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Benvolio


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BENVOLIO: Part, fools! / Put up your swords; you know not what you do.
[Act 1, scene 1] Like his name (which roughly translates to 'peace talker') would suggest, Benvolio's first words on stage demand peace through a pair of imperative verbs ("part" and "put up"). After a two syllable line - perhaps to give the actor 8 syllables to break up the fight or establish himself, Shakespeare gives Benvolio a perfect line of iambic pentameter, establishing (alongside his costume, no doubt) that he is a noble. As Shakespeare hints at earlier, the violent posturing of the servants makes them "fools" (jesters for amusement and idiots) but their ill-considered provocations are set to create more real violence. Benvolio is used to deliver Shakespeare's first bout of dramatic irony: they "know not what [they] do" but we are well aware.
BENVOLIO: Compare her face with some that I shall show, / And I will make thee think thy swan a crow.
[Act 1, scene 2] Shakespeare has Benvolio entice Romeo to see the women at Capulet's party as "one fire burns out another's burning". This foreshadows Romeo's own declaration that Juliet is "a snowy dove trooping with crows" in Act 1, scene 5.
BENVOLIO: I pray thee, good Mercutio, let's retire: / The day is hot, the Capulets abroad, / And, if we meet, we shall not scape a brawl; / For now, these hot days, is the mad blood stirring.
[Act 3, scene 1] Anyone familiar with a Shakespearean tragedy will know that crisis and peripeteia (a tragic reversal of fortune) always occurs in Act 3 of his Tragedies. This play is no exception and from the opening lines of the scene - moving straight from the private church scene between our tragic couple - Shakespeare gives us Mercutio and Benvolio, in public. In a rare use of pathetic fallacy (setting isn't often used as there isn't much in terms of set or backdrops on Shakespeare's stage), Shakespeare has Benvolio tell the audience that the weather is hot - so hot, in fact, that the "mad blood" is "stiring". People (and stereotypically for Shakespeare's audience especially 'hot blooded' Latin/Italian men) are irritable in the heat and are more likely to fight. A "brawl" is foreshadowed and - being in public - we know that the Prince's decree forbids it. This is like a kettle coming to it's boiling point: soon it will spill over and burn anyone nearby.
BENVOLIO: were so apt to quarrel as thou art, any man / should buy the fee-simple of my life for an hour and a quarter.
[Act 3, scene 1] After a mocking (if playful) speech from Mercutio about how hungry for a fight Benvolio is (ironic as he's our most peaceful character - the examples Shakespeare gives to Mercutio are likely really about that character), Shakespeare has Benvolio reiterate what we already suspect: Mercutio is "apt" (likely) to "quarrel" (fight) for very little reason. Shakespeare has Benvolio suggest that if he were as violence-prone as Mercutio, he's likely be dead in just over an hour. Mercutio will be dead before the end of this scene, so Shakespeare is using a strong dose of foreshadowing here.
TYBALT: What, drawn, and talk of peace! I hate the word, / As I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee: / Have at thee, coward!
[Act 1, scene 1] Tybalt's response to Benvolio's request to help him break up the fight. Shakespeare confirms, here, that Tybalt will - until his death at least - be our tragic antagonist. He "hates" civil "peace" and views the concept as merely a "word". Scarier still, Shakespeare establishes Tybalt's hatred to Montagues to have a zealot-like motivation. He hates "all Montagues" as much as he hates "hell", which in a Catholic country (Italy) creates the idea that Tybalt views the slaughtering of Montagues as his Christain duty: or at least talks that way. Like a lot of extremists, he uses faith as an excuse for violence.
BENVOLIO: fatal brawl
[Act 3, scene 1] Shakespeare uses Benvolio's summary to the Prince to remind us of the double meaning of that adjective "fatal" in this play: 'deadly' and 'destined'.