|Play||Romeo and Juliet|
|Family||Montague (cousin of Romeo)|
Benvolio Montague is a fictional character in William Shakespeare's drama Romeo and Juliet. Benvolio is Montague's nephew and Romeo's cousin. Benvolio serves as an unsuccessful peacemaker in the play, attempting to prevent violence between the Capulet and Montague families.
In 1554, Matteo Bandello published the second volume of his Novelle which included his version of Giuletta e Romeo. Bandello emphasises Romeo's initial depression and the feud between the families, and introduces the Nurse and Benvolio. Bandello's story was translated into French by Pierre Boaistuau in 1559 in the second volume of his Histoires Tragiques. Boaistuau adds much moralizing and sentiment, and the characters indulge in rhetorical outbursts.
The name Benvolio means "good-will" or "well-wisher" or "Peacemaker" which is a role he fills, to some degree, as a peace-maker and Romeo's friend. (For comparison, see the derivation of Malvolio - ill-will - in Twelfth Night.)
Role in the play
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Benvolio is Lord Montague's nephew and Romeo's cousin, with a distant relation with Paris on the part of his father's divorced wife. He is a kind and thoughtful person who, most of the time, attempts to look out for his best friend. He and Romeo are both close friends with Mercutio, a kinsman to the Prince. Benvolio seems to have little sympathy with the feud, attempting to prevent the initial brawl (fighting off Tybalt to do so) and the duels that end in Mercutio and Tybalt's death. Benvolio spends most of Act I attempting to distract his cousin from his infatuation with Rosaline as he himself is secretly infatuated with her, but following the first appearance of Mercutio in I.iv, he and Mercutio become more closely aligned until III.i. In that scene, he drags the fatally wounded Mercutio offstage, before returning to inform Romeo of Mercutio's death and the Prince of the course of Mercutio's and Tybalt's deaths. Benvolio then disappears from the play (though, as a Montague, he may implicitly be included in the stage direction in the final scene "Enter Lord Montague and others", and he is sometimes doubled with Balthasar). Though he ultimately disappears from the play without much notice, he is a crucial character in that he is the only child from the new generation of Montagues to survive the play. This is because in Shakespeare's first folio, it was mentioned that Benvolio's character died of unknown circumstances along with Lady Montague. It should be noted however that in some editions, Benvolio was prematurely killed by Paris at Juliet's tomb in V (before Paris himself is killed by Romeo).
A mock-Victorian revisionist version of Romeo and Juliet 's final scene (with a happy ending, Romeo, Juliet, Mercutio and Paris restored to life, and Benvolio revealing that he is Paris's love, Benvolia, in disguise) forms part of the 1980 stage-play The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby. He also attempts to romance Rosaline in Sharman Macdonald's After Juliet.
- Moore (1937: 38–44).
- Gibbons (1980: 35–36).
- Edgar (1982: 162).
- Edgar, David (1982). The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby. New York: Dramatists' Play Service. ISBN 0-8222-0817-2.
- Gibbons, Brian (ed.) (1980). Romeo and Juliet. The Arden Shakespeare Second Series. London: Thomson Learning. ISBN 978-1-903436-41-7.
- Moore, Olin H. (1937). "Bandello and “Clizia”". Modern Language Notes (Johns Hopkins University Press) 52 (1): 38–44. doi:10.2307/2912314. ISSN 01496611. JSTOR 2912314.