Has Shakespeare utilized binary opposition in "Romeo and Juliet" in a neutral way?Has shakespeare utilized binary opposition in a neutral way or has privileged/ marginalized a particular...

Has Shakespeare utilized binary opposition in "Romeo and Juliet" in a neutral way?

Has shakespeare utilized binary opposition in a neutral way or has privileged/ marginalized a particular side?

I think he isn't neutral, but can't come up with many examples.

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blacksheepunite's profile pic

blacksheepunite | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted on

If binary opposition applies to character, then the nurse and the friar are opposing forces, as are Romeo and Juliet. The nurse should represent the base, earthly emotions while the friar should represent the higher intellectual and spiritual aspects of man. Shakespeare reveals flaws in each character, so in that they are equal and opposite, but I would argue that he is harder on the friar, for Shakespeare reveals him to be something of a hypocrite, for though he says Romeo should go "Wisely, and slow", he has already consented to perform the marriage ceremony, knowing full well that Romeo's love has literally happened overnight.

Shakespeare may have used binary opposition to expose the flaws in thinking that things can be unproblematically opposed. Or, he may have used it to expose the flaws in (or complexity of) his characters.

Consider the following, all from Act 2 Scene 3:

The friar argues that "grace" and rude will" operate as binary opposites: 

Two such opposed kings encamp them still
In man as well as herbs,--grace and rude will;
And where the worser is predominant,
Full soon the canker death eats up that plant.

but shows that sometimes the dichotomy is a false one (or gray):

Virtue itself turns vice, being misapplied;
And vice sometimes by action dignified.

Now we have two sets of oppositions: the  nurse (base/sexual) vs the friar (enlightened/chaste), and "grace" vs "rude will", and none of them are "pure."

amy-lepore's profile pic

amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

If by Binary Opposition you mean the families of Romeo and Juliet, I don't see anywhere in the play where Shakespeare favors one family over the other.

In the Prologue the text reads, "Two households, both alike in dignity..." and from there continues to proceed to tell the story of how a child from each of these equally affluent families falls in love.

The only way you could possible argue that Shakespeare is favoring one family over the other is that we see most of the action from Juliet's point of view and from rooms inside her home since she and her nurse are the focal point of much of the action--either through reacting to events outside the home (Romeo slaying Tybalt, for instance) or through planning to overcome the feud that is in place (secret marriage with the Friar and pretending death so the two can ride off together and live happily ever after).

Even so, this is not showing favoritism--just point of view from one character's household and vantage point.


gordonschroeder's profile pic

gordonschroeder | (Level 1) Honors

Posted on

Institutional power

Individual free will





Passion and feeling

Judgement and self-control




Patience and caution






















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