What internal conflicts is Tybalt experiencing in act 3, scene 1 of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In act 3, scene 1 of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, one internal conflict Tybalt faces concerns his desire to behave as a gentleman vs. his hotheaded anger. Earlier in act 1, scene 5, Tybalt felt insulted by Romeo because he appeared at the Capulet ball uninvited. Tybalt assumed Romeo was there to mock the Capulets and therefore vowed to challenge Romeo to a duel. In the days of the Italian Renaissance, dueling was a standard means by which upper-class gentlemen could redeem their honor and often not meant to entail "fights to the death"; instead, most duels ended when "first blood" was drawn ("Man Knowledge: An Affair of Honor--The Duel"). Hence, it's no surprise that Tybalt decides to challenge Romeo to a duel; doing so was even considered a gentlemanly way to redeem his honor. However, when Mercutio begins taunting Tybalt later in act 3, scene 1, Tybalt feels conflicted.

Tybalt's fight is not with Mercutio; therefore, it's ungentlemanly for Tybalt to engage with Mercutio. We see evidence of Tybalt trying to do the gentlemanly thing of walking away from a fight with Mercutio when Tybalt says, "Well, peace be with you, sir. Here comes my man [Romeo]" (54-55). We possibly even see evidence of Tybalt attempting to walk away from a fight with Romeo when Romeo protests that he never "injur'd" Tybalt but instead loves him more than Tybalt can know. It's possible that Tybalt was going to accept this as an apology and end things there; if not, why else would Mercutio next say, "Tybalt, you ratcatcher, will you walk?" (74) Mercutio would have no reason to ask Tybalt why he was walking away if Tybalt had not indeed been walking away from a fight at that moment.

Hence, in this scene, Tybalt is trying to behave as a gentleman in several different ways: first, by trying to redeem his honor by challenging Romeo to a gentleman's duel; secondly, by trying to walk away from a fight with Mercutio; and thirdly, by accepting Romeo's apology and attempting to walk away from a duel altogether. However, Tybalt is also very hotheaded, so when he was provoked by the external factor of Mercutio taunting him, he was unable to prevent himself from yielding.

Hence, we can say that one of Tybalt's internal conflicts in this scene is trying to behave as a gentleman vs. feeling provoked to anger by Mercutio.

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