During the conversation between Tybalt and Mercutio in act 3, scene 1, what clues tell us that Mercutio does want to fight Tybalt, and why does Romeo refuse to fight with Tybalt?

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We know, even before he runs into Tybalt, that Mercutio is the mood for a fight: the level-headed Benvolio reminds him it is a hot day—when passions could run high. Benvolio, sensing Mercutio's mood, strongly urges him to "retire" before there's trouble.

When Tybalt says he wants a word with Mercutio, one of the first responses Mercutio makes is to say "Make it a word and a blow." He then follows this up by stating:

Here’s my fiddlestick [sword]. Here’s that shall make you dance.

Mercutio is determined to fight Tybalt, even though Romeo is Tybalt's real target. Mercutio eventually gains the fight he has been seeking, and he is killed as a consequence.

Romeo initially refuses to fight because he has just married Juliet. Tybalt is now his cousin by marriage, and Romeo doesn't want any trouble with him. He no longer has any interest in quarreling with the Capulets and has every reason to want to get along with them. He doesn't fight and kill Tybalt until after Tybalt kills Mercutio.

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Mercutio's language from the beginning of his interaction with Tybalt is belligerent. When Tybalt asks for "a word" with them, Mercutio's aggressive rejoinder is, "but one word with one of us? Couple it with something; make it a word and a blow." That is, he means: "you only want a word? Why don't you make something of it and hit one of us while you're at it."

Tybalt at first refuses to be goaded; he says he will happily strike at them if they give him occasion, to which Mercutio asks, "could you not take some occasion without giving?" That is: "are you not able to take the initiative and start the fight without us offering the opportunity to you directly?"

Tybalt, however, is not really interested in a quarrel with Mercutio; Romeo is his true target. Romeo, meanwhile, tries his best to calm Tybalt's passions, stating, "I . . . love thee better than thou canst devise / Till thou shalt know the reason of my love." He is saying that he understands that Tybalt won't appreciate why Romeo doesn't want to fight with him and would rather be his friend. In the next line, he gives some indication as to why this is, mentioning the name of Capulet. The audience is aware of the reason Romeo has begun to cultivate a fondness for the Capulets, but Tybalt does not yet understand this.

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