What are 4 examples of dramatic foils in Romeo and Juliet in Acts 3-5

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Character who are foils are effective in literature for highlighting other characters' assets and shortcomings. These foils are usually set against the main personages in a literary work in order to make more pronounced the characteristics of the protagonists and antagonists. However, in Romeo and Juliet, the foil character of Mercutio is such a well-developed and strong character that it seems Shakespeare must kill him off in the third act to keep the focus more on Romeo. 

Here, then, are the foil characters in Acts III-V:

  • Benvolio/Mercutio

Benvolio, whose name is in part Latin for good [bene], has been the one to calm Romeo in an earlier act; however, at the beginning of Act III, it is, ironically, the volatile Mercutio who attempts to diffuse the heat:

Come, come, thou art as hot a Jack in thy mood as any in Italy, and as soon moved to be moody, and as soon moody to be moved.  (3.1.9-10)

  • Mercutio/Romeo; Romeo/Tybalt

After Romeo comes upon the scene as Mercutio becomes heated in his words with the fiery Tybalt, Romeo steps between them and then tries to diffuse the tension by placing himself before Mercutio and by telling Tybalt that he has no argument against him:

I do protest I never injured thee,
But love thee better than thou canst devise...(3.1.56)

And, although Romeo urges Benvolio to break up the fight with his sword, Tybalt surreptitiously stabs Mercutio, fatally injuring him. Mercutio berates Romeo jokingly at first and then seriously for having caused his fatal injury.

  • Benvolio/Romeo

After Mercutio dies and the enraged Romeo kills Tybalt, Romeo bemoans his misfortune, but Benvolio urges him to flee lest the Prince condemn him to death for his action against the recent law against feuding: "Romeo, away, be gone!" (3.1.94)

  • Juliet/Nurse

Juliet remains loyal to her husband while the Nurse cries out "Shame come to Romeo!" (3.2.91)

  • Friar Laurence/Romeo

Friar Laurence is the voice of maturity against the weeping of Romeo. He tells Romeo when Romeo pulls out his dagger in despair,

Hold thy desperate hand
Art thou a man? Thy form cries out thou art. (3.3.108-109)

  • Friar Laurence/ Juliet

Again, Friar Laurence is the voice of maturity as Juliet comes to him is desperation and he devises a plan to give him a few days in order to fix some of the family problems. 

Friar Laurence.  And if thou darest, I'll give thee remedy
Juliet.               Oh, bid me leap, rather than marry Paris. 
                        From off the battlements of yonder tower.... (4.2.76-78)

  • Romeo/Paris

Paris comes to pay respectful homage to Juliet; Romeo to visit his dead love and to join her in death as he has poison. When Paris starts to enter and then challenges Romeo as a felon, the fiery Romeo slays him.

Paris.   I do defy thy conjurations
            And apprehend thee for a felon here.
Romeo  Wilt thou provoke me? Then have at thee, boy! (5.3.69-70)

Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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afowler4 | Student
  • Tybalt can be referred to as a Dramatic Foil for Benvolio. Through Tybalt's aggressive attitude, we see the peaceful manner of Benvolio.
  • Mercutio is outgoing and easy-going as well. Romeo is in love and not as outgoing. When Romeo is interacting with Mercutio you easily notice Romeo's seriousness.
  • The nurse is blunt, a mother to Juliet and concerned only with the happiness and safety of the girl. By her motherly love for Juliet, we are made more aware of Romeo's passionate love for her.

There's four natalie lol