Explain the difference of the "LIGHT" and "DARK imagery that Romeo and Juliet employ in their parting speeches. Refer to specific examples.   

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mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Act III scene V of Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare uses much chiaroscuro, an "effect of contrasted light and shadow."  Using two different outlooks on their future, Romeo and Juliet juxtapose each other in terms of imagery.

After their first and only night together, Romeo is fearful of being caught and killed:

Night's candles are burnt out...I must be gone and live, or stay and die.

Juliet refutes him, wanting him to stay:

Yon light is not day-light, I know it, I:
It is some meteor that the sun exhales,
To be to thee this night a torch-bearer,
And light thee on thy way to Mantua:

So, darkness imagery connotes death, while light imagery connotes hope.  Later, however, the two will switch positions.

Romeo says:

More light and light; more dark and dark our woes!

This means that the lighter and lighter it gets the darker and darker their future is.  Since their marriage is a secret, they must meet each other at night.  In the full light of day they will be discovered.

Juliet finally tells Romeo:

O God, I have an ill-divining soul!
Methinks I see thee, now thou art below,
As one dead in the bottom of a tomb:
Either my eyesight fails, or thou look'st pale.

She uses contrasting dark and light imagery to foretell Romeo's death.  She foreshadows the ending in the Capulet family tomb, except that it will be Romeo who will find Juliet.  So, while Romeo used the darker, morbid imagery at the beginning of the scene, it is Juliet who ends with it.


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Romeo and Juliet

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