In Act 2, Scene 4 of "Romeo and Juliet," what change in Romeo's behavior does Mercutio comment on?

In Act 2, Scene 4 of "Romeo and Juliet," what change in Romeo's behavior does Mercutio comment on?

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janihash24 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Mercutio, ever the cynic, deplores Romeo's lovesick behavior when he was unsuccessfully trying to win the unresponsive Rosaline. Not realizing that Romeo has abandoned Rosaline for his real love, Juliet, he salutes Romeo's return to jesting, particularly the thrust-and-parry punning repartee the two engage in when they meet this time. He approves:

Why, is not this better now than groaning for love?
Now art thou sociable, now art thou Romeo; now art
Thou what thou art, by art as well as by nature:
For this drivelling love is like a great natural,
That runs lolling up and down to hide his bauble in a hole.

He means, when he says "now art / Thou what thou are, by art as well as nature" that Romeo's ability to bandy words with him (his "art") is also more representative of his true "nature," which is not desponding and sad. Mercutio blames love for this, saying it is a "natural" (which meant "fool" to the Elizabethans) and makes an obscene reference in the next line—again, very characteristic of him.

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In Act II, Scene iv, Mercutio comments on Romeo's improved demeanor.  Before, Romeo had been depressed and moping around because the object of his affections, Rosaline, did not return his love.  Now that he has met Juliet he is light-hearted and joking once again.  Mercutio says,

"Why, is not this better now than groaning for love?  Now art thou sociable, now are thou Romeo..." (lines 87-89).

Ironically, just a few lines before, at the beginning of the scene, Mercutio had been talking with Benvolio about how Romeo, who has received a challenge from Tybalt, has been so melancholy and morbid.  He describes Romeo as

"...already dead, stabbed with a white wnech's black eye, run through the ear with a love song..." (lines 13-15).

Romeo had been so distressed previously because of Rosaline, that Mercutio and Benvolio were wondering whether he still retained enough spirit to meet Tybalt's challenge.

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