In Romeo and Juliet, identify and explain one simile used by Romeo in Act 1, Scene 5.

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Romeo compares Juliet to a jewel.

Romeo is quite smitten with Juliet, the girl he meets at the ball.  He shows this by using figurative language.  One type of figurative language is a simile.  A simile is an indirect comparison that usually uses the words “like” or “as” and is often used in poetry.  You can often use it to woo a girl (or boy)! 

When Romeo first sees Juliet, he describes her with simile.

It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night

Like a rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear (Act 1, Scene 5)

An “Ethiop” is an Ethiopian.  Ethiopia is a country in Africa.  The natives there would have been known for wearing earrings.  He is basically saying that Juliet is just as beautiful.  Actually, Romeo puts a simile on top of a metaphor here, because he added that to the “cheek of night” metaphor.  He goes on to say she is so beautiful that she is too good to belong to this world.  Yes, Romeo seems to believe in love at first sight!

When Romeo and Juliet finally do meet, they share a sonnet’s worth of metaphors, comparing their lips to pilgrims, for example.  It may seem as if Romeo and Juliet fall in love quickly, but this exchange shows that they are intellectual equals as well as equally attracted to each other.

ROM:

To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.

JUL:

Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,

Which mannerly devotion shows in this;

For saints have hands that pilgrims’ hands do touch,

And palm to palm is holy palmers’ kiss.(Act 1, Scene 5)

The value of the simile, and the metaphor, to the audience is that they show that Romeo and Juliet are deeply in love, and also deeply committed.  It is easy to dismiss their romance as love at first sight or a quick, childish fling.  Remember, though that Shakespeare tells us in the prologue that they were star-crossed.  Both of them seem to have a deep, almost spiritual connection.

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