It is fair to say that Tybalt is one of the less ambiguous characters in the play. The audience first meets him in the opening brawl: Benvolio is trying to stop the fight, and Tybalt comes in demanding a fight and outlining everything he hates, mainly Montagues. Next he is at Capulet’s party. Having fun? Nope. Keen to kill Romeo who he has just spotted. He’s a Montague. Tybalt doesn’t like them. Finally, at the start of Act 3 he turns up wanting to make friends with the Montagues. Just kidding. He wants to kill Romeo. But then Mercutio is there so he kills him instead. He runs off but then decides he hasn’t got a big enough kick from killing Mercutio, so wants to kill Romeo too. But Romeo kills him, which is probably for the best, because the play would be very different if Tybalt just killed everyone (Shakespeare had already done Titus Andronicus afterall). The point is, Tybalt is singular in his intentions throughout the play; he is almost a personification of anger and frustration.


It’s easy to presume that all the Capulets are on the same level. But the feuds between the families are definitely coupled by problems within the individual families. We see this between Juliet and her parents. But Tybalt also has a unique relationship with Lord and Lady Capulet. Lord Capulet doesn’t seem to think terribly highly of him. He admonishes him in the party scene, when Tybalt is sparring for a fight. It is perhaps notable that Lord Capulet would rather rebuke Tybalt than preserve the family honour (although he might not want a ruckus with Paris present), to the point where he says “Am I the master here, or are you?”. He also says nothing when Tybalt is killed; this wouldn’t be so prominent if he didn’t say so much when he believes Juliet is dead. By contrast Lady Capulet is incredibly vocal at Tybalt’s death, as much as at Juliet’s. All this implies that Tybalt had a strained relationship within the Capulet household, and may well have been a bit of an outsider, preferred only by his aunt.


However, he justifies all his actions on the basis of loyalty. At every juncture he is attempting to uphold the family honour. Though he is not happy about it, he does as Lord Capulet instructs at the party. Though he and Prince Escalus are different in their demeanours (the Prince is controlled and considered in all scenarios), they both seem to have a clear set of rules that must be obeyed. One thing to consider perhaps is the death of Mercutio. He has Romeo right in front of him, but instead kills Mercutio under his arm. Is this because he is engaged in a fight with Mercutio already? Does he view it as dishonourable to kill a man whose back is turned? Does he perhaps understand a little of what Romeo is saying? Either way, Tybalt has an easy chance to kill the man he came to fight, but doesn’t.

Key Quotations

In the first brawl: “Talk of peace? I hate the word,/ As I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee.” (Act I, Sc i)

Benvolio on the first brawl: “The fiery Tybalt, with his sword prepar’d,/Which (…)/ He swung about his head, and cut the winds.”_ (Act I, Sc i)_

On Romeo: “Now, by the stock and honour of my kin,/ To strike him dead I hold it not a sin.” (Act I, Sc v)

Lord Capulet admonishes him: “Am I the master here, or you?”_ (Act I, Sc v)_

On restraining himself: “Patience perforce with wilful choler meeting/ Makes my flesh tremble in their different greeting./ I will withdraw; but this intrusion shall/ Now seeming sweet convert to bitter gall.” (Act I, Sc v)

Mercutio on Tybalt: “He is the courageous captain of compliments. He fights as you sing prick-song.” (Act II, Sc iv)

To Romeo: “This shall not excuse the injuries/ That thou hast done me.” (Act III, Sc i)

Mercutio about Tybalt: “A braggart, a rogue, a villain, that fights by the book of arithmetic!” (Act III, Sc i)

Benvolio on the deaths: “An envious thrust from Tybalt hit the life/ Of stout Mercutio.” (Act III, Sc i)

Nurse on Tybalt: “O Tybalt, Tybalt! The best friend I had:/ O courteous Tybalt! Honest gentleman!” (Act III, Sc ii)