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Questions About the World of the Play

What time period are we in?

How contentious is the feud at the present moment? Benvolio seems to be able to keep the peace before Tybalt ignites the flame. When was the last time somebody was killed or injured because of the feud?

Questions About Mercutio

Why would Mercutio and Benvolio leave Romeo in enemy territory after the party? He can take care of himself? They’re too drunk to make good decisions? They don’t really fear for his life?

Has Mercutio ever gotten in the middle of a feud before?

Was he a good soldier?

Is he gay? Is his love for Romeo more than just a bromance?

Why does he get involved in a fight with Tybalt? The script suggests it’s becuase he can’t stand those “lisping types” of fighters who fight “by the book.” But this is only revealed after he discovers Tybalt has called Romeo out, and after Mercutio has established that he believes Romeo is likely no match for Tybalt.

Substance abuse?

Why is he still hanging out with kids?

 

Reference Links:

Scripts:

Character and Script Analysis:

From Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare:

With Romeo and Benvolio is a friend, Mercutio, who is of neither faction and is friendly with both, for he has been invited to the feast. He is, it appears, a relative of Prince Escalus.

Mercutio is, in essence, Shakespeare’s invention. Da Porto had a minor character named Marcuccio, but Shakespeare took that and touched it with his own special gold even down to the small change in the name. Mercutio suggests Mercury, the winged messenger of the gods, who flits through the aire with superhuman speed. Mercutio is mercurial, with a flashing wit that never leaves him.

Mercutio does not seem to think of the feud as a deadly thing either. he makes no attempt to dissuade the Montagues from going, as he might well have done if there were real danger. Rather, he is intent on rallying Romeo out of his melancholy and is so anxious to have him come to the feast that he eagerly turns dream presentiments into nonsense by advancing his own theory on the origin of dreams as the product of a tricky elf. He says:

O, then I see Queen Mab hath been with you,

She is the fairies’ midwife, and she comes

In shape no bigger than an agate stone

—Act I, scene iv, lines 53-55

Queen mab is our of Celtic mythology. The pagan Irish had a goddess named Meadhbh, who was the ruler fo a group of the “little people.” This may have contributed to the notion of Queen Mab.

Queen Mab need not be considered a fairy queen in the sense that Titania was in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She is the fairies’ “midwife”; that is, she helps men and women give birth to dreams, and this is no task for a queen.

Here, in all likelihood, “Queen” is used in its original sense of  “woman” and to speak of “Queen Mab” would be something like a speaking fo “Dame Mab” or  ‘Mistress Mab.” The word “queen” early split into two forms: one of them, “quean,” degenerated to mean a degraded woman, a harlot; the other, “queen,” rose to mean an elevated woman, the wife of a king, “Queen,” in its ordinary original sense, neither depressed nor elevated, vanished altogether.

Mercutio’s speech about Queen Mab presents the view that dreams are not messages of fate but the product of the routine thoughts of the day. Lovers dream o flove, courtiers of curtsies, lawyers of fees; soldiers of war and drink, and so on. This is one of many examples of Shakespeare’s modern-sounding rationalism.

Thus, when Romeo tries to stem the flow of Mercutio’s brilliance and says:

Peace, peace, Mercutio, peace!

Thou talk’st of nothing.

—Act I, scene iv, lines 95-96

Mercutio answers at once, with stabbing relevance:

True, I talk of dreams.

—Act I scene iv, line 96

Words or phrases in my scenes that I didn’t recognize the meaning of right away:

1.4.11-12

Give me a torch. I am not for this ambling.
Being but heavy, I will bear the light.

Why ambling here? The sense of it is he’s not into dancing tonight, but the word implies something not-at-all dance-like, unless it’s like my 8th grade dance, where every song was slow and leisurely and hands were firmly planted on butts.

Ambling at Wikipedia

  • v.
  • To walk slowly or leisurely; stroll.
  • To move along at an easy gait by using both legs on one side alternately with both on the other. Used of a horse.
  • n.
  • An unhurried or leisurely walk.
  • An easy gait, especially that of a horse.

1.4.17-18

You are a lover, borrow Cupid’s wings
And soar with them above a common bound.

Play on “bound” : soar with wings above a common person’s leaping ability + soar above a common person’s ability to bind together, “bind together” is likely innuendo.

  • Bound at Dictionary Reference:
  • Simple Past Tense of ‘bind’
    • v. leap, jump, spring, bounce , tied together, in bonds
    • adj. destined; sure; certain.
    • n.  a boundary line or limit of distance, a  bond
  • IDIOM: Bound up with/in
    • Inseparably connected with
    • Devoted or attached to

1.4.19-22

I am too sore enpiercèd with his shaft
To soar with his light feathers, and so bound,
I cannot bound a pitch above dull woe.
Under love’s heavy burden do I sink.

butt shaft at thefreedictionary.com

  • n.
  • A blunt arrow used for target practice.

Arden on butt shaft

  • The heavy arrow used for butt shooting. Butt shooting was for more accuracy than clout shooting, and consequently at a shorter distance.

1.4.19-22

Alas poore Romeo, he is alreadie dead, stabd with a white wenches blacke eye, runne through the eare with a loue song, the very pinne of his heart, cleft with the blinde bowe-boyes but-shaft, and is hee a man to encounter Ty-
balt?

Pitch at Dictionary.com

  • n.
  • relative point, position, or degree: a high pitch of excitement.
  • the degree of inclination or slope; angle: the pitch of an arch; the pitch of a stair.
  • the highest point or greatest height: enjoying the pitch of success.

 

Second Quarto (with cuts)

Paraphrase

Enter Romeo alone.
Ro. Can I go forward when my heart is here,
Turn backe dull Earth and find thy center out.
Is it possible to head home when my passion is here,
Spin backwards boring world, the center of my world is here.
Enter Romeo alone.
Enter Benvolio with Mercutio.
Ben. Romeo, my Cousin Romeo, Romeo. Romeo, my family Romeo, Romeo. (where are you?)
Mer. He’s such a good boy, and on my life has stolne him home to bed. He’s smart, and I bet you my life he’s snuck home to sleep.
Ben. He ran this way and leapt this Orchard wall,
Call good Mercutio:
He took off that direction and jumped over the wall,
call his name buddy.
Mer. Nay I’ll conjure too.
Romeo,Humours, Madman, Passion, Lover,
Appeare thou in the likeness of a sigh,
Speake but on(e) rime and I am satisfied:
Crie but Ay me, Prouant (pronounce), but love and day [Dove]
Speake to my gossip Venus one faire word,
One nickname for her purblind sonne and her,
Young Abraham: Cupid he that shot so true,
When King Cophetua lou’d the begger mayd.

Her heareth not, he stirreth not, he moueth not,
The Ape is Dead, and I must coniure him.
I coniure thee by Rosalines bright eyes
By her high forehead, and her scarlet lip
by her fine foot, her straight leg, her quivering thigh,
And the demeanse, that there adjacent lie
That in thy likeness thou appear to us.
Not just call his name, I’ll raise his spirit.
Romeo,Temperments, Crazyman, Hotblood, Sex-machine,
Reveal youself by exhaling your feelings.
Say a single rhyme and I’ll be on my way
Moan Oh Me, proclaim Love and Dove.
He’s isn’t listining, he’s rustling around, he isn’t moving an inch
Our little monkey is dead, I have to bring him back to life.
I raise your spirit with your lover girl’s greennish eyes
with her distiguished forehead, with her red lips
with her delicate feet, her great legs, her trembling thighs
And naughty bits in the immediate vicinity
so that you will return from the dead behaving more like your true self.
Ben. And if he hear thee thou wilt anger him. He’s gonna be pissed if he hears what your saying.
Mer. This cannot anger him,twould anger him
To raise my spirit in his mistresse circle,
Of some strange nature, letting it there stand
Till she had laid it, and coniured it downe,
That were some spight.

My inoucation is faire & honest,In his mistress name
I coniure only but to raise vp him.
This won’t make hime angry,it would make him angry if I raised a cock in his girlfriends pussy,
she doesn’t even know me, and let don’t pull out
until she can’t resist fucking my cock until it comes and goes limp,
that’s breaking the bro code.
I’m trying to get him up pretending to be his girlfriend.

Second Quarto 2.4 (with cuts)

Paraphrase

Enter Benuolio and Mercutio.
Mer. Where the deuele should this Romeo be? Came he not home to [last] night? Where the hell is Romeo? Did he go home last night?
Ben. Not to his fathers, I spoke with his man. He didn’t go to his father’s house, I talked to his servant.
Mer. Why that same pale hard hearted wench, that Rosaline, torments him so, that he will sure run mad. Because that pasty no-feeling bitch, Rosaline, dick teases him, so he’s definitely gonna go crazy.
Ben. Tibalt, the kinsman to old Capulet, hath sent a leter to his
fathers house.
Tybalt, part of the Capulet family, has sent a letter to Romeo’s father’s house.
Mer. A challenge on my life. I’ll bet my life it’s a challenge.
Ben. Romeo, will answere it. Rome will give him a response.
Mer. Any man that can write may answer a letter. Any guy who can write can give a response to a letter.
Ben. Nay, he wil answere the letters maister how he dares, being dared. I mean, he’ll respond to Tybalt with a yes or a no, because he was challenged.
Mer. Alas, poore Romeo is already dead, stabd with a white wenches black eye, runne through the eare with a love song, the very pinne of his heart, cleft with the blind bowe-boyes but-shaft, and is hee a man to encounter Tybalt? Sad to say it, our boy Romeo is already dead, stabbed with a pale bitches dark-eyed gaze, skewered throught the ears with a ballad, the exact center of his heart, split by the blind cupids target practice (blunt, no barb) arrow. In this state, you think he’s up for a fight with Tybalt?
Ben. Why what is Tybalt? Why, what kind of fighter is Tybalt?
Mer. More than prince of cats. Oh hees the couragious captain of Complements: he fights like you sing pricksong: keeps time, distance & proportion, he rests his minim rests—one, two, and the third in your bossom. The very butcher of a silk button, a duelist, a duelist, a gentlmen of the very fist house of the first and second cause. Ah, the immortal Passado, the Punto reverso, the Hay. He’s tougher than the prince of cats. I’m telling you, he’s the courageous master of 90 degree angle: he fights like you’d sing for a your final jury as vocal performance major: he’s steady in tempo, maintains an optimal distance to his opponent and is knows proportions of movement of his opponents sword, he uses his half rests like so— one [half-rest], two [half-rest] and the third in your chest. He comes from the very finest school of fencing *no fear shakes*, bow down to the immortal Passado: the forward thrust, the Punto: the backhand thrust, the Hai: the thrust that straight through.
Ben. The what? Really? a Hai?
Mer. The pox of such antique[antic], lisping, affecting phantacies[fantasimes], these new tuners of accents: by iesu, a very good blade, a very tall man, a very good whore. Why, is not this a lamentable thing, grandsire, that we should be thus afflicted with these strange flies: these fashion mongers, these pardon mees, who stand so much on the new forme, that they cannot sit at ease on the olde bench. Oh their bones, Oh their bones. The disease of these clownish, lisping, affected posers, these guys who are always saying the latest phrases, “My God, a most excellent blade, a tall drink of water, a most excellent slut. Man, isn’t this a sad day, old buddy, that we are surrounded by these foreign parasites: these slaves of fashion, these “Excuse mees”, these guys who care so much about etiquett, that they can’t just hang out on a plain old bench without bitching. Oh my back hurts, Oh my bony butt.
Ben. Here Comes Romeo, here comes Romeo. Romeo’s coming, Romeo’s coming.
Mer. Without his roe, like a dried hering, O flesh, flesh, how art thou fishified? The disease of these clownish, lisping, affected posers, these guys who are always saying the latest phrases, “My God, a most excellent blade, a tall drink of water, a most excellent slut. Man, isn’t this a sad day, old buddy, that we are surrounded by these foreign fruit-cakes: these slaves of fashion, these “Excuse mees”, these guys who care so much about etiquett, that they can’t just hang out on a plain old bench without bitching. Oh my back hurts, Oh my bony butt.
Ben. Here Comes Romeo, here comes Romeo. Romeo’s coming, Romeo’s coming.
*****skipping ahead*****
Mer. Nay, if our wits run the wilde goose chase, I am done: for thou hast more of the wild goose in one of thy wits than I am sure I have in my whole five. Was I with you there for the goose? No, if our game of wit goes on a wild goose chase, I’ll lose the game: because you are so much more like a wild goose with one of thy senses than I am with all five. Did I get a point for that one, because I called you a goose?
Rom. Thou wast never there for anything, when thou wast never there for the goose. Because you can’t keep up with nitwit, you can’t keep up with anything
Mer. I will bite thee by the eare for that iest. I will nibble on your ear for that one.
Rom. Nay, good goose, bite not. No, good nitwit, don’t bite me.
Mer. They wit is a very bitter sweeting, it is a most sharp sauce. Your wit is a very bitter sweet, it is sharp tasting applesauce.
Rom. And is it not then well seru’d in to a sweete goose? And won’t that go perfectly in a sweet bird (nitwit)
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