Is the quote "O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!" an example of personification? 

2 Answers

shake99's profile pic

shake99 | Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

This line from Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet,

“O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!”

happens in Act I, Scene V. Romeo and his band have entered the Capulet’s house and are looking at the people as they talk and dance. Suddenly, without any warning at all, Shakespeare has Romeo notice a beautiful girl dancing. He asks a servingman who the girl is. When the servingman says he doesn’t know, Romeo responds with the line “O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!”

Is this line personification? Personification is the attribution of human qualities to something that is not human. In this case, we are talking about torches, which are obviously not human.

So, what human characteristic is Shakespeare giving the torches? The ability to learn. He is saying that Juliet can “teach” them to burn bright. Learning is a human act, not something a torch can do.

Shakespeare’s point here is that Juliet’s beauty is so great that she could be considered the source of torches’ bright light. She is the one that taught the torches to create that  beautiful light.

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kmj23's profile pic

kmj23 | (Level 2) Educator

Posted on

This quote, taken from Act I, Scene V, is an example of personification because it gives human characteristics to a torch. It suggests that a torch is capable of learning, and that it becomes a student of Juliet's. In this quote, Juliet is a teacher and the lesson is how to burn brightly.

By using personification in this way, Shakespeare demonstrates the extent of Romeo's attraction to Juliet. This example pays Juliet a great compliment because, in Romeo's view, Juliet is so beautiful that she burns as bright as any torch.

In this scene, Romeo's love for Juliet is ignited, just like a torch, and, thus, personification also helps to highlight this idea. It also becomes clear to the reader that his love for Juliet, now lit, will not fade like his love for Rosalind. It does not matter that Juliet is a Capulet. This example of personification, therefore, sets the scene for the drama to come. 

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