What makes Mercutio so memorable in Romeo and Juliet ?
With his sharp wit, clever repartees, and humorous words and antics, Mercutio provides the romantic comedy that is in contrast to the maudlin and morose Romeo, who acts as the agent of tragedy in Romeo and Juliet. Renowned Shakespearean critic Harold Bloom observes,
It is easier to see the vividness of Mercutio and the Nurse than it is to absorb and sustain the erotic greatness of Juliet and the heroic effort of Romeo to approximate her sublime state of being in love.
Simply put, Mercutio is a scene stealer with his off-color remarks, puns, and ironic flights of fancy. Mercutio is memorable because he is a grand comic, witty, humorous with gaiety, courageous. Yet, he is also sometimes obscene, quarrelsome, and even cruel. His "mercurial" vision of Queen Mab is grand comedy as Mercutio, true to his own character presents the queen as alternately a fairy and a midwife of erotic dreams. His further innuendos about sexual activity with such words as "properin' pear" is in great contrast to Juliet's lovely couplet that follows Mercutio's speech,
Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow,
That I shall say good night till it be morrow. (2.2.198-199)
Even when he is slain by Tybalt's sword, Mercutio demonstrates great style in dying. When, for instance, Romeo tells him to take couage, Mercutio accepts his deadly departure with puns on the words grave and peppered,
Ask for me to-morrow,
and you shall find me a grave man. I am peppered, I
warrant, for this world. (3.1.97-99)
Thus, Mercutio is made a victim of his own humor in a "grotesque irony" that foreshadows the ironic deaths of Romeo and Juliet; as he dies, Mercutio becomes the herald of the death of Romeo and Juliet as a tragedy of passionate and real love. Mercutio, named for the Roman messenger god, is the memorable messenger of tragedy.
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