Metaphor in Romeo and Juliet
Metaphor Examples in Romeo and Juliet:
Act I - Scene I
"purple fountains..." See in text (Act I - Scene I)
With this poignant metaphor, the Prince demonstrates the nonsensical violence in which both families take part. In this metaphor, the Montagues and Capulets fight to quench their rage with bloodshed, not because they have a particular reason to hate each other. This makes the feud a result of the participant's bloodlust.
" heartless hinds?..." See in text (Act I - Scene I)
"Heartless hinds" is a metaphor that compares Sampson and Gregory to deers without a stag to lead them. Notice that Tybalt enters the fray when Benvolio steps in to stop it. While Tybalt will not fight the lesser members of the Montague clan, Benvolio is Romeo's cousin and therefore a worthy opponent because of his elevated social class. Notice how the class system is embedded within this conflict.
Act I - Scene IV
"Prick love for pricking,..." See in text (Act I - Scene IV)
Mercutio takes up Romeo's metaphor of the thorn by using the word "prick," to pierce or puncture a small hole in. However, he also invokes the sexual innuendo of "prick" that implies the penis. Mercutio uses this metaphor to suggest that Romeo "prick" love instead of allowing love to "prick" him. Again, notice how love and violence are mixed within this metaphor. Mercutio is suggesting that Romeo "beat down" and forcibly prick love in order to cure his lovesickness.
Act I - Scene V
"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.
"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.
Act II - Scene II
"gyves..." See in text (Act II - Scene II)
"Wanton" in this context means a spoiled child. Here, Juliet constructs an image of a spoiled child playing with a pet bird. The bird can fly but it cannot get far because it is connected to the child's hand by gyves, or shackles. Juliet compares herself to the spoiled child and Romeo to the shackled bird.
"bepaint..." See in text (Act II - Scene II)
Women "painting" their faces with makeup was a problematic issue in Shakespeare's time. Makeup was generally associated with prostitution or wantonness. Here, Juliet offers a different type of painting of her cheeks. Rather than using makeup, her innocence causes her cheeks to be painted with blush. In using this metaphor Juliet is seen as the epitome of innocence and purity.
Act II - Scene IV
"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.
"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.
"pin..." See in text (Act II - Scene IV)
Here, Mercutio moves from a metaphor about dueling to a metaphor about archery, using the word "pin" which means the center of an archery target. Images of archery invoke Cupid, the winged god who would make people fall in love by striking them with an arrow. Using these two metaphors, Mercutio once again mixes love and violence.
Act III - Scene I
"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.
"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.
Act III - Scene II
"cockatrice..." See in text (Act III - Scene II)
This is another name for the mythological creature the basilisk. Anyone who looks a basilisk directly in the eyes turns into stone. In this metaphor, Juliet claims that the Nurse's confirmation of Romeo's death would be able to kill faster than the basilisk's stare.
"Hood..." See in text (Act III - Scene II)
"Hood" is a falconry maneuver used to tame wild birds. "Baiting" is when frightened birds flap their wings in response to being restrained to a perch. A falconer will "hood" a bird to calm it down. Juliet uses this falconry metaphor in order to show that she is both nervous and excited about her wedding night.
Act III - Scene III
"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.
"carrion flies..." See in text (Act III - Scene III)
Carrion flies are flies that feed off of dead bodies. Romeo compares himself to these flies to dismally show his death-like state. However, he unwittingly foreshadows Juliet's coming death with this metaphor.
Act V - Scene III
"The dashing rocks thy seasick weary bark..." See in text (Act V - Scene III)
In this metaphor, Romeo compares his suicide to a desperate ship captain intentionally destroying his boat on rocks when his boat is weary. This imagery recalls Romeo's original characterization of his passionate grief as "the roaring sea."
"how may I(90) Call this a lightning..." See in text (Act V - Scene III)
Unlike sick men who die surrounded by "keepers," or nurses, and merrily welcome death, Romeo does not greet death with the same joy. In comparing himself to these men who are happy to die, Romeo bring attention to the tragedy of his young death.