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Is Romeo a Killer or a Murderer?In Act Three, Scene One, Romeo kills Tybalt to avenge...

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rguajardo | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 1, 2008 at 6:29 PM via web

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Is Romeo a Killer or a Murderer?

In Act Three, Scene One, Romeo kills Tybalt to avenge Mercutio's death. My quetion to you is: Did Romeo kill or murder Tybalt? Our professor of English tells us to define both terms, yet I cannot find a difference.

He says in Elizabethan times, killing your friend or relative's murderer was a logical excuse to be put to death, yet the Lord was thinking about that until he found out that Tybalt killed his nephew, Mercutio, which had him lower the judgment agianst Romeo from certain death to banishment.

So there is my question.

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kwoo1213 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted April 1, 2008 at 6:41 PM (Answer #2)

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This is a huge moral question, isn't it?  It brings to mind the "eye for an eye" biblical quote.  Killing someone and murdering someone are one in the same, in a literal sense.  By killing someone, you have murdered them.  Either way, you've taken a life, correct?  However, in my opinion, there are varying degrees.  For example, killing someone in self-defense is different from, for example, kidnapping a child and killing them.  If I were put into a situation in which I had to defend myself and was in danger of being killed, I certainly would do whatever I had to do to defend myself IF I felt my own life was in danger.  Our society uses the words "kill" and "murder" in different ways.  Usually, if someone kills someone else in self-defense, people discuss it in terms of "killing" the other person.  However, if someone perhaps kidnaps a child and then kills him or her, this would be consistently referred to as "murder," not simply a "killing."  Connotatively, there is a difference between the two words.  To answer your original question, Romeo DID murder Tybalt, in my opinion, despite it being to avenge another death.  I am not a big fan of "eye for an eye" stuff; however, it WAS viewed completely differently during that time period.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted June 18, 2010 at 1:50 AM (Answer #3)

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kwoo1213 is right in stating that to answer your question we need to understand the culture in the context of the time to interpret how Romeo's actions would have been viewed. At that time, you were practically honour-bound to avenge a death (just think of the problem that Hamelt faces) and if you didn't you were dishonouring the memory of your relative/friend, so Romeo was pretty much obliged to avenge Mercutio's death. However, within the context of the law of Verona, this was still classed as a murder, and therfore Romeo was punishable for that crime. He was between a rock and a hard place really.

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 16, 2011 at 10:55 AM (Answer #4)

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I don't think Romeo is a murderer.  He acted in accordance with his society's wishes, even if he was breaking the law.  Sometimes law and society do not see eye to eye.  That does not mean he was RIGHT to kill the men though.

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