by Joe Schmoe
Analyzing the importance of a secondary character in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.
|In the City of Verona lies a tale of love and hatred, of peace and fighting, and of honor and disgrace. William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is a play that analyzes and portrays these subjects with a wide range and variety of characters. Shakespeare uses his characters both individually and as a group to create a magnificent plot. One such character is Mercutio, friend of Romeo (the protagonist) and cousin of the Prince (of Verona). Mercutio acts as an essential secondary character by influencing the action of the play, affecting the character development of Benvolio, and playing an important role to the theme of the thin line between love and hate.
Mercutio's main role in affecting the action of the play is by constantly acting as an instigator. Throughout the play Mercutio stimulates fights between the rivaling families, Montague and Capulet. He even goes as far as to begin provoking his friend, Benvolio, “ Come, come, tho art hot as a Jack in thy mood as any in italy...” (3.1.11-12). When he states, “Nay an there were two such, we should have none shortly, for one would kill the other,” he blatantly insults Benvolio (3.1.15-16). Shortly thereafter he attempts to begin an argument with Tybalt, “Men's eyes were made to look, and let them gaze.” (3.1.50) Ironically, even with his last breaths he instigates and fuel's Romeo's anger. In the end he causes romeo to take revenge against Tybalt.
Mercutio both blatantly and subtly affects the character development of Benvolio. During the initial rising plot line Romeo and Juliet have a conversation that sets up their love with more detail. However, beforehand Romeo is attempting to run away from Benvolio and Mercutio which is how Romeo first runs into Juliet. “Romeo! My cousin Romeo!” Benvolio shouts dramatically (2.1.3). Thereafter Mercutio encourages Benvolio, “He is wise; And, on my life, hath stol'n him hoe to bed.” (2.1.4-5). Benvolio hereby continues in his jeering of Romeo in cheerfully and Mercutio then joins in (2.1.6-45). This experience allows the audience to see how joyful a character Benvolio can be. He then more blatantly affects the character development of Benvolio later on towards the end of the play. With his dying breath he curses the two houses, Capulet and Montague (3.1.93-105). He causes Romeo to take action which thus causes more series of underlying events that eventually leads to Romeo and Juliet's death. These series of actions prompts Benvolio to confess the events that had been undergone to the Prince (3.1.142-175). This action reveals to the audience, Benvolio's sense of duty and also his loyalty while keeping his integrity.
There are a bountiful amount of themes in Romeo and Juliet. One of these is the theme of the thin line between love and hatred. Mercutio plays an important role to this theme. Mercutio's character is one who is hot tempered and arrogant but very loyal. Since this theme is a bit paradoxical the actions of the characters are too. In portrayal of this, one of the first scenes with Mercutio is the one precedent to Romeo and Juliet's conversation. In this scene he taunts Romeo with a ferocity that would be used only on someone a person detested, “Romeo! Moody madman!” (2.1.10). In addition, when Mercutio and Tybalt engage in a fight they play it off as a game of sorts, not being serious in all actuality (3.1.69-80). Mercutio shows compassion for Tybalt by doing this. He is supposed to hate Tybalt yet he fraternizes publicly..
He poses more of an influence throughout the story than most characters. Although he is a friend of Romeo and cousin of the Prince, Mercutio remains an independent character. He holds no allegiance to either house. Nonetheless, he has one of the most vital effects on the two houses. Mercutio's role to William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is in essence so vital that he is in fact an arguable third main character.