Romeo and Juliet Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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In Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, how is Tybalt responsible for Romeo and Juliet's deaths?

Tybalt is indirectly responsible for Romeo and Juliet's deaths because his decision to challenge Romeo to a duel leads to his exile. After Romeo kills Tybalt, he is banished from Verona. Outside of Verona, Romeo is not privy to Juliet and Friar Laurence's plan and does not know that she is alive. The miscommunication influences Romeo to take his life at Juliet's tomb before she wakes up. Once Juliet discovers her dead husband, she also commits suicide.

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In Shakespeare's classic play Romeo and Juliet, Tybalt is portrayed as an aggressive hothead who is determined to get revenge on Romeo for sneaking into his uncle's ball. In act 1, scene 4, Romeo expresses his affinity for Juliet aloud, and Tybalt recognizes his voice. Although Tybalt is willing to fight Romeo at the ball, Lord Capulet intervenes by forcing his nephew to control his temper and allows Romeo to enjoy the party. Before Tybalt has the opportunity to challenge Romeo to a duel, Romeo secretly marries Juliet in Friar Laurence's cell, which significantly changes his outlook on the Capulet family.

In act 3, scene 1, Tybalt challenges Romeo to a duel, but Romeo refuses to fight a Capulet because of his recent marriage to Juliet. However, Mercutio defends his friend's honor by accepting the challenge for him and fighting Tybalt. In the middle of their duel, Romeo intervenes, which gives Tybalt the opportunity to fatally wound Mercutio. Following Mercutio's tragic death, Romeo loses control of his emotions and kills Tybalt. Prince Escalus exiles Romeo from Verona, which indirectly leads to his decision to commit suicide. Once Romeo is banished from Verona, he becomes desperate and is no longer in contact with Friar Laurence or Juliet.

Tybalt's decision to challenge Romeo to a duel directly leads to Mercutio's death, which motivates Romeo to take his life. The outcome of Romeo killing Tybalt is his exile. If Romeo were never banished from Verona, he would have known about Friar Laurence and Juliet's plan to ingest the sleeping potion and would have avoided the confusion surrounding her death. Tragically, Romeo never received the letter, assumed that Juliet was actually dead, and committed suicide. When Juliet wakes up in the tomb, she discovers that her husband is dead and also commits suicide. Therefore, Tybalt's challenge was the catalyst that indirectly led to Romeo and Juliet's deaths.

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Tybalt is so spoiling for a fight that he can said to be responsible for Romeo and Juliet's deaths. However, I would call him a catalyst rather the responsible party: he hardly forces the two young lovers to kill themselves, which is their own decision. However, he sets in motion a string of events that ended in their deaths.

Tybalt wants to fight Romeo, and when he meets him on the streets of Verona, he tries to bait him into a battle. Romeo, having just secretly married Tybalt's cousin, Juliet, does everything he can to avoid a fight. Mercutio, however, is spoiling for some swordplay, so he decides to engage Tybalt. Romeo interferes to try to stop the fight, but he only distracts Mercutio, which allows Tybalt the chance for the sword thrust that kills him. Romeo feels responsible for his dear friend's death, so he kills Tybalt. As a result, he is banished from Verona.

From that point on, a series of mishaps ensue that lead the lovers to suicide. Is Tybalt responsible? Not really: Juliet could have decided to tell her parents she was secretly married, which would have no doubt made them furious but would have probably saved lives. Further, Romeo, though it would have been completely out of character for him, could have decided to wait and get more information before killing himself, which also would have averted tragedy.

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litteacher8 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Tybalt is responsible for Romeo and Juliet’s deaths because his insistence on fighting Romeo is what got Romeo banished and led to his suicide.

Tybalt was so caught up in his family feud that he did not think about the consequences. He tried to fight Romeo originally at the party, and then caught up with him again later on the street.  Romeo was not interested in fighting. He also considered Tybalt family.


Romeo, the hate I bear thee can afford
No better term than this,--thou art a villain.


Tybalt, the reason that I have to love thee
Doth much excuse the appertaining rage
To such a greeting: villain am I none;
Therefore farewell; I see thou know'st me not. (Act 3, Scene 1)

Mercutio tried to protect Romeo, and Tybalt ended up fighting him.  He could have just forgotten the whole thing when it was clear that Romeo would not fight.  Mercutio was at the party too.  The idea was to eliminate the Montagues or punish the Montagues.  Tybalt paid with his life for his insistence on maintaining the feud.

Unfortunately, after Tybalt killed Mercutio, Romeo had to step in.  He killed Tybalt, and found himself banished.  It was this banishment that led Juliet to fake her death, and this fake death is that which caused Romeo to commit suicide.  He returned from banishment to find Juliet supposedly lying dead.  Unable to accept that, he killed himself.  Juliet then awoke and killed herself.  Thus, Tybalt was directly or indirectly responsible for his own death and the deaths of Mercutio, Romeo, and Juliet.

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