Romeo and Juliet Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

Romeo and Juliet book cover
Start Your Free Trial

What simile does Romeo use to convey Juliet's beauty in Romeo and Juliet?

Expert Answers info

Julianne Hansen, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseTeacher (K-12)

bookM.A. from Clemson University


calendarEducator since 2019

write2,063 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

When Romeo first arrives at the Capulet party in act 1, the sight of Juliet captivates him immediately, and he provides these lines:

O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
As a rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear (I.v.42–44).

The full simile extends through the last two lines of this quote. Juliet's beauty is so stunning that it dazzles. The imagery here relies on a person of dark complexion (an Ethiopian) in the night. This image of darkness upon darkness is broken by a "rich jewel," which would visually stand out by contrast. Juliet's beauty is the same. She stands out and dazzles visually, and his eyes are immediately drawn to her. She is visually stunning. It is also a rare beauty, a rich jewel that is not commonly found. Romeo immediately follows this simile by also providing a metaphor, comparing Juliet to a "snowy dove" in a flock of crows.

Romeo's language makes it clear that he is utterly captivated by Juliet's rare beauty and considers all others "crows" by comparison.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

litteacher8 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2008

write15,967 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

A simile is a type of figurative language used to make a comparison. A simile is “a figure of speech in which two things, essentially different but thought to be alike in one or more respects,” are compared, usually using the words “like” or “as” to make the comparison (eNotes's Guide to Literary Terms). It is an indirect comparison. You are saying that something is like something, not that it is something, as in a metaphor. 

From the moment Romeo first sees Juliet, he is very attracted to her. He is captivated by her beauty. One of the ways he describes her beauty is with a simile. When Romeo first sees Juliet at the ball, he compares her to a beautiful jewel. 

O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiope's ear
;
Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear! (Act I, Scene 5

An Ehtiope is someone from Ethiopia, who therefore has dark skin. Romeo contrasts the jewel's brightness with the skin's darkness, with night being the skin and Juliet being the jewel. In other words, Romeo thinks Juliet is very eye-catching.

Romeo and Juliet meet, and they share a conversation that is basically one long metaphor. Later, Romeo sneaks into the Capulet orchard and again praises Juliet's beauty with plenty of metaphors and other types of figurative language.

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial