Queen Mab, "the fairies' midwife." His speech is prompted by Romeo mentioning that he had an ominous dream the night before and feels that no good can come of their attending the Capulets' ball. Mercutio replies that Romeo has been visited by Queen Mab, and Benvolio asks, "Queen Mab, what's she?" Mercutio then gives the following description of the fairy queen and her various duties, some of which are quite mischievous or even malevolent:

O, then, I see Queen Mab hath been with you.
She is the fairies' midwife, and she comes
In shape no bigger than an agate-stone
On the fore-finger of an alderman,
Drawn with a team of little atomies
Athwart men's noses as they lies asleep;
Her wagon-spokes made of long spinners' legs,
The cover of the wings of grasshoppers,
The traces of the smallest spider's web,
The collars of the moonshine's wat'ry beams,
Her whip of cricket's bone; the lash of film;
Her waggoner a small grey-coated gnat,
Not half so big as a round little worm
Pricked from the lazy finger of a maid:
Her chariot is an empty hazelnut
Made by the joiner squirrel or old grub,
Time out o’ mind the fairies’ coachmakers.
And in this state she gallops night by night
Through lovers’ brains, and then they dream of love;
O’er courtiers’ knees, that dream on court'sies straight,
O’er lawyers’ fingers, who straight dream on fees,
O’er ladies' lips, who straight on kisses dream,
Which oft the angry Mab with blisters plagues,
Because their breaths with sweetmeats tainted are:
Sometime she gallops o’er a courtier's nose,
And then dreams he of smelling out a suit;
And sometime comes she with a tithe-pig's tail
Tickling a parson's nose as a’ lies asleep,
Then dreams, he of another benefice:
Sometime she driveth o’er a soldier's neck,
And then dreams he of cutting foreign throats,
Of breaches, ambuscadoes, Spanish blades,
Of healths five-fathom deep; and then anon
Drums in his ear, at which he starts and wakes,
And being thus frighted swears a prayer or two
And sleeps again. This is that very Mab
That plaits the manes of horses in the night,
And bakes the elflocks in foul sluttish hairs,
Which once untangled, much misfortune bodes:
This is the hag, when maids lie on their backs,
That presses them and learns them first to bear,
Making them women of good carriage:
This is she—"

In this monologue, Mercutio provides imagery describing what Mab looks like: she is "no bigger than an agate stone," and her hazelnut-shell chariot is "drawn with a team of little atomies." He also describes her as galloping over humans' faces at night while they sleep, influencing their dreams, which could be considered one of her chief duties. She influences lovers to dream of love, lawyers to dream of fees, and soldiers to dream of war. According to Mercutio, Queen Mab's duties also include tangling the hairs of horses' manes in the night and teaching maidens to bear the experiences of sex, pregnancy, and childbirth.

As a figure from English folklore and literature, Queen Mab is mentioned not only in William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (1597) but in Michael Drayton's poem entitled Nymphidia (1627), Percy Bysshe Shelley's Queen Mab; A Philosophical Poem; With Notes (1813), and works by John Milton and others. In Nymphidia, Queen Mab is the wife of Oberon, king of the fairies, while in Shelley's poem, she rages against injustices committed by those in positions of power.

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