Ann has taught university level Film classes and has a Master's Degree in Cinema Studies.
The chorus (narrator) tells the audience at the beginning of the play that inside the town of Verona reside two wealthy families that have been at war with each other for a long time: 'Two households both alike in dignity.' But why do these families hate each other so much? We are never told, never given a single detail about the rivalry, which ultimately results in one of the greatest tragedies ever told. Interesting, right? Well, let's take a look at one half of the feud, the Montague family.
Lord Montague is the father of our hero Romeo. Right from the start of the play, he seems like a pretty good dad who cares about the welfare of his son. Romeo is moping about, upset that his love for a girl named Rosaline has gone unrequited. But Lord Montague doesn't know how to cheer up his son, so he sends his nephew Benvolio over to speak with Romeo and to keep an eye on him.
It's this meeting that sparks the idea for Benvolio, Mercutio, and Romeo to crash the Capulet masked ball. It's at that masked ball where Romeo first meets Juliet and the young star crossed lover's lives are forever changed.
Later on in the play Romeo kills Tybalt, Lord Capulet's nephew, after Tybalt kills Romeo's friend Mercutio. Lord Montague uses his great influence with the Prince of Verona to spare his son from execution. The Prince agrees that Romeo will be exiled from Verona, his life spared. This speaks not only to Lord Montague's great power but also to his influence.
The two young lovers commit suicide and it is only then, while standing over their dead bodies, that Lord Montague and Lord Capulet agree to put their longstanding feud behind them.
Lady Montague is the matriarch of the family and is mother to Romeo. We only get to see her a few times in the play. However, we get a sense that she is like most mothers. She cares greatly about what happens to her son.
She trusts her nephew Benvolio to look out for Romeo. Lady Montague is so completely heartbroken when she hears of Romeo's banishment that she dies (off stage). She clearly loved her son and just couldn't bear the grief of never seeing him again.
Ever call a man 'Romeo?' The name itself has evolved over time to mean 'lover.' Romeo is the only child of Lord and Lady Montague. He is without doubt one intense young man who falls deeply and passionately in love. When we first meet our hero, he is sulking, upset that his love for Rosaline has been ignored.
However, his feelings for Rosaline disappear instantly at the mere sight of young Juliet at the Capulet masked ball. We can call Romeo a lot of things. Some have called him a little immature and brash. He does seem to take everything to heart. But one thing is for sure: Romeo feels 100% of whatever Romeo is feeling.
It's his idea of true love that beckons him to Juliet's balcony, even though he is essentially risking his life. Juliet is a Capulet and Romeo is a Montague. He is supposed to hate all things Capulet and honor the family name. Romeo also has rage in him. We see that in full form when he kills Tybalt. Yes, Tybalt killed his best friend Mercutio in a duel, but Tybalt is his wife's cousin (he had already married Juliet by the time Tybalt and Mercutio duel.)
And then there is his anguish. What does he do the second he finds Juliet 'dead' from a poisoning overdose? He kills himself, just like that, no questions asked. We know that Juliet was just sleeping, faking her death, but Romeo did not even consider waiting to kill himself. He's an all or nothing kind of guy. He feels it, he reacts.
Benvolio is Lord Montague's nephew and Romeo's cousin and friend. The name Benvolio means 'good will' and it perfectly depicts the kind of guy he is. Benvolio is a peacemaker. He's a good man who just wants everyone to get along and be friends.
We are introduced to Benvolio in Scene 1, Act 1, while the servants from the two families are fighting in the streets. It's obvious that Benvolio does not care much for the family feud and just wants to break up the fight before it gets out of hand.
It's interesting to note here that Shakespeare used foils to show the differences between characters in his plays. A foil is a character who contrasts with another characters in order for an audience to see their significant differences. Benvolio's foil is Tybalt, who is angry, hotheaded and quick tempered. Where Benvolio will do everything possible to stop a fight, Tybalt is always looking for a reason to fight.
Benvolio, in theory, becomes a significant character. By the time the final curtain drops on Romeo and Juliet, Benvolio is the only person of his generation left standing. Romeo, Juliet, Mercutio and Tybalt are all dead.
Mercutio is a Prince's kinsman and is not actually part of the Montague family. He is best friends with Romeo. Mercutio is extremely witty and very crude. Although he is loyal to Romeo like a brother, he is not opposed to mocking how quickly Romeo seems to fall in love.
Mercutio is a foil to Romeo. While Romeo is romantic and believes in true love, Mercutio is the direct opposite. He makes fun of Romeo when he finds out about his love for Juliet.
Romeo, Humors! Madman! Passion! Lover!
Appear thou in the likeness of a sigh,
Speak but one rhyme and I am satisfied.
So even though Mercutio is a tough-talking, sword-wielding kind of guy, his goal is to keep peace among the families. He even tries to warn Romeo that a marriage to Juliet will never work out, that the families won't allow it. But Romeo doesn't listen to his best friend and it's Mercutio who pays with his life.
Lord and Lady Montague are both depicted as loving parents who want the best for their son Romeo. Romeo is a romantic who falls instantly in love and acts on his emotions, no matter what the emotion may be. His best friend Mercutio is the opposite, the Prince's kinsman mocks love but is loyal to Romeo to the death. Finally, Romeo's cousin Benvolio is just a good guy who wants to keep the peace. He is the only one of his generation left standing at the end.
To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account
Register to view this lesson
Unlock Your Education
See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com
Become a Study.com member and start learning now.Become a Member
Already a member? Log InBack