Romeo and Mercutio as Contrast Characters

Despite being best friends, Romeo and Mercutio’s views on love are very contrasting. In act 1 scene 4, Romeo is portrayed as someone who views love as a negative thing, whereas Mercutio has a more positive view on love. We see this in act 1 scene 4, when Romeo says ‘sore enpierced with (cupid’s) shaft.’ ‘Sore’ indicates that Romeo is in continuous pain as a result of how love has bruised him. This leaves us with the impression that he is deeply affected by love in a negative way, and that this hurt that love has given him will take a long time to heal. On the other hand, Shakespeare uses a homonym to contrast Mercutio’s idea of love with Romeo’s. We see this when Mercutio says ‘borrow cupid’s wings and soar with them.’ The use of ‘soar’ and ‘sore’ illustrates their contradicting thoughts on love.

Romeo talks about himself as being ‘sore’ in a negative manner associated with pain; however Mercutio uses the word ‘soar’ in a way that suggests love’s happiness and freedom, we can infer this because people often associate soaring with flying, and flying represents freedom. Furthermore, this quotation not only shows that Mercutio views love as something that should make you happy, but the use of ‘soar above common ground’ could convey the image that he wants to undermine the common relationships of people in love. The meaning of ‘common bounds’ this suggests that Mercutio wants Romeo to borrow Cupid’s wings and soar above all of these ordinary lover’s fears and worries. This additionally highlights their different views on love, and how Mercutio views the importance of enjoying love rather than mulling over what’s going wrong, and Romeo would rather mull over his problems, rather than enjoying love. It could also be interpreted that Mercutio is telling Romeo to not be restricted, and that he is telling him to move on from Rosaline and find new love.

Furthermore, Romeo and Mercutio have different views on how love should be treated, and weather love is a burden or not. We see how heavy hearted love makes Romeo feel and his view on love being a burden when he says ‘soul of lead so stakes me to the ground’ Shakespeare uses the contrast of the heaviness of lead to a ‘soul’ which is usually considered as light and airy. This suggests that Romeo is weighed down by love’s burden rather than elevated by it. Mercutio on the other hand thinks that love is burdened by Romeo, rather than Romeo being burdened by love.

We see this when Mercutio says ‘too great oppression for such a tender thing.’ The word ‘tender’ demonstrates how he looks at love to be light and gentle, and therefore mercutio thinks that love should be treated with care, and not so oppressed, that it ends up breaking. Also Mercutio think that Romeo is excepting too much from love, and that he should not be weighed down by something so gentle, and this is the reason that some may think Mercutio is mocking Romeo because he is so broken by something that is so tender. Alternatively, he could just be trying to comfort him by telling him not to let love bring him down.

We could argue that Mercutio is very different to Romeo because they have different thoughts on Dreams. Mercutio believESs that dreams are unreliable. We see this in act 1 scene 4 through extended metaphor in the queen mab speech when he compares dreams to ‘the traces of the smallest spider’s web. ‘Traces’ emphasizes how the dreams are hardly visible, just like a dream that is hardly visible when the dreamer wakes up. Therefore you can’t rely on something that is hardly visible. ‘Spider’s web’ also shows how breakable mercutio thinks dreams are, and ‘smallest’ further reinforces how little, fragile, and therefore unreliable he considers dreams to be.

This is very different to how Romeo views dreams because he evidently thinks that dreams are very reliable as he says that it wouldn’t make sense to go to the ball, purely based on the fact that he had ‘dreamt a dream.’ This demonstrates how he believes that his dream would be a reliable source to base his decisions on. Also Mercutio think that dreams are powerless and ridiculous. This is evident through the quote ‘O’er lady’s lips, who straight kisses dream.’ Ladies desire love, and so this suggests that dreams only reflect what we desire, and hold no real significance, therefore he thinks powerless and ridiculous. However Romeo doesn’t think they are powerless or ridiculous.

What do you think?

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