Queen Mab Speech In Mercutio's '

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On their way to the Capulet party, Romeo is suddenly overcome by a sense of foreboding due to a disturbing dream he had the previous night. When Mercutio tells Romeo that dreams are unreliable, Romeo declares that dreams are in fact reliable. This launches Mercutio into his “Queen Mab” speech. Despite his description of Queen Mab being complete nonsense, Mercutio pulls the audience along with his highly colorful, clever use of language. According to Mercutio, Queen Mab is “the fairies’ midwife” (1.4.54) who assists in the birth of people’s dreams. He portrays her as, “no bigger than an agate stone / On the forefinger of an alderman” (1.4.55-56). Agate is not really a gem. Jewelers would often etch tiny figures on agate to give a cheap ring…show more content…
He goes on to say that Queen Mab is, “Drawn with a team of little atomies / Over men’s noses as they lie asleep” (1.4.57-58). For Mercutio, dreams begin at random, with something as meaningless as a faint itch of the nose. He then describes the materials used for Queen Mab’s wagon. All of the materials are fragile: spider’s legs, grasshopper’s wings, spider webs, moonbeams, a cricket’s bone, and film. In Mercutio’s description, Queen Mab and her wagon symbolize the dreams of sleepers. Thus, he is stressing that a dream is just as capable of being broken as these materials. Finally, Queen Mab’s wagoner is depicted as, “a small grey-coated gnat, / Not half so big as a round little worm” (1.4.64-65). Lazy maids were said to have worms breeding in their fingers. The worms were so little that that couldn’t be seen, which means that Queen Mab’s coachman is tinier than a worm that is invisible to the human eye. Mercutio’s description of Queen Mab and her wagon goes to great lengths to emphasize how small and…show more content…
The language becomes more sexual as references to the body, such as the lips, increase. This more aggressive language illustrates the physical realities of life that overcome the significance of dreams. Mercutio’s language also becomes more misogynistic with references to “foul sluttish hairs,” (1.4.90) maids that, “lie on their backs,” (1.4.92) and “women of good carriage” (1.4.94). His use of such subversive language works well to bring to light the darker side of humanity and to prove his point that dreams are simply the products of people’s fleshy desires. Additionally, the transition in language allows the audience to see Mercutio as more than a jokester. Because of this, he gains credibility for his views. Furthermore, as the language used becomes less whimsical and more patently alarming, there is less breathing room between phrases, which creates the image of Mercutio losing control. Mercutio’s delivery of these lines is effective in that the audience is able to sense how destructive and delusional dreams are – to the point that they can drive a sane man mad. Through the “Queen Mab” speech, the audience it introduced to Mercutio’s lightning-quick wit and ability to steal a scene. Though at times in the speech Mercutio can come across as dramatic and over the top, he constructs a memorable picture that conveys his intense belief that dreams are of no importance, and that they
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