What are the characteristics of Benvolio and Romeo's friendship based on their conversation in Act 1, Scene 1 of Romeo and Juliet?

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scarletpimpernel | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Before Romeo first appears in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, the audience knows from Benvolio's conversation with Romeo's father that Romeo and he share a relationship much like brothers possess. When Lord Montague questions Benvolio about Romeo's whereabouts and recent glum demeanor, Benvolio readily reports that he passed Romeo early that morning but could tell that Romeo was not interested in talking; thus, the two went their separate ways. Benvolio is not offended by what would seem like a snubbing to others; rather, he knows his friend well enough to know that he needs space and leaves him alone.

Later, when Benvolio meets up with Romeo, the title character trusts Benvolio enough that he immediately begins talking about his troubled love life. From this conversation, Shakespeare provides several characteristics of the young men's friendship.

  1. Romeo and Benvolio show significant empathy toward one another. When Romeo confesses that he is "out" of love and that it is a hopeless case, Benvolio tells Romeo that his heartache will drive him (Benvolio) to tears. This compounds Romeo's sadness, and he confesses, 
    "This love that thou hast shown / Doth add more grief to too much of mine own" (1.1.188-89). 
    While he seems to appreciate Benvolio's sympathy, Romeo is doubly upset that he has saddened his friend.
  2. The conversation also illustrates that Benvolio is Romeo's confidant. As Benvolio presses Romeo for more information about Rosalind, he praises her beauty and perfection and then admits that she is completely unreachable because she has "forsworn to love" in order to remain pure (1.1.225). Romeo is not embarrassed to tell Benvolio that a woman has chosen virginity over him because he knows that his friend will not make fun of him.
  3. Finally, Benvolio is Romeo's loyal counselor. He recognizes that his friend is truly demoralized and advises him to get over Rosalind by examining "other beauties" (1.1.230). Romeo reluctantly agrees to act upon his friend's counsel, and instead of judging Romeo for his melodramatic state, Benvolio makes it his mission to find Romeo another love or to die trying.
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