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Rhetorical Devices in Romeo and Juliet

Rhetorical Devices Examples in Romeo and Juliet:

Act I - Scene I

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"too much of mine own...."   (Act I - Scene I)

In our first introduction to Romeo, he is already in love with a woman. His grief is "too much of mine own" because his love is unrequited: he loves a woman who does not return, or acknowledge his love. Because Romeo's love comes from himself rather than the woman, he seems to be in love with the idea of love. In introducing this character in this way, Shakespeare positions the romance in the play as Romeo's education on what love really is.

"Lammastide..."   (Act I - Scene III)

Lammas Day is the festival of wheat harvest that occurs on the first of August. Juliet's birthday is July 31st, or Lammas Eve. The Nurse is asking how long until Juliet's birthday to find out how old she is. This could be a rhetorical device used to tell the audience that Juliet will be fourteen in two weeks. Notice how much importance the adults in this play place on Juliet's exact age. It has now been the topic of two conversations in the first three scenes of the play.

" forfeit ..."   (Act I - Scene IV)

In this context, "forfeit" means a misdeed, crime, or transgression, generally undertaken with the intention of causing injury. Romeo's statement is surprisingly accurate. He predicts that the course of the night's events will cause his untimely death. Much like the prologue, this statement interrupts the comedic exchange between Romeo and his friends to remind the audience how this story will end. Perhaps this is a way in which Shakespeare reminds the audience to pay close attention to the next scene.

"dream..."   (Act I - Scene IV)

Queen Mab goes into the dreams of others in order to show them what they desire. Lovers dream of the love they want, courtiers dream of impressing the court with their manners, lawyers dream of money etc. In this way, Mercutio undermines Romeo's dreams of his love: they are not real but rather the deception of a fairy that is trying to manipulate him.

"My grave is like to be my wedding bed..."   (Act I - Scene V)

From the prologue we know that this statement is actually true. While Juliet says it to emphasize her great love for Romeo, the audience hears it as a grim foreshadowing of the end of the play and a reminder to pay attention.

"Anon, good nurse! Sweet Montague..."   (Act II - Scene II)

Notice that Juliet speaks separately to both her Nurse and Romeo in this line. Since there were few stage directions in Shakespeare's plays, actors would have to interpret lines such as this to show different addresses with body language, volume, and tone. Notice throughout the rest of Juliet's part in this scene how she transitions between these two registers.

"cannot lick his fingers ..."   (Act IV - Scene II)

By this the servant means that a good cook likes to taste his own cooking. One who is afraid to lick his own fingers does not have confidence that his cooking is good. This exchange serves as a moment of comedy amidst the drama.

"Exeunt..."   (Act IV - Scene V)

This exchange between the Musicians and Peter acts as a comedic interlude in the heaviness of the main plot. Scenes like this point to how Shakespeare was able to keep both his low and high audiences engaged in the play.

"pardon'd, and some punished..."   (Act V - Scene III)

This line gives the play an unfinished ending. The fate of the other characters within the play who had a hand in Romeo and Juliet's deaths is uncertain. While the source text for this play details the banishment of the Nurse, the pardoning of the Friar, and the hanging of the Apothecary, Shakespeare leaves the ending open to deny a sense of closure to the audience.

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