Benvolio and Tybalt come upon the servants fighting. Contrast their reactions to the fight in Romeo and Juliet.

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Jean Melek eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Benvolio and Tybalt are foil characters.  They are both male, around the same age.  Benvolio is Romeo's cousin, Tybalt is Juliet's cousin.  When we first see them in Act I, scene i they have come upon a street scene with the servants fighting.  Their respective reactions to the fight help the viewer define who these characters really are and predict how they will react to future events.

When Benvolio sees the fight, he attempts to break it up.  He seeks peace either because he is a peaceful person or he fears the consequences of the fight.  When Tybalt appears Benvolio asks him to help bring peace.  Tybalt answers, "Peace?  I hate the word.  As I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee."  Instead of breaking up the fight, he adds to its violence which leads to the proclamation later by the Prince.

In this initial scene Shakespeare sets the mood of the play.  Tension and violence will be present throughout.  Benvolio will try to lessen it; Tybalt will add to it.  This part of the scene is quickly followed by Romeo and Benvolio's discussion of love, so the whole love/hate thing is established from the very beginning of the play.

wannam eNotes educator| Certified Educator
Benvolio's reaction is somewhat appalled at the fighting. He begs the men "put up your sword, you know not what you do." I might point out that both of these lines can be found spoken by Jesus in the Bible. The people watching the play during Shakespeare's time would have recognized these words. These words show the audience that Benvolio is gentle, kind, and wishes for peace. Tybalt, on the other hand, is quite the opposite. He responds to Benvolio by telling him that he hates the word "peace, as I hate hell, all montages, and thee." Tybalt is violent, unforgiving, and quick to anger. His attitude will continue to draw a sharp contrast to Benvolio's for the duration of the play.
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Romeo and Juliet

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