The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
Figurative Language Study Guide
Simile: A simile is a language device that compares two ideas. Usually one idea tends to be concrete while the other is abstract. A simile points out the comparison using like or as.
The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars
As daylight doth a lamp…
O, speak again, bright angel! For thou art
As glorious to this night, being o’er my head
As is a winged messenger of heaven
3. Juliet (II.ii) reflecting upon having fallen in love with Romeo, her family’s enemy:
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
The more I have to give.
And flecked darkness like a drunkard reels
For forth day’s path…
Metaphor: The metaphor also compares two ideas—one concrete and one abstract. Where a simile points out the comparison using like or as, a metaphor makes the comparison directly. Consider these examples of the same comparison stated as both similes and metaphors:
Simile: Sam is as hungry as a bear.
Metaphor: When Sam is hungry, he’s a real bear.
Simile: Angel runs like the wind.
Metaphor: Angel breezed across the finish line.
Simile: The Barbarian ate like a pig.
Metaphor: The Barbarian is a real pig when he eats.
Now consider these examples of metaphors from the play:
Come, civil night
Thou sober suited matron, all in black.
For ‘tis a throne where honor may be.
Where Juliet lives.
They are freemen, but I am banished.
Adversity’s sweet milk, philosophy.
The law, that threatened death, becomes thy friend
And turns it to exile.
Do ebb and flow with tears
Apostrophe: You’re walking down the hallway after school and you pass a classmate. You turn and call out, Kim, could I speak to you?” Kim doesn’t hear you and continues on her way. You mutter, “That’s O.K., Kim, it wasn’t very important anyway.”
In the first line of dialogue, you addressed Kim directly. In the second, although Kim was no longer within hearing, you pretended she was present and aired your feelings.
Poets also use the device of having a character speak to a person or an abstract idea even though the person or idea isn’t or can’t be present. This particular device is called apostrophe. Consider the following examples:
Death, be not proud
Twinkle, twinkle little star,
How I wonder what you are.
In the first example, the speaker addresses Death and tells it not to be proud. This suggests that the speaker doesn’t fear death. The nursery rhyme in the second example lets the speaker address a star and contemplate it.
DIRECTIONS: The following passages from Acts I-V are examples of apostrophe. Decide what the apostrophe suggests about the speaker’s attitude towards the absent person.
Romeo! Humors! Madman! Passion! Lover! _______________
Appear thou in the likeness of a sign: _______________
Speak but one rhyme and I am satisfied _______________
She speaks, _______________
O, speak again, bright angel! _______________
O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo? _______________
Deny thy father and refuse thy name. _______________
O sweet Juliet _______________
Thy beauty hath made me effeminate _______________
And in my temper sof’ned valor’s steel! _______________
O, Tybalt, Tybalt, the best friend I had! _______________
O courteous Tybalt! Honest gentleman! _______________
Of Fortune, Fortune! All men call thee fickle _______________
O child, O child! My soul and not my child! _______________
Then I defy you, stars! _______________
Well, Juliet, I will lie with thee tonight ______________
Personification: One evening you are watching television and your family dog is dozing on the floor, feet outstretched. The dog’s feet begin to move, and it barks softly but remains asleep. Your parents smile and point out that the dog is dreaming about chasing cars.
In the middle of your mathematics exam, the batteries go dead on your calculator. You put it away in disgust saying, “This machine is out to get me.” You’ve probably heard someone say “Love is blind.” The cliché suggests anyone who is in love is unable to see his or her lover’s faults.
In each of the examples people have given human qualities to non-human things. From the evidence of watching the dog, we presume that the dog is dreaming. Similarly, the episode with the calculator presumes that the machine will react like human beings; the calculator wants revenge. In literature, authors often give human qualities to non-human things. This technique is called personification.
When well appareled April on the heel
Of limping Winter treads
Arise fair sun and kill the envious moon
The grey-eyed morn smiles on frowning night,
Check’ring the Eastern clouds with streaks of light.
Happiness courts thee in her best array.
Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day
Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.
Death is my son-in-law, Death is my heir.
For though fond nature bids us all lament
Yet nature’s tears are reason’s merriment.
A soliloquy is a speech in which a character; alone on stage, expresses his or her thoughts to the audience. An aside is a remark made to the audience, unheard by the other characters. There are two differences between these devices. First a soliloquy is usually two differences between these devices. First, a soliloquy is usually length; an aside is brief. Second, a soliloquy is usually spoken when no other characters are present; an aside is delivered with other characters present but unable to hear. Both devices, however, let the audience know what a character is really thinking or feeling.
Similar to a soliloquy is a monologue, which is a lengthy speech. Unlike a soliloquy, however, a monologue is addressed to other characters, not to the audience.
[Enter FRIAR LAWRENCE alone, with a basket.]
FRIAR: 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.
Now, ere the sun advance his burning eye
The day to cheer and night’s dank dew to dry.
(This soliloquy also contains other figurative devices. “Titan’s burning wheel” refers to Greek mythology. Such a reference is called a “Classical reference” since anything Greek is termed “Classical” in literature. Another figurative device is the alliteration “dank dew to dry.” The repetition of the initial letter “d” brings a poetry to the line.
Act III, Scene ii
[Enter JULIET alone.]
JULIET. Gallop apace, you fiery-footed steeds,
Toward Phaeton would whip you to the west
And bring I cloudy night immediately.
Spread thy close curtain, love-performing night,
That runaway’s eyes may wink, and Romeo
Leap to these arms untalked or and unseen….
(This soliloquy has a second Classical reference in referring to “Phaeton.” What is more, there is another alliteration in the words “would whip you to the west” with the “w” being repeated.)
[Enter Prince Escalus, with his Train.]
PRINCE. Rebellious subject, enemies to peace,
Profaners of this neighbor-stained steel—
Will they not hear? What, ho! You men, you beasts,
That quench the fire of your pernicious rage
With purple fountains issuing from your veins! . . .
Act I, Scene iv
The famous “I dreamt a dream”
Mercutio. O, then I see Queen Mab hat been with you.
She is the fairies’ midwife, and she comes
In shape no bigger than an agate stone
On the forefinger of an alderman.
Drawn with a team of little atomies,
Over men’s noses as they lie asleep:
Her wagon spokes made of long spinners’ legs,
The cover, of the wings of grasshoppers:
Her traces, of the smallest spider web;
Her collars, fo the moonshine’s wat’ry beam;
Her whip, of cricket’s bone; the lash, of film;
Her wagoner, a small gray-coated gnat.
Not half so big as a round little worm
Pricked from the lazy finger of a maid;
Her chariot is an empty hazelnut…”
Romeo (Act II, scene ii) Romeo overhears Juliet speaks at the beginning of the balcony scene.
ROMEO. [Aside] Shall I hear more, or shall I speak at this?
Act IV, Scene I
Friar and Paris are discussing his upcoming marriage to Juliet
FRIAR. [Aside} I would I knew not why it should be slowed—
Look, sir, here comes the lady toward my cell.
Questions to contemplate.
What is a sonnet? How many lines long? What is the difference between an Italian sonnet and a Shakespearean sonnet? What is meant by the term “iambic pentameter”?
How many people die in the play?
How does the Friar’s complicated scheme for Romeo and Juliet fail?
How does Juliet find herself entirely alone? Everyone deserts her in the end; how does this happen?
Is Romeo truly “Fortune’s Fool”?