Romeo and Juliet is set in a very violent society. The city is controlled by warring gangs and no public place is safe. In act 1, scene 1, Sampson and Gregory make it clear that the servants participate enthusiastically in the quarrel of their masters. Sampson says he will cut off the heads of the Montague women, and when Gregory queries this, he replies,
Ay, the heads of the maids, or their maidenheads; take it in what sense thou wilt.
The wordplay here shows that the society of Verona is so violent that murder and rape are subjects for light jesting and puns.
The most violent character in the play is Tybalt. Upon seeing Romeo at Capulet's feast, he cries out,
This, by his voice, should be a Montague.
Fetch me my rapier, boy. What dares the slave
Come hither, cover'd with an antic face,
To fleer and scorn at our solemnity?
Now, by the stock and honour of my kin,
To strike him dead, I hold it not a sin.
Although Tybalt does not, in the end, fight with Romeo, this is only because Capulet asserts his authority with equal violence and forbids him to do so. Capulet is not particularly tolerant. His treatment of Juliet later in the play is violent and tyrannical. However, even he does not want a party at his house to turn into a bloodbath, an outcome for which Tybalt is perfectly prepared. Tybalt's language is always furious, and the rhyming couplet at the end of this speech lends a sense of finality to his decision to kill Romeo.
Mercutio is not as violent as Tybalt, but he does show how disgraceful a peaceful attitude is for a young gentleman in Verona by his appalled reaction when Romeo tries to placate Tybalt:
O calm, dishonourable, vile submission!
Alla stoccata carries it away.
Tybalt, you rat-catcher, will you walk?
The epithets he applies to Romeo's conduct and the reference to the fencing move "alla stoccata" show that Mercutio considers this violence that is shortly to end in two deaths as a matter of good form. Romeo, by refusing to be violent, has dishonored himself.