Thursday, January 6, 2011

Figurative Language in Romeo and Juliet

Show us some Shakespeare, and tell us why it's good...


  1. "Read o'er the volume of young Paris' face,
    And find delight writ there with beauty's pen.
    Examine every married lineament
    And see how one another lends content,
    And what obscured in this fair volume lies
    Find written in the margent of his eyes.
    This precious book of love, this unbound lover,
    To beautify him only lacks a cover" (87-94 Act 1. SC. 3).

    With this extended metaphor, Lady Capulet compares Paris to a book in hopes of convincing Juliet to consider his offer of marriage. The tenor is Paris and the vehicle, or figurative aspect, is a book. In the first lines of the quote, Lady Capulet encourages Juliet to admire Paris’ physical appearance “writ there with beauty’s pen.” She then explains to Juliet that anything that she cannot discern about Paris from his appearance can be revealed through the look in his eyes, just as textual explanations can be found on the margins of pages in books. In the last two lines of the quote, Lady Capulet solidifies her argument for Juliet to consider Paris as a suitor and specifies the metaphor, comparing Paris to an unbound book that lacks a cover, or wife. By being “bound” by marriage, Paris will become perfect in the eyes of Lady Capulet.

  2. "Verona's summer hath not such a flower" (I.iii.83)

    I know this may not be the most complex metaphor, but it just stood out to me.

    Lady Capulet uses the flower as a vehicle for the tenor, Paris. However, Paris is not just any flower. He is the most desirable man in all of Verona. To me, summer can also be seen as vehicle for the word town. It just makes the metaphor more powerful.

    I find this metaphor so interesting because men are rarely compared to flowers. If I had a seen this line out of context, I would have assumed Romeo was speaking and that the tenor was either Juliet or Rosaline. At the beginning of the year, we read a packet about what made poetry so great. I remember one of the statements was that it made you think of something so normal in a completely new way. Shakespeare does that for me.

  3. "Beauty too rich for earth to use, for earth too dear.
    So shows a snowy dove trooping with crows
    As yonder lady o'er her fellow shows"
    (1.5 54-56)

    Romeo uses a simile to describe how he feels about Juliet's beauty when he first sees her. He says that she is like a dove among crows because her beauty stands out among the crowd. At this first glance of Juliet the audience first sees Romeos disposition turn from gloomy self-pity to one of true love and admiration. Within this simile Shakespeare highlights this aspect of Romeo as a person who is very passionate.

  4. Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
    Which mannerly devotion shows in this;
    For saints have hands that pilgrims’ hands do touch,
    And palm-to-palm is holy palmers’ kiss

    The metaphor of comparing a lover’s touch to the touch of a Holy pilgrim to a saint, is loaded with controversy. Juliet, the saint, is being touched by a shameful Romeo, the pilgrim—the extremeness of Shakespeare comparing their teenage love to a passion a pilgrim shows to a saint, only enflames their forbidden romance more. The tenor is intimacy and the vehicle is the pilgrim’s devotion to a saint. I think there is a note of playfulness in their conversation, a lightened note that digresses as the story goes on. I think if their conversations from here on after had this light of tone, they wouldn't have both committed suicide. I also like that Shakespeare writes later in the scene, He kisses her. . . He kisses her instead of it being mutual. Romeo seems more passionate in their first meeting, while Juliet plays along, and eventually falls in love with him.

  5. "It seems she hangs on upon the cheek of the night
    As a rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear --" (I.iv.52-53).

    Romeo states this in a series metaphors when he first sees Juliet and is immediately awed by her beauty, freeing his "soul of lead" (I.iv.15). He compares her to "a rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear," effectively creating an image of something bright, a jewel, against something dark, the skin of an Ethiopian. This contrast intensifies Juliet's allure against the blackness of the night, and makes it seems as if when Romeo sees her, her surroundings blur, leaving them alone in a 'love at first sight' moment.

  6. "He's a man of wax" (I.iii.82).

    The nurse uses this description of Paris to describe his beauty. The metaphor, he is a man of wax, describes a man so beautiful that he could only have been created by wax. This emphasizes the attractiveness of Juliet's first suitor. Later of in act 1, Juliet immediately falls in love with Romeo. This would mean less if she had no other good options, however she has the option of marrying a beautiful, respected man instead. This makes the risk of loving Romeo even larger. This metaphor also helps emphasize the rashness that Juliet and Romeo display throughout the book. The day Juliet meets Romeo, she had never even considered marriage, yet she is quick to fall in love and marry him.

  7. "O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!
    It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
    As a rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear--" (1.5 51-53)

    The quote describes the first time that Romeo sees Juliet at the party. He compares her to a torch; she is the brightest burning torch, or the most beautiful woman that he sees. Romeo uses a simile to compare her to an earring on a black person; a jewel earring would stand out because of their dark skin. The use of the simile gives the reader an idea of Juliet's beauty and how she doesn't even compare to the rest of the girls. The lines hint that Romeo has moved on from Rosaline to Juliet. Benvolio was right when he said "I will make thee think thy swan a crow" (1.3 94).

  8. "Is love a tender thing? It is too rough,
    Too rude, too boist'rous , and it pricks like thorn" (1.4 25-26)

    This quote compares love to a thorn. The tenor is love and the vehicle being a thorn. It is effective because love can be hurtful like a prick from a thorn. This metaphor gives the reader a visual picture of how much Romeo is hurting after he finds out that Rosaline is not interested in him. Romeo's cousin Mercutio continues to tell him, "If love be rough with you, be rough with love. Prick love for pricking, and you beat love down" (1.4 27-28). I feel like Romeo going to the party and meeting Juliet is him doing exactly this, being rough with love. He is taking control again.

  9. "Is love a tender thing? It is too rough,
    Too rude, too boist'rous, and it pricks like thorn."
    (Act 1, Scene 4, 25-26)

    Romeo expresses his contempt with love through personifying it by listing abrasive characteristics to prove that it has not always been tender. He has had his negative past experiences with love, which have made him more sensitive and cautious to love's consequences over time as Mercutio persuades him to dance at the party. This quote is certainly representative of Romeo's painful internal struggle before he and Juliet meet and fall in love.

  10. "True, I talk of dreams,
    Which are the children of an idle brain,
    Begot of nothing but vain fantasy,
    Which is as thin of substance as the air
    And more inconstant than the wind" (I don't have page numbers)

    I'm pretty sure this qualifies as a metaphor with "dreams" as the tenor and "children" as the vehicle. This quote stuck out to me for its originality. To paraphrase, the quote is saying that dreams spawn from an inactive brain. It goes on to say that dreams are only fantasy with no real substantial meaning or possibilities and that they are subject to change like the wind. I think it's effective because there are many subtle parallels that exist between children and dreams. For example, children hold a soft spot in many hearts, as do dreams. Children, like dreams, need to be protected and nurtured.

    Though it is striking, I don't entirely agree with the metaphor. It suggests that dreams are born of an unemployed brain, which may be true depending on one's interpretation of one such brain. The human brain is idle when we sleep and dream, and also when we are daydreaming, letting our minds wander. If interpreted as such, I do believe it's valid. If "idle brain" refers to a fool whose brain is never active, however, I disagree. Dreams don't necessarily belong to the foolish only, any sensible person could have dreams as well. I also disagree with the statement that they are insubstantial. I think dreams may have a lot of merit to them, especially if they come in the form of goals or ambitions. With dreams, people may set the bar high to attain a better life for themselves. I'm not sure if I was supposed to adopt an opinion about the metaphor, but there it is.

  11. "True, I talk of dreams,
    Which are the children of an idle brain,
    Begot of nothing but vain fantasy,
    Which is as thin of substance as the air..."
    (1.4 103-106)

    In this quote, Mercutio draws negative metaphors of dreams, describing them as things of wishful and foolish thinking. He refers to them as "children of an idle brain," alluding that they are somehow poorly conceived and ill-advised offspring of a numbed state of mind, and that they come from people who are not thinking rationally. He elaborates on their effect, inferring that they are mere wishful musings and that they are to no avail, even damaging. No matter how complex or inspiring they may be, Mercutio thinks that they lack any real substance or meaning, perhaps because it is easiest to dream. While he never really says this, Mercutio casts dreams in such a dark light that one kind of has to draw a conclusion himself as to what he really means. While dreams can often be good, in Romeo's context dreaming only helps him procrastinate dealing with reality and living in the real world.

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  13. Romeo
    "Thus from my lips, by thine, my sin is purged."

    Completely relevant to Romeo's dramatic disposition, he has now claimed that Juliet has cleansed his soul of sin through her divine kiss. Although this is obviously not possible, it does create the idea for the reader that Romeo has found his true counterpart. Through claiming a kiss can take away sin, and even take it back, Shakespeare has created the image that Romeo and Juliet have in fact been created for one another.

  14. "The fish lives in the sea, and 'tis much pride/ For fair without the fair within to hide" (1.3.40-41).

    During this scene Lady Capulet is speaking with her daughter about Marriage, and how she should marry Paris. She explains to Juliet how she should look at Paris's beauty and should be delighted and happy with what a gentleman he is. Throughout this conversation Lady Capulet uses many metaphors to explain how Paris and Juliet would complement one another if parred together by marriage.

    This particular quote was interesting, because she uses the notion of the nature. When saying, "the fish lives in the sea" she is explaining how it is a natural way of life (like all the fish live in the sea...duh) and it is natural for her to be "fair without..." meaning she is beautiful on both the outside and inside. So to put it all together, Juliet should be proud of her unique qualities and proud of herself for being such a beautiful young lady, but moreover, she should be proud with a man like Paris.

  15. "I am too sore enpiercéd with his shaft
    To soar with his light feathers, and so bound
    I cannot bound a pitch above dull woe.
    Under love's heavy burden do I sink"(1.4.43)

    This quote really sticks out to me because it's so different than the way I imagine how Cupid's arrow would feel. When Mercutio first brought up Cupid, I thought about the overwhelming passion that comes with being stuck with his arrow. Instead of the refreshing love that should come with Cupid's arrow, Romeo feels the burden of his love for Rosaline. Shakespeare uses adjectives like "sore" to let his viewers feel the deep internal turmoil that Romeo is feeling, one that causes stomachs to churn and roll.

  16. “Death, that hath sucked the honey of thy breath, hath had no power yet upon thy beauty…That unsubstantial Death is amorous, and that the lean abhorred monster keeps thee here in dark to be his paramour?”

    The tenor is death, the vehicle is a monster. Here Shakespeare uses some pretty obvious comparisons, but even so, his use of figurative language is unparalleled in the english language and evokes ver vivid images.