Saw this as a Google search term in my logs today, thought it was interesting. Not exactly two words I tend to put together, empathy and Tybalt. Am I missing something? Is he not the classic example of everything that is wrong with this sort of situation? The whole “We hate each other and nobody can seem to remember why….but I don’t really care, I don’t need a reason” type of character? Maybe there’s something to this. Let’s look where we see him: Jumping into a fight in the very first scene. Not, like Benvolio, trying to stop it. Heck, Tybalt doesn’t know how it started or who started it, he just sees swords drawn and wants in on the action. Later he’s willing to ruin Capulet’s party by starting a fight in the middle of it. Maybe, *maybe* we can start to side with him here a little if you truly believe that he’s defending his family honor, that he believes Romeo is there to ruin the fun. We know it’s not the case, but part of empathy is being able to see things through other people’s eyes. Next up, he challenges Romeo to a duel. This is just logical behavior for him, as predictable as Laertes coming after Claudius to avenge Polonius’ death. In Tybalt’s world, if you are dishonored, you challenge the person to a duel. Primitive by today’s standards? Sure. But he’s not acting by today’s standards. Here’s where it gets interesting, because of Romeo’s reaction to the challenge. Tybalt doesn’t know it, but Romeo is now his family (having secretly married Juliet). So Romeo showers him with love like a brother. What’s going through Tybalt’s head? Obviously he thinks he’s being mocked. Here he is trying to do the right and honorable thing to do, reclaiming his honor (although much like the bad guy in Karate Kid II (Ralph Macchio Goes To Japan) he never seems to realize that he is the one costing them their honor, not restoring it). Had Mercutio not been in the picture, things might have turned out differently. Tybalt might have declared Romeo a lunatic and refused to battle. Instead – Mercutio drew first. Don’t forget that. Mercutio did not defend Romeo from harm. It was Mercutio who basically attacked Tybalt unprovoked (we can do “empathy for Mercutio” later). Well, we all know what happens next, Tybalt gets in the lucky (cheap?) shot, Mercutio dies. How’s that play out for Tybalt, though? Does anybody think Tybalt was actually trying to kill him? Or was it an accident? It was a dirty blow, no doubt about it, but that doesn’t mean it was supposed to be a killing one.
I think here’s it’s strictly up to interpretation. Back in the Zeffirelli version it was played out more like “kids taking things too far” – but in the Luhrman version with Jon Leguizamo, Tybalt *is* physically beating Romeo, and Mercutio’s rescue is much different. They really are trying to kill each other:
What do you think?