What are the similarities and differences between Tybalt and Mercutio?

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  • In Romeo and Juliet, Tybalt and Mercutio are both hotheads.  They instigate the violence in Act III that leads to Romeo's revenge and exile.
  • Both characters are passionate defenders.  Mercutio defends the critics, those who rail against.  Tybalt only defends his family.
  • Both characters die in Act III,...

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  • In Romeo and Juliet, Tybalt and Mercutio are both hotheads.  They instigate the violence in Act III that leads to Romeo's revenge and exile.
  • Both characters are passionate defenders.  Mercutio defends the critics, those who rail against.  Tybalt only defends his family.
  • Both characters die in Act III, a turning point in the tragedy that sets up the tragic action for Romeo and Juliet in Act V.
  • Mercutio is an archetypal Agroikoi, a sub-eiron, a Critic of Tragic action who resists tragic movement; Comic relief. As a foil for Romeo, he refuses both love and hate, adopting a cynical middle course.  By contrast, Tybalt is all hate, melodramatic, overserious.  He is an archetypal villain, a warrior with no ideals.  He is the emblem of family allegiance.
  • Mercutio's death is the primary foreshadower.  Before his death, he curses both houses.  As such, he serves as a kind of oracle.  Tybalt's death is all action, no commentary.
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In Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Tybalt is a flat character, who consistently exhibits a nature that is belligerent, resentful, and obstinate.  His first appearance in the play is in the opening fight scene in which he challenges Benvolio:

What, art thou drawn among these heartless hinds?

Turn thee, Benvolio, look upon thy death. (I,i,65-66)

Death remains on his mind with regard to the Montagues throughout the play.  When Tybalt espies Romeo in the Capulet house he wishes to kill him immediately, but is restrained by his uncle, Lord Capulet, who calls him a "princox" (I,v,91)

Even the hot-tempered character, Tybalt is ready to dual when he encounters Mercutio in Act III.  On such a hot day in Verona, unfortunately, Mercutio, too, is angry with the "Prince of Cats" as he has named Tybalt.  And, ironically, it is Mercutio who challenges Tybalt.  But, unlike Mercutio, Tybalt is not above taking unfair advantage of Mercutio as he reaches around the intervening Romeo and slays Mercutio.

Like his name, Mercutio has a changeable nature.  Whereas he has been bawdy and jovial in the two previous acts, Mercutio displays much cholera in the third act, showing eagerness to fight a Capulet, and in this way he is much like Tybalt.  At his end, his bitterness overcomes his loyalty as he dies:

A plague be o' both your houses (III,i,99)

Before the third act, Mercutio seems much unlike Tybalt.  He is playful, tossing bawdy jokes at the nurse, urging Romeo to reveal himself in Act II with such quips, and entertaining his friends with his eloquent monologues.  He is the center of attention whenever he is around unlike Tybalt who sulks in the background.  Nevertheless, the two characters both seem too extreme to be able to last without tragedy.

 

 

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In the play Romeo and Juliet, Tybalt and Mercutio stand out for their similarities as well as their differences.The most notable similarity is that they are both fiery-tempered and very quick to act. Tybalt is like a powder keg of hatred towards Romeo and all the Montagues, while Mercutio's temper is mercurial, volatile, excitable and temperamental. Tybalt is a defender of his family's honor and is quick to draw his sword at any slight provocation, while Mercutio wishes only to defend his friend Romeo and uses his wit to taunt Tybalt into a fight. Tybalt is all rage and impulse, whereas Mercutio likes to joke, talks incessantly and is very cynical about both love and hate, the two forces that motivate the main characters in the play. Tybalt is a man of few words but lots of action, while Mercutio loves to spin his tongue as evidenced in his Queen Mab speech in Act 1, scene 4 and his playful teasing of Juliet's nurse in Act 2, scene 4.

In Act 3, these two instigate the violence which leads to Romeo's revenge and exile. As Mercutio lies dying, he curses both their houses, which foreshadows the tragic ending for Romeo and Juliet, while Tybalt dies without saying a word.

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To me, the main similarity between these two characters is that they both kind of like violence.  Tybalt is always ready to fight.  His first words and his last words in the play are about fighting.  He has to be restrained from going after Romeo at the ball.  Mercutio also is kind of hot headed.  In the scene where he dies, he cannot wait to get at Tybalt and fight him.

The difference between them (at least so far as we can see in their words) is that Tybalt has no thoughts except violent ones.  By contrast, Mercutio is funny -- as in how he makes fun of the Nurse in Act II, Scene 4.  He also talks all kinds of silly stuff in his "Queen Mab" speech in Act I, Scene 4.

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