Chairs and Giggles – An Ongoing Struggle

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So, we’re slowly but surely approaching the final chapter of our year as the 2015 Bell Players. And boy has it been a great one. We’ve dusted dry red dirt from our clothes in Newman, swam with whale sharks in Exmouth, and participated in an intense drama class game of Duck Duck Goose with our bellies full of freshly baked Donald scones in Donald, all the while aiming to give you guys the best possible 50-minute Shakespearean performances we could, in whatever Aussie town called our names. So much laughter, so many tears (well, not that many tears.  Actually Lucy and I did see Still Alice at a cinema in Wollongong during which we probably shed a year’s worth of tears for all four of us).

However, it has not always been smooth sailing for Team C, let me tell you. We may appear to be cool, calm and collected, but there have been incidents where a powerful and highly dangerous virus has infiltrated our otherwise unshakeable Team front, threatening the very foundations on which our Team was formed. Our will-power, professionalism and strength of character are thrown into jeopardy. It’s frightening.

Now many of you actors out there may be familiar with this virus, referred to by some as the ‘Corpsing’ virus, or quite simply, a dreaded and seemingly uncontrollable unwanted burst of laughter. It is said to have been originally labelled ‘corpsing’ from the times when there an actor must play a corpse, and there has been a tendency to make that actor laugh. You know the feeling – something very funny happens on stage, and the sensible half of your brain tells you ‘hey, that’s okay buddy, let’s just keep on keeping on, hold on to your focus, keep your head in the game, it’s gonna be okay.’ And then the other half is saying ‘HAHAHAHAHAHAH THIS IS THE FUNNIEST THING TO EVER HAVE HAPPENED WHY ISNT EVERYBODY PEEING THEMSELVES WITH LAUGHTER OH I DONT CARE HAHAHAHAH’. So which half do you listen to? It really is a trying test for the actor, not allowing yourself to fall victim to corpsing. Your face gets hot, your chest starts bubbling, nostrils flaring, the sides of your mouth are reluctantly quivering upwards. The struggle is real.

Shiv has a great tip (which personally has not worked on me): when something distractingly funny happens on stage, think of a chair. Only a chair. See now I don’t know about Shiv, but I have experienced some pretty humorous-looking chairs in my time, so I think that could be a very dangerous substitution. Nevertheless, you can read more about it in his latest acting book, ‘Think of a Chair: The Technique and the Way of Life.’

A wee example from our experiences: some of you may recall, in a performance of Midsummer Madness quite a while back, a notable funny happened. The mechanicals were doing their thang on stage – I was playing Snug as I do, and Quince had just handed out our scripts for Pyramus and Thisbe which we were instructed to read and rehearse. But as it goes, before we have a chance to do so, sneaky Puck comes along and freezes the Mechanicals mid-action so that he can enact some of his magic mischief. Now, back to the dreaded corpsing. Just at the point where Puck freezes us, I (as Snug) am sitting precariously on a road case to read my script. And just after Puck does his magic freeze-clap, I (Snug) slowly and ungracefully slip off the road case and fall heavily onto my bum, breaking the freeze and looking like a total doofus. And then I make a feeble attempt to pretend like Snug has fallen on purpose by throwing my arms into the air and saying ‘Woo!’ For the minutes following this clumsy incident, (at which many of you audience members were sniggering – oh yes, I heard you), it became rather difficult for us actors to stifle our giggles, as every time we would make eye contact we would replay it in our minds. Except for Shiv. Shiv was too busy thinking of a chair to share in our amusement.

They are pretty exciting though, those moments. They can be challenging, because you’re fighting so hard to get yourself and your fellow actors back on track, and it can seem like the more you try and fight the giggles, the more vengeful they will be when they creep back up into your throat. I guess what we’ve learnt is just to breathe, take a little moment to gather yourself and get back into the circumstances of the play, and importantly, not to beat yourself up for having a little giggle. After all, acting is supposed to be fun, otherwise why else would they call it a ‘play’?

And like in life, nothing on stage ever really goes exactly as you think it will. So if the virus finds it’s way into a performance you’re in, just relax and breathe, it happens to everybody! Or if you simply cannot relax, think of a chair I guess…

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On the road again!

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… For never was a story of more woe, than this of Juliet, and her Romeo.

Blackout… applause… the lights come up, and we take a bow for the last time as a cast. We file out to backstage where we all hug and congratulate each other for a great last show; a great season of this very unique production of Romeo And Juliet.

It’s been such a blast bringing this show to life for you all. From early in the rehearsal process – when we first explored the set, learnt our lines and discovered our characters – to sharing the show with all the wonderful audiences who have come to see us at the Opera House and the Arts Centre… the whole experience has been amazing. And every cast is like a little family that you live with for a time; but like everything, eventually it finishes. No matter how many shows you do, it’s always a bit sad when it comes to an end. It reminds me of one of Prospero’s great speeches in the Tempest (which Bell Shakespeare is currently performing at the Opera House!):

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d tow’rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

So what’s next?

We’re back on the road!!

Yep – after a little sleep, a few naps, we’re back in the rehearsal room with our in school shows: Macbeth Undone, Midsummer Madness, and Just Macbeth (abridged). Now we’ve been split back to Team Ariel and Team Caliban and the competition is on! Both teams are going to Melbourne, then Team A are hitting regional Victoria and Canberra while Team C visit Tasmania.

Re-rehearsing a show that you haven’t performed in a while is pretty strange. Your mind can play all kind of tricks on you – “Is this where I moved on this line? Where have the purple flowers gone? We definitely need new magic thumbs!” – but it’s also really fun. Because we know the shows so well, we can try all kinds of different things with the characters. As an actor you can make lots of creative choices, and coming back to a show gives you the opportunity to branch out a bit.

This is also the time of year to start thinking beyond The Players… scary! One of the most important parts of being a professional actor is auditioning. It’s like having to constantly go for a job interview, and if you’re lucky you have lots of them. Some of us are starting the think about what we want to do next, and luckily we’ve got a whole year’s worth of experience under our belt which means we’ll be show-fit and ready to take on the next challenge. So keep an eye out for us, you never know what we might be doing next…

See you back in school!

Cam

THE MIGHTY TEAM ARIEL


Who or what is to blame for Romeo and Juliet’s deaths?

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Alright, alright, alright…….so as we draw to a close of our season of Romeo And Juliet at the Opera House in Sydney and the Arts Centre in Melbourne, everybody wants to point the finger and blame someone or something for the tragic death of these two star crossed lovers. I’m sure this has been the topic of many heated debates in the classroom, at the dinner table, with the taxi driver (although be warned that the taxi driver is never wrong…even if you say so) and even the lovely canteen ladies that feed us players DELICIOUS treats on tour.

It is therefore the perfect time for us all to sit down and work this one out together with the grand old question…. (cue dramatic music)…..

WHO OR WHAT IS TO BLAME FOR THE DEATHS OF ROMEO AND JULIET???

Now it would be easy to get all Cluedo on this and make wild accusations and start blaming one person or thing….. like it was Romeo in the Capulet’s monument with the candle stick, or Friar Laurence in the cell with the poison, or Tybalt with his sword prepared in the town square…. However, whilst these are all possibilities and contributing factors (maybe not so much Romeo with the candlestick) we need to understand the circumstances in which this ill-fated tale starts.

The prologue tells us that the Capulet and Montague families have had a long standing hatred for one another and this has now been taken to a new level of violence where blood is being spilt on the streets of Verona. This feud between the families acts as a pressure cooker throughout the play and underpins the majority of the characters actions and events which take place. The family feud causes civil unrest in Verona and the city is consumed by it.

Throughout the play we see different characters respond to the feud in different ways. On one hand, the Prince tries to lay down the law, and, on the other hand, we see the Friar trying to find peace.  At the same time, fiery Tybalt seems determined to drive the feud to bloody violence in the name of honour.

The Friar envisions the union of Romeo and Juliet as bringing peace to the two warring families and agrees to marry them:

“But come, young waverer, come, go with me,
In one respect I’ll thy assistant be;
For this alliance may so happy prove,
To turn your households’ rancour to pure love.”

Whilst the Friar hatches this plan hopeful of reconciliation, the deaths of both Mercutio and Tybalt act as catalysts to accelerate the chain of events that ultimately lead to the death of the lovers. As punishment for killing Tybalt, Romeo is banished from Verona.  This, coupled with the pressure of Lord Capulet’s arranged marriage of Paris and Juliet, causes Juliet to seek further help from the Friar. Again the Friar, filled with goodwill for peace between the families, devises a plan for the lovers to be reunited.

Now this is not the most foolproof plan….  it’s the old classic you-pretend-you’re-dead-by- drinking-this-potion-and-everything-will-work-out-A ok-plan…..Call it bad timing, miscommunication, or just plain old dishonesty, this plan does not (not surprisingly) work out as it was intended.

Now it may seem that the Friar is taking most of the heat for the deaths of the lovers, but the finger should not only be pointed at him. Let’s not forget that the Nurse is also in on the secret marriage and Lord and Lady Capulet have no consideration as to what their daughter wants in their hasty plans to arrange her marriage to Paris.

We can’t forget that the lovers themselves are also somewhat responsible for their own downfall – both Romeo and Juliet are young adolescents and act in haste with their love and in secret with their marriage.  Some may argue that they lacked maturity, acting on their lustful impulses without any consideration or forethought, and that this caused them to make rash (and risky) decisions which eventually led to both of their deaths.

Maybe the hatred of the families also forced the young lovers to take such drastic measures and if that hatred didn’t exist maybe their love could have blossomed, all misery would have been avoided and they would have lived happily ever after ……  but then we wouldn’t have the Tragedy of Romeo And Juliet.

So in regards to the question who or what is to blame for the deaths of Romeo and Juliet … Well…….it’s complicated!  There isn’t just one thing or one person that is to blame for the deaths.  Ultimately, it is a combination of many factors that drive the play to this end  – their young love knowing no boundaries, the hatred and anger carried by their families, and the individual characters who all respond to the feuding families in their differing and often misguided ways.

xx Jake


TUESDAY TAKEOVER – Alexandria Park Community School

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This week, we students of Alexandria Park Community School are taking over! Thanks to Foxtel and AIME mentoring we had the chance to see Romeo And Juliet at the Sydney Opera House and had a chat with the director and the actors afterwards. It was an amazing show and we felt really lucky to get the chance to meet them. In the lesson following the excursion, we wrote some blog articles for the Meet The Players blog – check them out! If you have questions for The Players, don’t forget to send them through to learning@bellshakespeare.com.au ahead of their Live-Streamed Q&A tomorrow afternoon! #BehindtheBalcony 🙂


How were visual and sound techniques used to add depth to the production?

When the dagger jabbed into Juliet’s heart, darkness and a tragic melody fell upon the stage.

On Monday the 3rd of August, Alexandria Park Community School and other schools had the pleasure to see the play Romeo and Juliet directed by James Evans. The theatrical play was one of the best we have seen while in school and not just because of the acting but the amount of effort placed put into the use of visual and sound effects. The visual effects within the play were astonishing, the way the lights changed colour and tone really set the theme for the scene. The way they effectively used the panels incorporated within the set also brought the play to life. Romeo and Juliet’s families were also distinguished by the colours they wore, Romeo wore blue and Juliet wore red. The sound, also incorporated with the lights, brought an atmospheric level of depth into the scene. When a sad and depressing scene entered the stage, the music changed to a sad score, whilst when a happy scene came on, the music changed to a happy score. The score made and tailored for this play was incredible and no one would want it to change. Overall the visual and sound effects of this play is what really brought the atmospheric depth to this theatrical play.

By Igor Andonov, Alix Guo, Jason Lam and Charles Zheng


How did the modern representation of the play assist your understanding?

The modern representation of Romeo and Juliet has assisted us greatly in understanding the play.

Since the original Romeo and Juliet play was originated about 400 years ago, it was hard for us to understand the use of language. However, by making a modern representation of the play, it helped us to understand the plot of the story much more.

It helped us by being able to associate with the actors by understanding their choices of clothing and the props that were used.  The use of modern music made it easier to set the mood of how you should be feeling.

The set was unique because most stages are generally flat and fairly large, however this was small and had only one big stair-like object and the set was able to represent different scenes at the same time. This was a smart choice, as it didn’t over complicate the play.

By Fuad Ferdous, Dayu Huang and Wesley Darmawangsa


How did the modern representation of the play assist your understanding?

The modern interpretation of Romeo and Juliet helped me to understand a lot of things in a lot of ways through the use of humour, lighting and sound, and props and costumes.

The modern humour in the play helped me relate to the play and the characters because in the beginning of the play I had no idea what was going on due to the old language being used. Eventually I got used to it and everything became amusing, though.

The visual and sound effects made a big impact on the presentation of the play too. The use of stairs on the stage was a very clever concept and enhanced the experience of watching Romeo and Juliet. I liked how they didn’t use conventional props, instead using random household items like a crowbar, screwdriver, pole, etc.

The lighting and music choices gave some scenes a sense of drama or sadness and it helped convey emotion very well. Not only this, but the song choices were very modern and really did help the audience relate to the mood being displayed.

Something I found interesting was the costume choices for the play. The characters were dressed in casual clothes you’d see today on the street, as opposed to big formal dresses and fancy suits. For me, this sort of brought the play further into the present and made watching it really captivating.

All in all, I can’t deny that it was a great spin off of a classic and I would watch it again if presented with the chance. Great job James!

By Nicola Ross


What did you think of the use of humour in the play?

The use of humour in Romeo and Juliet gives it a modern twist that is relatable for many people in this day and age. Although the original plays main focus was on the tragedy and romance but the audience received a shock at the light humour used in the play.

The most humorous character that we could relate the most to would be Mercutio as he teased the love sick Romeo about his relationship with Rosaline. Benvolio is his partner in crime and goes along with his antics. Benvolio is more toned down than Mercutio but still provides occasional laughter to the audience.

For people who haven’t seen different variations of Romeo and Juliet, usually stereotype the play to be morbid but this particular version of Romeo and Juliet defies all these stereotypes.

In conclusion the humour found in this specific play shows that humour can be incorporated into a romantic tragedy.

By Judie Wang, Shara Haque and Raisa Raihan


How are gender roles portrayed throughout the story of Romeo And Juliet and the Bell Shakespeare production?

Gender roles are often defined by what your genitalia are. In the past, if you were considered a woman, you would be considered a lower priority and be shown as the weaker side compared to men. This is proven in the story of Romeo and Juliet.

In the story and play, Juliet was supposed to be married off to a noble figure against her will, as that’s how women were expected to live – be married at a young age, give birth, and carry down the family line. Especially at Juliet’s age, 14, she has absolutely no freedom or choice of her own, whereas with men, they were allowed to have a will of their own and choose their own future. Since Juliet refused to marry Paris, her parents nearly disowned her.

In the past, men performed women’s roles in Shakespeare’s plays. Women in the past were not expected and not allowed to get involved in society`s work industry and business. For example, in marriage, men were expected to rule over their wives, and all property belonged to them. Men were the primary wage earners, while women were expected to be primarily responsible for housework and childcare. It was evident throughout the play that the king and men had the most say over major decisions.

Therefore, Romeo and Juliet accurately represents gender roles throughout that time period and the actors carried out these roles amazingly with emotion and confidence.

By Angela Fu, Anneliese Ho, Shanna Yan and Elaine Zhong


What did you learn from the story of Romeo and Juliet?

Romeo and Juliet is a play made by William Shakespeare about two families that opposed each other. Even though Romeo and Juliet were not of the same family they still loved each other, this lead to a series of tragedy and loss for both sides.

We learned that in the past, women had almost no rights and were not really cared for because in the play, Juliet was forced to marry someone she didn’t like, when her true love was Romeo. “You will marry Count Paris whether you like it or not” quoted by Capulet, Juliet’s father. This shows that in the past women had close to no rights and were forced to marry whoever their parents wanted.

You also learn that patience is key. If Romeo had just waited for a while longer, neither of them would have had to die and they may have been able to escape to another land and live happy lives away from the war raging on between the two families. However, because of Romeo’s impatience, he lost not only his own life but also his most loved one. If he had just waited a while longer, this story may not have had to be a tragic one but a joyous story with a happy ending.

These are some of the many things that everyone could’ve learned from the play of Romeo and Juliet.  It has taught me many important lessons and could teach someone else even more.

By Kerry Qian, Robin Bhetwal and Kevin Gao


Are Romeo and Juliet’s fates sealed from the very beginning?

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I first saw Romeo and Juliet in primary school. My friends and I watched the Baz Lurhmann film version at a sleepover. Everyone was obsessed with Leonardo DiCaprio and none of us knew how the story ended. So you can imagine our heartbreak when the credits started rolling and we realised there would be no happy ending for the young lovers. Maybe if we’d focused more on the language and less on how dreamy Leo looked, we’d have realized that from the very start of the play, Shakespeare tells us that Romeo and Juliet don’t get to sail off into the sunset together. Which leads me to answer a big fat YES to this week’s question. And here’s why.

THE PROLOGUE:

You know, that bit at the start of the play where we pretty much get told repeatedly that Romeo and Juliet are both going to die:

From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life,
Whose misadventured piteous overthrows;
Doth with their death bury their parents strife.
The fearful passage of their death-marked love;
And the continuance of their parents’ rage,
Which but their children’s end, nought could remove,
Is now the two hours’ traffic of our stage….

Pretty clear, isn’t it? Look at those adjectives used to describe Roms and Jules! Star-crossed – meaning ill-fated, literally crossed or opposed by the stars. Misadventured – referring to bad fortune. Fate and death are introduced from the word go. Romeo and Juliet’s love is “marked by death” from the beginning.

THE LOVERS:

Both Romeo and Juliet experience moments of foreboding where they intuit the tragedy that lies ahead of them. Early in the play, as Romeo prepares to attend the party where he will meet Juliet for the first time, he says:

…For my mind misgives
Some consequence yet hanging in the stars
Shall bitterly begin his fearful date
With this night’s revels and expire the term
Of a despised life closed in my breast
By some vile forfeit of untimely death.

Somehow, Romeo knows that this night is significant. Something big is about to happen and it’s going to lead to his death. But he pulls a Taylor Swift (shakes it off) and heads to the party anyway. Then later in the play, after R & J have gotten married and spent their first night together, as Romeo is leaving, Juliet suddenly says:

O God, I have an ill-divining soul!
Methinks I see thee, now thou art so low,
As one dead in the bottom of a tomb:
Either my eyesight fails or thou look’st pale.

Less than 48 hours later, this image is exactly what Juliet is met with when she awakens in the Capulet’s vault and finds Romeo dead by her side.

FRIAR LAWRENCE:

The Friar, along with Nurse, helps Romeo and Juliet. But he also constantly expresses unease at the startling speed and lack of moderation with which the lovers carry out their whirlwind romance. He – quite rightly – worries that tragedy could ensue and warns Romeo several times, like here:

These violent delights have violent ends,
And in their triumph die, like fire and powder,
Which as they kiss consume.

The crazy fast and intense way that Romeo and Juliet fall in love makes the Friar nervous, and it also has a supernatural quality to it, a sense of idea of predestination, fate – whatever you want to call it. Some power beyond any human control that decided these two young people would meet, marry and die within a matter of days. It doesn’t matter what they or those who love them do to try and change things, their fate is sealed. And this is exactly what the Friar discovers at the play’s conclusion:

A greater power than we can contradict
Hath thwarted our intents.

The Friar hoped R & J’s love could mean reconciliation between their warring families. He was close. It is in fact their deaths that “bury their parent’s strife.” Were the young lovers always fated to be a necessary sacrifice to finally bring about peace? Are their deaths a divine punishment handed out to both Capulets and Montagues for all the trouble and discord they have caused?

And yet…

Despite all this, the magic of the play is that even knowing all of the above, even hearing all the warnings and references to fate and the stars, Shakespeare still gets us sitting in our seats hoping and wishing that somehow things could be okay after all. That Romeo might be able to “defy the stars.” That the timing should work out. That love will defy fate and there will be a happy ending after all. Which there so very, very nearly is.

xx Lucy


How are love and death linked in Romeo And Juliet?

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In the prologue of the play, William “Spoiler-alert” Shakespeare tells the audience that Romeo and Juliet love passionately and then take their lives. From the very beginning, love and death are closely linked.

In English, we have only one word for this indefinably large topic of love; whether you are referring to your cat, your brother, your girlfriend or that delicious plate of nachos. Similarly, the indefinably large topic of death is irreverently mentioned in our everyday life; my phone died, I died laughing, my dog died, I would have died if he’d seen me. In this play, Shakespeare uses these two words with a range of meanings and they are closely linked. Here are a few examples of ways that LOVE AND DEATH are linked in the play.

As lovers:

In Romeo’s very first scene, he says he is dead because Rosaline (his love) is not reciprocating his feelings (1). Bit of an exaggeration there. After Juliet first kisses Romeo at the party, she tells her nurse that she will stay forever single and die alone if she can’t have him as her husband (2). There is risk of death even having Romeo visit Juliet at her balcony (3). Death is love’s obstacle for these two characters from the start. They were certainly going to struggle for a happy ending.

Among friends:

Mercutio, Benvolio and Romeo are best buddies among the Montague clan. They would do anything for each other. The fight that takes place when Tybalt interferes with this bromance is not only the death of Mercutio but the death of trust, a friendship group, a cousin and a best mate. At the same time, it is the beginning of the end. It is Romeo’s love for Mercutio that drives him to seek revenge. In his reactive rage, Romeo tells Tybalt that they must fight until one or both of them are dead (4). He wasn’t lying.

In the family:

Tybalt’s murder is painful for his tightly knit Capulet family. They loved him dearly and Lady Capulet begs the death sentence for Romeo in retaliation for Tybalt’s murder. Lady Cap then tells Juliet that she plans to have Romeo murdered not knowing that Juliet has married him the day before (5). Although Juliet’s nurse has lost her best friend in Tybalt, she continues to help the lovers meet up that night because of her love for Juliet. Love is complicated right?

Death-mark’d Love:

Sure, the Capulets and Montagues become Facebook friends at the end of the play and the riff is resolved but wasn’t there another possible outcome? What drove these characters to such extremity? I think Shakespeare wanted us to talk about the link between love and death and maybe that’s why this play is still so popular. These topics need discussing as much now as they did 420 years ago… and here we are. Go Shakespeare!

xx Anna

(1) Romeo: “She hath foresworn to love; and it that vow do I live dead that live to tell it now.”
(2) Juliet: “Go, ask his name – If he be married, my grave is like to be my wedding bed”
(3) Juliet: “the place death if any of my kinsmen find thee here”
(4) Romeo “Either thou, or I, or both must go with him”
(5) Lady Capulet: “I’ll send to one in Mantua, where that same banish’d runagate doth live, shall give him such an unaccomstom’d dram that he shall soon keep Tybalt company.”


What is Mercutio’s purpose in the play?

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Mercutio (or Merc) as we’ve been calling him in the rehearsal room, has been called many things in his time. But that’s another story for another time. Today we’re talking about his role in Romeo and Juliet, what purpose he plays, and we’ll talk a little bit about what type of person he is – and how his actions impact those around him.

I thought that before we go into the main question, I might kick things off trying to unpack Mercutio’s personality, or character traits – based on what’s given to us in the text by Shakespeare, as well as one or two other sources before Shakespeare’s time.

Mercutio name appeared in the 1530 ‘Giulietta e Romeo‘ by Luigi Da Porto as ‘Marcuccio Guercio’ . By the time William Shakespeare came to write his version of Romeo and Juliet in 1597, he’d anglicised the characters’ names from the original Italian text – and thus Mercutio was born. In Da Porto’s text he was actually Romeo’s rival, because they both wanted to marry Juliet. He was said by Da Porto to ‘be a lion among lambs’ and to have an ‘ice-cold hand’. But that’s also another story for another time.

Shakespeare may have taken this idea about cold hands and extended on it because people have since associated Mercutio with the word Mercurial i.e. having unpredictable moods or behaviour. At Mercutio’s hottest we see him cursing love, dreams, ambitions and most notably, the Montagues and Capulets. At his coolest, we see him making inappropriate jokes, flirting with Juliet’s Nurse and trying to make his mates laugh. We see him change from one to the other often very quickly. He’s shown as being very skeptical of the things Romeo stands for, and it’s pretty quickly noticed that while him and Romeo are best mates, they’re also polar opposites. What ties him and Romeo and together though is probably their wit, they’re always talking in riddles and wordplay to try and outsmart each other. Mercutio is also shown to be pretty flippant about feelings, relationships and the more sensitive subjects raised by Romeo. He is shown to be a class clown figure, rejecting norms and living in a self-decided freedom. It’s also important to remember that Merc is not actually a Montague or a Capulet – but is related to the Prince of Verona as well as (The County) Paris, which possibly adds to his carefree and licentious behaviour.

This is a very, very, very brief character summary but I feel as though I should answer the question – or else I’ll never get to it.

As a dramatic device in the play – Mercutio operates as Romeo’s foil. He’s the opposite in every way. Writers often put in a foil character to more clearly define the morals and characteristics of the lead character – but also to offer some lightness to the dilemmas the lead may be going through. We see this constantly in Mercutio’s scenes with Romeo. Romeo complains to Mercutio and Benvolio about being in love with Rosaline (a girl we never see) and Mercutio tells him very crudely that what he’s feeling isn’t love or romance but instead, a more sexual urge. So in this instance, Mercutio’s purpose is to deter Romeo from pursuing love – which builds up Romeo’s momentum to pursue love – which ends in disaster.

This is furthered in Mercutio’s ‘Queen Mab’ soliloquy – when he creates an entire imaginary world and then destroys it – just to prove to Romeo that dreams and love are worthless, meaningless things. Merc counterpoints Romeo perfectly – he uses language that appeals to Romeo to entice him into the story, but then flips it on its head and makes his point that ‘dreams… are the children of an idle brain’.

Through his next scene with Benvolio when they’re drunkenly calling out at Romeo – Mercutio makes some very lewd and objectifying comments towards Rosaline. This functions in two ways, the first being that even though they are supposedly best friends, Merc and Benvolio don’t even know that Romeo is out of love with Rosaline and in love with Juliet – which could say something about the trust levels between Romeo and Merc (especially after all the crude comments Merc has made in previous scenes). The second way it functions is in commenting on how Mercutio perceives women in contrast to Romeo. Mercutio objectifies Rosaline – talking about various body parts in a menacing way, whereas in the next scene Romeo uses some of the most well known Romantic language to describe Juliet.

The next time we see Mercutio – he’s in a jovial mood, making fun of Tybalt, flirting inappropriately with the Nurse and generally being a fool. But it’s really the scene after this one that most states Mercutio’s purpose (dramatically) in the play. It shows Mercutio and Benvolio hanging out on a hot day – when they come across Tybalt, who’s looking for Romeo. This is where we see Mercutio’s fatal flaw or hubris which ultimately results in his death.

We’ve already established that he switches between hot and cold in an instant – and we see that in this scene, except he doesn’t cool down til the very end… And then heats up again…And then cools down, for good. The sight of Tybalt makes his blood boil and he’s instantly keen to fight him – then Romeo comes in and tries to make peace, which makes Mercutio even more fired up – because Tybalt is insulting Romeo but Romeo isn’t putting up a fight. So Merc fights Tybalt and then gets cut because Romeo is in the way. He proceeds to joke and laugh as he normally does about the cut – until it’s too late and he realises he’s going to die. It’s at this point that he says the most damning words that make this scene the turning point of the play.

‘A plague o‘ both your houses’

So Mercutio’s parting words serve to foreshadow the tragedy that takes place later on in the play – starting first with Tybalt’s death, then Romeo’s banishment – and then the death of the lovers. As soon as Mercutio’s gone – everything takes a turn for the worse. If that isn’t dramatic function and purpose in the plot – i don’t know what is !

Hope y’all are enjoying your break !

Shiv xoxo