What is the relationship between Mercutio and Romeo, as portrayed in Act 2, Scene 4 of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Mercutio's relationship with Romeo is that of Romeo's best friend, but beyond that, Mercutio also serves as Romeo's dramatic foil. Mercutio is the exact opposite of Romeo, and his lewd and humorous nature contrasts against Romeo's serious and devoted nature.

We see Mercutio's humorous nature contrasting against Romeo's when Mercutio makes lewd, sexual jokes, poking fun of Romeo's broken heart and his propensity to fall passionately in love. Lewd humor can be seen in Mercutio's lines:

Without his roe, like a dried herring. O flesh, flesh,
How are thou fishified! (38)

We also see Romeo's and Mercutio's friendship in this scene when they exchange puns. After Mercutio calls Romeo's romantic actions feminine by telling him to "curtsy" as a woman does, Romeo makes a pun out of the word "pump" to refer to both feminine shoes and a sexual insinuation with the line, "Why, then is my pump well-flower'd" (59). Mercutio continues the shoe pun in his lines,

Well said! Follow me this jest not till thou has worn
out thy pump, that, when the single sole of it is worn,
the jest may remain, after wearing, solely singular. (60-62)

Hence, this little punning duel shows us just what good friends Romeo and Mercutio are. It also shows us that Romeo has accepted Mercutio's lewd, humorous, and cynical nature, even if it is the opposite of his own.


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