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ACT II, SCENE IV
From the quiet church, we go back to the streets. Mercutio and Benvolio are out again, and still looking for Romeo. Benvolio tells Mercutio two choice bits of information: that Romeo didn't come home at all that night, and that Tybalt has sent Romeo a letter challenging him to a duel. Benvolio says he's sure that Romeo will accept Tybalt's challenge. Mercutio bets he won't-Romeo's as good as dead already, "run through the ear with a love song." Tybalt is an expert swordsman, he adds, and Romeo's in no state to take him on.
This is funny to us, because we know that Romeo doesn't care about Rosaline anymore. But we also feel the danger, because we know that Tybalt's threat is nothing to take lightly.
Have you ever had two good friends who had nothing, besides you, in common? Benvolio and Mercutio are like that. They're an odd couple when Romeo isn't around.
Mercutio uses his own witty descriptions of Tybalt to launch into more punning and wordplay. Unlike Romeo, Benvolio is no match for Mercutio's wit; in fact, he doesn't even try to be. Mercutio's in fine form; he makes fun of everything that comes to mind. He's obviously well-educated, and knows French. He uses this to make fun of people who, putting on airs, throw around French phrases. This would be funny to people in Shakespeare's audience, because English people were as likely to show their snobbishness by speaking French as Italian people (like Mercutio) were.
Romeo enters in the middle of one of Mercutio's tirades. Pretending not to notice him, Mercutio lists many of history's great lovers, and claims that they all seem like prostitutes next to Rosaline. But Romeo's not only his old self again, he's his new self as well, and more than Mercutio's match at wordgames. Mercutio is so surprised at the change in Romeo, that at one point he cries, "Come between us, good Benvolio, my wits faints!" Again in the middle of a joke comes a grim foreshadowing of what will come.
Mercutio is thrilled to have his old friend back. He exclaims Why, is this not better than groaning for love?
Now art thou sociable, now art thou Romeo. (II, iv, 92-94)
In this scene, we see how much the two friends care about each other. This friendship will be important to the action of the play.