What is special about the way Romeo talks in Act 1, Scene 1 of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet?

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

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Romeo's very first long speech in the opening scene is different from other speeches with respect to the number of poetic rhetorical devices he uses.

One rhetorical device is the use of many oxymora. An oxymoron is a word construction that contains contrasting ideas in close proximity. In this first speech, Romeo is using oxymora to complain about how puzzling love is and also to describe love as this sort of wonderful, agonizing torture. One example of the oxymora he uses is in the line, "O brawling love! O loving hate!" (I.i.174). To "brawl" is to fight; therefore, due to his rejection from Rosaline, Romeo is describing love as both a loving emotion and an emotion one battles with. In the line, "O loving hate," he is describing love as both a loving emotion and a hateful emotion. It is hateful because either the one you love hates you, or you hate love for being rejected by love. Many other oxymora can be found in this speech that are being used to describe love as the exact opposite of what it seems to be.

In addition to oxymora, another rhetorical devise Romeo uses to make this speech sound both very poetic and poignant is apostrophe. Apostrophe is a special type of personification. Personification is when we give animals, abstract ideas, or inanimate objects human characteristics. However, apostrophe is an even more specific form of personification in that the speaker in a poem or piece of literature actually addresses some sort of abstract idea as if it is both a person and actually present in the room (Dr. Wheeler, "Literary Terms and Definitions: P"). Throughout most of this speech, Romeo is literally addressing love as if it is present, which gives love human characteristics. His address to love begins at the line, "Why then, O brawling love! O loving hate!" (174). In this line and throughout the rest of the speech, Romeo is literally asking love why its awful tormenting nature is the way it is.

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greenedward15 | High School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

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Romeo is heartbroken at the start of the text.  He has given his heart to a woman (Rosaline) that will not in return acknowledge him.  Benvolio believes that love, or the thought of love, has made Romeo 'womanish.'  Romeo is persuaded to go to the costume party becuase Benvolio promises to show Romeo women that are so beautiful compared to Rosaline, that Romeo will immediately forget her and shift his attention to another woman.

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