21 February 2013
Shakespeare’s Paradoxical Nature of Life
William Shakespeare’s tragedy of two star-crossed lovers whose deaths ultimately reconcile their feuding families, entails a variety of conflicting figurative language. Sound devices, imagery, juxtaposition, oxymorons, and other figurative language examples all assist in conveying the theme that life is paradoxical, in Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet. A supreme example of this theme, could be Friar Lawrence’s opening lines, “The gray-eyed morn smiles on the frowning night, / Check’ring the eastern clouds with streaks of light; / And flecked darkness like a drunkard reels / From forth day’s path and Titan’s burning wheels.” (II.iii.1-4) Throughout Act I and Act II, Shakespeare juxtaposes the characters of Romeo and Juliet to develop the theme of the paradoxical nature of life.
One of the most significant and reoccurring paradoxes in the works of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, is his contradicting light verses dark imagery. Romeo associates Juliet with light saying “[she] is the sun” (II.ii.2) He then furthers the comparison by correlating Juliet with a bright gem when he states, “she hangs upon the cheek of night / As a rich jewel in an Ethiop’s ear” (I.v.44-45) Juliet, a stunning luminescent treasure, is opposed to the darkness of the Ethiopian skin tone. Contrastingly, Montague articulates his apprehension concerning Romeo’s current actions to Benvolio explaining that Romeo “shuts up his windows, locks fair daylight out, / And makes himself an artificial night.” (I.i.130-131) These examples of light and dark imagery refer to Romeo’s decline into depression after Rosaline’s announcement to remain chaste. Unable to cope with the realization that he would not marry his love, he starts to reject society, represented as light, and begins to draw into a deep seclusion, signified as his personal darkness. The paradoxical elements of light versus dark demonstrate a...
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