How would you describe Benvolio's role in Act 3, Scene 1 of Romeo and Juliet?

Benvolio's role is to be the voice of reason. He tries to convince Mercutio not to fight, but is unsuccessful Later in the scene, he tells the truth about Mercutio and Tybalt's deaths, but his testimony is ineffective.

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In act 1, scene of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Benvolio tries to separate servants of the Capulets and the Montagues who have begun a brawl in the streets of Verona.

BENVOLIO. Part, fools!
He beats down their swords.
Put up your swords. You know not what you do. (1.1.59-60)

Not only is Benvolio unsuccessful in separating the combatants, but Benvolio himself becomes involved in a sword fight with Tybalt.

In act 3, scene 1, Benvolio steps in between Tybalt and Mercutio who appear ready to cause another brawl in the streets.

BENVOLIO. We talk here in the public haunt of men.
Either withdraw unto some private place
And reason coldly of your grievances,
Or else depart. Here all eyes gaze on us. (3.1.49-52)

Benvolio makes no further attempts to act as peacemaker in the scene. In fact, Benvolio does nothing, even when Romeo calls out to him to intervene between Tybalt and Mercutio later in the scene.

ROMEO. Draw, Benvolio; beat down their weapons. (3.1.84)

In the confusion of Romeo stepping in between Mercutio and Tybalt, Mercutio is fatally wounded, and Benvolio has nothing to say except to ask Mercutio, "What, art thou hurt?" (3.1.92). Tybalt runs away. Benvolio helps Mercutio out of the street, and returns a minute later to say that Mercutio is dead. Tybalt returns—"Here comes the furious Tybalt back again," says Benvolio (at 3.1.122)—but Benvolio does nothing to prevent or intervene in a sword fight between Tybalt and Romeo that results in Tybalt's death.

In the role of peacemaker, Benvolio is notably, and, as regards Mercutio and Tybalt, fatally ineffective. Benvolio is far more effective at cleaning up the mess left by the two deadly sword fights. He first orders Romeo to run away, to avoid Romeo being arrested by the Prince's men and condemned to death by the Prince.

He then lies to the Prince about what occurred by blaming Tybalt for the fight with Mercutio, even though Mercutio instigated the fight and was at least equally at fault for the fray. Benvolio also tells the Prince that he stepped in to try to prevent the fight between Romeo and Tybalt—which he didn't—but he neglects to mention that he told Romeo to run away.

BENVOLIO. ...And, as he [Tybalt] fell, did Romeo turn and fly.
This is the truth, or let Benvolio die. (3.1.179-180)

There's no one left alive or otherwise still on the scene to contradict Benvolio, so he's fairly safe in swearing on his own life that his story is true. In any event, Benvolio's version of events results in Romeo being banished from Verona by the Prince instead of being executed for Tybalt's death.

It's interesting to note that Benvolio doesn't appear again in the play, and his name isn't even spoken again, although some directors bring Benvolio back with the other characters who assemble at Juliet's tomb at the end of the play. Interesting, too, is that in the first quarto version of Romeo and Juliet, published in 1597—often called the "bad quarto," much like the first quarto of Hamlet is called the "bad quarto"—Benvolio dies.

LORD MONTAGUE. [to the Prince] Dread Sovereign, my wife is dead tonight,
And young Benvolio is deceased too... (Q1, 5.3.233-234)

No cause or reason is given for Benvolio's death, but this might explain why he doesn't appear again after act 3, scene 1 in subsequent versions of the play. Then again, perhaps it's just a "bad quarto."

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In this scene, Mercutio is out with Benvolio. Mercutio is spoiling for a fight, but Benvolio is trying to persuade him to to return home. In the scene, Benvolio is a peacemaker, a voice of reason. Later, after the deaths of Mercutio and Tybalt, Benvolio is a witness, and he faithfully recounts to the Prince the events of the fight.

Benvolio's peacefulness is contrasted greatly with Mercutio and Tybalt's need to fight. The scene suggests that the desire for the Montagues and Capulets to kill each other is far greater than any appeal to reason. Benvolio is naturally cool-headed, in the same way that Mercutio is always spoiling for a fight. Mercutio, in fact, makes fun of Benvolio by scolding him about his temper. Mercutio accuses Benvolio of being the quickest to anger of anyone, willing to fight over the smallest trifles. He's joking of course, and Benvolio is not offended.

Benvolio's level-headedness is unable to prevent tragedy, however. Mercutio is killed while he and Romeo attempt to break up the fight. And even though he tells the truth to the Prince about h9e Mercutio and Tybalt died, after he is still called a liar by Lady Capulet. In the world of Romeo and Juliet, passion is more powerful than reason.

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In William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet Benvolio appears throughout act 3, scene 1. Early in the scene he tries to prevent violence from occurring between Mercutio and Tybalt. Once Mercutio is killed, his function changes somewhat. He is the character that warns Romeo that Tybalt is returning. When Romeo vengefully kills Tybalt, he advises him to escape to save his own skin:

Romeo, away, begone!

The citizens are up, and Tybalt slain.

Stand not amazed. The Prince will doom thee death

If thou art taken. Hence, begone, away.

Once the Prince arrives, Benvolio’s function changes to that of explainer. He tells the Prince what happened and how Tybalt and Mercutio were killed. Perhaps it is surprising that he does not try to deflect blame from Romeo as he accurately describes Romeo’s involvement, saying that he:

Had newly entertained revenge.

By using the character of Benvolio this way, Shakespeare is able to clearly present the plot situation to the audience. They know that Romeo has fled for his life and that he will be a marked man in Verona. This establishes the idea that he cannot just stroll back into town later on to be with Juliet. Instead they must devise a secret plan, which goes awry, resulting in the young lovers’ deaths.

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Benvolio is generally a stabilizing force.  He tries to avoid fights.  In this scene, he is not successful.

In Act 3, Scene 1, Benvolio wants to go inside because it is hot.  He really wants to go inside to avoid any fights.  Mercutio teases him, thinking that he really does want to start a fight.

An I were so apt to quarrel as thou art, any man

should buy the fee simple of my life for an hour and a

quarter. (Act 3, Scene 1, p. 61)

Mercutio thinks it’s fun to talk about fighting, and Benvolio enters the conversation in a witty and good natured way.

Benvolio tries to warn Mercutio that Tybalt, a Capulet, has come in.  Mercutio says he doesn’t care, but there is soon an altercation.  Benvolio tries to stop it.

We talk here in the public haunt of men.

Either withdraw unto some private place(50)

And reason coldly of your grievances,

Or else depart. Here all eyes gaze on us. (Act 3, Scene 1, p. 61)

It doesn’t work.  Soon, Tybalt and Mercutio are fighting and Romeo tries to break up the fight.  His intervention causes Tybalt to kill Mercutio, and Romeo kills Tybalt.  This causes Romeo’s banishment.

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