What literary examples demonstrate the contrast of love and hate in "Romeo and Juliet"?

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, the author uses literary examples to present images of love and hate.

In Act One, scene one, there is a paradox between the idea of love ("peace," in this case) and hate (referring to a sword with the word "drawn"). Tybalt is ready to fight Benvolio who has no wish to fight anyone. Benvolio has his sword ready to break up the fight that is erupting between the servants of the two warring houses.

Tybalt challenges Benvolio:

What, drawn and talk of peace? (65)

In Act III, scene one, Tybalt approaches Romeo with the intent to fight, still angry that Romeo "crashed" Capulet's party, but Shakespeare has Romeo meet Tybalt's rage with love, rather than the anger and hatred Tybalt's insults might cause under other circumstances.

Tybalt, the reason that I have to love thee
Doth much excuse the appertaining rage
To such a greeting. (III.i.61-63).

Again in the scene, with Benvolio's speech, we hear of the love expressed by Romeo and the ensuing answer of hatred on the part of Tybalt. Benvolio tells Escalus:

All this, uttered [by Romeo]
With gentle breath, calm look, knees humbly bow'd,
Could not take truce with the unruly spleen
Of Tybalt deaf to peace, but that he tilts
With piercing steel at bold Mercutio's breast (III.i.159-163).

Perhaps, too, we see love and hate warring with each other in the oxymorons in Juliet's speech when learning of Tybalt's death at Romeo's hand. In Act Three, scene two, Juliet says:

A damned saint, an honourable villain! (81)

There is also the extremes of Juliet's concept of "villain," between men who committed terrible deeds, though she loves them both:

But wherefore, villain, didst thou kill my cousin?
That villain cousin would have kill'd my husband. (105-106)

Capulet tells Juliet she must marry Paris. Juliet notes the difference between what her father wants of her, and her true feelings, in Act Three, scene five—how can she be thankful of hate, which is meant by Paris to be love:

Proud can I never be of what I hate,
But thankful even for hate that is meant love. (150-151)

Love and hate go hand-in-hand in Romeo and Juliet as so many characters are torn between the two extremes.


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