Why does Shakespeare introduce two very different characters in Benvolio and Tybalt in Act 1, Scene 1 of "Romeo and Juliet"?

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asorrell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Benvolio and Tybalt are foils.  This means that the two characters are almost opposites and as a result this highlights their differences.  In the first Act, Benvolio is the peacemaker.  He tries to stop the fight between the servents.  Tybalt is the complete opposite.  He looks for fights.  He's often portrayed as angry and brash. 

Benvolio also seems to understand the consequences of characters' actions and thinks before making a decision.  Tybalt acts immediately and his decisions are usually based only on emotion and not always on common sense. 

This characteristics go beyond the first scene as well.  If you remember during the party scene, Tybalt is angry that Romeo is at the party.  He's insulted and wants to fight, but Capulet tells him not to do anything.  He doesn't want his party ruined and doesn't feel that Romeo is really causing any harm. 


malibrarian eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the most important themes of this play is the feud between the two houses, Montague and Capulet.  It is this feud that ultimately leads to the deaths of the young lovers because they feel that they have to hide their love from their parents, who would never approve of their children marrying into the enemy household.  Shakespeare sets the stage (so to speak) for the rest of the play by introducing this family feud at the very beginning of Act 1, showing us feuding servants then feuding family members - Benvolio, a Montague, and Tybalt, a Capulet.

This feud - the unreasonable hatred between two families - is ultimately the best antithesis (opposite) to contrast with the unreasonable, passionate love between Romeo and Juliet.

Check the links below for information about both Benvolio and Tybalt, as well as information about the storyline itself.  Good luck! 

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Romeo and Juliet

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