The Queen Mab speech, delivered in Act I, Scene 4 by Mercutio serves three purposes. First, it introduces the audience to Romeo's colorful and volatile best friend. His fantastical speech is full of amazing imagery as he weaves a tale of the "fairies' midwife" (originally from Celtic mythology) who travels into people's brains and makes them dream. At first the speech seems to be a simple improvisation meant to entertain the Montague men as they head to the Capulet party. He talks of a minuscule fairy who rides around in a "chariot" made from "an empty hazelnut." She makes lovers dream of love and lawyers dream of money. It is an endearing fantasy at first, but then it turns dark and edgy as Mercutio claims that this same "Queen" is also a vicious "hag" who "blisters" the lips of promiscuous ladies and makes soldier's dream of "cutting foreign throats." The speech does an excellent job of introducing Mercutio as witty and lighthearted but also as someone with an intense nature who could be pushed to violence.
Second, the speech is Mercutio's way of telling Romeo to snap out of his dreamy love for Rosaline. By claiming that dreams are "children of an idle brain" he is suggesting that all of Romeo's "groaning for love" is childish and beneath him. Mercutio looks at love realistically and believes Romeo is acting foolishly in his obsession with Rosaline. Above all, Mercutio wants Romeo to move on and have a good time at the party.
Third, the speech reinforces the dichotomy within the play. On one hand, Mab is a harmless entity who brings fantasy fulfillment to those she makes dream. But, on the other hand, she is malevolent and evil as she induces dreams of violence in the unconscious minds of soldiers and forces nightmares on young virgins ("maids"). This same dichotomy can be seen in Friar Laurence's speech at the beginning of Act II, Scene 3 when he declares that "within the infant rind" of a flower is the power of medicine but also the ill effects of poison. He likens the flower to the souls of men who have the ability to do great good but are also capable of destructive evil. These elements pervade the tragedy as good people commit heinous acts of violence. Tybalt (obviously loved by his family) is driven by his code of honor which ultimately brings his death. Mercutio is driven by arrogance and intensity. Romeo too, becomes the vehicle of evil as he seeks revenge on Tybalt and then kills Count Paris in a fit of madness outside Juliet's tomb. Queen Mab, then, is a symbol of both good and evil which parallels the motives and actions of the main characters in Shakespeare's plot.
Essay on Mercutio
1390 Words6 Pages
At the time Mercutio makes his famous "Queen Mab" speech in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, he and Romeo, together with a group of their friends and kinsmen, are on the way to a party given by their family's arch-enemy, Lord Capulet. Their plan is to crash the party so that Romeo may have the opportunity to see his current love, Rosaline, whom they know has been invited to the Capulet's masque that evening.
Romeo, whom his friends seem to consider generally very witty and fun, originally thought the party-crashing would be a wonderful idea, but suddenly is overcome by a sense of great foreboding; although they "mean well in going to this mask . . . 'tis no wit to go" (I, iv, 48-49). This annoys Mercutio, who does not…show more content…
He leaps off the topic of Mab's carriage, however, to describe its route. Mab's function is apparently to drive over the sleeping forms of human beings, and cause them to dream of things appropriate to their station in life. For example, she causes lawyers to dream of fees, ladies of love, and soldiers of warfare. Here, again, this sounds fanciful enough; yet he somehow veers off into a deluge of images that are at complete odds with the sweet, almost childlike story it seemed he was going to tell. It is not enough that soldiers dream of war: they must dream of "cutting foreign throats, / Of breaches, ambuscadoes, Spanish blades, / Of healths five fathom deep; and then anon, / Drums in his ear, at which he starts and wakes, / And being thus frighted swears a prayer or two / And sleeps again" (I, iv, 83-87). In other words, Mercutio began his speech with a reverie and ended with nightmares. Mab does not seem like such a cute little creature now.
In a sense, this is how the play goes, as well. Romeo begins by having a harmless crush; at the point in the story when Mercutio gives his speech, Romeo's infatuation with Rosaline is about to lead him to the home of yet another girl, Juliet, with whom he will fall madly in love. This love affair, however, is doomed in every respect. It is doomed not only because the Montagues