|Play||Romeo and Juliet|
|Family||Montague (cousin of Romeo)|
Benvolio 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
Benvolio is Lord Montague's nephew and Romeo's cousin. He is usually portrayed by Shakespeare as a kind and thoughtful person who attempts to look out for his cousin. He and Romeo are both close friends with Mercutio, a kinsman to the Prince.
Benvolio tries to lessen Romeo's sentence after attempting to prevent the duels that end in Mercutio and Tybalt's death, leaving Romeo only with a Banishment and not a death sentence.
Benvolio spends most of Act I attempting to distract his cousin from his infatuation with Rosaline 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 Tybalt and Mercutio'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).
Part of Benvolio's role is encouraging Romeo to go to the party, where he falls in lust with Juliet.
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 0149-6611. JSTOR 2912314.