Tybalt is a character in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Although he dies in the middle of the play he has a very important dramatic function in the development of the tragedy.
Verona is a divided city in that there is an ongoing ancient feud between the two leading families, the Montagues and the Capulets. No-one knows how the feud began and it is no longer raging, but it is always there just beneath the surface of Verona’s life. The young male servants of both families goad each other when they meet in the streets and that occasionally leads to an incident.
The families themselves just ignore each other and move in different circles. In spite of the lack of passion in the feud there are strict rules about mixing, and traditionally, intermarriage between the two families is taboo.
Romeo is the teenage son of the head of the Montague family and Juliet is the fourteen year-old daughter of the head of the Capulet family. Tybalt is his nephew.
Tybalt is the only member of either family to show any real anger against the opposing family. He has no reason to be angry, given that there is no fire left in the feud. The cause of his anger is more a question of his personality. He is a fiery, impetuous youth of about seventeen or eighteen, full of physical and emotional energy. He enjoys confrontation and is reckless, not being afraid of the consequences of any action he may take in pursuing that. The level of his passion is, again, a matter of personality rather than of devotion to the feud.
Capulet is a wealthy Renaissance merchant and, as was customary among wealthy Elizabethan businessmen, he is keen to marry his daughter into an aristocratic family. He has pulled off a coup in that he has found a suitable young man, the Count Paris. To celebrate he holds a party and invites most of Verona society, apart from the Montagues.
On the morning of the party some violence breaks out on the streets among the servants of the two families and the Prince of Verona appears and tells those gathered in the square that he is sick and tired of this feud and that the next person who starts a fight will be sentenced to death.
Romeo has been on a morning stroll in the countryside and wanders into the scene of devastation, with the market stalls damaged and strewn all over the place. He is downcast, suffering from lovesickness. He has fallen in love with a girl he has never spoken to and can’t stop thinking about her.
His friends, including his cousin, Benvolio, and Mercutio, a relative of the Prince, mock him. They intercept a servant taking the Capulet party invitations round and see that the Rosaline the girl Romeo is pining for, is on the list. They decide to gatecrash the party, disguising themselves with masks, so that Romeo can encounter Rosaline and make his pitch to her.
They go to the party and although it seems that Capulet recognises some of them as Montagues he welcomes them warmly.
It is at this party that Romeo first sets eyes on Juliet and falls instantly in love with her. They talk, and she falls in love with him too.
While this is occurring Tybalt recognises Romeo and anger boils up in him. He tells his uncle that he is going to throw the young Montague out and Capulet tells him sharply to behave himself or he will do something to him. Tybalt is extremely frustrated but fearing his usually jovial uncle when his anger is aroused, contains his rage, although it simmers beneath the surface.
The two teenagers in love decide to get married in secret and with the help of Juliet’s nurse and Friar Lawrence, they do it the following day. Those four people are the only ones who know that that has happened.
It is a hot afternoon, and Romeo’s friends are hanging out in the square, wondering where he is as it’s unlike him not to join them. Benvolio is nervous because he has heard that there are Capulets in the city centre as well.
Suddenly the Capulets appear, led by the still angry Tybalt, looking for Romeo and itching for a quarrel. His impetuosity has led him to ignore the Prince’s warning. He is a traditionalist, determined to keep the ancient feud going in the face of those who are quite happy to allow it to lie dormant. That, combined with his ever-present anger, is an explosive mix.
Mercutio, who is the comedian of the group, begins to make fun of Tybalt. Mercutio is not a member of either family and everyone likes him so Tybalt doesn’t take offence. He points an accusatory finger at Mercutio and says, ‘Thou consort’st with Romeo.’ Mercutio jokingly accuses Tybalt of calling them minstrels and draws his sword, inviting Tybalt to engage with him in a pretend duel.
Much to the amusement of all the young men present the two play the mock duel out. Romeo suddenly appears, running joyfully into the square to share his news with his friends. He misunderstands the nature of the fight and attempts to intervene, getting between them, trying to stop them.
In the confusion that Romeo has created by his physical intervention Tybalt stabs Mercutio under Romeo’s arm. He sees what he has done and turns away. He flees the scene, followed by his friends
When Mercutio’s friends realise what has happened, and he has dropped dead at their feet, cursing the two families with his dying breath, Romeo turns and runs after Tybalt. He catches up with him and the two engage in a vicious fight.
Romeo kills Tybalt and the tragedy that is played out in the second half of the play begins with that dramatic event.
Tybald’s impetuous, reckless personality is a major factor in the play. It has an important dramatic function in that it is Tybalt’s anger and his acting on it that changes the direction of the play and the relentless path to its tragic climax begins.
Top Tybalt Quotes
What, art thou drawn among these heartless hinds?
Turn thee, Benvolio, look upon thy death. (act 1, scene 1)
What, drawn, and talk of peace! I hate the word,
As I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee:… (act 1, scene 1)
This, by his voice, should be a Montague.—
Fetch me my rapier, boy! (act 1, scene 5)
Uncle, this is a Montague, our foe,
A villain that is hither come in spite
To scorn at our solemnity this night. (act 1, scene 5)
What dares the slave
Come hither covered with an antic face
To fleer and scorn at our solemnity?
Now, by the stock and honor of my kin,
To strike him dead I hold it not a sin. (act 1, scene 5)
Mercutio, thou consort’st with Romeo (act 3, scene 1)
Romeo, the love I bear thee can afford
No better term than this: thou art a villain. (act 3, scene 1)