Romeo and Mercutio as Dramatic Foils in the Love Play Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

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A dramatic foil, can be described as a supporting character, whose traits are the exact opposite of a main character of a story. The dramatic foil is constantly used in literature, to point out specific characteristics in the characters, helping the reader to identify their traits and differences. In the love play Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, we can clearly see that Romeo and Mercutio are dramatic foils.

We can infer, that Shakespeare uses Mercutio as foil to Romeo because both characters are friends, extremely dramatic, meet the same end ( death ) and are from the nobility. But what makes them foils are their differences whose show that the two friends are drastically unlike.

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In Act 1, Scene 4, Mercutio is trying to convince Romeo to join his crew and go to the Capulet’s ball anyway. In the beginning of the play, Romeo is depressed because Rosaline’s unrequited love, and answers that he can not go because he feels heavy-hearted and wouldn’t be able to enjoy the party in this situation. This shows that Romeo deals with his feelings in a very serious way, while Mercutio doesn’t care about deep feelings and is always ready to party.

After hearing Romeo’s excuses, Mercutio tells him to “take Cupid’s wings and fly higher than the average man”, that is, “go to the party and kiss the first pretty person you look at” in a Shakespearean way. Later on, Romeo is discoursing about how love is “too rough, too rude, too rowdy, and it pricks like a thorn”, Mercutio instantly comes with an advise, “If love plays rough with you, play rough with love . If you prick love when it pricks you, you’ll beat love down.” This shows us that Mercutio is more probable to make jokes and funny poetry about love since it is a passing thing, while Romeo tends to write deep poetry and depressive sonnets about the ones he love since he believes that it will be a long term relationship.

Still in Act 1, Scene 4, It’s made clear that Romeo is a daydreamer and is always imagining pessimistic things about how his life will go on, “I’m worried we’ll get there too early. I have a feeling this party tonight will be the start of something bad, something that will end with my own death.” While Mercutio is a realistic person and appears that is always ready to throw a cold water bucket on your head, “Dreams are nothing but silly imagination, as thin as air, and less predictable than the wind, which sometimes blows on the frozen north and then gets angry and blows south.”

After all we can understand that Mercutio’s realistic view of life, but also silliness and funny poetry can show us that he is the perfect foil for Romeo, a depressive daydreamer, used to take a long time to “digest” his feelings and that even die died for them, proving that Shakespeare chose his foils with “surgical” precision. 

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