Friday, July 23, 2010

A Grave Man

Today's hero is another fictional character plucked out of thin air, and off of the stand in hero list to make sure we don't have another hero-less day. As with most fictional characters, there is no date of birth that has been assigned to this fellow, and so therefore I pick for him today.

The hero of this particularly hot July day is Mercutio, and his sad fate is to be one of Romeo's best friends in William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Mercutio is a fine character, a quick witted, sometimes long winded man who is a bit of a free spirit. He is neither Montague or Capulet, but is closer to the Montague's since he cannot stand Juliet's cousin Tybalt. His quick wit, and over the top attitude make him one of the most popular of Shakespeare's characters, and I am quite the fan of him as well. He is a pivotal character, and his death (as some people have noticed) is a pivotal point in the play. Before his death, the play is a bit of a comedy, after his death, it becomes the tragedy that engulfs all the remaining characters. It is Mercutio that, after being wounded under Romeo's arm by Tybalt proclaims "a plague o both your houses." It is one of the most powerful lines that Shakespeare ever wrote, and delivered properly can raise goosebumps. Equally cursing the Capulet who slew him, and the Montague who got in the way, and under whom arm the fatal blow was struck. Ever the jester, Mercutio replies to Romeo's question about his health proclaiming it "a scratch nothing more" but then declares ". . . call for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man." It is his exit from the scene and the moment in the play where it all starts to go horribly, horribly wrong. But, while he is alive in the play he is fantastic, and so Mercutio (????-present), you are my (333rd) hero of the day.

By some act of fate the dumbed down 1996 version of Romeo and Juliet is on the boob tube, and I have just watched Mercutio's death scene. I am more of a traditionalist, and prefer my Shakespeare characters be the non-gun toting type, but Harold Perrineau's portrayal of our hero is not bad. As mentioned earlier, this is the point that it all goes horribly wrong. The fans of young love will bemoan the ensuing deaths of Romeo and Juliet, but the true tragedy is the death of the true victim Mercutio. The carefree, life of the party, Mercuito, who as he realizes that his card has been punched proclaims a plague on both the houses of Montague and Capulet. He pays the ultimate price for trying to help a feckless, inconstant, brooding friend, and his reward is a knife in the guts. Bemoan the sad fates of the two lead characters if you want, (clearly I am rather unsympathetic to their plights) but remember all those later love scenes they share are paid for by the blood of the true hero of the piece Mercutio.

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