What literary device is used in this line from Romeo and Juliet: "there lies more peril in thine eye / Than twenty of their swords" (2.2.71-72)?

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leospengler's profile pic

leospengler | Student, College Senior | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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Writers of literature use literary devices, or specific narrative writing techniques, to enhance their writing's imaginative and emotional capacity. Some common literary devices include simile, metaphor, imagery, diction, foreshadowing, allusion, and hyperbole.

In this line from William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, first performed in 1597, Romeo explains why he snuck into the Capulet estate to see Juliet. Juliet warns Romeo, "If they do see thee they will murder thee," and Romeo replies, "Alack, there lies more peril in thine eye / Than twenty of their swords" (2.2.70-72). Romeo here claims that he would rather face twenty Capulets with swords than see Juliet offended by him. Romeo, however, does not say this directly; he instead uses hyperbole to exaggerate his fear of seeing Juliet upset. He states directly that "there lies more peril" in Juliet's sadness than in being attacked. This is a clear exaggeration.

Shakespeare also uses another literary device in this line: foreshadowing. With the image of the Capulets' swords, Shakespeare here foreshadows Juliet's cousin Tybalt's climactic sword fight with Mercutio and then Romeo. The foreshadowing in this comparison evokes one of the play's central themes: the conflicts provoked by Romeo and Juliet's love. Shakespeare thereby uses the literary devices hyperbole and foreshadowing in these crucial lines.

For more information, please see the eNotes guides on Romeo and Juliet and literary devices linked below. 

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This line is from the famous balcony scene in Act II, Scene 2, of Romeo and Juliet in which the enamoured Romeo risks his life to enter the Capulet orchard and stand beneath the aperture to Juliet's chambers in the hope of seeing her again. When Juliet discovers Romeo, she immediately senses the danger of his actions in climbing the high walls of the orchards and risking death if her kinsman should have seen him engaged in such an act. But, Romeo tries to allay her fears as he tells her scaling the wall was facile, "With love's light wings did I o'erperch these walls." Nevertheless, Juliet warns,"If they do see thee, they will murder thee," a warning to which Romeo replies,

Alack, there lies more peril in thine eye
Than twenty of their swords. Look thou but sweet
And I am proof against their enmity. (2.2. 75-77)

With this metaphor in which Romeo compares the trepidation he experiences that she will not return his love with his fear of the Capulet guards' swords, Romeo clearly expresses the extent of his desire for Juliet. Romeo's words are also a further example of Romeo's use of the conventions of courtly love as one of the rules of its poetry is that "Love can deny nothing to love," i.e. Romeo must risk his life for love.

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