In Romeo and Juliet, the Queen Mab speech is a metaphor for love. Why did Shakespeare use this idea for love? 

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In act 1, scene 4 of Romeo and Juliet, Romeo and his friends are traveling to the Capulet’s party, and Romeo is bringing everyone down. He is continuing to harp on the fact that Rosaline doesn't love him back. Rosaline, by the way, is choosing to become a nun. His friend, Mercutio, tells him about why he is going so crazy: he tells him that the love he feels is the madness of Queen Mab, a fairy that drives people crazy. Mercutio explains,

Through lovers’ brains, and then they dream of love;

O’er courtiers’ knees, that dream on cur’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 breath with sweetmeats tainted are.

Sometime she gallops o’er a courtier’s nose,

And then dreams he of smelling out a suit

The imagery that Shakespeare uses paints Queen Mab to drive people mad with desire; instead of ordinary “romantic love,” the love that Queen Mab would push someone to is more like lust or obsession—the same urging that pushes lawyers to dream of fees or soldiers to dream of slitting throats pushes lovers to dream of love.

The reason Shakespeare uses this mad type of love is explained when Friar Lawrence when he says,

These violent delights have violent ends

And in their triumph die, like fire and powder,

Which, as they kiss, consume. (act 2, scene 6)

The love that Shakespeare describes in Romeo and Juliet is a dangerous, fanatical love. It is like powder primed and ready to explode, which is the reason that the two lovers are pushed to suicide, the most dramatic and unchangeable decision. If they cannot be together, they would rather be dead—that sounds exactly like what Mercutio describes when talking about Queen Mab.

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In Act I, Scene 4 of Romeo and Juliet, Mercutio tells Romeo that Queen Mab has visited Romeo in his sleep. Queen Mab is a curious creature who is "no bigger than an agate stone/ On the forefinger of an alderman" (I.4.56-57). In other words, she is a tiny creature who is as big as a ring. Her mini wagon is pulled by a gnat. She rides through lovers' brains and makes them dream of love. When Queen Mab drives over the lips of women, they, "straight on kisses dream, /Which oft the angry Mab with blisters plagues, /Because their breaths with sweetmeats tainted are" (I.4.77-79). In other words, Queen Mab rides over women's lips, and they dream of kisses. Then, Queen Mab gives them blisters because their breath smells like candy, which she does not like. This story is a metaphor for the idea that love can bring with it suffering and punishment. Shakespeare used this story to foreshadow the punishment that will come to the lovers, Romeo and Juliet.

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