In Romeo and Juliet, what are some examples of figurative language in Act 1?

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kcoleman2016 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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Romeo and Juliet, Act I

Metaphor: "At my poor house look to behold this night / Earth-treading stars that make heaven light" (I.ii) -- Lord Capulet compares the women who will be at his party to heavenly stars whose beauty will light up the room. He is most likely referring specifically to his daughter, to whom Paris will hopefully become engaged. 

Oxymoron: "Oh brawling love! Oh loving hate!" (I.i) -- Romeo, mourning over the loss of Rosaline's love, calls love "brawling", or violent and aggressive, and calls hate "loving", or close and intimate. 

Simile: "We'll have no Cupid hoodwink'd with a scarf, / Bearing a Tartar's bow of lath, / Scaring the ladies like a crow-keeper" (I.iv) -- Benvolio seriously doubts the abilities of Mercutio, Romeo, and himself to woo women when wearing masks and disguises to attend the Capulet party. He claims they are more likely to scare women away, comparing them to keepers of crows, which were kept around areas of execution. 

Allusion: "she'll not be hit / with Cupid's arrow" (I.i) -- Romeo, complaining about Rosaline's coldness, references Greek mythology, claiming that she refuses to succumb to passion, which Cupid's arrow would instill in her. 

Pun: "I will show myself a tyrant: when I / have fought with the men, I will be cruel with the / maids, and cut off their heads" (I.i) -- While bragging to Gregory, Sampson using this phrase for a double, witty meaning. He claims that he will cut off the heads of the men, or decapitate them, but then do the same to the women. However, in their case, he is referring to their virginity, which at this point in time was referred to as a "maidenhead". 

Personification: "Read o'er the volume of young Paris' face / and find delight writ there with beauty's pen" (I.iii) -- Lady Capulet is instructing Juliet to fall in love with Paris, and when doing so, explains that he will be equally smitten with her. In fact, she says that his delight will be obvious, as if applied by beauty itself. However, she gives beauty human characteristics, saying that beauty would write this beauty with its own pen. 

Literal vs. Figurative Language: 

Shakespeare easily could have stated any of this, but by using figurative language, his writing is more like poetry than prose. He creates vivid images and cultural references for his audience that forces them to think carefully about what he is saying. As a result, the audience is more deeply drawn into the play. 

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