In Romeo and Juliet, why does Mercutio tell Romeo the story about Queen Mab?

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coachingcorner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the play 'Romeo and Juliet' by William Shakespeare, the author may have had several motives for having Mercutio tell the Queen Mab story to Romeo. Firstly of course, it is a bright, interesting and imaginative piece of writing and adds colour to the play. Secondly, this is a story with which the audience may already have been familiar - there are many 'faerie queene' tales and legends including Maeve in Ireland and even the similar Titania. The story is also a useful way of adding the theme of the supernatural to the play, tying in with the idea of Fate, star-cross'd lovers and the couple's destiny being written in the heavens. Also, look carefully at the dramatic angle: what was to be gained production-wise by having these characters detained for so long by the story?