Discussion Topic

Character contrasts and similarities among Benvolio, Mercutio, and Romeo in Romeo and Juliet


Benvolio, Mercutio, and Romeo contrast in their approaches to conflict and love. Benvolio is peace-loving and rational, Mercutio is witty and hot-headed, while Romeo is passionate and impulsive. However, they share loyalty and a strong bond of friendship. Their differing perspectives provide a comprehensive view of the themes of love and conflict in Romeo and Juliet.

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In Romeo and Juliet, act 1, scenes 1-4, how do Benvolio and Mercutio differ?

The reader can definitely see differences between Benvolio and Mercutio in their behavior in Act 1, scenes 1 – 4 of “Romeo and Juliet”.  First, Benvolio seems to be more of a pacifist than Mercutio; in scene 1, Benvolio does not want to fight Tyblat and the Capulets but is given no choice.  If put in the same position, Mercutio would have probably began the brawl instead of letting Tyblat start it.  Benvolio also seems to be a good listener and a caring friend to Romeo.  At the end of scene 1 and during scene 2, Benvolio listens to Romeo’s problem and even offers a solution – that they sould go to the Capulet’s party so that Romeo will forget about Rosaline and find a girl who is better for him.  Mercutio is introduced in scene 4 and from the very beginning we can tell that he is more concerned with himself than with Romeo and his problems.  The best example of this is when Romeo tells Mercutio that he “…dreamt a dream…”.  Mercutio basically responds to Romeo by telling him that he does not really want to hear about the dream because he knows exactly what he is going to tell him – this response by Mercutio is his “Quenn Mab” speech.

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What differences between Romeo and Benvolio are evident in Act 2, Scene 1 of Romeo and Juliet?

A conversation between Romeo and Benvolio does not actually take place in Act 2, Scene 1. On the contrary, Romeo actually only has two lines in this scene, and, instead, a conversation between Benvolio and Mercutio takes place. So perhaps you meant to ask about Act 1, Scene 1 in which we see Romeo and Benvolio conversing about Romeo's broken heart over Rosaline.

However, one thing we do see based on the things that Benvolio says to Mercutio about Romeo in Act 2, Scene 1 is that Benvolio strongly disagrees with Romeo's take on love. Romeo sees love as a powerful emotion that he can allow himself to be overtaken by. Benvolio, on the other hand, is far more practical and wishes Romeo would gain more control of himself. We especially see this internal conflict between Romeo and Benvolio when in this scene Romeo climbs the garden wall, claiming he can't possibly return home when his heart is here at Capulet's house. In contrast, Benvolio is quite put out by the fact that Romeo has disappeared in pursuit of his love interests. We see Benvolio ridicule Romeo's behavior when he states that Romeo has hidden among the trees to nurse his amorous feelings in the night. He also states that since Romeo's "love is blind," his love is best hidden in the night, as we see in Benvolio's lines:

Come, he hath hid himself among these trees
To be consorted with the humorous night.
Blind is his love and best befits the dark. (II.i.32-34)

However, we even more strongly see the differences between Benvolio and Romeo with respect to views on love in their lengthy conversation in Act 1, Scene 1. Here, Romeo goes on and on about how brokenhearted he is and how much he feels that love is torture. Romeo clearly believes that it is perfectly fine to allow oneself to be carried away by one's emotions. However, Benvolio is far more rational and sees things differently. We especially see this when Benvolio begs Romeo to listen to his advice and forget about Rosaline, as we see in Benvolio's line, "Be rul'd by me: forget to think of her" (I.i.227). Benvolio is telling Romeo to use his rational self rather than his emotional self. However, Romeo refuses to be counseled and only replies that he can't possibly forget how to think.

Hence, one significant difference we see between Benvolio and Romeo is that Romeo is irrational and prefers to be guided by emotions, while Benvolio is far more rational, preferring be guided by sound thoughts.

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How are Benvolio and Mercutio similar in Romeo and Juliet?

Benvolio is considered to be more of a dramatic foil to Mercutio. A dramatic foil is a character that brings out the exact opposite character traits of a second character, thereby emphasizing those traits. Benvolio is Mercutio's dramatic foil because while Mercutio is extremely hotheaded, impetuous, and rash, Benvolio is one of the most calm, rational characters of the play; he is even one of the play's peacekeepers. However, while they are for the most part opposite characters, they do share the similarity of both being genuinely friends with and caring for Romeo.

We especially see their mutual friendship with Romeo in the fourth scene in Act 1 in which they try to persuade Romeo to join them in crashing the ball. While Mercutio acts more playfully, treating Romeo's heartache as a joke and Benvolio is more serious, both seem genuinely concerned about their friend's emotional state and want to see him set aside his feelings of pining for Rosaline. We especially see Mercutio's concern for Romeo's well-being when Romeo says that he is feeling too heavy to go dancing at a party and Mercutio replies, "Nay, gentle Romeo, we must have you dance" (I.iv.14). We also see Mercutio taking Romeo's feelings more lightly than Benvolio, treating them as a joke, when he tells Romeo to be rough with love and to "prick love for pricking," both of which statements can be viewed as sexual innuendos (28-29). In contrast, Benvolio acts more seriously in this scene, each line encouraging Romeo to give in and join them at the Capulets'. Prior to this scene, we see Benvolio genuinely acting concerned for Romeo's welfare, even begging him to forget about Rosaline. In addition, crashing the ball along with Mercutio, who was invited as relation of Capulet's, was Benvolio's idea as he thought it would give Romeo a chance to compare Rosaline to other beautiful women, thus distracting him from her.

Hence, while Mercutio and Benvolio are generally considered opposites, they do share friendship with Romeo in common, and genuine concern for his emotional state. 

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What qualities do Mercutio and Benvolio share?

Benvolio and Mercutio are both very loyal to Romeo and the Montagues. Although Benvolio is Romeo's cousin, both he and Mercutio are best friends and confidants to Romeo. Throughout Act I, they both worry about Romeo's melancholy regarding Rosaline. In Act II, they are concerned when Romeo goes off to profess his love to Rosaline.

They are both also involved in the feud between the Montagues and Capulets, even though Mercutio is not part of either family (he is in fact related to the Prince). Mercutio and Benvolio are both negatively affected by the feud and it even takes Mercutio's life in Act III.

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How are Benvolio and Tybalt alike?

In Romeo and Juliet, Benvolio and Tybalt are foils.

Benvolio is a peace-maker, one who tries to part the two families as they brawl in the streets of Verona.  Tybalt, on the other hand, is an instigator and a hot-head; he starts much of the fighting.  The two have a brief exchange in Act I:

Benvolio says:

I do but keep the peace: put up thy sword,
Or manage it to part these men with me.

Tybalt responds:

What, drawn, and talk of peace! I hate the word,
As I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee:
Have at thee, coward!

Both are also foils of Romeo. Romeo will play both roles in Act III.  Now that he is married to a Capulet, Romeo will play the part of Benvolio as peace-maker and try to part Mercutio and Tybalt.  But, after Tybalt kills Mercutio, Romeo will become a hot-head like Tybalt, demanding vengeance.

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