Shakespeare’s Romeo’s reputation: “O calm, dishonourable, vile

Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is a play which explores oppositional ideas throughout the story. Mercutio is a minor character in the play. However, Mercutio plays a vital role in the play, he acts as a comedic foil to Romeo, his loyalty to Romeo brings him closer to the storyline and helps to set up the story. His death signifies a complete tonal shift towards tragedy from romance and his role, both regarding his characterisation and the significance of his death, serves to develop the opposing themes and genres within the play such as Love & Violence and Fate & Destiny.Mercutio’s character is used to develop the primary themes, such as the horrific consequences of mindlessly-preserving honour and reputation, shown through his meaningless death. The massive shift in the play shines light upon Mercutio’s stance on reputation. He was willing to defend Romeo’s honour no matter the circumstances by risking his own life. This ambition is recognised when Mercutio insults Romeo and decides to fight Tybalt himself just to defend Romeo’s reputation: “O calm, dishonourable, vile submission! Alla stoccata carries it away.” The diction of “dishonourable, vile submission” shows connotations of disgust that Romeo is backing down from a fight, implying that he is weak. The diction of “submission” connotes people making peace with one another. However, instead of seeing it as valuable, Mercutio sees it as a sign of weakness. This event is tragic with the irony in Mercutio’s death as any form of violence between the families was the last thing Romeo wanted, Romeo intended to preserve the peace between the two families. Conclusively, Shakespeare crafted Mercutio to highlight the key genres and themes within the play. The consequences of mindlessly-preserving honour and reputation are further portrayed just before Mercutio dies, to Romeo, he exclaims “A plague o’ both your houses!” This curse foreshadows the loss which both families will soon feel. The metaphor in “Plague o’both your houses” connotes how rage-driven he was to make the families break-apart as he believes it is their fault that he is dying. This moment was a significant shift in character. Moreover, there was initially a glimmer of hope within the play that things would be better with the marriage of Romeo and Juliet; however, this hope soon fades when Romeo puts his desire for revenge above his love. As a result of this action, the hopes of the audience is similarly crushed. The regret Romeo feels after killing Tybalt shows how consumed he was with ideas of revenge. After the death of Mercutio, Romeo is told by Benvolio that Romeo’s death is inevitable when he gets caught. Then, Romeo’s regret is portrayed when he calls himself  “O, I am fortune’s fool!” The personification in “fortune’s fool” suggests that Romeo feels like destiny has tricked him. This event highlights how the fates of Romeo and Mercutio were intertwined so that the transition between light and dark exists through both characters. Mercutio and Romeo have quite different viewpoints on love. When Romeo expresses his concerns about crashing the Capulet party, Mercutio responds with the “Queen Mab” speech: effectively ridiculing Romeo’s viewpoint and therefore we realise the disparity between Romeo and Mercutio’s opinions but, most importantly, we witness a vital shift in the character of Mercutio from light to dark. Until the Queen Mab speech starts, all that Mercutio and Romeo talk about is raillery, they often joke around but they never have serious conversations. However, this all changes when Mercutio produces the infamous “Queen Mabs” speech: “O then I see Queen Mab hath been with you…”. When this speech starts, Mercutio begins speaking to much faster, as if he had a desperation to get his point across. Mercutio does this with the intention of proving to Romeo that he is foolish for not wanting to join the party and that suggesting that one should never put their faith in their dreams: “Dreamers often lie.” Mercutio has a clear transitional character which develops from swift puns to quickly tempered seriousness. His speech begins with fanciful charming imagery, but, this leads to more startling opinions on how, for example, the cover for “Queen Mabs’ chariot” is created only from the wings of grasshoppers. The Queen Mabs’ speech foreshadows the structure of the play as a whole: the play starts dreamy and features harmless lightheartedness. This introduction reflects the moment where Romeo discovers his love for Juliet, and no more than verbal debate takes place between the Capulets and Montagues; gradually working to increase the pace of the play. As such, the play starts to take a turn and nightmares start to appear, such as Mercutio’s stabbing which is later followed by the poisoning of Juliet.The “Queen Mab” speech occurs quite early on in the play but, it serves two purposes. Firstly, it forecasts what is to come and secondly, it acts as an introduction to Mercutio’s’ role; establishing him to be a charismatic and likeable character. As such, his death appears as even more heartbreaking to the audience. Because of the family feud, Mercutio’s death occurs after a chain of unfortunate events which spur from Mercutio striking a fight with Romeo’s sworn enemy, Tybalt. Transpiring quite early on in the play, Shakespeare crafts Mercutio’s death in quite a merry way: even on his deathbed, he continues cracking jokes. For example, when Romeo does not realise how serious his friend’s stab wound is, Mercutio states: “Ask for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man.” This pun is a double-entendre as the diction “grave” not only intends seriousness, it could also refer to how Mercutio would be dead tomorrow and therefore buried in a grave. Another reason he may not want to support Romeo further is that the stabwound happened while under Romeo’s arm, meaning Mercutio may blame Romeo for this, and resultantly be angry with both families.On the other hand, Mercutio was always light-hearted and quick-witted, he upheld an excellent reputation and was the first to realise the pointlessness of the family feud. When Romeo backs down from a fight with Tybalt, Mercutio knew, the only way to gain honour back was to participate in the fight himself. He was insulted that Romeo submitted to Tybalt’s Curses and he knew that if he did not participate, Romeo’s reputation would have been “stain’d”. Shakespeare crafted Mercutio to represent the typical manly figure (as opposed to Romeo, who has a more effeminate nature). Mercutio displays his manliness when he proves to Romeo how one may hide effeminacy with sheer violence as shown when Mercutio fights in place of Romeo. To conclude, Mercutio’s death is the turning point of the play and how his view proves how destructiveness the family feuds can be. Additionally, the scene of his death portrays his honour. Through the representation of Mercutio, Shakespeare intended for his audience, to take away that comedy and lightheartedness can quickly be robbed from people to turn them darker resulting in pointless family-feuds, along with rage.Words: 1145