In Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, what are Mercutio and Benvolio's attitudes toward life and women?

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Mercutio and Benvolio are Romeo's best friend and cousin, respectively. Their views about women surface when they attempt to comfort Romeo after his breakup with Rosaline. Benvolio listens patiently as Romeo pours his heart out; then, he gives the following advice:

"Be rul'd by me, forget to think of her.

By giving liberty unto thine eyes;

Examine other beauties" (I.i.224 & 226-227).

Benvolio's view on women is if there's one, then there must be others. When he and Romeo find out that there's a Capulet party to go to, he suggests that they go and compare Rosaline to the other beauties at the party.

Mercutio, on the other hand, is more of a philosopher on life. He gets into a debate about dreams with Romeo that can also be applied to life. Romeo is converted to the belief that Fate rules their lives, but Mercutio says the following:

"True, I talk of dreams,

Which are the children of an idle brain,

Begot of nothing but vain fantasy,

Which is as thin of substance as the air

And more inconstant than the wind" (I.iv.102-106).

The above passage is Mercutio's counter-claim to Romeo's belief in dreams and Fate. Romeo is so sure that Fate directs their lives, but Mercutio mocks that belief by saying it is "vain fantasy" and "inconstant" as the wind. Mercutio's way of thinking gives freedom to the individual to pave his own path in life, rather than having to wait to be acted upon by Fate.

Unfortunately, Romeo does not listen to Mercutio, per se; but he does go to the party like Benvolio suggests and discovers another beauty--Juliet. Both Benvolio and Mercutio are less serious about matters of the heart, women and life. Had Romeo been more like them, he may not have married Juliet so quickly and could have taken life a little bit more slowly.  



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