William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is the most renowned romantic tragedy in the world. It was first published in 1594-95 and later on, performed in 1597 after the playhouses were allowed to reopen following a blanket ban due to the plague outbreak.
Romeo and Juliet is often categorized along with the comedies A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Love’s Labor’s Lost since all three plays deal with the themes of love and marriage. However, Romeo and Juliet stands out from the two comedies as the play depicts the tragic love between two star-crossed lovers.
A Brief Summary of Romeo and Juliet
The story of Romeo and Juliet unfolds over the span of four days.
- When the play opens, the audience learns of the family feud between the Montagues and the Capulets and how their hatred for each other disrupts the peace on the streets of Verona.
- The Prince has to interfere in a feud between the servants of the two families.
- The reader is introduced to the male protagonist, Romeo, who is dismal because of his unrequited love for Rosaline,
- Romeo’s friend, Benvolio, advises him to seek another woman.
- The Capulets hold a masked ball in honor of their daughter, Juliet, and Paris, a relative of the Prince.
- Romeo and Benvolio sneak into the ball, and the two protagonists fall in love with each other.
- By the end of the night, Romeo and Juliet discover each other’s true identities.
- Putting aside the feud between their families, Romeo and Juliet vow to marry each other the next day.
- Friar Laurence oversees the marriage between Romeo and Juliet, though he is reluctant at first.
- Juliet’s cousin, Tybalt, sends a challenge to Romeo to duel.
- Romeo refuses the challenge since Tybalt is now his family.
- Mercutio, Romeo’s friend, takes up the challenge on his behalf despite Romeo’s displeasure.
- Romeo fails to separate the two, and Mercutio is gravely injured.
- Unable to control his anger at his friend’s death, Romeo kills Tybalt.
- The Price had already warned of grave consequences to the Capulets and Montagues for disrupting the peace and so banished Romeo for murdering Tybalt.
- Upon hearing the news, Romeo, who had been hiding at the Friar’s place, tries to commit suicide.
- The Friar suggests Romeo make his marriage public knowledge to receive the Prince's forgiveness.
- Romeo and Juliet spend their wedding night together before Romeo leaves for Mantua.
- Juliet learns that her father has arranged for her to be married to Paris.
- The Capulets believe Juliet is mourning for Tybalt's death instead of Romeo's banishment and decide a marriage will distract her from her grief.
- Juliet is further distraught at the thought of marrying Paris and seeks help from the Friar.
- The Friar promises to give Juliet a sleeping potion that will make it seem like she is dead for 42 hours.
- He also takes on the responsibility of informing Romeo of their plan.
- When Juliet informs her family of her decision to go ahead with marrying Paris, they prepone the wedding to Wednesday instead of Thursday.
- This forces Juliet to drink the potion a day earlier.
- The Capulets discover Juliet's lifeless body and, believing that she is dead, places her in the family tomb.
- Due to a plague outbreak, the Friar’s messenger cannot leave Verona and fails to deliver the news of the plan to Romeo on time.
- Romeo receives word of Juliet’s “death.”
- He buys poison and makes his way back to Verona.
- Romeo sneaks into the Capulet's tomb but is discovered by Paris.
- In the duel that follows, Romeo gravely injures and kills Paris.
- Romeo believes that his love has died and consumes the poison in front of Juliet’s body.
- The Friar arrives in a hurry but is too late.
- When Juliet wakes up, she refuses the Friar’s offer to flee with him and stabs herself with Romeo’s dagger.
- The Prince demands an explanation for the tragedy.
- The Friar finally reveals the truth about Romeo and Juliet’s marriage.
- The tragedy finally leads the Montagues and Capulets to cease their feud.
Who is Tybalt? – Introducing the Character
Tybalt is the nephew of Lady Capulet and the cousin of the tragic female protagonist, Juliet. Shakespeare introduces Tybalt in Act I Scene I of Romeo and Juliet, where he gets into a tiff with Romeo’s (the teenage son of the head of the Capulet family) cousin, Benvolio.
The feud between the Capulets and the Montagues has been going on for several years, and the fire died down a long time ago. However, Tybalt is the only character who harbors extreme resentment against the Montagues.
While Shakespeare hasn’t explicitly described Tybalt’s physical characteristics, a quick reading of the play reveals that he –
- Is a young man in his mid-twenties
- Wears extravagant and flamboyant clothing
- Carries around a rapier on him
Tybalt's choice of flamboyant clothing tinged with colors of red, hints at his hot-headedness, pride and arrogance.
Tybalt is one of the more interesting characters in Shakespeare’s play. Though he does not play a huge role in the plot, his death acts as a vital catalyst that progresses the story.
His personality can be summed up as the following –
The fire of the age-old feud between the Capulets and the Montagues might have lessened over the years, but Tybalt is the personification of this anger. He is quick to lose his temper and fly off in a fit of rage against the Montagues if he feels they have insulted the Capulets.
For example, when Romeo and Benvolio crash Capulet’s party, he cannot hold back his anger and threatens to start a fight. But upon Lord Capulet's insistence, he leaves them be.
Yet his anger against this blatant disrespect remains. This leads him to challenge Romeo to a duel without thinking about the consequences.
Tybalt is extremely loyal towards the Capulet family. When Romeo and Benvolio gate-crash the party at the Capulet residence, Tybalt considers this as an inconsiderate and shameful act that will bring dishonor to the Capulet family.
He plans to seek vengeance on Romeo at the party but is quickly stopped by Lord Capulet. And even though he does not agree with Lord Capulet’s suggestion to let them be, he doesn’t prioritize his own feelings or outright dismiss his uncle's orders. Instead, he deems it to be a “shame” but follows the orders like a loyal person.
Readers can argue that Tybalt’s impulsiveness eventually led to his deal. In Act I Scene I, the readers find Tybalt instigating the fight between the servants of Capulet and Montague instead of trying to bring about peace.
He states that he detests peace and hates the Montagues as much as he hates Hell. Tybalt's anger clouds his rational judgement and propels him to attack all Montagues in order to banish them from his sight. However, his impulsiveness eventually leads him to kill Mercutio.
After realizing what he had done, Tybalt flees from the scene. But he returns once more to finish off Romeo. He was driven entirely by his impulsive nature to kill all Montagues. In the end, he dies at Romeo’s hands.
Tybalt’s Relationship with Characters in the Play
Tybalt is one of the many characters in Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet that might not play a major role but is an essential part of the overall story.
Tybalt’s Relationship with Juliet:
Tybalt is Juliet's cousin and nephew of Lady Capulet. Being so closely related to Juliet, he is extremely protective of her. Therefore, when Romeo crashes the party thrown for Juliet and Paris, he loses his temper and threatens to cause a scene. While Juliet is unsuccessful in dissuading him, Tybalt has no option but to back down when Lord Capulet gives him a warning. However, his hatred for the Montagues leads him to challenge Romeo to a duel.
Tybalt’s Relationship with Romeo:
Tybalt's hatred for the Montagues is such a crucial part of his personality that he does not need any other reason to hate Romeo other than the fact that Romeo is the son of the head of the Montague family. When he learns that Romeo crashed the Capulet’s ball, he has to hold himself back from causing a scene because of Lord Capulet’s command.
However, he later challenges Romeo to a duel.
But Romeo had already secretly married Juliet and therefore did not wish to fight someone from his extended family. When Mercutio offers to fight on Romeo's behalf, Tybalt gravely injures him before fleeing. However, his hatred for Romeo compels him to return to finish the job. But Romeo, distraught by the death of his friend, kills Tybalt.
Tybalt’s Relationship with Other Characters:
Tybalt's relationship with the Capulets can be summed up as respectful and loving. He is extremely proud of the Capulet family, and his loyalty is unwavering. For example, he doesn't question Lord Capulet for his decision to leave the Montagues alone when they crash the Capulet party. He knows his place and remains respectful of Lord Capulet's wishes, though he does not agree with him.
On the contrary, Tybalt harbors a deep resentment towards the Montagues. His hot-tempered nature might prevent him from making rational decisions, but he also doesn't avoid the code of chivalry. He could have stabbed Romeo in the back but suggested an honorable duel.
Tybalt’s Role in Romeo and Juliet
Tybalt might not hold a candle to the star-crossed lovers in Romeo and Juliet, but he plays a crucial role in making the plot move forward.
Tybalt’s introduction in Act I Scene I of the play establishes his aggressive and hot-headed mannerisms. He gets into a fight with Benvolio due to his association with the rival family, the Montagues. Being a Capulet, Tybalt's hatred for the Montague family knows no bounds. However, it is important to note that this hatred is a result of his flawed character.
In reality, the feud between the Montagues and Capulets had lost its blaze and had been simmering for a long time. This is evident from Lord Capulet preventing Tybalt from causing a scene at the ball and preventing him from fighting Romeo and Benvolio.
However, Tybalt isn’t one to let the Montagues off easily after he believes that they insulted the Capulets by gate-crashing the party. So he challenges Romeo to a duel.
In the conflict, Tybalt kills Mercutio and is killed by Romeo in revenge. This murder leads to Romeo's banishment and eventually sets off the series of events that seals the tragic fate of the star-crossed lovers.
Tybalt's deep hatred for the Montagues compels him to take Mercutio's life. Even though he loses his own life, his death becomes the catalyst that brings about the eventual death of Romeo and Juliet. Therefore, Tybalt reminds readers of the butterfly effect. No matter how small or insignificant an act might seem, it can create ripples that might eventually lead to a catastrophe.