Thursday, February 6, 2014

Mercutio's Queen Mab Speech

First off. Who is Queen Mab? To answer that, I'm going to start with what people may "think" they know about her, then I'll slowly reveal the origins and her purpose.

Due to popularity, Queen Mab is known for being a small antagonist in the HBO TV show "True Blood". She claims to be The Queen of the Faeries, but we soon learn that underneath all that fantasy coverup, she is a goblin wanting to trap humans in her realm. Mab does this so that her "true kind" can harvest humans.
The only thing that "True Blood" got right about Queen Mab was that she was Queen of the Fairies. The part about her becoming a goblin is pure "fairytale!"

Another cinema reference of Queen Mab is found in the Mini-TV Movie Series "Merlin". In this adaption, she is an enemy again, but this time with a bigger role. She knows that Merlin can be a great wizard, and needs him to save her dying race of fantasy creatures. When Merlin refuses to help her, Mab and the fairies slowly lose their ability to do magic and cease to exist. Which later dawns Christianity beliefs and gets rid of Paganism.
This TV-Movie has an interesting twist with Queen Mab having her dealings with Merlin's upbringing, but sadly the only thing that this adaption got right was that her name was Queen Mab. That's like taking a scan-tron test and getting all the answers wrong, but you at least got your name right.

Ok, now I'm going to get into the origins of Queen Mab. She gained first popularity in the Shakespeare play "Romeo & Juliet". There is a scene where Romeo is lovestruck by a girl named Rosaline(this is before he meets Juliet). Romeo talks about a dream he had, and Mercutio teases him with numerous "sleep puns" until he eventually mentions "Queen Mab". This is what he says: 

"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 forefinger of an alderman,
Drawn with a team of little atomies
Over men's noses as they lie asleep;
Her wagon spokes made of long spinners' legs,
The cover, of the wings of grasshoppers;
Her traces, of the smallest spider web;
Her collars, of the moonshine's wat'ry beams;
Her whip, of cricket's bone; the lash, of film;
Her wagoner, a small grey-coated gnat,
Not half so big as a round little worm
Pricked from the lazy finger of a maid;
Her chariot is an empty hazelnut,
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 curtsies straight;
O'er lawyers' fingers, who straight dream on fees;
O'er ladies' lips, who straight on kisses dream,
Which oft the angry Mab with blisters plagues,
Because their breaths with sweetmeats tainted are.
Sometimes she gallops o'er a courtier's nose,
And then dreams he of smelling out a suit;
And sometimes comes she with a tithe-pig's tail
Tickling a parson's nose as 'a lies asleep,
Then dreams he of another benefice.
Sometimes 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!"

So basically, Queen Mab is a tiny fairy that rides around in a coach made out of an "empty hazelnut" with spider's "legs" for wheel spokes. The carriage is also driven by a a small "grey-coated gnat" and drawn by a "team of little atomi" (tiny atoms).

When you read this carefully and think deeply about it, Queen Mab is a female Sandman. She enters into peoples dreams as they lie in bed and opens their core desires within their dreams, but sometimes these dreams can become nightmares! The reason I say this is because Mercutio, in a lame terms perspective, was basically telling Romeo that "dreams can be shattered!" You see Romeo was so fixated on Rosaline that Mercutio needed to awake Romeo from his dream. He tried by comparing Romeo's love for Rosaline was just a fantasy, much like Queen Mab's ability to make dreams come true. 
With Mercutio saying to Romeo, "... lovers' brains, ... they dream of love", he is hitting it home with Romeo's situation with Rosaline. He then says to Romeo, "Sometimes she(Queen Mab) driveth o'er a soldier's neck(with her carriage), And then dreams he of cutting foreign throats". This is the "shattered dreams" part. Mercutio is basically saying, "Sure lovers dream of love, but murderers dream of murdering, and Queen Mab is just the person to make that dream come true!" In a way, it sounds like Mercutio is much like Robbie Hart from the movie "The Wedding Singer". Robbie "hates the bride [he] hates the groom. [He] wants everyone to be miserable, because that's what [he] is." Heck, he even sang a "mood music" for his audience "Love Stinks!" 
It would seem that Mercutio hates that Romeo falls in love too quickly, which is why he talks about Queen Mab to help Romeo know that love in reality takes time. You could even say that the "Queen Mab Speech", when dissecting it, foreshadows Romeo's downfall in falling in love too quickly with the next girl he finds attractive. Which of course happened when he saw Juliet. It was love at first sight, but as we know from the movie "Frozen" "You can't marry [someone] you just met." Mercutio knew this!

I would now like to touch and close with giving the meaning of Queen Mab's name. Since Mercutio loved using puns and Shakespeare tended to have a double meaning in his works, it is evident that Queen Mab's name fitted in both of these perfectly.

Scholars have said that "Queen Mab" at that time was slang for a "prostitute" or a "whore". Which I found interesting with the "True Blood" reference for her to look like a beautiful appealing fairy at first, but then slowly shows her true colors by being a goblin in the end. Well played!
Another interesting fact about the name "Mab" alone. The name comes from an English female name "Mabel" which derives from the Latin word amabilis, which means "lovable" or "dear". So maybe Queen Mab wasn't all that bad after all. Maybe Mercutio's rant on "shattered dreams" was what he eventually said after Romeo calmed him down. "...I talk of dreams which are children of an idle brain." 

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