How old is Tybalt?
How old is Tybalt? It is hard to say for sure, but the reader of Romeo and Juliet can perhaps make some assumptions based on the personality of his character: aggressive, fiery and ready to pounce.
The only age we know for sure is that of Juliet, who is thirteen. Her age is described in the text of the play when her father says, “My child is yet a stranger in the world. / She hath not seen the change of fourteen years.” And since Romeo is in love with Juliet, a girl not yet fourteen, let’s hope he is also a teenager (younger than twenty).
Tybalt is Juliet’s older cousin, the nephew of her father, Lord Capulet. His character is always looking for a fight, ready to stir up trouble, and full of bravado. In fact, his nickname from Mercutio is the “King of Cats” due to his scrappy nature and quick temper. (“Good King of Cats, nothing but one of your nine lives, that I mean to make bold withal, and, as you shall use me hereafter, dry-beat the rest of the eight.”) Tybalt is loyal to the Capulets and seems happy to fuel the fire of the conflict and feud between the Montagues and his family. He tries to start a fight with Romeo at the Capulet's party. However, his uncle steps in and tells him not to fight, and Tybalt obeys his elder. Later in the play, when Romeo refuses to fight him, Tybalt kills Romeo’s best friend, Mercutio, instead. Enraged, Romeo avenges Mercutio’s death, causing him to be cast out of Verona.
While the play does not tell us Tybalt’s age, it is easy to imagine that he, like Romeo and Mercutio, are young and full of passion, fire, and adolescent angst.
In Romeo and Juliet, the only character with a definitive age is Juliet. She is identified as 13 years old, during Act I, scene 2. For the rest of the characters, we're left to infer their ages from context.
It's reasonable to expect Tybalt to be approximately the same age as his peers, Mercutio, Benvolio, Romeo, and Count Paris. Romeo is generally depicted to be 18-22, but Shakespeare doesn't provides us with positive proof. There are a few points in the play where Shakespeare uses age-language, but it provides us with little clues.
In Act III, Scene 1, Tybalt argues with Romeo:
"Boy, this shall not excuse the injuries that thou hast done me, therefore turn and draw."
But this use of "boy" is most likely an insult. In Act V, scene III, Romeo calls count Paris a "Good gentle youth." A modern reader may think this implies Romeo is older than Paris, but these numerous examples of Shakespeare using youth-language interchangeably implies t's most likely that these men are all around the same age.
Although modern American standards suggest Juliet is remarkably young to be starring in a love drama with fully grown men, this play was written during a time in history when nobility sought to marry their daughters at a young age.