June 18, 2019

M. J. Maddox, PhD
is the American English Doctor.
 
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A Plague o’ Both Your Houses

Considering the lack of Congressional cooperation during 2010, a lot of people may have had a use for the Shakespearean quotation usually rendered as “A plague on both your houses!”

The line occurs in Romeo and Juliet. The speaker is Romeo’s friend Mercutio.

Romeo’s family, the Montagues, are in an on-going feud with Juliet’s family, the Capulets. Whenever representatives of the two families encounter one another, brawls break out. In trying to stop a sword fight between Mercutio and Tybalt Capulet, Romeo gets in Mercutio’s way, with fatal results for his friend. Tybalt escapes without a scratch.

As implied by his name, Mercutio is a man of lightning wit, making jokes even at the point of death. Unrelated to either the Montagues or the Capulets, he curses both families for having caused his death.

MERCUTIO: I am hurt. A plague o’ both your houses! I am sped. Is he gone, and hath nothing?

BENVOLIO: What, art thou hurt?

MERCUTIO Ay, ay, a scratch, a scratch; marry, ’tis enough. Where is my page? Go, villain, fetch a surgeon.

ROMEO Courage, man; the hurt cannot be much.

MERCUTIO No, ’tis not so deep as a well, nor so wide as a church-door; but ’tis enough,’twill serve: ask for me to-morrow, and you shall find me a grave man. I am peppered, I warrant, for this world. A plague o’ both your houses! ‘Zounds, a dog, a rat, a mouse, a cat, to scratch a man to death! a braggart, a rogue, a villain, that fights by the book of arithmetic! Why the devil came you between us? I was hurt under your arm.

ROMEO I thought all for the best.

MERCUTIO Help me into some house, Benvolio, Or I shall faint. A plague o’ both your houses! They have made worms’ meat of me: I have it, And soundly too: your houses!

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