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Essay The Ultimate Ending to Romeo and Juliet: Mercutio’s Death

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Act three, scene one is a pivotal moment in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Tybalt confronts Mercutio and Benvolio, demanding to know where Romeo is. When the young hero meets them, he is challenged to a duel, which he refuses because Tybalt is now his cousin due to Romeo’s marriage to Juliet. Mercutio and Tybalt begin to fight, resulting in Mercutio’s death and placing the romantic leads on an inevitable crash course with misunderstanding and eventual suicide.

Around line 90 of act three, scene one, Mercutio is stabbed by Tybalt. He yells, “I am hurt; / A plague o’ both your houses! I am sped: / Is he gone, and hath nothing?” (3.1.87-9). Sped here means, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, “to be discharged or let go”. This is interesting because it could be taken to mean that Tybalt has let Mercutio go and that they have stopped fighting, which they have, or it could also mean that Mercutio’s life has let go of him and he is about to die. Romeo and Benvolio apparently think that the former explanation must be the correct one and don’t catch on to the pun. Neither man realizes that their friend is mortally wounded, especially when he is still joking bitterly with them as he normally does. Benvolio doesn’t notice that he is hurt at all, asking Mercutio, “What, art thou hurt?” (3.1.90). Romeo tries to comfort Mercutio, telling him, “...the hurt cannot be much” (3.1.93). Line 89 consists of Mercutio asking his friends if Tybalt has fled and if he has received any injuries. Tybalt has indeed fled from the three and Shakespeare provides no clue as to the nature of any injuries he may have sustained from the duel with Mercutio.

Lines 94 to 99 are full of Mercutio’s wit. Speaking about his injury to Romeo, he says:No, ‘...


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...nd him a letter. The death of Mercutio becomes the death of Romeo’s fun-loving side. The fact that we don’t hear anything about Mercutio, how there is no mourning and not even a funeral helps reflect that. Tybalt has a whole city mourning for him and he is the cousin of one of the trouble-making families. But Mercutio, the cousin of the prince, doesn’t even have a small funeral. Not even his ashes are scattered. Just like the complete disappearance of anything having to do with Mercutio, we never hear Romeo joking light-heartedly after his friend’s death. That side of him has completely disappeared.

Mercutio’s death scene makes the ultimate ending of the play possible. After he dies, events progress much more rapidly towards the tragic end of the two lovers. It is the point of no return, where fate takes over and the demise of Romeo and Juliet becomes inevitable.


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