Tybalt, a Capulet and Juliet’s cousin appears in only three scenes. Act 1 scene 1, Act 1 scene 5 and his third and final appearance Act 3 scene 1 which we see him in a typically aggressive mood. His name, Tybalt is the name of the cat in the traditional Reynard and Fox stories…hence Mercutio’s name for him, ‘Prince of Cats’.
In contrast to Mercutio and Benvolio, Tybalt is a relatively one-dimensional character. Nonetheless, Mercutio mistakes the true Tybalt when he describes him as belonging to the fashionable set of ‘lisping affecting fantasticoes’ act 2 sc 4, for Tybalt is a dangerous man. Tybalt appears first when Benvolio is endeavouring to separate the warring factions in Act1 sc1. He goes for his sword, rejecting Benvolios plea to ‘keep the peace’ ac1 sc1 a direct contrast for he’s always trying to stop fights instead of making them like Tybalt. His response sums up Tybalt’s personality always angry and wanting a fight. ‘What, drawn, and talk of peace! I hate the word/As I hate hell, all Montagues and thee’ ac1 sc1.
Shakespeare portrays Tybalt to have a purpose, which shows a darker side to the play. Although romantic and love filled scenes have been revealed we also have a contrast of villainy, this adds excitement and frustration when watching Tybalt in the play. Without Tybalt’s hot-tempered, vindictive, aggressive behaviour shown through out this play, the play would lack in contrast and hate. Tybalt represents mindless aggression, not backed up by any reason or thought. For example he immediately jumps to the conclusion that Romeo can only be at a Capulet party to cause trouble,and emmdatly gets out his sword ‘to fleer and scorn at our solemnity’ act1 sc5 ‘by the stock and honour of my kin,/ to strike him dead, I hold it not a sin’ Act 1 sc 5. The cruel killing of Mercutio sparks of the final tragedy, as it becomes the cause of Romeos banishment when he seeks revenge.
Unlike Romeo or Benvolio, there is never beautiful poetry or figurative language in his speech; he is never speaking of love only hate. Everything he says is either an insult or a threat. ‘Thou art a villain’ Act s sc1, ‘Turn thee Benvolio, look upon thy death’ act 1 sc 1. His aggressive language at the ball ‘Fetch me my rapier boy’ contrasts strongly with the lovers’ sonnet and its talk of holy and sacred things. Although Capulet calms the situation down, the rhyming couplets of Tybalt’s speech as he exits Act1 sc5 are chilling.
‘I will withdraw: but this intrusion shall
Now seeing sweet, convert to bitterest gall’ (gall meaning poison)
Nearly all his speeches are short and direct in style, making statements rather than asking questions, ‘I’ll not endure him’ Act 1 sc 5
In a modern staged production Tybalt, would appear in the latest fashions and designer wear. I could imagine him wearing cloths such as lever jackets and flash sunglasses. Mercutio says he is a ‘fashion-monger’, who needs to be up with all the new ways, an ‘affected fantastico’. It is an obvious fact that Tybalt clearly fancies him self. He should always be seen with a new Italian fencing sword made of gold, and pointed at the end, rather than a flat English sword, ‘the very butcher of a silk button’. Act 2 sc 4. He should appear over confident and should move around with he’s head held high and stall tall and mighty. He should be seen always with a group of follows, which he orders about constantly. ‘Follow me close for I will speak to them’ Act 3 sc 1. His speech should be aggressive and blunt in tone. His expression should show disdain of everything and everyone.
Overall, Tybalt represents the ugliness that lies below the surface in this divided society. It is interesting to contrast the consequences of his death with those of Romeo and Juliet. His death ensures that more deaths will follow; the lovers’ deaths that the killing comes to an end. His personality clearly shows lack of responsibility for others, but in fact a rather shallow and undeveloped character dramatically. His family noticeably love him. The Nurse says ‘the best friend I ever had, courteous Tybalt! Honest gentlemen’ Act 3 sc 2. But as the audience we are only portrayed with one side of Tybalt, a villain. This contrasts well with the lovers and also adds to the atmosphere and sets in motion when the tragedy occurs in the play. Tybalt also shows responsibility for the killings of Mercutio providing a reason for Romeos banishment, all for one of his fights. If Verona is a divided society, Tybalt is the one man who wishes it to remain so.