Just Like Fire
Fire has the ability to nourish and provide warmth in the winter. However, it can also become destructive with just a simple spark. It will spread quickly and won’t stop until it has devoured everything in it’s path. Tybalt, a faithful member of the Capulet family in the play Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare is tremendously loyal to his kin. He treats his enemies with respect when there is no insult towards those close to him or to himself. Sometimes, though, his loyalty to the Capulets makes him vicious and just like wildfire, Tybalt becomes reckless and unstoppable when provoked.
Tybalt is a proud and loyal member of the Capulet family. He believes in justice and will do anything to protect his pride and his family’s name. When Romeo shows up at the Capulet celebration, Tybalt is shocked: “This, by his voice, should be a Montague./ (…)What, dares the slave/ Come hither, covered with an antic face,/ To fleer and scorn at our solemnity? ” (1.5.53–56). This shows that Tybalt is a very loyal and trustworthy person. He believes that his enemy can only cause chaos and doesn’t wish to tolerate his presence. The metaphor “covered with an antic face” indicates Tybalt’s annoyance that Romeo is not only impudent by showing up at the feast, but also that he has covered his face with a mask, hoping to enter unnoticed. Tybalt shows deep loyalty and respect for his family, always demonstrating how important the well-being of those close to him is. Talking to his uncle Capulet after finding out about Romeo’s appearance, Tybalt is blinded by his hate for the Montagues, ready to disrupt the peace and joy at the celebration, just to do what is expected of a faithful Capulet: “Now, by the stock and honor of my kin,/ To strike him dead I hold it not a sin.” (1.5.57–58). He is ready to do whatever it takes to get rid of him, even to kill if it means that nothing bad will follow the name of the Capulet family. Tybalt is extremely devoted to his relatives. His love for them cannot be doubted.
Besides being loyal, Tybalt is also very respectful and polite, even towards his enemies. When he goes looking for Romeo seeking revenge for the foe’s showing up at the Capulet party, he finds himself amongst members of the Montague family- his greatest enemies and rivals. Despite that, he approaches them calmly and with discretion: “Gentlemen, good e’en. A word with one of you” (3.1.15). This reveals his unwillingness to fight without reason. This proves that even though Tybalt seems aggressive and hostile on the outside, he actually peaceful and soft at heart. But that heart can become cruel and merciless towards enemies with a simple provocation. Tybalt is a reliable and honorable member of the Capulet family. And even though he has a lose temper, he won’t start a conflict, if not offended in a way. Searching for Romeo, Tybalt finds Mercutio in his path. The Montague tries to agitate Tybalt, but he remains serene and doesn’t wish to engage in a dispute without reason: “Well, peace be with you, sir. Here comes my man” (3.1.27). Though Tybalt’s character is very vengeful and easily provoked, he understands that there is no need for a conflict and chooses not to become involved in it. Instead, he continues on doing what he was before and ignores Mercutio’s attempts to start a feud.
Tybalt’s character isn’t completely driven by respect for his enemies. Deep down his hate for his rivals is ticking like a bomb ready to explode in a cloud of anger. After finding out about Romeo Montague’s presence at the Capulet celebration, Tybalt storms off to find Lord Capulet, who says “Why, how now, kinsman? Wherefore storm you so?” (1.5.59) when he sees Tybalt’s angry face expression. Capulet’s words represent the way other characters see Tybalt — always angry and impatient with someone and with a lose temper. But there is a reason for the way he is, good or bad- his loyalty. From the beginning until the end of the play, Tybalt remains extremely loyal to the Capulet family and willing to sacrifice anything for their well-being and protection. Exactly this loyalty to the Capulets has given rise to his despise for the Montague family. Whilst looking for Romeo, Tybalt meets members of the Montague family, of which Mercutio is trying to trigger a conflict, as he always does. Tybalt only needs a trivial provocation from his enemy to jump into a fight: “You shall find me apt enough to that, sir, an you will give me occasion” (3.1.17). The quote hints that Tybalt is waiting eagerly for Mercutio to give him a reason to incite a fight, so he isn’t responsible for the consequences. At the same time, though, he is agitated to attack his enemy even without purpose and achieve victory, proving his might and power. In the very beginning of Romeo and Juliet, Sampson Capulet and Abram Montague are arguing and Benvolio is trying to keep the peace with his sword drawn. Tybalt assumes the Montague is trying to start a fight, because he believes that peace cannot be achieved with a sword at hand: “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). In this quote, Tybalt expresses his hate and anger towards the Montague family. And even though Benvolio is trying to prevent a fight, Tybalt presumes the opposite. He is provocative and even aggressive. His hate for Montagues makes him reckless and insulting. He will do anything for his pride and to prove his family is superior to his enemy’s, but his beliefs in justice are also an important part of who he is.
Throughout the whole play Tybalt’s character remains driven completely by loyalty towards the Capulet family. He attends to his enemy with respect and consideration, but when his family has been insulted in any way, his patience and goodness towards the opponent runs out and he becomes dangerous and contempt. And so just like fire, Tybalt can be both virtuous and destructive. The choice lies within the hands of his enemy.