In Romeo and Juliet, how does Shakespeare use language and imagery to convey a character's feelings or beliefs?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare uses imagery painted by both figurative and sensory language in order to portray characters' feelings and beliefs.

One good place analyze the use of language and images is in the opening scene when we first meet Romeo. Shakespeare uses personification in Romeo's first longer speech to paint the image of love being blind, "whose view is muffled still, should without eyes," but also to paint the image of love being forceful and driving men to do what it wants, "see pathways to his will!" (Act 1, Scene 1).

Next, after making analogies showing love as being both loving and hateful, Shakespeare uses some sensory language. The phrase "O heavy lightness!" portrays Romeo as struggling with his emotion of feeling as light as a feather due to love, but also feeling burdened by heartache at the same time. Shakespeare continues to portray Romeo's battle with love through the use of contrasting images, "Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health!" The image "feather of lead" portrays the same contrast of light and heavy feelings as above, but "bright smoke" portrays the image of love being seen as a bright flame, but the flame gives off smoke, which suffocates and blinds a person. Similarly with "cold fire," love is being portrayed as a hot, passionate feeling that can be contrasted with another person's unreciprocating coldness. Finally, "sick health" is not only an image, but also another use of personification. The phrase personifies love as being sick or insane and driving people to insanity, but it also portrays love as being a healthy, energizing emotion.

All of these uses of figurative language and imagery serve to portray Romeo's feelings of being at odds with himself, love, and Rosaline, but also to portray Romeo's budding belief that love is a very cruel, cruel emotion.

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Romeo and Juliet

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