What important imagery in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet relates to the themes of the play?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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One important image is seen in the Prince's speech in the very first scene of the play. After breaking up the street brawl between the Montagues and Capulets, he refers to the family members as "[p]rofaners of this neighbour-stained steel" (I.i.78). The sight image of steel refers to their swords while "neighbour-stained steel" conjures up the image of the swords being stained with blood, but not just any blood, the blood of their neighbors. This is an important image because it underscores Shakespeare's intent of pointing out just how wrongful the family feud between the Montagues and Capulets was, which portrays the theme of the consequences of violent, uncontrolled emotions.

Another important image is one that Friar Laurence speaks in the scene when Romeo tells him he has forgotten all about Rosaline and is now very suddenly in love with Juliet. Friar Laurence very rightly refers to Romeo's love as fickle, young, and ignorant. Friar's opinion of Romeo's ability to love is especially seen in the line, "O, [Rosaline] new well / Thy love did read by rote, and could not spell," which can be translated to mean that Rosaline knew his love could only read from memory rather than by knowing how to spell words (II.iii.91). In other words, Friar Laurence is saying that Romeo's experience with, and understanding of love is far too young, far too juvenile. Romeo's love does not yet know how to read; instead, like a child, his love only recites books from memory. The sight image of love being unable to read like a child perfectly portrays Romeo's ignorance. The image is important because it helps portray Shakespeare's theme of real love vs. uncontrolled passion.

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