Tybalt — The Defensive Lion

Tybalt is like a lion — people have respect for him and they fear him. In Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet, Tybalt is Juliet’s cousin. He has an aggressive personality and he always tries to start a fight against the Montagues. Tybalt is a master of duels who people fear. But he is also defensive. He protects his family from the Montagues and that often leads to fights.

Tybalt is an aggressive character who always tries to start up a fight with the Montagues. In the beginning of the play, he provokes the fight between the members of the two houses by telling Benvolio “What, drawn and talk of peace? I hate the word, / As I hate hell, all Montagues and thee. / Have at thee, coward!” (1.1.60–62). To express his anger towards the Montagues, Tybalt claims that he hates the thought of being in peace with them. He calls Benvolio a coward in order to start a fight and put an end to the Montague’s life. This aggression at the beginning of the play foreshadows the conflicts that are going to happen later in the play. Furthermore, at the middle of the play, killing Mercutio isn’t enough to fulfill Tybalt’s hostility. Again, he provokes a fight between himself and Romeo by calling him a “Wretched boy that didst consort him here / Shalt with him hence” (3.1.91–92). Tybalt threatens Romeo that he is going to die and go to heaven with Mercutio. Tybalt’s aggression throughout the play results in different fights and deaths of important characters.

Tybalt is a master of duels and people are afraid of him. As we learn from the dialogue between Mercutio and Benvolio, Tybalt “rest his minimum rests — one, two and the third / In your bosom (2.4.23–24). In this quote we observe Tybalt’s skills as a duelist. He knows exactly when to take his breaks and when to attack at the heart. We also see Mercutio’s fear that Tybalt is going to kill Romeo. Mercutio claims that Romeo is going to die for sure if he tries to kill the fearsome Tybalt. In addition to that, we get the sense of Tybalt’s skills after he has hurt Mercutio. Mercutio calls him “A braggart, a rogue, a villain that fights by the book / Of arithmetic (3.1.105–106). In this quote, the hyperbole “fights by the book of arithmetic” represents how Tybalt fights as if he has learned swordsmanship from a manual. Furthermore, in the same dialogue between Mercutio and Benvolio, Mercutio calls Tybalt “The immortal / passado” (2.4.26–27). Because Tybalt is such a skilled duelist, Mercutio uses another hyperbole and even calls the Capulet immortal, meaning there is no way that Tybalt is ever going to lose a duel. That again gives us the sense that Tybalt is able to kill anyone in a duel and that is why people fear him. But Tybalt isn’t always aggressive just because of his hatred towards the Montagues.

Tybalt is also defensive, especially when he sees an enemy of his — a Montague. He knows that when members of both families meet there are often cases of death, so he wants to shield the Capulets from the Montagues. During the Capulet party, when Tybalt sees Romeo, he immediately wants to get into a fight with him, because he wants to protect his family from Romeo: “This, by the voice, should be a Montague / To strike him dead I hold it not a sin” (1.5.52,58). He believes that it is not a problem if he kills a Montague, because the Montague is on the territory of the Capulets without an invitation. He takes Romeo’s appearance as a threat to himself and the other Capulets, so in order to protect everyone Tybalt wants to strike Romeo dead. Building off of that point, Tybalt can’t stand patient when there is a Montague in sight: “Patience perforce with a willful choler meaning / Makes my flesh tremble in their different greeting” (1.5.88–89). In this quote we can observe how Shakespeare uses a hyperbole, because Tybalt is saying that he is unable to stand still while watching the Montague in his territory. He fears that Romeo is about to do harm to the Capulets so he wants to kill him for that and protect his people. Tybalt acts as a protector of all Capulets from the Montagues and he risks his own life multiple times in order to defend his family and his pride as a Capulet.

Throughout the play, Tybalt remains a static character. His hatred towards the Montague family, his will to start a fight and his pride as a Capulet don’t change. And also the respect and fear from Tybalt remain the same. Just like a lion, Tybalt is a king who protects his people — the Capulets.

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