The division William Shakespeare creates in his classic tragedy Romeo & Juliet between the Montagues and the Capulets is as polar and extreme as they come. The feud between their two families lies at the centre of the fated ending. At the heart of those events as they unfold are…
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In addition, they play key roles in precipitating the tragedy that befalls the lovers. However, even though Tybalt and Mercutio provide a foil for characters that are rather similar, their two characters represent almost two entirely different spheres of existence in terms of their essential natures.
The most direct contrast of their characters comes in the tense interaction between Mercutio and Tybalt in Act 3 Scene 1 before Romeo arrives. Tybalt arrives and after Mercutio offers a witty quip, the Capulet immediately states his willingness to fight with swords instead of words (III,i,36-50). But Mercutio, the gifted artisan of language, stands his ground in an exchange with Tybalt and will not budge, even though this feud is now taking place in the public space. This difference in the two characters demeanours is the most noticeable throughout the play, given the instrumental role Tybalt’s sword will have on the plot structure—leading to Mercutio’s death and Romeo’s subsequent exile. But by mocking emotions and aspirations of other characters, Mercutio lightens the play with clever humour, contrasted with the almost infuriatingly solemnity of the malevolent Tybalt. And as a man with a more cynical perspective on human affairs, Mercutio allows the audience to see deeper through psychology. Tybalt, on the other hand, exemplifies simplicity and dimensionless action.
In terms of a contrast, there remains also the issue of both characters’ worldviews and choices in the narrative structure of the tragedy. Mercutio, unlike other characters, refuses to blame an objective fate for the occurrences in the play, exemplified by such concepts as “star-cross’d lovers” (Prologue, 6). Instead, Mercutio lays the blame for the tragedy (in terms of events already taken place and those that will take place) on specific people rather than the hand of fate. In his view, the fault lays with the
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