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    Romeo and Juliet: A Tragedy of Two Lovers in Elizabethan England

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    Of all of Shakespeare’s tragedies “Romeo and Juliet is perhaps the best known one, Shakespeare based much of his play on the reality of his time by managing to encompass much of his context in the play. This was the Elizabethan era, In the Elizabethan era it was very different in the way we live our lives today. In how there were different class structures and people were treated differently and judged differently depending on which class they fell in. There was religious and politic conflict. The religious conflict was where the hate between Christians, there were two main factions of the Christian, Protestants and The Catholics, Queen Elizabeth the 1st was the head of the Church of England (which the protestants followed) and anyone found out to be a Catholic or practising the Catholic faith would have to change to The Church of England.

    Mercutio is Romeos best friend. Mercutio is first introduced to us in Act 1, Scene 4. It is the scene preceding the ball. At this point, the audience are aware of Romeo’s ‘feelings’ for Rosaline, there Mercutio’s point view is easy to understand. In speaking to his friend, Mercutio reveals a wit and a strong sense of confidence in himself. He acts the part of Romeo’s advisor, implying that Mercutio is somewhat older; more level headed than Romeo and has superior intelligence. He also prompts Romeo to stop being a ‘wimp’ as such and to be more confident and pro-active rather than passive and to wallow in himself and his adolescent thoughts and fantasies.

    By telling Romeo that, “you are a lover, borrow Cupid’s wings and soar with them above a common bound”. (Act 1, scene 4, line 15.) Mercutio encourages, but not enforcing his opinion on Romeo, just to teach him to be the master of his own destiny and not let fate decide a path for you and to do nothing about it. Mercutio wishes for Romeo to take control and aspire something more special than a “common” relationship. The theme of ‘fate and destiny’ can be linked to Romeo and Juliet’s love for one another because they believe fate brought them together and it was their destiny to be together, but because of their families differences their fate was chosen for them before they even met.

    The whole aura circulating the ‘Queen Mab’ is a warning to Romeo. When Romeo says “I dreamt a dream tonight” and Mercutio replying with “And so did I” Romeo asks “Well what was yours?” and Mercutio finishes Romeo’s question by saying “that dreamers often lie”. (Act 1, Scene 4). Mercutio is warning Romeo that dreams are of nothing and should be thought of as nothing. This theme of dreams runs/flows throughout the whole play. Mercutio is implicit and bluntly a fundamentalist which goes back to the Puritans of the time. In spite of this, Romeo continues to ponder, question and dabble in love, lust and fickle fantasies. Mercutio has a large impact on the people around him, for example Romeo, Benvolio, etc. He is a leader and wins his way over by being a joker and gets his point across by jokes, Romeo and Benvolio’s ways of showing that they agree is through their response, usually in laughter. Mercutio has to use ‘Jokes’ because that is the only way his friends will understand, Mercutio is far too intelligent and most of the time the likes of Romeo and Benvolio do not understand what he is trying to illustrate.

    In the ‘Queen Mab’ speech (Act 1, scene 4) Mercutio leads into warning Romeo that Dreams are fantasies which are neither realistic nor real. Queen Mab is the Celtic Queen of Dreams, Mercutio describes who she is and what she is about, the way he does this is how unrealistic she is when he says such things like “her chariot it an empty hazel-nut”. Mercutio then goes on trying to show Romeo what ‘Queen Mab’ and dreams can bring about, which are ‘unlikely dreams’ in unrealistic, impossible situations. Mercutio sarcastically mocks Romeos’ dreams because he sees Romeo as immature and wants Romeo to learn from Mercutio’s experiences and mistakes. By Romeo saying “thou talk’st of nothing” Shakespeare reveals Romeo’s lack of understanding and immaturity, and when replying to Romeo “True, I talk of dreams”, again Mercutio will not let it go that he knows what is true here that Romeo’s dreams are of nothingness.

    Mercutio is upset that Romeo has not listened to a word that he said to him, Mercutio originally thinks that he must have gone home, listened to him a gotten over his infatuation, not only would this satisfy Mercutio’s ego as the dominant male of the group, but it would have helped his best friend. Mercutio asks Benvolio what has Romeo drifted to, Benvolio tells Mercutio that he climbed over the Capulet wall. Mercutio is disappointed with him disappearing. Mercutio is elder, more experienced and is a brother figure, so he is disappointed with Romeo still keeping secrets, hiding and that he still has not got over his childish dreams and blind fantasies, but here is a use of a dramatic device where the audience know something that a character does not, this adds a hint of excitement and for the more intelligent ones of the audience a perspective or a look in at something bad that may happen.

    In the fight scene (Act 3, Scene 4) Benvolio’s statement “I pray thee, good Mercutio, lets retire. The day is hot, the Capels are abroad and if we meet, we shall not scape a brawl, for now these hot days, is the mad blood stirring.” (Act 3, Scene 1, Line 2-5) this Implies whenever the Capulets and the Montague’s meet they cannot escape a fight and how Benvoilo (the peace keeper) is begging Mercutio and desperate not to fight he is tired of the on going feud, we can empathise with him because what he asks of Mercutio is ignored with a sarcastic comment, once again the Montague’s and Mercutio’s are slaves to war.

    This is the final time we see Mercutio. Mercutio was aware that Tybalt was ready for a fight this did not bother Mercutio in the slightest. Tybalt wants to fight with Romeo, but Mercutio is willing to replace him and risk his own life for Romeo because without a doubt Mercutio believes Romeo shall lose. Mercutio is confident and ready so he fights. Tybalt does not know (like everyone else) the reason Romeo will not fight is because he sees Tybalt as a family member now, I think this is an example of collapsed stereotype because they hated each other (Tybalt and Romeo) and now Romeo refuses to fight Tybalt because he sees him as not an enemy anymore.

    In the fight Mercutio is injured by Tybalt and claims it to be “just a scratch” as usual Mercutio plays the ‘jester’ character and lives up to protecting his friends, because they neither see nor feel Mercutio’s pain so Mercutio thinks ‘what they don’t know cannot hurt them’. Mercutio implies he will be dead the next day in his line “look for me tomorrow and you shall find me a grave man” (Act 3, Scene 1, line 99). With Mercutio’s dying breath he calls “a plague on both you houses” he does this three times, in the Elizabethan Era a word spoken on a mans dying breath was to become true, (like fate/destiny) he says this three times another superstition in those times. He wanted the feud to end but he had to die in the middle of it even though he was not a member to either houses. Romeo felt guilty and responsible in a way for Mercutio’s death for not fighting Tybalt and feels he must avenge his friend if he wants to be worthy as a man, to himself and not a coward as we have seen before. It is extremely ironic that The Prince a relative of Mercutio warned them of might happen and that Mercutio had to die to make it clear to them.

    In Conclusion to the question “Analyse the portrayal of the character of Mercutio as the vehicle of Shakespeare’s tragic outcome in the play ‘Romeo and Juliet’ “. The audience always sees Mercutio at key scenes in the play, like an implication that he fuels the key scenes and sets them off. We see him at the ball when Romeo forgets about Rosaline and finds Juliet. He arrives just before the nurse arranges the marriage like he was there to show that the wedding should not happen like a ‘fairy god-mother’ to Romeo to help him out in his situations of need and to give Romeo the hints which are like subliminal signs hidden throughout the play. The final time he is seen is at the fight scene where he is killed and calls the curse which creeps through the play right to the end where both Romeo and Juliet Commit suicide. The foolishness, pure stupidity and simple ignorance of the two houses leads to the death of a person who was neutral to the feud, did not agree with it and got caught up in the middle of it.

    The Prince banished Romeo which was a more like a punishment for Mercutio’s death rather than Tybalts which put more guilt on Romeo and because Romeo and Juliet were apart they needed to create a plan, the plan failed which lead to both their deaths. Mercutio was the vehicle for the tragic outcome of the play. He influenced and impacted on key events by ironically appearing before key moments. He contributed to helping the play move by enforcing and encouraging Romeo to go to the ball where he inevitably met Juliet. If Mercutio was not in the play there would be no story because he drove the play to where it needed to be and where it went, ended up, but when he had gone this lead to Romeo and Juliet’s deaths. Mercutio was one of the Main Characters if not Romeo and Juliet. He entertained the audience with his intelligent wit and sarcastic humour, Shakespeare uses him as the vehicle to show how someone innocent can die over a petty and meaningless feud.

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    Romeo and Juliet: A Tragedy of Two Lovers in Elizabethan England. (2017, Oct 27). Retrieved from

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