Character of Tybalt: Profile, Traits & Analysis

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Ann Casano

Ann has taught university level Film classes and has a Master's Degree in Cinema Studies.

Tybalt is the nephew of Lord Capulet and Juliet's older cousin in Shakespeare's play 'Romeo and Juliet'. Learn more about Tybalt's profile, traits, and character analysis, including that of angry foil and fighter, and his pivotal role in advancing the narrative. Updated: 08/28/2021

Character Profile

In William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Tybalt is the nephew of Lord Capulet and Juliet's older cousin. We can accurately describe the skilled swordsman as a tough, cocky and aggressive character who is always looking for a fight. However, we should also be sure to mention that Tybalt is loyal beyond words and honors the family rivalry between the Capulets and the Montagues with great heart.

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  • 0:01 Character Profile
  • 0:25 Tybalt the Angry Foil
  • 1:40 Tybalt the Fighter
  • 3:20 Tybalt's Purpose
  • 5:13 Lesson Summary
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Tybalt the Angry Foil

Shakespeare often used foils to show the differences between certain characters in his plays. A foil is basically two characters who juxtapose each other so the audience can see their significant disparities. In Romeo and Juliet, Romeo's cousin Benvolio (whose name even means good will or benevolence) and Tybalt are foils. While Benvolio is just a nice guy who does everything in his power to stop a fight and keep the peace, Tybalt can't draw his sword quickly enough.

The first time we meet Tybalt is in Act 1, Scene 1. Benvolio is trying to stop the servants of the Capulet and Montague houses from fighting. When Tybalt enters the scene, he attempts to fuel the fire and goad the servants. He also tries to pick a fight with Benvolio, 'Turn thee… Look upon thy death.' Benvolio does draw his sword, but attempts to maintain the peace. Tybalt responds, 'Talk of peace? I hate the words as I hate hell, all Montagues and thee.'

The Prince of Verona eventually has to step in and break up the fight. The audience gets the sense here that Tybalt is not only an angry man but perhaps takes the feud between the Montagues and the Capulets more seriously than any other character in the play.

Tybalt the Fighter

Mercutio, Romeo's best friend, is a similar sort of hotheaded character. However, Mercutio is also known for his sense of humor and great wit, which we really don't see much of from Tybalt. Mercutio hates Tybalt and gives him the 'catty' nickname The Prince of Cats because Tybalt always seems to walking around looking for a fight.

Tybalt, true to his nickname, does find a fight at the Capulet's masked ball. Romeo, Mercutio and Benvolio decide to crash the party in order to try and get Romeo out of the dumps after his love for Rosaline goes unrequited. While the men are walking around the ball in masks, Tybalt recognizes Romeo's voice and of course wants to beat him up for being a party crasher. However, Tybalt's uncle stops him, not wanting to make a scene at the party. This enrages Tybalt to no end, but he listens to his uncle and steps off, for the time being. In his classic snarl, and his typical rhymed couplets, he vows to meet up with Romeo later on:

'Patience perforce with willful choler meeting

Makes my flesh tremble in their different greeting.

I will withdraw: but this intrusion shall

Now seeming sweet convert to bitter gall.'

One of the most interesting aspects to draw from here is that Tybalt's uncle, an older man with a longer history, is not even upset that young Romeo is at the masked ball. Like it's really no big deal, he says:

'Content thee, gentle coz, let him alone…

And, to say truth, Verona brags of him

To be a virtuous and well governed youth.

I would not for the wealth of all this town

Here in my house do him disparagement.'

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