The carefree Mercutio is one of Romeo’s closest friends in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. He is also a relative of Prince Escalus. He is an intelligent character who has several important soliloquies in the play. One of his most positive qualities is that he is cheerful and fond of joking, which means that he provides the play with quite a few laughs. He particularly enjoys making sexual jokes. He is never able to understand the heartfelt love Romeo has for Juliet; to Mercutio, love and sex are the same - just as Juliet’s Nurse believes. In that sense he provides a contrast to Romeo, just as the Nurse does to Juliet on the topic of love.
We see an example of Mercutio’s focus on sex when he meets Romeo after the Capulet ball. He wrongly believes that Romeo has been having sex with Rosaline all night and jokingly says to him: “Such a case as yours constrains a/ man to bow in the hams.” (2.4.50-51) He is implying that Romeo is so exhausted from sex that his knees have gone weak.
However, there is a dark side to Mercutio, too. He is hotheaded and proud. In Act 3, Scene 1, Romeo refuses to fight Tybalt because he considers Tybalt family after his secret marriage to Juliet. Unfortunately, Romeo does not explain this to Tybalt and Mercutio. As a result, Mercutio attacks Tybalt to protect his own and Romeo’s honor and is killed by Tybalt. In that sense, Mercutio becomes a tragic victim of his own temper and of Romeo’s misinformation. It is also an example of dramatic irony since we - unlike Mercutio - know about the lovers' marriage and Romeo's kinship with Tybalt.
Mercutio is uncontrolled and does not follow the rules. This is underlined by the fact that he mainly speaks in prose. This is unusual since noblemen normally speak in blank verse in Shakespeare’s plays. Prose is irregular and does not include a specific meter or rhyme; it follows no rules, just as Mercutio. Read more about this in our Language section.
As he is dying, he bitterly curses the Montague and Capulet families: “A plague o’ both your houses!” (3.1.95) These famous words foreshado...