Masculinity in Romeo and Juliet
Masculinity, during William Shakespeare’s time, had many different and opposing sides. The battle between the opposing sides of masculinity ultimately causes the death of many of the young male figures in the play. Mercutio is a scene-stealer and one of the most memorable characters in all of William Shakespeare’s works. It is through the character of Mercutio, with his wild words and raging bravado that Shakespeare constructs his ideal of masculinity. Mercutio punctures the romantic sentiments and self-love that exists in the play. This notion of Mercutio’s masculinity is also favoured as Romeo is portrayed as gentle, unpredictable and whereas to Tybalt’s volatile and violent actions. He mocks Romeo’s self indulgence just as he ridicules Tybalt’s hauteur and adherence to fashion. Mercutio acts with a great deal of negative pride when he challenges Tybalt. Mercutio’s haughty pride made him feel that Romeo should not submit to Tybalt’s harassment, but he had not challenged Tybalt and instead walked away from the fight, he would have remained alive if he hadn’t walked away.
Romeo is not a typical male protagonist, as he is romantic, in touch with his feelings and is comfortable embracing his so-called feminine side. His friends often mock him for doing so. And, his enemies call into question his bravery and worthiness of a man. When Tybalt asks Romeo to “turn and draw”, Romeo tries to overcome this aggression with compassion explaining that, “the reason I have to love the” allows him to forgive the insults of the words “Villain” and “Boy” that Tybalt throws at him (act 3, scene 1). Romeo challenges this idea of masculinity and is described with more feminine and submissive qualities. When with Juliet in scenes, his male role is progressively weakened. However these qualities that make him uniquely Romeo are what drew Juliet towards him to shine in strength and combine her heart with his.
Tybalt Capulet really enjoys fighting. He enjoys drawing his sword any time he can. He particularly hates the Montague family. In William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Tybalt is the nephew of Lord Capulet and Juliet’s older cousin. The skilful swordsman is tough, arrogant and a violent character that is always looking for conflict. “This, by his voice, should be a Montague. Fetch me my rapier, boy. What dares the slave? Come hither covered 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”(Act 1 Scene 5). However, Tybalt is dependable beyond words and honours the family rivalry amongst the Capulets and the Montagues with great heart. Tybalt is a hot-headed, faithful swordsman who thinks that he is protecting the Capulet name. Tybalt’s rage and quick temper results not only in his own death, but also the death of Mercutio. Therefore William Shakespeare does not favour Tybalt as his ideal male in the Elizabethan times.