What’s In an Image?
In Romeo and Juliet, a play by William Shakespeare, Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet fall in love in fourteenth-century Verona. Both commit suicide rather than be separated by their families’ feud. The play has survived for centuries because of not only its captivating storyline but also its stirring phraseology. Shakespeare infuses Romeo and Juliet with various types of imagery - for example, celestial, religious, avian, and light and dark references - that provide metaphoric meaning, influence the spectators’ (or readers’) moods, and foreshadow the lamentable end.
Heavenly imagery illuminates the brilliance of Romeo and Juliet’s relationship in the play. For example, Romeo says Juliet is like the sun, and that her eyes are “two of the fairest stars in all the heaven...her eye in heaven/Would through the airy region stream so bright/That birds would sing and think it were not night” (2.2.15-23). Juliet states that Romeo should be “cut...out in little stars” (3.2.24), and that daylight is “some meteor that the sun exhaled” (3.5.13). Humans have long been in awe of bright, dazzling astronomical objects like the meteors, stars, and sun that the lovers mention. With frequent celestial imagery, Shakespeare shows how beautiful and out-of-this-world Romeo and Juliet’s love is. Spiritual language, while emphasizing the purity of Romeo and Juliet’s love, also foreshadows their tragic fate. Romeo’s first discussion with Juliet is about Christian pilgrimage that illustrates how divine, almost flawlessly sacred, his devotion to her is, like the pious connection between a worshipper and God. To him, her hand is a “holy shrine” and his lips are “two blushing pilgrims” (1.5.105-106). He calls her a “dear saint” (1.5.114) and a “bright angel...a winged messenger of heaven” (2.2.29-31). His “pilgrim speech,” in which he convinces Juliet to let him kiss her, is written in sonnet form. The sonnet is the typical form of love poetry, and Shakespeare makes...
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