According to Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, what kind of man is Tybalt?
More than prince of cats, I can tell you. O, he is
the courageous captain of compliments. He fights as
you sing prick-song, keeps time, distance, and
proportion; rests me his minim rest, one, two, and
the third in your bosom: the very butcher of a silk
button, a duellist, a duellist; a gentleman of the
very first house, of the first and second cause:
ah, the immortal passado! the punto reverso! the
Mercutio says Tybalt is greater even than the prince of cats, which suggests he is agile and fit. He calls him courageous and says that he deserves whatever compliment he can be given. He further states that Tybalt is a very skilled swordsman who fights by the book and makes it seem as easy as participating in a recital, for his timing during a duel is precise. His skill allows him to know exactly what distance to maintain and how fast or slow he has to be during a sword fight. He can defeat an opponent in three easy strokes. He is a duellist's duellist — one from whom others can learn.
Furthermore, by calling Tybalt a butcher, Mercutio is suggesting that Tybalt is a master at cutting an opponent to pieces for he knows exactly where to strike. He is so accurate that he can hit any target. Because he is so skilled and confident of his ability, Tybalt has the confidence to manipulate any argument and turn it into a sword fight because he believes he can win. He is truly a master of his craft and knows all the techniques to win any duel.
It is clear that Mercutio has great respect for Tybalt's talent and speaks admiringly of him in this extract. He does, however, change his tune when he expresses his resentment for Tybalt and his ilk. He says the following:
The pox of such antic, lisping, affecting
fantasticoes; these new tuners of accents! 'By Jesu,
a very good blade! a very tall man! a very good
whore!' Why, is not this a lamentable thing,
grandsire, that we should be thus afflicted with
these strange flies, these fashion-mongers, these
perdona-mi's, who stand so much on the new form,
that they cannot at ease on the old bench? O, their
bones, their bones!
In this extract he tells Benvolio how much he hates Tybalt and his friends' affectatious mannerisms. He believes they are putting on airs by adopting a particular style of dress and speaking in an odd accent. He finds it sad that they should put up with such individuals for he cannot tolerate them. They are so conscious of new trends and so slavishly follow them that they are tiringly critical of old styles and norms.
Sadly, the mercurial Mercutio cannot resist a challenge and, although he is aware of Tybalt's skill, he later dares him to a duel and, in the process, loses his life when the well-meaning Romeo intervenes and, unfortunately and tragically, puts his friend at a disadvantage.
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