Monday, August 23, 2010

They Have Made Worm’s Meat Of Me

Romeo+Juliet (the one with Leonardo DiCaprio) is playing in the background as I work here in the home office. 

Somebody tell me about Mercutio’s final moments? He is friend to the Montagues, and in his last act defends Romeo’s honor.  Yet his last words are, among other things, “They have made worm’s meat of me” and the more recognizable, “A plague on both your houses.”

In this particular version, Mercutio is wandering offstage alone when he utters the worm’s meat line, as if it is an aside.  That changes it for me.  I think I always thought, if he was saying it to Romeo, that he’d be referring to the Capulets.  But said like that, coupled with the “both houses” line, it seems more that he’s talking about both of them.  As if, in his final moments, he’s wondering “Why did I get in the middle of that?”

I suppose it’s always been there, I mean after all he does clearly say both your houses.  I don’t think it ever fully sunk in for me before, though.  He doesn’t blame Tybalt for killing him, he blames them both for getting him stuck in the middle.

Yes? No?  Has everybody always thought of it like that, and I’m only now getting with the program?


JM said...

Literally, both Romeo and Tybalt have gotten Mercutio, as you put it, "stuck in the middle". "Why the devil came you between us? I was hurt under your arm.", he says to Romeo. Mercurial as he is, even now (and maybe especially now) his wit is as sharp as the sword that stabbed him; he's never at a loss for a double or triple entendre. And he's quickly running out of time for many more. So I think he speaks literally, figuratively, and 'gravely' at once, noting in what he knows to be his last breathing, the real root cause of his demise--the stubborn stupidity that surrounds the feud. He refers to their "houses' three times in that one short space.

As to 'worm's meat' it could very well have originally been delivered as an aside directly to the audience as well as what follows it directly, "I have it,/And soundly too." Cement for his and our recognition of the consequences of the stupidity of everyone involved. The capper is a pause for movement (between the single abbreviated line of verse And soundly too. Your houses) as he's being helped inside a defiant summoning of energy in anger to turn and, " ...Your houses! --Exit
At least that's the way I directed it. There are other ways to interpret and play it for sure.

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