Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Many Faces of Benvolio

In honor of Shakespeare Syndrome finishing I thought I'd highlight our main man and my favorite character in the play (outside of Tybalt who has a special place in my heart thanks to Romeo X Juliet) - Benvolio! Now, with adaptations of Romeo and Juliet come changes to our dear honest cousin of Romeo Montague. Whenever I watch adaptations of the classic play (which I admit is my least favorite of Shakespeare plays that I read so far) I am always on the lookout for this small but vital character.

So who is Benvolio Montague? He is the cousin of Romeo who is honest, good, and is somewhat of a look out for Romeo. Unlike Mercutio, Benvolio isn't exactly a wise crack and doesn't engage in battle. He is often seen as Romeo's mentor in remakes and still shows a bit of his honest kindness in remakes.

1. West Side Story
Who can forget the musical adaptation of Romeo and Juliet? Personally I was always really into Bernardo (a.k.a. Tybalt) and I never understood how Maria could sleep with Tony after he just killed her brother. And Riff (Mercutio no doubt)! My gosh he was annoying. But what about Benvolio? Who was our Benvolio in this story?

I've heard a lot of different ideas on who could be Benvolio, but none speak out better than Ice. Firstly, he has a cool personality, which is just like Benvolio in the play. Secondly, he was friends with Riff and Tony, and since Riff dies, he takes over to help the gang cope. Does this not sound like Benvolio to you? Well I certainly think so. Ice "cools" down the gang (if you pardon my pun) and is a fair just leader, even kind to Anybody. All in all, a very nice remake of Benvolio.

2. Romeo and Juliet (the 1968 version)

We see Benvolio briefly in the beginning, and while many girls may be distracted by Romeo and how the actor has a startling resemblence to Zac Efron (or more correctly Zac Efron has a startling resemblence to him), I personally couldn't get my eyes off of Benvolio. I'm not going to go into the characterisation of him because it's the same as the play, but he was pretty cute. If it wasn't for the fantastic death scene with Romeo, I'd probably pick him as my favorite in the movie.

3. Romeo + Juliet (1996)

I didn't care for this movie at all. In fact I rather hated it. While I appreciate the use of the original script, I just couldn't stand this movie. I think it partially fueled my dislike of the play, but from what I've seen a lot of teen liked it and it helped them to understand and appreciate the play so I guess that's okay. Anyway, Benvolio in this is played by Dash Mihok (cool name, right?) and in this they have guns and modern stuff that honestly bored me. They also rap some of the lines.

Ick. Anyway, there's not really much to be said here other than the fact that Benvolio now carries a gun and has red hair. Pretty sweet. Moving on!

4. Romeo x Juliet

This is my FAVORITE adaptation of the play. In fact I think I love it more than the play... Except sometimes it had awkward languages and I wasn't too crazy about the art (don't give me that look, most artists who are into anime are in for it for the art). In this one Benvolio is just a friend to Romeo, NOT his cousin. Oh no, his cousin in the green haired Mercutio (say what?) and Benvolio also has a thing with Cordelia, or in this case Nurse. (don't judge it 'till you see it) This is a really unique take on Romeo and Juliet. The whole Neo Verona thing and the Red Whirlwind is awesome. William Shakespeare even makes a cameo in it, and you almost don't want Romeo and Juliet to die. By the way, Juliet is way manlier than Romeo, as a warrior princess in hiding that goes out as a boy. Yep, you heard me right.

In this play Benvolio is like Romeo's confedont. He looks out for him and let's him share his feelings for the mysterious red haired girl (Juliet). Benvolio isn't particularly amazing in this adaptation (honestly it's Tybalt that swoops in and just steals your heart), and I thought he was kind of boring, but still good. He's one of the few good guys on the Montague side and his little thing with Cordelia is very cute. All in all, I just have to say, the Japanese have done the BEST adaptation of the play yet. You know, besides the actual play itself. This one though, ugh! So good. So creative, yet still sticking to its roots.

5. Gnomeo and Juliet

I didn't watch this movie. I didn't see a point in doing so. It's a kids movie so I knew right away that Gnomeo and Juliet would end up together. And I've seen so many remakes of Romeo and Juliet it just seemed pointless to me. However, I had become curious as to who it was that was Benvolio, and was pleased to find out he was even named after one of my favorite Elton John songs - Bennie and the Jets! Do you get the pun? The Jets? West Side Story? Bennie? Benvolio? Clever. I did approve of that.

If you haven't seen the movie like myself, Bennie is the cute little Gnome who pops up in the sunflower costume and says, "hellooooo!" How cute. From what I've heard, the movie was okay but nothing spectacular (as in nothing compared to Tangled, How To Train Your Dragon, or Toy Story 3). Still, I just love that they call him Bennie because of B-B-B-Bennie and the Jets! (Bennie! Bennie! Bennieeeeeeee! okay I'm done)

And finally, because we're nearing the end, Shakespeare Syndrome. Now it's not a remake of the play (oh no there's enough of that), BUT it does feature Romeo and Benvolio.... Along with a bunch of other men from Shakespeare's plays. And Benvolio is our leading man!

My interpetation of Benvolio was kind of a smart insightful young man. He has a bit of an attitude too, which really comes out later when he believes Audrey is going to sabotage his leaving. I tried to keep him honest and good, but also add my own flare to him. He turned out to be really wise, but a bit of a smart mouth. Certainly not perfect, but I like him as is. And the picture there is of how I imagine him. Thomas McDonnell. Soooo handsome.

So those are the different faces of Benvolio. Maybe one day I'll do more. There are certainly plenty more out there! Well, have a great day!

Janine