One of the play’s most consistent visual motifs is the contrast between light and dark, often in terms of night/day imagery. This contrast is not given a particular metaphoric meaning—light is not always good, and dark is not always evil. On the contrary, light and dark are generally used to provide a sensory contrast and to hint at opposed alternatives
Personification occurs when an inanimate object or concept is given the qualities of a person or animal.
Juliet— “For thou wilt lie upon the wings of night / Whiter than new snow on a raven’s back. / Come, gentle night, come, loving, black-brow’d night” (Act III Sc. 2)
An oxymoron describes when two juxtaposed words have opposing or very diverse meanings.
Juliet – “Beautiful tyrant! fiend angelical!” (Act III Sc.2)
Foreshadowing is a reference to something that will happen later in the story.
Juliet – “Give me my Romeo; and, when he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.” (Act III Sc. 2)
A pun is a humorous play on words.
Mercutio – “Nay, gentle Romeo, we must have you dance.”
Romeo – “Not I, believe me. You have dancing shoes / With nimble soles; I have a soul of lead…” (Act I Sc. 4)
Dramatic Irony – she is talking about Romeo but does not know that he is there
And, as he fell, did Romeo turn and fly. / This is the truth, or let Benvolio die. (III.i.171-172) couplet
2. Oh, find him! Give this ring to my true knight, / And bid him come to take his last farewell. (III.ii.143-144) foreshadowing
3. Poor living corpse, closed in a dead man’s tomb! (V.ii.29) oxymoron
4. For thou wilt lie upon the wings of night / Whiter than new snow upon a raven’s back. (III.ii.18-19) personification
5. But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks? / It is the east, and Juliet is the sun. (II.ii.2-3) metaphor
6. Indeed, I never shall be satisfied / With Romeo, till I behold him—dead— (III.v.92-93) dramatic irony
7. Therefore do nimble-pinioned doves draw love, / And therefore hath the wind-swift Cupid wings. allusion
8. These violent delights have violent ends / And in their triumph die, like fire and powder, / Which, as they kiss, consume… (II.vi.9-11) simile
9. O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo? (II.ii33) apostrophe
10. With purple fountains issuing from your veins, / On pain of torture, from those bloody hands / Throw your mistempered weapons to the ground. / (I.i.79-81) imagery
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night / As a jewl in rich ethiope's ear simile
Why then, O brawling love, O loving hate, / O anything of nothing first created! / O heavy lightness, serious vanity, / misshapen chaos of wee-seeming forms. oxymoron
Oxymoron - Example: "O brawling love! O loving hate! . . .
O heavy lightness! serious vanity!
Misshapen chaos of well-seeming forms!
Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health!
Still-waking sleep, that is not what it is!
Literary terms in Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
setting: a story’s time, place, and background
Example: Although no specific date is given, most scholars say the action of the play probably takes place around 1200 or 1300 A.D., when Italian families were feuding.
Where does the play take place?
foreshadowing: events which hint of things to come
Example: In the Prologue to Act 1, the Chorus foreshadows what will happen in the play.
One thing that will happen is that a feud will be renewed violently, as “civil blood makes civil hands unclean” (4).
What is another event that is foreshadowed in this speech by the Chorus?
oxymoron: bringing together two contradictory terms as in “wise fool” or “feather of lead”
Example: In Act 1, Scene 1, line 181, Romeo uses several oxymora (the plural of “oxymoron”) to describe the relationship of love and hate. He says, “O brawling love, O loving hate.”
What is another oxymoron that Romeo uses in this speech?
allusion: reference to historical or literary figure, event, or object
Example: In Act 1, Scene 1, line 217, Romeo says that Rosaline “hath Dian’s wit.” He is alluding to Diana, goddess of chastity, who opposed love and marriage. In other words,
Rosaline thinks like Diana and will not fall in love with Romeo.
What other allusion is made to a myth or legend in lines 216 and 217?
pun: a play on words based on the similarity of sound between two words with different meanings
Example: In Act 1, Scene 4, lines 14-16, Romeo is feeling sad, so he does not want to dance. He says to the others, “You have dancing shoes / With nimble soles. I have a soul of lead / so stakes me to the ground I cannot move.”
Which two words are used to make a pun in these lines?
Example: In Act 1, Scene 5, lines 55 and 56, Romeo uses imagery to describe Juliet’s beauty when he says, “So shows a dove trooping with crows / As yonder lady o’er her fellows shows.”
What comparison is Romeo making here?
point-of-view: perspective of the person who is telling the story
Example: In Act 1, Scene 5, Tybalt is upset that Romeo, a Montague, has come to his Uncle’s party. He says, “I’ll not endure him” (85). His point-of-view is that an enemy should not be allowed to attend the party.
Write a line from Capulet that shows he has a different point-of-view from that of his nephew Tybalt.
paradox: a statement that might seem to contradict itself but is nevertheless true; for example,
“less is more.”
Example: In Act 1, Scene 5, line 152, Juliet expresses a paradox when she speaks of
Romeo, saying, “My only love sprung from my only hate.” This seems to be a contradictory statement, because love and hate are opposites.
How is Romeo both Juliet’s love and her hated enemy?
rhyme: similar sounds between the ends of two words
Example: In the Prologue to Act 2, the Chorus speaks in a sonnet, a form of a poem. The first four lines contain alternating rhymes: