From the outset of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, it is evident that the contrast between Tybalt and Benvolio is stark. Tybalt is the nephew of Lady Capulet and is arrogant. He is hot-tempered and quick to start fights, which he enjoys immensely. His egotistical approach toward other characters is bolstered by the fact that he is an excellent swordsman.
Contrarily, Benvolio is Romeo’s cousin and Montague’s nephew. Unlike Tybalt, he is an easy-going peacemaker, prone to resolving disputes to avoid violence. Benvolio is a humble, unassuming, and good-natured man, who is readily identified as the opposite of Tybalt and his explosive personality.
The Montagues and Capulets are sworn enemies. As demonstrated in act 1 of the play, servants of the feuding families begin fighting in the city square in Verona over exchanged insults. When Benvolio draws his sword in a good-faith attempt to prevent the dispute, Tybalt immediately attacks him, sparking a violent riot.
Another example of contrast between the characters takes place when Romeo, Benvolio, and their quick-witted friend Mercutio disguise themselves at the Capulet ball. When Tybalt recognizes Romeo’s voice, his first impulse is to draw his sword and attack, but he is restrained by Lord Capulet.
In act 3, a chance meeting in the public square finds Tybalt insulting Romeo and challenging him to a duel. Romeo refuses the duel and instead shows kindness and respect for Tybalt. When Mercutio takes up the challenge on Romeo’s behalf, Tybalt kills him. Romeo feels honor-bound to avenge his friend’s death, challenges Tybalt, and kills him.
Tybalt’s fiery personality, coupled with his rash and impulsive actions, not only results in his own death: the slaying of Juliet’s cousin by Romeo also catapults the genre from a comedy to a tragedy. Shakespeare makes it obvious that Benvolio's pacifistic approach toward his enemies and other characters could have prevented tragedy for the warring families.
There could scarcely be two more contrasting characters than Benvolio and Tybalt. Benvolio, whose name appropriately means “goodwill,” is a peacemaker, a young man who wants nothing to do with the violence and bloodshed caused by the bitter, long-standing feud between the Montagues and the Capulets.
Tybalt, on the other hand, is a hot-headed hooligan with a hair-trigger temper who not only fights at the drop of a hat, but actually enjoys it, too. The epic feud between the Montagues and the Capulets only issues in bloodshed because of violent young men like Tybalt. It's simply not in his interests for peace to break out between the two sides.
There's a sense of inevitability, then, about the violent manner of Tybalt's death, struck down by Romeo as revenge for his earlier killing of Romeo's friend Mercutio. Benvolio, in keeping with his character, tried to break things up between Mercutio and Tybalt, but to no effect.
In Benvolio's failure to bring a peaceful resolution, we see just how much power the Montague-Capulet feud exerts over its partisans. That feud has developed a terrible momentum all of its own—so much so that all attempts at peacemaking, no matter how earnest, come to nothing.
In Romeo and Juliet, Benvolio and Tybalt occupy parallel positions as cousins to the two main characters. Benvolio, a Montague, is Romeo’s cousin, while Tybalt is a Capulet and Juliet’s cousin. Their diametrically opposed personalities play key roles in the fights. One difference is that Benvolio also functions as his cousin’s close friend, while Tybalt has limited direct interaction with Juliet. Because Tybalt is bellicose and disregards Benvolio’s pleas for peace, Tybalt not only kills Mercutio, but ultimately ends up dead at Romeo’s hand.
Benvolio is a calm, reasonable young man who constantly tries to act as the peacemaker, saying things like “put up your swords” when he sees a fight about to break out. Tybalt is presented as closer in temperament to the volatile Mercutio. Their similarities lead to the fight that proves fatal to Mercutio. When the feuding Capulets and Montagues meet in the street, at first it looks like Romeo will fight Tybalt, but Romeo steers clear. When it then seems that violence between other youths is unavoidable, Benvolio still tries to be the diplomatic negotiator between Mercutio and Tybalt.
Shakespeare does not imply that Benvolio’s failures cause the escalating violence in the feud. Instead, the hot-headed Tybalt seems to bear more responsibility. Wherever he goes, he seems to be spoiling for a fight. He takes upon himself the role of defending his clan’s honor. On each occasion that Benvolio advocates for peace, Tybalt is all too ready to use his sword. He declares his intent to kill the “villain” Romeo, but the opposite ends up happening. Benvolio’s futile efforts to help Romeo continue after he kills Tybalt. He encourages his cousin to flee, but Romeo later returns to join Juliet.
The most obvious difference between Benvolio and Tybalt is their temperaments. Benvolio is calm and rational, whereas Tybalt is prone to flights of fury. In Act I, Tybalt wants to continue the fight begun by the servants of the Capulet and Montague households, and Benvolio is trying his best to keep the peace. Because of this rational behavior, people, even the Prince, tend to trust Benvolio’s word. He is the one who explains what happened in both the fight at the beginning of the play and in the deadly duel concerning Mercutio, Tybalt, and Romeo.