I'm doing an assignment on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, specifically using a quotation from Act 2 scene 2, "O Speak to me bright angel." I was wondering, what is an angel symbolic of and what...

I'm doing an assignment on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, specifically using a quotation from Act 2 scene 2, "O Speak to me bright angel."

I was wondering, what is an angel symbolic of and what other poetic devices can be found in this quotation?

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andrewnightingale | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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An angel is a symbol of goodness and purity. References to someone being an angel means that such a person is pure and untainted - a heavenly creature. Romeo is suggesting through this metaphor that Juliet is the epitome of goodness, so much so that she is close to God and might be His messenger - this is the traditional view of angels. In Shakespeare's time, angels were deemed to be God's emissaries, acting on their Master's instruction to ensure that goodness prevailed and that God's creations were safe. Angels are guardians, just as much as Juliet is the guardian to his heart.

Angels are also associated with brightness and light, so in this sense, Juliet is the light through Romeo's darkness. He has gained new insight and has found new hope, since Rosaline has consistently rejected his advances. The fact that Romeo also uses the almost servile 'O' when he refers to Juliet, suggests his deep respect for her, for using this address is usually reserved for deities or those of higher rank and authority. It is as if Juliet is beyond human, she is a spiritual being which emanates light.

One could also suggest that Shakespeare uses apostrophe in this example. This figure of speech is ordinarily used to address an imaginary character, usually preceded by the exclamation 'O', as in our example. Juliet is not really an angel but the love-struck Romeo imagines her to be so and thus addresses her in this manner. In addition, Juliet is also the personification of an angel since, in Romeo's eyes, she possesses all the qualities an angel is supposed to have. 

Romeo's reference here ties in with his earlier assertion that Juliet is the sun - a heavenly body which brings light and warmth.

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