In Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, how does Romeo's use of language emphasize his confusion when he realizes Mercutio is dead and that he has killed Tybalt?Act 3 Scene 1

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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One language device Shakespeare uses to portray Romeo's confusion after Mercutio's death is called a paradox. A paradox is found in the line, "thy beauty hath made me effeminate." It is paradoxical that a woman's love and beauty made a man, like Romeo, act like a woman, making Romeo give way to his softer feelings. Romeo feels that he should have handled this situation better, and boldly fought back rather than trying to hold Mercutio back. Romeo is shocked and confused by his lack of boldness. This feeling of shock is further expressed in the oxymoron, "soft'ned valour's steel." Steel is the hardest metal that exits, therefore softened steel is an oxymoron.

Another rhetorical language device, called a chiasmus, is seen in the line, "Alive in triumph! and Mercutio slain!" A chiasmus inverts word order to form a crisscross shape. This line begins with the word "alive" and ends with its opposite, "slain," thereby forming a crisscross similar to the example, "By day the frolic, and the dance by night" ("Schemes," Shakespeare's chiasmus serves to contrast Tybalt's remaining life with Mercutio's sudden death, again showing Romeo's shock and confusion at being responsible for Mercutio's death.

Alliteration is found in the phrase "fire-ey'd fury," which Romeo uses to conjure his furious emotions. This phrase, as well as the line, "away to heaven respective lenity, and fire-ey'd fury be my conductor now!," serves to show Romeo's confused state of emotions. Romeo feels so confused that he must order himself to stop judging and approaching Tybalt gently and to be furious instead.

Finally, the rhetorical language device called polysyndeton is found in the line, "Either thou, or I, or both, must go with him." Polysyndeton is a technique that makes use of repeating conjunctions in order to produce an "overwhelming effect" ("Schemes," In this case, the correlative conjunction "either...or" is repeated so that Romeo's line sounds all that more intimidating for Tybalt. Besides that, the fact that Romeo is saying either Tybalt or himself or both must die, rather than just saying that Tybalt must die, shows that Romeo is still feeling confused and responsible for Tybalt's death.


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