Discussion Topic

Character traits and philosophies of Romeo, Benvolio, and Mercutio in their relationships

Summary:

Romeo is passionate and impulsive, often led by his emotions in his relationships. Benvolio is rational and peace-loving, always trying to diffuse conflicts and maintain harmony. Mercutio is witty and skeptical, often mocking love and relationships with a cynical perspective. Together, their contrasting traits and philosophies create a dynamic interplay in their interactions with each other and other characters.

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In Act 1 of Romeo and Juliet, what are the personality traits of Mercutio and Benvolio?

I have changed this to Act I, as Mercutio does not appear in the first scene. Benvolio, who does appear in scene 1, comes across as a pragmatist: he tries to avoid a fight with the hot-blooded Tybalt, although he fights him when he has no choice. Benvolio is a problem-solver: he tells Romeo's father that he will find out why Romeo is mooning about. When he discovers it's because of unrequited love for a woman who insists on staying chaste, Benvolio takes a practical approach, telling Romeo there are plenty of other fish in the sea. While Romeo throws himself body and soul into love, the down-to-earth Benvolio advises him to "examine other beauties." Benvolio is invested in his world and the people around him, a social being, but not one to get too worked up into unnecessary passions.

Mercutio appears in scene four. He's the poet and wordsmith: he has a way with words, revels in wordplay and willingly engages in debating about love with Romeo. Mercutio's high-spirited personality will have none of Romeo's lovesick mooning. Instead, he tells Romeo that if love is rough on him, he should be rough on love. Mercutio shows his impatience, urging them twice to get on to the party. Finally, he's the storyteller, the person who keeps others entertained, as he does with a long, fanciful tale about Queen Mab, the fairy queen, as they head to the Capulets'. He shows his imaginative spirit as well as his way with words as he weaves a detailed picture of the tiny Queen with her whip of cricket's bone and her wagon driver as a gray-coated gnat. If Benvolio is the prosaic, steady friend, Mercutio is the quick-witted life of the party who it's hard not to love.

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In Act 1 of Romeo and Juliet, what are the personality traits of Mercutio and Benvolio?

By interrupting the fight that's underway, Benvolio shows he has balance and some control of his temper. By giving in to Tybalt's challenge (and fighting), he shows that this control of temper is limited, and that he's still ruled by honor and pride. He also shows that he can talk a good line; when the Montagues ask what is going on, he explains in smooth and seamless lines, showing he can regain focus quickly. Finally, by his exchanges with Romeo, he shows affection, skepticism, and a bit of humor.

Mercutio does not appear in this scene.

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What traits and philosophies do Romeo, Benvolio, and Mercutio represent in their relationships?

In Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Romeo, Benvolio and Mercutio have a close relationship, although they are very different in personality and temperament. Romeo is a passionate lover and often acts impetuously. He rarely takes time to reflect on his feelings. Rather, he indulges in what he desires. Benvolio is level headed and a peacemaker. He usually gives good advice and is a loyal friend. Mercutio is a cynic and a fighter. He is sometimes quick tempered and belligerent.

Romeo is a lover who wears his heart on his sleeve. When he is first introduced, he is moody and depressed about his unreciprocated love for Rosaline. He bears his soul to Benvolio about his feelings in Act I, Scene 1:

Griefs of mine own lie heavy in my breast,
Which thou wilt propagate to have it pressed
With more of thine. This love that thou hast shown
Doth add more grief to too much of mine own.
Romeo's depression, however, doesn't last long. When he first sees Juliet he forgets all about Rosaline. His temperament is mercurial as he instantly falls for the daughter of Capulet. One glance and he is in love. He says in Act I, Scene 5,
O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
As a rich jewel in an Ethiop’s ear—
Beauty too rich for use, for Earth too dear.
Of course, his impetuous nature gets him in trouble. He rushes into marriage and then can't control himself after Tybalt kills Mercutio. He condemns himself to suicide on the word of a servant and doesn't consult with those who are wiser.   Benvolio is a good friend and, although he is loyal to the Montagues, he has sense enough to avoid fighting. In Act I, Scene 1, he tries to break up the fight between the servants. Later in that scene he is a good friend to Romeo when he advises his cousin to move on from his failed love for Rosaline. And, in Act III, Scene 1, he is again the peacemaker as he urges Mercutio to get off the street:
I pray thee, good Mercutio, let’s retire.
The day is hot, the Capels are abroad,
And if we meet we shall not ’scape a brawl,
For now, these hot days, is the mad blood stirring.
As his name suggests, Benvolio is good (the Latin root "ben" means good). He is loyal, honest and sensible. Unfortunately, his words often fall on deaf ears.   Mercutio is volatile. Soon after he is introduced, he launches into his Queen Mab speech. The speech reveals a preoccupation with both sex and violence. Throughout the play, Mercutio makes bawdy jokes, especially in the scene with the nurse. He also displays a violent nature in Act III, Scene 1 when he fights Tybalt. The audience may be believe that Mercutio is only standing up for Romeo but Mercutio is also anxious to match swords with Tyblat. He suggests such in Act II, Scene 4 as he goes on about dueling:
More than prince of cats. O, he’s the courageous
captain of compliments. He fights as you sing
prick-song, keeps time, distance, and proportion.
He rests his minim rests, one, two, and the third in
your bosom—the very butcher of a silk button, a
duelist, a duelist, a gentleman of the very first house
of the first and second cause. Ah, the immortal
passado, the punto reverso, the hay!
Mercutio also has a great wit. What other character would make jokes about their own death? To the very end, he is displaying his humor and cynicism as he puns on the word "grave" and at the same time condemns the feud:
No, ’tis not so deep as a well, nor so wide as
a church door, but ’tis enough. ’Twill serve. Ask for
me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man. I
am peppered, I warrant, for this world. A plague o’
both your houses!
 
 

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