How do audiences react to Tybalt in "Romeo and Juliet"?

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Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In my experiences of audiences, the reaction to Tybalt's character seems to be in line with what Shakespeare must have intended:  that is, for the man to be perceived as a well-meaning but thoughtlessly loyal cousin to the character of Juliet.

Audiences sense trouble with the hot-tempered young man as soon as he makes an appearance.  For example, as early as Act 1, Scene 1, Tybalt, acting on impulse,  challenges Benvolio, snarling, "What, drawn, and talk of peace! /I hate the word, / As I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee: / Have at thee, coward!"

While Tybalt does not have many lines (just seventeen in all), his rashness sets the tone for the action that follows.  It seems that both families, Montagues and Capulets, have bequeathed to their offspring the trait of non-thinking...they are all quick to react yet slow to reason.  Tybalt, then, while a relatively minor character, is major in establising a template for ill-conceived behavior, 


  Unfortunately, Tybalt's loyalty is besmirched by blindness, a contiunation of the misguided family prejudices that have so long led both the Capulets and Montagues.