How does Shakespeare's language in Act 5, Scene 3 of Romeo and Juliet express Shakespeare's message?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One thing we can notice in Act 5, Scene 3 is that the prince uses some very forceful language to express Shakespeare's overall theme concerning the consequences of violent, uncontrolled emotions, such as hatred. Shakespeare especially uses language in Prince Escalus's dialogue in this scene to pin blame on Lords Capulet and Montague.

One language device Shakespeare uses to portray Lords Capulet and Montague as blameworthy is a rhetorical device called a rhetorical question, more specifically, Shakespeare uses epiplexis. A rhetorical question is any question asked in which an answer really isn't expected. An epiplexis is especially asked for the purpose of chiding, meaning scolding, or show grief. After Prince Escalus reads Friar Laurence's letter, he asks, "Where be these enemies?" (302). We know this is rhetorical because we know that the prince has already seen they are near at hand. His purpose of asking about the enemies is really to emphasize the fact that they are wrongful enemies. He is asking the question for the sole purpose of chastising Lords Capulet and Montague.

Prince Escalus also uses a very powerful climax in the lines, "See what a scourge is laid upon your hate, / That heaven finds means to kill your joys with love!" (303-04). A climax is a rhetorical scheme in which an argument ascends from least important to most important. The most important point Prince Escalus is trying to make is that Lords Capulet's and Montague's hatred for each other has killed the only two things they love--their children. These lines are also a very important antithesis that is portraying irony. An antithesis is another rhetorical scheme that presents contrasting ideas. Love is the exact opposite of hatred; therefore, the lines present an antithetical argument. Furthermore, what the prince is saying is that heaven has punished them for their hatred by killing those that they love with their love. Since Romeo and Juliet died as a result of falling in love, we can say that ultimately love led to their deaths. Therefore, heaven has punished Lords Capulet and Montague for their hatred with love by killing those they love with their love for each other, which is very, very ironic.

All of the language techniques Shakespeare used in Prince Escalus's speech serve to show that Lords Capulet's and Montague's behavior had been wrong and caused the deaths of both Romeo and Juliet, in addition, that any violent, passionate emotion is wrong and should be controlled.

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Romeo and Juliet

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