Literary Devices in Romeo and Juliet
Soliloquy: A soliloquy is a dramatic speech delivered by a lone character to the audience. Usually the soliloquy serves as a reflection of the character's interior state. Thus, the character who delivers a soliloquy is processing thoughts and emotions so that the audience can observe their inner thoughts and feelings. Often, soliloquies represent moments of dramatic irony—there are several scenes in Romeo and Juliet in which we know something the speech-giver does not know. For example, Juliet stands on her balcony professing her love for Romeo unaware that he crouches below in the bushes.
Wordplay: Though it is a tragedy, Romeo and Juliet contains an abundance of delightful puns. The opening four lines of the play offer up a rare quadruple pun, as “coals” turns to “collier,” then “choler” and finally “collars.” This linguistic playfulness accounts for much of the play’s unique appeal. Episodes of dense wordplay arise in the jovial teasing between Romeo and Mercutio, as well as in Romeo’s tentative courtship of Juliet.
Blank Verse: As in many of Shakespeare’s plays, the dialogue in Romeo and Juliet alternates between prose and verse. Often, this stylistic distinction parallels class distinctions. While characters of the lower classes tend to speak in short passages of prose, the aristocratic characters tend to speak in formally structured passages of verse, usually blank verse. Blank verse refers to unrhymed iambic pentameter, which constitutes the linguistic fabric of most Shakespearean drama.
Literary Devices Examples in Romeo and Juliet:
The Prologue 1
"From forth the fatal loins of these two foes(5) A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life; Whose misadventur'd piteous overthrows Doth, with their death, bury their parents’ strife. The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love, And the continuance of their parents’ rage,(10) Which, but their children's end, naught could remove, Is now the two hours’ traffic of our stage; The which if you with patient ears attend, What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend...." See in text (The Prologue)
Notice that this play begins with a sonnet that unveils the entire plot of the story. The use of the sonnet here draws our attention to the form, or construction, of the words Shakespeare uses. This literary device coupled with the choice to begin the story with a spoiler suggests that the purpose of this play is not the plot but the way in which the plot is constructed. This prologue asks the audience to pay attention to form.
Act I - Scene I 2
"Dian’s..." See in text (Act I - Scene I)
Diana is the Roman god of the hunt and chastity. In the Diana Acteon myth, Acteon, a young hunter, sees Diana bathing naked by accident while out hunting with his dogs. To punish him for his sight, Diana turns Acteon into a stag, and he is then torn apart by his own dogs. In comparing Rosaline to Diana, Romeo makes her both unattainable and dangerous to love. He uses this allusion to elevate his own love to the level of mythic stories.
"Canker’d..." See in text (Act I - Scene I)
"Canker'd" here means rusted. The Verona's swords are rusted because the city has not been at war with another city for so long. However, citizens must use these rusted swords to break up the "canker'd" hate of the two families. This second use of "canker'd" means festering, rotting, or infected rather than rusted. Shakespeare uses two meanings of the same word in one line to show how fast the feud is infecting the peace. While the peace is at first affected by benign rust, by the end of the line it is infected by a pestiferous sore.
Act I - Scene II 1
"Stay..." See in text (Act I - Scene II)
In this context "stay" means stop. Here Romeo asks the servant to stop his anger. The servant showed frustration when Romeo answered him in poetic riddles and puns rather than giving him a straight answer. Shakespeare juxtaposes two worlds between the servants and the upper classes in this exchange. The servant must accomplish a task while the man of the upper class has time to play with words.
Act I - Scene IV 2
"save your reverence..." See in text (Act I - Scene IV)
Mercutio adds to the comedy of this line by omitting a swear word with this phrase. This essentially means "if you will excuse my saying so" and comes across as ironic formality. Mercutio is mocking Romeo's excessive lovesickness with excessive formality.
"thorn..." See in text (Act I - Scene IV)
Here, Romeo compares love to a rose. While he is using the thorns to show that love is more hardy than Mercutio has made it out to be, the rose implicit in his invocation of thorns causes Romeo to take up Mercutio's language. Notice that Romeo and Mercutio speak in a series of evolving metaphors. They never actually say what they mean but instead approximate their meaning with word play. This makes everything said unreal and indefinite.
Act I - Scene V 8
"foe's debt..." See in text (Act I - Scene V)
By this Romeo means that his life is now owed to his foe, as he has devoted his life to Juliet, a Capulet. Notice the monetary language used in the exchange between Romeo and the Nurse. The Nurse speaks of Juliet as a prize that will give her husband "the chinks" or money; Romeo talks about his own life in terms of "account" and "debt." The rhetoric about their love has gone from grand images of saints and sin to very real monetary calculations, transporting their love at first sight back into the real world.
"book..." See in text (Act I - Scene V)
This is a colloquialism that means to do something expertly. It employs a double meaning though as "the book" also refers to the Bible. Juliet here references Romeo's ability to "kiss by the book" in order to erase the sin metaphors into which they had fallen. Rather than the kiss being something sinful, the kiss becomes something that is sanctioned by "the book" or the Bible. In turn this marks their forbidden love as something that is good and lawful rather than sinful.
"took..." See in text (Act I - Scene V)
The kiss has moved from being compared to a prayer to a sin. Romeo transferred his sin to Juliet by kissing her and now must kiss her again to take the sin back onto his lips. Notice how the religious imagery has moved the two lovers from a saint and a pilgrim to mortals passing sin back and forth.
"prayer..." See in text (Act I - Scene V)
Notice how Juliet uses Romeo's metaphor in order to deny him his request to kiss her. She reshapes his rhetoric and continually forces him to reframe his desires.
"palm to palm..." See in text (Act I - Scene V)
Juliet corrects Romeo's statement that his lips could kiss her as palmer's kiss saints and instead makes the metaphor more literal. She says that pilgrims and saints put their palms together; this is how they kiss, not with the lips. In this way Juliet can be seen as educating Romeo on how to court her.
"pilgrim..." See in text (Act I - Scene V)
Notice that the metaphor functioning within this sonnet compares Juliet to a saint and Romeo to a pilgrim worshiping at her shrine. This metaphor conflates the ethereal world of religious belief with the earthly reality of two people kissing. Romeo and Juliet's love here is metaphorically elevated to a space occupied by religion and God.
"lips..." See in text (Act I - Scene V)
In the sonnet tradition, the poet would describe his love using the poetic blazon. In this poetic technique, the poet would fragment his love into her parts in order to emphasize the perfection of each part of the woman's body. He would describe her lips as red as cherries or skin as white as snow rather than describing her as a whole person. However, here Romeo reverses this tradition and instead applies the poetic blazon to himself. Juliet remains whole in his gaze while he becomes fragmented by his love for her.
"trencher..." See in text (Act I - Scene V)
A "trencher" was a wooden serving platter. Scene five begins with servants clearing away the dinner plates to signal that Romeo and his friends missed dinner. They have arrived just in time for the dance. Notice how Shakespeare uses dialogue to signal location, time passing, and events not figured on stage without directly stating them.
Act II - Prologue 2
"Alike..." See in text (Act II - Prologue)
This "Alike" recalls the first prologue given to the audience ("Two houses both alike in dignity). However, this sonnet does not tell the audience how to look at the play the way the first sonnet did. Instead, it offers a very straight forward summary of the plot so far an introduction to the next section of the play. In this way it is both a literal prologue and literal sonnet.
"sweet..." See in text (Act II - Prologue)
This is the last full sonnet that occurs within the play. Throughout the remainder of the play, there are sonnet fragments in the form of quatrains or couplets. After Romeo and Juliet speak their perfect sonnet, the form cannot exist in its entirety again.
Act II - Scene I 1
"raise ..." See in text (Act II - Scene I)
Raise explicitly means to summons Romeo to the spot but also functions as a sexual innuendo. "Raise," "Stand," and "Laid" all have sexual connotations which Mercutio uses to provoke Romeo to come out and defend his lady.
Act II - Scene II 10
"bird..." See in text (Act II - Scene II)
Notice that birds are a motif throughout this play. They often highlight the themes of light and dark, day and night, or beauty and love. Birds symbolize modesty, fidelity, and innocence. However, they are also fragile, vulnerable, and delicate. Birds appear throughout the story to underscore the beauty and fragility of Romeo and Juliet's love, and to mark the transition from a space in which love keeps them safe to a space in which the real world intrudes on that space. In this way, birds are both a symbol of their perfect love and an omen of their coming deaths.
"tassel-gentle..." See in text (Act II - Scene II)
Juliet compares Romeo to a "tassel-gentle" a falcon or goshawk generally given to princes because they were easy to tame. Juliet wants Romeo to come to her as if he were a well trained hawk. Notice that this metaphor implicitly makes Juliet Romeo's master.
"Love goes toward love..." See in text (Act II - Scene II)
Throughout this scene, Juliet cuts off Romeo's romantic poetry impulses. When she leaves the stage, we finally hear a full metaphor in which Romeo compares love's desire for love to a boy's desire to avoid his school books. This is an odd, if not poorly crafted, metaphor that demonstrates Romeo's sudden inability to create romance poetry. This could suggest that Juliet has succeeded in educating her lover, and Romeo's love is now grounded in reality instead of part of a poetic discourse about love.
"blessed night..." See in text (Act II - Scene II)
Night in Shakespeare's plays, such as Hamlet and Macbeth, often symbolizes evil, the uncanny, or danger. However, in Romeo and Juliet the night is "blessed" and the lovers are protected by the "cloak of night." Night becomes a place of safety within this play because the feud between the two families exists in the day-lit streets. The positive depiction of the night shows us how backwards and dangerous these character's reality is.
"unsatisfied..." See in text (Act II - Scene II)
By "unsatisfied" Romeo could mean either the satisfaction of Juliet's vow or sexual satisfaction. While scholars have successfully read both interpretations into the line, what is most important to recognize in this exchange is that Juliet checks Romeo's haste. She forces him to wait until they can be married the following day until any satisfaction can occur. This is another instance in which Juliet teaches Romeo how to love and moves his poetic love into real love.
" swear not by the moon..." See in text (Act II - Scene II)
While Romeo has the impulse to use romantic poetic tropes, such as professing one's love using the cosmos, Juliet forces him to ground his love in something more concrete and realistic. In this way Juliet is able to refashion Romeo's love at first sight romantic discourse into a love that is more real.
"merchandise..." See in text (Act II - Scene II)
While Romeo says this statement to be flattering, and probably slightly teasing, notice that his metaphor makes Juliet's love a commodity.
"man..." See in text (Act II - Scene II)
In this catalogue of Romeo's body parts, Juliet performs a type of reverse-blazon. Remember that the blazon is a poetic trope in which the poet fragments his love object into her body parts in order to praise each one individually. Juliet uses the blazon here to focus on the parts of Romeo that she loves while rejecting the part of Romeo that she hates, his name and connection to the Montagues.
"O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?..." See in text (Act II - Scene II)
"Wherefore" means why, as in Why are you Romeo? Notice that Juliet asks Romeo to forsake his name but only states his first name, not the title, Montague, that is so problematic. This is an example of apostrophe, a type of dramatic speech in which a character speaks to an inanimate object or person who is absent. Juliet does not know that Romeo can hear her.
"discourses..." See in text (Act II - Scene II)
By this Romeo means that he believes Juliet is calling to him with her eyes. He quickly realizes that this is not true and that he is being too bold in believing she knows he is there or wants him. Notice that Romeo applies the same hyperbolic attraction and assumed rejection to Juliet that he felt when he was in love with Rosaline.
Act II - Scene III 3
" rancour to pure love...." See in text (Act II - Scene III)
Notice that the Friar consents to marrying the young couple because he believes that it will solve the hatred between their two families, not because he thinks Romeo's love is pure.
"doting..." See in text (Act II - Scene III)
The Friar plainly presents the same problem that Juliet seems to recognize in Romeo's love: it is a doting affection situated in metaphors and the pose of love rather than actual love. It is now up to the audience to determine whether or not Juliet successfully refashioned Romeo's love in the previous scene.
"eyes..." See in text (Act II - Scene III)
Here, the Friar calls attention to the seeming fickleness of Romeo's love. Since at the beginning of the story he was lamenting his undying passion for Rosaline, his new found love for Juliet should be slightly problematic to the audience. Just as the Prologue repeatedly asks the audience to pay attention, the Friar's reaction pantomimes what the audience should have noticed.
Act II - Scene IV 8
"R is for the..." See in text (Act II - Scene IV)
In Elizabethan pronunciation, an "R" would have sounded like a dog's growl. The Nurse continues to suggest that R begins another word, such as "arse," but then stops herself realizing that she has spelled the word wrong. This playing with Romeo's name could suggest that the Nurse does not like him, or it could show the Nurse trying to play with words the way Romeo and his friends were playing with words earlier in the scene.
"fain lay knife aboard..." See in text (Act II - Scene IV)
This is a colloquial saying that means to lay a claim to. The Nurse could mention Paris here for one of two reasons. First, to show Romeo that if he does not keep his word his lady will go to another. Second, to assert her importance in Juliet's decision making. She says "sometimes" as if she and Juliet have been discussing her two suitors for an extended period of time, though we know that Juliet met Romeo and heard about Paris only the day before.
" that loves to hear himself talk..." See in text (Act II - Scene IV)
While at the beginning of the scene Romeo seems to have engaged fully in this game with his friends, here he dismisses their behavior as vain and immature. In criticizing Mercutio's behavior, Romeo symbolically removes himself from Mercutio's adolescent world.
"good-den..." See in text (Act II - Scene IV)
Mercutio answers the Nurse's "good morning" with this good afternoon. Mercutio does so in order to make a sexual innuendo that compares the hands of a clock pointing to noon to an erect penis. This shows Mercutio's attempt to carry the banter between the three male characters into their conversation with the Nurse.
"Enter..." See in text (Act II - Scene IV)
This scene which is full of body puns and rude banter, topics generally associated with teenage boys, is directly juxtaposed with the entrance of the Nurse who is there to arrange the marriage between Romeo and Juliet. This juxtaposition highlights Romeo's youth.
"cheverel..." See in text (Act II - Scene IV)
This is a type of goat's skin that is very easy to stretch. Here Mercutio suggests that Romeo's "wit" can expand the way cheverel can, from an inch to an ell broad, or 45 inches. With "goose" being a double entendre for prostitute, wit here can be seen as a double entendre for a growing penis.
"for the goose..." See in text (Act II - Scene IV)
In this jest, Romeo takes up Mercutio's image of the wild goose chase and transforms it so that it mocks Mercutio for his pursuit of women. "For the goose" means both behaving like a goose, and searching for prostitutes.
"pump..." See in text (Act II - Scene IV)
Romeo continues to refer to the shoe metaphor that Mercutio started, but he also adds a sexual innuendo to his penis with this line. Notice throughout this exchange that both Mercutio and Romeo often say one thing while suggesting another.
Act II - Scene V 2
" hand and a foot..." See in text (Act II - Scene V)
The Nurse's fragmentation of Romeo's body parts recalls Juliet's description of Romeo before the balcony scene (2.2). Unlike Juliet who dismisses the importance of Romeo's body parts, the Nurse uses this description in order to prove Romeo is a worthy man.
"Romeo..." See in text (Act II - Scene V)
Notice how the Nurse delays telling Juliet the news. In this way she is able to inflate her own importance. As the messenger who holds the information, she is able to shape it. This is another instance in which an adult intervenes in Romeo and Juliet's love.
Act II - Scene VI 1
"one..." See in text (Act II - Scene VI)
Notice that the audience does not witness the actual marriage between Romeo and Juliet, only the moments leading up to it. The audience is denied this important transformation, two becoming one, in the same way that both families are not there to witness the event.
Act III - Scene I 13
"die..." See in text (Act III - Scene I)
Notice that Benvolio tells the same story that the audience just witnessed first hand. Much like the Prologue that narrates the story for the audience before the play has begun, Benvolio narrates the scene after it has ended. This both reminds the audience to pay attention and summarizes what just happened in case anyone missed it.
"O, I am fortune's fool!..." See in text (Act III - Scene I)
Fortune was a medieval and Early Modern concept that explained sudden reversals in luck on all levels of society, such as loss of money or fatal sickness. Here, Romeo invokes this common image in order to show that he is a victim of the indifferent Lady Fortune and that his bright future has suddenly disappeared. However, "fool" also suggests that Romeo recognizes that his future was taken from him because he allowed himself to be tricked by Fortune.
"conduct..." See in text (Act III - Scene I)
"Conduct" in this context means guide. At the beginning of the scene love was Romeo's guide. Because Mercutio has died, Romeo's love has been replaced by hatred.
"O Romeo, Romeo..." See in text (Act III - Scene I)
Benvolio's call to Romeo here recalls Juliet's call to Romeo in the balcony scene. Juliet's repetition of Romeo's name removed its importance. Benvolio's repetition of Romeo's name reassigns importance to it. Benvolio metaphorically marks Romeo as a Capulet, which makes Tybalt his mortal enemy.
"effeminate..." See in text (Act III - Scene I)
Notice that in the wake of his friend's death, Romeo immediately blames his actions on love. Love and violence are once again conflated. However, while this theme occurred only in metaphors and puns before, now they move tragically into reality.
"near ally..." See in text (Act III - Scene I)
"Near ally" means close relative: Mercutio is the Prince's cousin. Romeo takes up feeling of injustice, which Mercutio voiced in his dying words, that Mercutio died for a feud he was not related to.
"book of arithmetic..." See in text (Act III - Scene I)
The "book of arithmetic" is fighting by calculation, in other words fighting with proper fencing technique. Here, Mercutio is particularly angry because Tybalt did not fight by the book but rather stabbed Mercutio under Romeo's arm. Mercutio laments that it was not a fair fight, and implicates Romeo in his murder.
"peppered..." See in text (Act III - Scene I)
"Peppered" means done for. As soon as Mercutio makes his joke about being dead the next day, he realizes that it is not a joke but rather the truth. In this moment he becomes angry and his language changes from playful and punning to serious and literal.
"grave man..." See in text (Act III - Scene I)
"Grave man" means both someone who is serious and someone who inhabits a grave. As he dies, Mercutio continues to play with language. However, the double entendre now invoked by his speech is not playful but heavy, and foreshadows his own death.
"Your houses..." See in text (Act III - Scene I)
Remember that Mercutio is neither a Capulet nor a Montague, but rather a collateral victim of their feud. In cursing Romeo's house, Mercutio reminds Romeo that he fought on his behalf and died for Romeo's family's honor. In this way, Romeo becomes responsible for avenging Mercutio's death.
"A plague o’ both your houses..." See in text (Act III - Scene I)
This is the first time that Mercutio utters this curse on the Montagues and Capulets. In Shakespeare's time it was believed that curses had to be said three times in order to be serious. The first was a joke, the second was angry, and the third laid the curse. Notice that as the curse is repeated it becomes more real; the progression of the curse underscores the growing severity of Mercutio's wound until he finally dies. Having Mercutio, the play's main comedic character, die slowly rather than instantly allows his death to symbolize the play's transition from comedy to drama: just as the curse goes from a joke to a malediction, so does the play go from a romance to a tragedy.
"fiddlestick..." See in text (Act III - Scene I)
In most productions of this play, Mercutio draws his sword as he says this line to compare a musician's violin, or "fiddlestick," to his sword. Mercutio is using the same punning language that he used with Romeo and Benvolio earlier in the play. However, here he uses it to taunt Tybalt to fight.
"depart..." See in text (Act III - Scene I)
Depart here means to take leave, but it also grimly points to the second meaning of this word, to depart from the world or die. Benvolio warns Mercutio to leave the fight because too many people are watching, while his language signals to the audience that this fight will be the death of Mercutio.
Act III - Scene II 7
"And death, not Romeo, take my maidenhead!..." See in text (Act III - Scene II)
Juliet marks the change from comedy to tragedy in this line. In a comedy, the play ends with a marriage and the "death" of the maidenhead. In a drama, the play ends with the characters' death. Now that Tybalt is dead and Romeo is banished, her wedding night will end with death instead of sex.
"Some word there was..." See in text (Act III - Scene II)
Juliet recalls that the word of Romeo's banishment is worse than word of Tybalt's death. Remember that at the beginning of this scene, Juliet figured herself and Romeo as of one body; she has no self outside of him. Thus, Juliet's metaphors that construed Romeo as two things, evil being hidden in good looks, are now replaced by justifications for Romeo's actions.
"Dove-feather'd raven..." See in text (Act III - Scene II)
A "dove-feather'd raven" is a black ominous bird, the raven, hidden within the white feathers of a love bird, the dove. A "wolvish-ravening lamb" is a saying that is similar to the modern saying a wolf in sheep's clothing. With all of these paradoxes, Juliet points to the seemingly two-faced nature of her lover: what she believed was his perfect and pure soul was actually a covering for a hideous and malicious interior.
"It..." See in text (Act III - Scene II)
The Nurse takes up Juliet's language here in order to remove Romeo from the action. "It," Romeo's hand, killed Tybalt; not Romeo.
"hand..." See in text (Act III - Scene II)
Juliet phrases this question in an interesting way. Rather than directly asking if Romeo killed Tybalt, she displaces the action into Romeo's hand. In this way she is able to dissociate Romeo from the action and continue seeing him as her pure and perfect lover.
" I had..." See in text (Act III - Scene II)
Notice that the Nurse again delays the information by inserting herself into the narrative. While before she was teasing impatient Juliet about her marriage, here her delay indicates the unspeakable nature of what has happened. Notice how tropes of the comedy are repeated and changed now that they exist within a tragic context.
"lose a winning match..." See in text (Act III - Scene II)
Juliet plays with this paradox in order to assert that she will lose her virginity this night. In losing her virginity she wins something else, a long life with her love. Juliet does not yet know that in the previous scene death and tragedy have entered into her story. This monologue returns to the world of comedy that revolves around marriage instead of death.
Act III - Scene III 3
"wax..." See in text (Act III - Scene III)
This characteristic recalls the description of Paris in Act 1. However, when it was used to describe Paris it was construed as a good thing. Here, the Friar uses the metaphor to tell Romeo that he is false.
"that name,..." See in text (Act III - Scene III)
Here, Romeo references his own name as the deadly weapon that kills his love. Notice how Romeo's name has been used throughout the play. Juliet tries to remove the importance from it in order to love him; Benvolio places it on him and marks him as Mercutio's avenger; Romeo now refuses to speak it because it is deadly. Romeo's name becomes a symbol that underscores the arc of the main plot.
"heartsick groans,..." See in text (Act III - Scene III)
These heartsick groans are an image that repeats from the beginning of the play. In the context of a comedy, Romeo's heartsick groans were caused by his unrequited love for Rosaline. In the tragic context, Romeo's heartsick groans are caused by murder and the loss of his future.
Act III - Scene IV 1
"Well, we were born to die...." See in text (Act III - Scene IV)
This again seems to undermine the importance of Tybalt's death. Capulet treats Tybalt's death flippantly in order to arrange his daughter's marriage and demonstrates the inverted value system that the feud has created in Verona.
Act III - Scene V 6
"hurdle..." See in text (Act III - Scene V)
A "hurdle" was a type of sledge used to carry prisoners to their executions. Notice that Capulet's teasing metaphors have become vicious, even violent. He either refers to her as property that he can barter or sell, or as a prisoner who he can sentence and execute at will. Juliet is figured as a possession.
"take me with you..." See in text (Act III - Scene V)
"Take me with you" is a phrase that means let me understand you. Capulet responds to Juliet's rejection with disbelief then indignantly lists all of the responses she should have in question form. This rhetorical strategy attempts to eliminate any reason for Juliet's rejection of the proposal.
"gives you thanks..." See in text (Act III - Scene V)
This is a phrase that means "no thank you." Lady Capulet reduces all of Juliet's protests to a simple and disrespectful "no thank you" and demonstrates that she was not listening when Juliet was speaking earlier.
"a careful father..." See in text (Act III - Scene V)
Notice how Lady Capulet retells the story of Capulet's marriage arrangement. She claims that Capulet's hurriedly arranged Juliet's marriage in order to help Juliet recover from grief. Since the audience has seen the conversations between Paris and Capulet, they know that the wedding was more of a business or monetary transaction than an act of love from a careful father.
"friend..." See in text (Act III - Scene V)
In this context, "friend" means kinsman. This line can be read in two ways. Lady Capulet could be compassionately reiterating what she said before and telling Juliet that all of her grief will not bring Tybalt back to life. Or, Lady Capulet could be telling Juliet that her grief is selfish because it loses sight of the friend, Tybalt, to focus on itself. In both readings, Lady Capulet is telling Juliet to stop mourning her cousin.
"let life out..." See in text (Act III - Scene V)
By this phrase Juliet means that Romeo, her life, will leave when they open the window. However, it also foreshadows the end of the play. The entrance of daylight and the separation of the lovers marks a final shift in the play: we have moved out of the world of comedy, romance, or love and are now solely in the world of tragedy.
Act IV - Scene I 6
" this shall slay them both...." See in text (Act IV - Scene I)
"This" meaning the knife. If Juliet takes her life with this knife, it will slay both her hand and her heart and she will not have to worry about getting married again.
"label to another deed..." See in text (Act IV - Scene I)
Juliet declares that her hand cannot "label another deed," meaning commit to another marriage, because Romeo has already taken her hand. With this metaphor, Juliet dissociates the action from herself: she is not getting married, her hand is committing the deed.
"it is not mine own..." See in text (Act IV - Scene I)
Juliet covertly asserts that her face belongs to Romeo in her response to Paris. Notice how Juliet crafts her responses so that they are evasive instead of ever directly contradicting or affirming any of Paris's claims.
"Thy face is mine..." See in text (Act IV - Scene I)
Here Paris claims her face, and by extension her. Like her father, Paris continues using language that figures Juliet as a possession.
" it ..." See in text (Act IV - Scene I)
By this "it" Juliet refers to her face. She says that even before Tybalt was killed by the spite between the Capulets and Montagues, Juliet's face was "bad enough."
"Immoderately..." See in text (Act IV - Scene I)
Paris, like the Capulets, seems to think that Juliet is too sad over her cousin's murder. It is unclear whether or not this is his opinion or he is simply parroting what Capulet already said to him, but again this sentiments shows that values are backwards in this play. The feud has made death meaningless.
Act IV - Scene III 1
"Lie thou there...." See in text (Act IV - Scene III)
Juliet refers to her dagger to say that if the Friar's potion does not work, she will kill herself in the morning rather than marrying Paris. This is an interesting claim in this speech because she is so tentative to drink the potion. She fears that it will not work, but she also fears that it is actually poison. Her hesitation suggests that her resolve toto kill herself rather than marry Paris may not be as strong as it appears.
Act IV - Scene IV 1
"a jealous hood!..." See in text (Act IV - Scene IV)
By this, Capulet means that his wife wears the hood of jealousy. This exchange can be seen as a form of light teasing. The scene as a whole works to set up the light, happiness of Juliet's family that will be abruptly ruined by her plan.
Act IV - Scene V 2
"merriment..." See in text (Act IV - Scene V)
The Friar narrates Juliet's death as a positive thing because she will travel to heaven. Like Capulet and Paris, who told Juliet not to be sad when Tybalt died, the Friar tells Juliet's parents not to be sad that she is dead. However, unlike the Capulets, the Friar rationalizes his position on Juliet's death using religion.
"Our..." See in text (Act IV - Scene V)
Notice that Capulet repeats "our" here when referring to Juliet's wedding. This signifies two things. First, the wedding belonged to Capulet more than his daughter. Second, because he has lost something personal, Capulet now recognizes the grief that he dismissed when Tybalt died as legitimate.
Act V - Scene I 4
"cordial..." See in text (Act V - Scene I)
"Cordial" in this context suggests that the poison is a remedy or medicine. Romeo sees the poison as a remedy because it will relieve him of his sorrow for Juliet's death. This urge shows a direct reversal in Romeo's desires from the beginning of the scene. In the beginning, Juliet rescues Romeo from death; by the end, Romeo resigns himself to death for her.
"worse poison to men's souls,..." See in text (Act V - Scene I)
Romeo's sudden condemnation of money seems out of place in this play as this is the first mention of actual money in a play about love and blood feuds. Since the Apothecary claimed that anyone selling the poison would be killed, Romeo may be rhetorically relieving the Apothecary of this action: Romeo sold the poison instead of the man.
" if a man did need a poison ..." See in text (Act V - Scene I)
Romeo's ability to quickly recall this apothecary in detail indicates that he has been thinking about suicide while being banished. Like This is an effective rhetorical device that shows that audience that Romeo is in the same mental state as Juliet, who has repeatedly threatened to kill herself.
"stars..." See in text (Act V - Scene I)
In astrology, stars were thought to control someone's fate. Here, Romeo curses the stars in order to curse his own destiny and recalls the label "star-crossed lovers" that the Prologue assigned to Romeo and Juliet.
Act V - Scene III 10
" Yea, noise? Then I'll be brief. O happy dagger! Snatches Romeo's dagger. This is thy sheath; there rust, and let me die...." See in text (Act V - Scene III)
Juliet's famous dying lines represent the final transformation and bring about the tragic ending. The "happy dagger" finds a new "sheath" in Juliet's body. Some critics have seen this as an erotic suicide in which the dagger replaces Romeo in her heart. Much like previous metaphors in which Juliet likened her marriage bed to a grave, this suicide literalizes the presence of death within her love.
"O true apothecary! Thy drugs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die...." See in text (Act V - Scene III)
By "true apothecary" Romeo means that the poison he bought in the previous scene is just as potent and deadly as the apothecary promised. Romeo's dying words underscore the theme of telling and believing within this play. Just as Romeo is surprised that the apothecary held true to his word that the poison would kill him instantly, the audience may feel sadness that "with a kiss" Romeo dies despite being told by the Prologue at the beginning that this would happen.
"more..." See in text (Act V - Scene III)
Notice that even in their grief, Montague and Capulet are competing for who can build a better monument. This could suggest that the lovers' deaths did not end the feud, simply repurpose it.
"That heaven finds means to kill ..." See in text (Act V - Scene III)
Like the Friar, the Prince blames higher powers for the deaths of the lovers. The Prince invokes the idea of fate in order to blame the deaths on the feud between the Capulets and Montagues: the tragedy is karma for their hatred. Notice that this is once again a retelling of what has happened. The many instances of retelling throughout this story ask the audience to focus on not what is being said but how it is being said.
"For fear of that..." See in text (Act V - Scene III)
Romeo fears that Death will keep Juliet as his love, and thus vows to kill himself to protect her from Death. Romeo personifies Death here in order to offer a reason why he must die other than sadness over Juliet's death. If Death is a personified being, then Romeo can protect his love from this "abhorred monster."
"sunder..." See in text (Act V - Scene III)
Here, Romeo claims that Tybalt is avenged if Romeo kills himself, just as Mercutio was avenged when Romeo killed Tybalt. Notice that while Romeo sees his own death as justice, he still connects Tybalt with the fault of "sundering", splitting or dissolving Mercutio's youth. In this way, he both justifies and takes responsibility for his action.
"One writ with me in sour misfortune's book..." See in text (Act V - Scene III)
Here Romeo conflates his fate with Paris's fate. Both men were doomed by misfortune in love; both men have lost their love. Notice that Romeo holds no malice towards Paris or anger that he was supposed to marry Juliet. Both men become equal in the face of death.
"lips..." See in text (Act V - Scene III)
Romeo's final words to Juliet reflect his first words to her. It is another example of a reverse-blazon in which the speaker fragments himself by individually describing each of his body parts rather than fragmenting his love object.
" these gone;..." See in text (Act V - Scene III)
Romeo references the graves around them to threaten Paris with death if he interferes with Romeo's plans. Notice how Shakespeare uses the dialogue to establish the setting, and fills that setting with emotional charge based on who is speaking.
"maw, thou womb..." See in text (Act V - Scene III)
A "maw" is a jaw generally associated with a ravenous animal. Here, Romeo conflates the image of death as devouring with the image of death as giving life in depicting it as a womb. His metaphors mix life and death together to suggest that his grief makes them indistinguishable.