From the outset of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, it is evident that the contrast between Tybalt and Benvolio is stark. Tybalt is the nephew of Lady Capulet and is arrogant. He is hot-tempered and quick to start fights, which he enjoys immensely. His egotistical approach toward other...
From the outset of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, it is evident that the contrast between Tybalt and Benvolio is stark. Tybalt is the nephew of Lady Capulet and is arrogant. He is hot-tempered and quick to start fights, which he enjoys immensely. His egotistical approach toward other characters is bolstered by the fact that he is an excellent swordsman.
Contrarily, Benvolio is Romeo’s cousin and Montague’s nephew. Unlike Tybalt, he is an easy-going peacemaker, prone to resolving disputes to avoid violence. Benvolio is a humble, unassuming, and good-natured man, who is readily identified as the opposite of Tybalt and his explosive personality.
The Montagues and Capulets are sworn enemies. As demonstrated in act 1 of the play, servants of the feuding families begin fighting in the city square in Verona over exchanged insults. When Benvolio draws his sword in a good-faith attempt to prevent the dispute, Tybalt immediately attacks him, sparking a violent riot.
Another example of contrast between the characters takes place when Romeo, Benvolio, and their quick-witted friend Mercutio disguise themselves at the Capulet ball. When Tybalt recognizes Romeo’s voice, his first impulse is to draw his sword and attack, but he is restrained by Lord Capulet.
In act 3, a chance meeting in the public square finds Tybalt insulting Romeo and challenging him to a duel. Romeo refuses the duel and instead shows kindness and respect for Tybalt. When Mercutio takes up the challenge on Romeo’s behalf, Tybalt kills him. Romeo feels honor-bound to avenge his friend’s death, challenges Tybalt, and kills him.
Tybalt’s fiery personality, coupled with his rash and impulsive actions, not only results in his own death: the slaying of Juliet’s cousin by Romeo also catapults the genre from a comedy to a tragedy. Shakespeare makes it obvious that Benvolio's pacifistic approach toward his enemies and other characters could have prevented tragedy for the warring families.