References to Pride & Honour in Romeo & Juliet

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Quote| Character| Situation| What it tells us about the character| What it tells us about the action of the scene| References to historical & cultural features

Men’s eyes were made to look and let them gaze; I will not budge for no man’s pleasure, I.| Mercutio| Act 3, Scene 1, at a public place, Tybalt has appeared and has asked to speak with either Benvolio or Mercutio. Mercutio starts teasing Tybalt on purpose. Benvolio points out that they are in audience of the public and should reason in private.| Mercutio is not about to take into consideration what others may think of him. He will not hold his tongue for anyone and spare onlookers nothing for the sake of “decency”. He refuses to keep in check just because someone may be watching. He calls things as he sees them and is not ashamed to make it clear. He sees no reason to hide.| Benvolio’s comment tells us that Mercutio’s loudness and ridiculing is frowned upon when demonstrated in public. | Back then the way you behaved in public was important and there were things that were frowned upon when displayed without care or consideration. There was a way to go about every kind of business and this is exactly the norm that Mercutio swatted away as a bother to adhere to. People did not want to be witnesses of others’ personal business since they did not want onlookers either.

O calm, dishonourable, vile submission! Alla stoccata carries it away. Tybalt, you rat-catcher, will you walk?| Mercutio| Act 3, Scene 1, at a public place, Tybalt has accused Romeo of being a villain and has challenged him to a duel. Romeo has not only answered Tybalt’s verbal assault with flattery, but he has refused to draw his sword to the duel. This angers Mercutio.| Although he refuses to bow his head to suit the public, Mercutio shows himself a loyal supporter of defending ones personal honour when challenged. He finds Romeo’s calm reaction to Tybalt a “dishonour” and clearly, by his scales, this kind of behaviour is unacceptable.| Tybalt’s challenge obviously precedes a fight. When Romeo refuses, it sends the public into an even more anticipating state since Tybalt’s actions cannot be foretold and Mercutio clearly thinks differently from Romeo.| In England at the time, impugning a man’s honour, questioning his courage or his name was considered occasion enough to be challenged. Fighting a duel would allow the man to amend the wrong or injury done to him. It was a common belief that life was not worth living without honour and it was noble to die defending it. “Mine honour is my life, both grow in one; Take honour from me, and my life is done;” - Richard II

What dares the slave come hither, cover’d with an antic face, to fleer and score at our solemnity? | Tybalt| Act 1, Scene 5, at the masked ball hosted by the Capulets at their home. Tybalt has spotted Romeo at the ball| Tybalt finds it cheeky that Romeo would appear at a Capulet’s ball. It is not something he can comprehend since their families are long-time enemies.| The festivities are not distraction enough for Tybalt’s agitation. Romeo, on the other hand, finds the festivities distraction enough to not worry about the hosts and the same goes for the hosts themselves. Tybalt seems to be the only potential cause of conflict.

Uncle, this is a Montague, our foe, a villain that is hither come in spite, to scorn our solemnity this night.| Tybalt| Act 1, Scene 5, at the masked ball hosted by the Capulets at their home. Upon seeing Romeo, he is now discussing the matter with his uncle, the head of the Capulet family.| Tybalt decides that Romeo has arrived for the sole purpose of humiliating them. He is fast to jump to conclusions that justify and flare his anger and can focus on nothing else. He is hot-headed and irrational.| Tybalt only sees his need to defend pride but Capulet has other priorities set. Again, the audience is steered to expect Tybalt to be the main cause of future conflict but for now...
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