Romeo and Juliet Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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Discuss Romeo's use of contradictions in this passage: Alas, that love, who view is muffled still, Should, without eyes, see pathways to his will! Where shall we dine? O me! What fray was here? Yet tell me not, for I have heard it all. Here’s much to do with hate, but more with  love. Why, then, O brawling love! O loving hate! O anything, of nothing first create! O heavy lightness! Serious vanity! Mis-shapen chaos of well-seeming forms! Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, Sick health! Still-waking sleep, that is not what it is! This love feel I, that feel no love in this. You can talk about either: how love is contradictory OR how love and hate are very closely related. Thank you so much! Im so confused:D

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Romeo is speaking to Benvolio after having spent the night crying his heart out over the fact that Rosaline (a Capulet) does not love him (most likely because he is a Montague).  Even though Romeo loves his family, in his mind, the feud between the Montagues and the Capulets is ruining his love life.  The contrasting images come from his love for his family versus his hatred for the feud. 

When asking Benvolio to go with him to breakfast, Romeo notices the mess in the streets from the brawl that had recently taken place.  He at first questions Benvolio about what happened, only to answer his own question with "Wait, don't tell me... let me guess."  His reference  in "much to do with hate" has to do with the fact that the brawl was instigated by the hatred between the familes.  However, when he claims that the fight had to do "more with love," he means that the family pride is what keeps the hatred alive.  Neither family wants to be the first to break down and end the feud, for the Montagues and the Capulets are "both alike in dignity," not only in status, but in stubbornness.  Romeo's own family pride conflicts with his hatred for what the feud is apparently costing him... the love of Rosaline, and what he later believes will cost him the love of Juliet.

The oxymorons demonstrate this conflict in Romeo's mind.  Love and hate seem to be complete opposites, and so he offers a litany of extremes: "heavy lightness," "feather of lead," "bright smoke," etc. 

If one is filled with love, how then can one feel hatred?  A fierce sense of love and loyalty that would elicite such hatred toward another is a direct contradiction to what love is supposed to be.  For one thing, the feud between the families has been going on for so long, it is probable that neither even remembers what brought about the original fight to begin with.  The "loving" family has passed down this hatred for generations (Tybalt is a hot-headed Capulet who has it in for the opposing family for no other reason than because he was taught to hate the Montagues).  The venom has even spewed into the servants, as eveidenced by Sampson and Gregory's dialogue in the opening scene of Act I.  There is no logic to the feud; just hatred of another based on family loyalty (or "love"). 

It is obvious, though, that Romeo does not agree with perpetuating the feud; why else would he try to date a Capulet?  To make his father angry as an act of rebellion?  No, because he keeps his "romance" a secret.  And when one Capulet doesn't love him, does Romeo then denounce all Capulet women with vile words of hatred?  No, he immediately falls for another one... young Juliet.  He also keeps these feelings a secret from his father because he believes that Lord Montague will disrupt the relationship with his Capulet-hating views. 

Ironically, it is Lord Capulet who is softening about the feud (after being scolded and threatened by  the Prince following the latest street brawl).  He even admonishes his own nephew for wanting to beat up the party-crashing Romeo and tells Tybalt that he has heard good things about the young Montague.  If either Romeo or Juliet had been straight-forward enough to tell Lord Capulet the truth, this play would have had a very different outcome.  It was the confusion of "who to love and who to hate" that led to the tragic deaths of Romeo and Juliet.

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