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“Tybalt should be seen as the villain of the play.” Do you agree with this statement?
William Shakespeare had written the play ‘Romeo and Juliet’ in order to communicate societies greatest problems as well as their most treasured traditions. He did this by incorporating certain themes and characteristics in the form of different characters. One particular character who stands out is Tybalt, arguably the plays leading antagonist.
William Shakespeare reveals the depth of Tybalt’s aggression and pugnacious attitude. In Act 1 scene 1 Tybalt exclaims how “I hate the world, as I hate hell, all Montagues and thee.” The triples emphasises just how genuine his hate towards his rivals are. Tybalt is so determined to cause the Montagues pain and suffrage that he using not one phrase not two but three purely to emphasise his villainous characteristics. The quote is made even more sincere if we take into account the context of Elizabethan Britain. Religion was at the heart of every household during the 16th century and any reference of a devil or hell was outrageous. The fact that Tybalt has actually broken an unwritten golden rule is testament to the volume of his antagonistic nature.
Moreover, Tybalt is further shown to play the main antagonist in the play due to his admiration of death and violence. Towards the beginning of the play, Tybalt threatens Benvolio “Look upon thy death.” The personification of death suggests just how pivotal of a role it plays. So much so that it is as if it is a character itself. This may carry some authorial intention. On the one hand death is shown to be lurking around every scene. Some may say that Tybalt’s early death threat is foreshadowing what is to come later on and in this way dramatic irony is created. As the readers, we know that Romeo and Juliet will die in the end and this is further reminiscence of death surrounding different characters.
On the other hand, Tybalt may be deemed as a heroic and courageous character. When he threatens Benvolio to death one may argue that he is rather the opposite of an antagonist. Tybalt could be seen as defending his household and honouring his family. A feud would be inevitable and the brave thing to do is fight for his family. During the 16th century the idea of rivalry and courage was rife. Men would often give up their lives for the sake of their household. In this way, Tybalt could be soon as the most heroic and courageous in the play. In contrast to this, Benvolio can be seen as disloyal and thus a villain. He pleads “Part fools, you know not what you do.” One could see this as being uncourageous and unpatriotic towards his house, the Montagues in what was a very patriarchal society.
Controversially, some may argue that in fact Romeo is the most villainous character of all. At one occasion Romeo refused to fight or cause harm to Tybalt because of the secrecy of their new ‘in-law’ relationship whereas at a different occasion Romeo threatens “And fire-ey’d fury be my conduct now!” This contrast in behaviour is clear evidence of Romeo’s dual nature. It shows us that Romeo is prone to doing anything at any time. This could prove very dangerous and much more potent than Tybalt is who remains pugnacious throughout because he could flip at any given time. Romeo is clearly acting without any careful consideration meaning he could do the same at any time. The personified alliteration combine to create a sense of feud and violence.
Shakespeare also employs Romeo to have a lack of compassion. After the love of his life, his wife Juliet, has died he shouts “Then I defy you, stars.” The idea that his wife has just died and his response is to purely blame others demonstrates Romeo’s brutality and almost inhumane characteristics. His childlike ‘bi-polar’ attitude becomes increasingly evident. Romeo personifies fate suggesting that it is so important it is as if it is a character itself. During Elizabethan Britain, the philosophical doctrine of fatalism was strongly believed in. The idea that life was predetermined and people could do little to change their future. This belief was so firmly believed in that often prior to marriages or other big occasions those involved would observe the formation of the stars in hope to find good news. Given that fate was so important in every household, the fact that Romeo speaks with such a harsh and impulsive tone demonstrates his aggressive nature.