Discuss how Shakespeare uses Mercutio as a foil to Romeo. Compare each character; why is this contrast important??
"Romeo and Juliet" is a play written by William Shakespeare about love, friendship, and tragedy. The story is set in Verona, Italy where two people fall in love. However, the two lovers, Romeo and Juliet, are from families who despise each other. Romeo is dead-set on marrying Juliet, to the point where he'd do anything for her. This becomes a dangerous factor because he is also extremely impatient. Romeo's friend, Mercutio, has more of a level head which amplifies Romeo's flaws. Mercutio's realistic mindset highlights Romeo's dreamy, romantic thinking. Mercutio's common sense magnifies Romeo's impatience that ends up killing him in the end. The comparison of the two characters brings out the imperfections of our tragic hero, Romeo.
Shakespeare uses Mercutio as a foil to Romeo. They are alike in many ways in the way that they talk and their conclusions. Their characters are lively and excessively dramatic in the way that they speak and act. Romeo and Mercutio also meet the same end, both because of Romeo. They also have numerous differences that show their behavioral and personality distinction. Mercutio has a way of thinking that is partially negative but more rational than Romeo's impatient, love-seeking mind. The comparison shows common sense [Mercutio] as opposed to impatient and impractical [Romeo]. They are similar and different at the same time but it helps us better understand Romeo as a character when we see him compared to Mercutio.
Despite their differences, the fates of these two friends are similarly disastrous. Both of their lives were wasted as a consequence of Romeo's impatience. As he was dying, Mercutio spoke out in anger towards Romeo,
"Why the devil came you between us? I was hurt under your arm." (P. 124)
Romeo's impatience also provoked himself to commit suicide because he could not wait for Juliet. If he'd only waited a few moments, they would have been reunited;
"Here's to my love! [Drinks.] O true apothecary! Thy drugs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die. [Dies.]" (p. 228)
Although Mercutio's unfortunate death was primarily Romeo's fault, he partially brought it on himself by teasing Tybalt and egging him on with his attitude. An easier solution might've been to drop his sword and walk away, and then, maybe the upcoming chaos could've been avoided. Though these two individuals are quite different, they came to the same conclusion; death.
Being able to distinguish the contrasts between Mercutio and Romeo, it helps us to better comprehend Romeo's character. His flaws become highlighted and aid us in seeing where he goes wrong in the things he does. Shakespeare writes Mercutio as the one who has common sense and a level head to show what Romeo is missing as a hero. Mercutio's character has a better sense of reality, whereas Romeo ignores the negatives and charges head-on into chaos with the Capulets. He has to be constantly reminded by Benvolio, Mercutio and the Friar about his choices, making him look naïve and senseless. Mercutio's character is decisive and focuses on the realistic side of life. Romeo on the other hand is a dreamer, addicted to love. He stumbles around, fickle, looking everywhere for affection.
Mercutio's role reminds us how friends can bring out the best and the worst in you. They can change you for the better or for the worst. It may seem like Mercutio is only a minor character, but he is the one who defines Romeo as a tragic hero. The diversity between Mercutio and Romeo emphasizes Romeo's defects of impatience and dreamer mentality that result in grief and suicide.