Queen Mab Speech

Monologues for teens.

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Shakespearean monologues for teens.

Act 1 Scene iv

Mercutio: O, then, I see Queen Mab hath been with you.
She is the fairies' midwife, and she comes
In shape no bigger than an agate-stone
On the fore-finger of an alderma
Drawn with a team of little atomies
Athwart men's noses as they lie asleep;
Her wagon-spokes made of long spiders' legs,
The cover of the wings of grasshoppers,
The traces of the smallest spider's web,
The collars of the moonshine's watery beams,
Her whip of cricket's bone, the lash of film,
Her wagoner a small grey-coated gnat,
Not so big as a round little worm
Prick'd from the lazy finger of a maid;
Her chariot is an empty hazel-nut
Made by the joiner squirrel or old grub,
Time out o' mind the fairies' coachmakers.

And in this state she gallops night by night
Through lovers' brains, and then they dream of love;
O'er courtiers' knees, that dream on court'sies straight,
O'er lawyers' fingers, who straight dream on fee
O'er ladies ' lips, who straight on kisses dream,
Which oft the angry Mab with blisters plagues,
Because their breaths with sweetmeats tainted are:
Sometime she gallops o'er a courtier's nose,
And then dreams he of smelling out a suit;
And sometime comes she with a tithe-pig's tail
Tickling a parson's nose as a' lies asleep,
Then dreams, he of another benefice:
Sometime she driveth o'er a soldier's neck,
And then dreams he of cutting foreign throats,
Of breaches, ambuscadoes, Spanish blades,
Of healths five-fathom deep; and then anon
Drums in his ear, at which he starts and wakes,
And being thus frighted swears a prayer or two
And sleeps again. This is that very Mab
That plats the manes of horses in the night,
And bakes the elflocks in foul sluttish hairs,
Which once untangled, much misfortune bodes:
This is the hag, when maids lie on their backs,
That presses them and learns them first to bear,
Making them women of good carriage:
This is she-

Synopsis up this point
Mercutio is friends with Romeo Montague and his clan. Mercutio is a cousin of the Prince of the Italian city; Verona where the story of Romeo and Juliet takes place. Mercutio has been invited to a party to be hosted by the Capulet family; sworn enemies of the Montagues. And when Romeo and his cousing Benvolio ask him to come with them to the party, he is only too happy to join them. They are wearing masks to this costume ball. Mercutio is older than the others and they look up to him. He has likely spent some time fighting in foreign wars. He starts off by teasing Romeo about his unrequited love for a girl named Rosalind, and what starts off as fun suddenly turns dark in the Queen Mab speech.

Who is Queen Mab?
According to Mercutio, Queen Mab is a tiny fairy who spins out dreams in the heads of mortal beings. She is a fickle dream weaver however. As often as she blesses sleepers with pleasant dreams, she can also plague them with dark nightmares as Mercution so eloquently notes.

How to perform the Queen Mab Speech

This speech can be very boring if the fanciful images aren't created. Emotionally it runs the gamut from fanciful fun to dark anger. What is amazing and so real about this speech is that we have no idea where this anger comes from. It shows a dark side to the fun-loving Mercutio, immortalizing him as one of Shakespeare's finest and perhaps unplayable creations. Queen Mab and her fairy entourage are tiny and fantastical. He gets the other young men to laugh at his descriptions because Mercutio is always the life of the party. The actor can play the scene as if Mercutio is simply making these images up. He sets up this tiny world and then he sets it in motion as he describes the galloping. "And in this state she gallops night by night" The galloping theme continues through the next four lines until a sudden misogynist or woman-hating impulse breaks through the fun with his talk of an angry Queen Mab punishing women who dream of love. He tries to pull back and change course when he talks of the courtier and parson but they are tainted with sin and then he plunges headlong into talk of battles and then gets quite angry as he talks of women becoming pregnant in graphic terms. Mercutio in this speech seems not to like women and there is the suggestion that perhaps his mother or former girl friend in becoming pregnant did something wrong in his eyes. When Mercutio says 'This is she-" He is unable to continue because Romeo stops him. The other young men have become alarmed by Mercutio's increasing anger in this speech. What starts off as an enchanting look at dreams becomes the dark landscape of a nightmare.

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