Mercutio - a Monodimensional and Static Character in Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet"?

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Discuss Mercutio in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in terms of character dimension, character development and his relation to major themes of the play.

When looking at the content of characters in Shakespeare’s play „Romeo and Juliet“ one can find a total of 21 people that are mentioned by name. While it is self-evident that characters such as Romeo and Juliet are essential to the play due to the fact that they form its title, a reader could ask what role the others might play in a literary context. Which functions apply to which characters, who has a major and who a minor role? Is the character shown as a mono- or a multidimensional figure in the play? Which character could one even surrender because he or she does not in any way lead the play forward or has a humoristic function? A widespread analysis of every character in the play would certainly be too substantial for this essay, which is why I will solely concentrate on one character: Mercutio, the kinsman to the Prince as well as a good friend of Romeo. In the following essay, I will primarily discuss his function in the drama to support my theory that Mercutio is a monodimensional and static character that nonetheless as a figure in Shakespeare’s „Romeo and Juliet“ is indispensable for the tragic outcome of the play.

Mercutio is only present in five scenes of the play. He first appears in I,IV and dies at the end of III,I. His presence throughout the play is compared with others such as Benvolio short. This fact is important with regard to Mercutio being a monodimensional character. Since he is eliminated at the end of III,I, Shakespeare does not have as much room to describe Mercutio’s character traits and he is therefore described less precisely than others, i.e. Romeo or Juliet.

However, this is not the only argument that supports the thesis of Mercutio’s monodimensional character. To give a substantiated answer to the question of his character’s dimension, one primarily has to analyze the way he is presented throughout the play. Mercutio first appears in I,IV when Romeo and his friends find themselves in front of the Capulet’s mansion the night of the party. “Nay gentle Romeo, we must have you dance” (I,IV,13) are the first lines uttered by him in response to Romeo’s weariness to dance which can be explained by his lovesickness. As a friend, Mercutio tries to encourage the melancholy Romeo to dance nonetheless and can therefore be described as somewhat reckless. Though he senses Romeo’s issues and his depression, Mercutio tries to cheer his friend up rather than reminisce about the lost love “If love be rough with you, be rough with love; Prick love for pricking and you beat love down.” (I,IV,27). The second appearance is together with Benvolio after the Capulet’s party. Both being good friends of Romeo, they wonder where he is and indirectly come to speak of his melancholy and depression caused by Rosaline. While Benvolio stays grave, Mercutio’s approach to this rather sensitive topic is yet again reckless and witty as he continues to make. His mocking attitude towards Romeo’s lovesickness continues the next morning after the Capulet’s feast when a letter is presented in which Tybalt challenges Romeo to fight him, Tybalt. While Benvolio and Mercutio discuss the matter, Mercutio does not stop making jokes about it and starts mocking not only Romeo but also Tybalt: (“Ben.: “Why, what is Tybalt?” – Mer.: “More than Prince of Cats. O, he’s the courageous captain of compliments: he fights as you sing prick-songs, keeps time, distance and proportion. He rests his minim rests, one, two, and the third in your bosom: the very butcher of a silk button (…)” – II, IV, 18 ) Once Romeo arrives, Mercutio’s wit turns towards him (“Ben.: “Here comes Romeo, here comes Romeo!” Mer.: “Without his roe, like a dried herring.” – II, IV, 38) A series of short single-line humorous insults between Mercutio and Romeo follow. Mervolio’s final appearance is in III, I when...
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