The scene begins with a mock conflict between Mercutio and Benvolio, Mercutio’s rapier wit contrasts starkly with Benvolio’s pedestrian honesty. The banter of the Montague boys is goog natured irony. The scene opens with Benvolio, the peacekeeper, begging Mercutio “I pray thee good Mercutio, let’s retire”
Benvolio is trying to avoid conflict just as he did in Act One Scene One. However, Mercutio gently mocks the mild Benvolio who naively asks “am I such a fellow?”
Mercutio’s ridiculous examples of Benvolio’s apparent readiness to fight offers comic relief for the audience, a ‘calm’ before the storm that is to follow, to the point that our laughter leaves us cold in the wake of the two deaths we are about to witness. Shakespeare exerts maximum effect with the tragic turn of events that is to follow. Not entirely naive, Benvolio realises “And I were so apt to quarrel as thou art any man should by the fee-simple of my life for an hour and a quarter.” Benvolio declares that if her were as hot-headed as Mercutio his life would not be worth much as it would be so short. Benvolio recognizes that Mercutio is boiling for a fight, his language, witty, though it is, speaks of his competitiveness. He must have the last word, “The fee-simple?” as if exasperated by Benvolio’s stupidity “O, simple!” There is now a rise in tension as Tybalt and other Capulet servants enter. Benvolio’s panic is tangible “By my head here come the Capulets!”
Mercutio in contrast responds
“By my heel, I care not.”
Mercutio continues his banter with a witty response, his defiance openly invites, and, indeed, relishes, the potential conflict. We begin to see that his wit goes hand in hand with his careless caddish language and Benvolio’s fears are indeed well founded. Tybalt, in telling his men to
“follow me (him) close”
Immediately tells us he is looking for...