Romeo and Juliet

I don't understand the purpose for Mercutio's queen mab speech. Where does it come from and why was it directed at Romeo?


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The whole speech is based on pagan Celtic mythology. Mercutio’s speech is laced with sexual innuendo. The words “queen” and “mab” refer to whores in Elizabethan England. As his speech goes on we notice the subtext get increasingly sexual culminating with Mab teaching Maidens how to have sex. Mercutio gets pretty hot and bothered by his own rhetoric . On the surface he means to poke fun at Romeo’s romantic obsessions. Mercutio gets all sweaty and intense by the end of his speech. Romeo attempts to calm his friend down, “Peace Mercutio…you talk of nothing.” We get the sense that there is something way more personal here than simply a prostitute fairy who teaches maidens to have sex. Mercutio clearly wants Romeo for more than hanging out by the tomato stall. There is pent up frustration on Mercutio’s part both emotionally and sexually.

Thanks I understand so much better now!

I'm glad to help.

You didn't answer the question of the PURPOSE of the speech and why it was directed at Romeo.

Romeo has just declared that it might not be wise to go to the Capulet party because he had a dream that things would go badly for him if he did. Mercutio gives the speech to persuade Romeo that dreams are nothing but Queen Mab visiting one in one's sleep and they should not be taken seriously. This was to convince Romeo to go to the Capulet party instead of shying away from it because of a dream.

Have any of you checked out this scene as done in the film "Private Romeo"? In the exchange, beginning with Romeo's "I dreamt a dream tonight," it has Romeo and Mercutio standing at opposite ends of a flight of stairs; by the end of the Queen Mab speech, Mercutio has Romeo pressed up against a wall, and "Thou talkst of nothing" is Romeo's attempt to back Mercutio off. To call the speech homoerotic is quite an understatement--the sexual energy is white-hot, and every word of the Mab speech is aimed directly at Romeo. Benvolio finally has to step in so they can resume their journey.