Benvolio in Romeo and Juliet: Character Analysis and Description

Updated on February 18, 2020
Jule Romans profile image

Jule Romans is a retired English teacher and college instructor. She has taught Shakespeare and advanced literature for over 25 years.

See, where he comes: so please you, step aside; I'll know his grievance, or be much denied.

— Benvolio, to Lord Montague

Who is Benvolio?

Benvolio is an important character in Romeo and Juliet. His scenes and speeches advance the action of the play in significant ways.

Benvolio is a Good Member of Montague Family

Benvolio is a member of the Montague "family." He has a close relationship with Romeo. Benvolio offers Romeo some important advice that, surprisingly, leads to the fateful meeting of Romeo and Juliet.

Bevolio's personality is mild. He attempts to act as a peacemaker and voice of reason when tempers flare between the Montagues and Capulets. Sadly, he is not successful in averting violence.

Does Benvolio Live or Die?

After reading this article, you'll be ready to respond to any questions about this character. You'll also be able to reply accurately to a common trick question about Benvolio's "death" in Romeo and Juliet.

Eliminate confusion and improve your understanding by following along with the questions in this article.

Benvolio, left, a friend to Romeo
Benvolio, left, a friend to Romeo | Source

What is the Relationship Between Benvolio and Romeo?

Benvolio is a close friend of Romeo. He is also a good friend to the Montague family.

Benvolio is Part of the Montague Household

Benvolio is so close to the Montague family that he is referred to as Romeo's cousin. Although he may not be not technically a blood relation, the term "cousin" is used as a term of endearment that demonstrates the depth of the bond of friendship between the two young men. If fact, Lord Montague asks Benvolio specifically for help with Romeo's moods.

Benvolio is Romeo's Good Friend

At the beginning of Romeo and Juliet, Romeo is avoiding his family and generally acting in a melancholy way. Romeo even runs from his friends.

Benvolio describes the incident to Lord Montague. He explains that he saw Romeo at dawn, but Romeo stole away into the woods and deliberately avoided Benvolio. Benvolio allowed him go, but he tells Lord Montague:

Madam, an hour before the worshipp'd sun
Peer'd forth the golden window of the east,
A troubled mind drave me to walk abroad;
Where, underneath the grove of sycamore
That westward rooteth from the city's side,
So early walking did I see your son:
Towards him I made, but he was ware of me
And stole into the covert of the wood:
I, measuring his affections by my own,
That most are busied when they're most alone,
Pursued my humour not pursuing his,
And gladly shunn'd who gladly fled from me.

Benvolio Helps Romeo's Parents

Lord and Lady Montague want to know how best to help their son. Benvolio volunteers to try to find the cause of Romeo's mood.

Benvolio. My noble uncle, do you know the cause?

Montague. I neither know it nor can learn of him.

Benvolio. See, where he comes: so please you, step aside;

I'll know his grievance, or be much denied.

Montague. I would thou wert so happy by thy stay,
To hear true shrift. Come, madam, let's away.

Benvolio is loyal to Romeo, but he is also loyal to the Montague family. He wants to help Romeo's parents.

Some people interpret this as Benvolio spying on Romeo on behalf of the parents of the Montague family. In most cases, though, this action of Benvolio's is seen to demonstrate his positive motivations and good character.

Watch a Student Production of Benvolio and Romeo's Dialogue

Be ruled by me, forget to think of her. By giving liberty unto thine eyes; examine other beauties.

— Benvolio, to Romeo

What is Benvolio's Advice to Romeo?

To review, remember that at the beginning of the play, Romeo is in love with a girl named Rosaline. Rosaline has rejected Romeo because she plans to enter a convent. Rosaline will not marry any man. Romeo is heartbroken by this, and has spent all of the early morning hours alone and wandering around town.

Benvolio Advises Romeo to Forget About Rosaline

Benvolio advises Romeo to forget about Rosaline and "examine other beauties" instead. This is important advice, because it leads to Romeo meeting Juliet at the Capulet feast.

When Benvolio finds him, Romeo is still very sad. Benvolio urges Romeo to forget about Rosaline and turn his mind toward other ladies:

Be ruled by me, forget to think of her. By giving liberty unto thine eyes; examine other beauties.

It Is Benvolio's Idea to Attend the Capulet Party

Specifically, Benvolio suggests that he attend a party that will be given that evening at the Capulet mansion. Rosaline will be in attendance at that party. The Montagues will not be welcome at the feast, but the family rivalry does not faze him.

Benvolio insists that when Romeo sees Rosaline in comparison with other women, she will not seem so beautiful after all. He says to Romeo that "I will make thee think thy swan a crow." The woman Romeo thinks so beautiful right now, will seem nothing more than average in comparison with others.

At this same ancient feast of Capulet's
Sups the fair Rosaline whom thou so lovest,
With all the admired beauties of Verona:
Go thither; and, with unattainted eye,
Compare her face with some that I shall show,
And I will make thee think thy swan a crow.

Benvolio Has Good Intentions

From the beginning, Benvolio's advice is aimed toward helping Romeo regain his emotional balance. Unfortunately, that advice has unintended consequences.

The Montagues and Capulets are chided by the Prince.
The Montagues and Capulets are chided by the Prince. | Source

Part, fools! Put up your swords; you know not what you do.

— Benvolio, to the brawlers in Verona's streets

What is Benvolio's Personality in Romeo and Juiet?

Throughout the play, Benvolio's motivation seems to be only for the good of all. His personality seems benevolent, kind, and motivated toward making peaceful resolutions of problems.

Benvolio's Is Diplomatic

Benvolio is a peacemaker. He tries valiantly to break up a fight between the Montagues and Capulets. In the first scene of the play, the servants of both houses have begun a near-riot, and are fighitng violently ins the streets of Verona. Benvolio attempts to reason with the brawlers, by saying:

Part, fools!
Put up your swords; you know not what you do.

He is not successful in getting the fight to stop, but he tries to ease the conflict as best he can. Benvolio uses as much diplomacy as possible int he situation.

Benvolio Interprets Events

Benvolio describes the first fight scene to Lord Montague. He lays out the action step by step and explains to Lord Montague that Tybalt (a Capulet) exacerbated the violence, and would not listen to Benvolio's plea for peace.

Here were the servants of your adversary,
And yours, close fighting ere I did approach:
I drew to part them: in the instant came
The fiery Tybalt, with his sword prepared,
Which, as he breathed defiance to my ears,
He swung about his head and cut the winds,
Who nothing hurt withal hiss'd him in scorn:
While we were interchanging thrusts and blows,
Came more and more and fought on part and part,
Till the prince came, who parted either part.

In this speech, Benvolio gives an accurate description and seeks to shed light on the situation so that Lord Montague can understand it. There is another fight, later in the play, that Benvolio also tries to explain.

Benvolio Intervenes for Justice

In the first scene of act three, there is another fight. This one has very tragic consequences. Ultimately, that fight leads to the tragic death of Mercutio, another one of Romeo's friends.That sad death causes Romeo Montague to kill Tybalt, a Capulet.

Tybalt's death begins the sad downfall of Romeo and Juliet, leading to their double suicide.

Benvolio explains this fight to Prince Escalus. He explains Romeo's actions, in an attempt to save Romeo from a death sentence.

Tybalt, here slain, whom Romeo's hand did slay;
Romeo that spoke him fair, bade him bethink 1670
How nice the quarrel was, and urged withal
Your high displeasure: all this uttered
With gentle breath, calm look, knees humbly bow'd,
Could not take truce with the unruly spleen
Of Tybalt deaf to peace, but that he tilts 1675
With piercing steel at bold Mercutio's breast,
Who all as hot, turns deadly point to point,
And, with a martial scorn, with one hand beats
Cold death aside, and with the other sends
It back to Tybalt, whose dexterity, 1680
Retorts it: Romeo he cries aloud,
'Hold, friends! friends, part!' and, swifter than
his tongue,
His agile arm beats down their fatal points,
And 'twixt them rushes; underneath whose arm 1685
An envious thrust from Tybalt hit the life
Of stout Mercutio, and then Tybalt fled;
But by and by comes back to Romeo,
Who had but newly entertain'd revenge,
And to 't they go like lightning, for, ere I
Could draw to part them, was stout Tybalt slain.
And, as he fell, did Romeo turn and fly.
This is the truth, or let Benvolio die.

Benvolio could be seen to be defending Romeo in his explanation. Benvolio attempts to intervene on behalf of his friend Romeo. In the end of that scene, the Prince of Verona relents, and changes Romeo's punishment to exile. Romeo's life is spared.

Hear Benvolio's Monologue Spoken Aloud

This is truth, or let Benvolio die.

— Benvolio, to the Prince of Verona

Does Benvolio Die in Romeo and Juliet?

The answer to this question is NO. Benvolio does not die in Romeo and Juliet.

Benvolio's "Death" Is a Trick Question

Sometimes, teachers will ask a trick question. They may ask "How does Benvolio die in Romeo and Juliet?" Often, this is to determine if students have actually read the assigned portions of the play.

Benvolio does not die in the play, but there are good reasons why people might be confused about this fact.

Reasons for Confusion About Benvolio's "Death"

Romeo has a number of friends in his circle. Sometimes people get the names confused. Romeo's friend Mercutio does die in Act 3 of the play. It's understandable that some students might confuse Benvolio and Mercutio.

As an interesting coincidence, Benvolio does not have any additional speeches after Act 3 of Romeo and Juliet. In the original stage directions, Benvolio does not even appear onstage after that point. So, it's also possible that some people might assume that Benvolio dies. There are many deaths throughout the play. It would be a natural mistake to assume that Benvolio is dead, simply because he does not have any lines in the play after Act 3.

The truth is, Benvolio survives the tragedy, even though his character is not given much attention toward the end of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.

Benvolio and others, from the Maude Adams Acting Edition of Romeo and Juliet
Benvolio and others, from the Maude Adams Acting Edition of Romeo and Juliet | Source

© 2018 Jule Romans


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