What are some examples of idiomatic expressions in Romeo and Juliet?

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clairewait | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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By definition, an idiom is a figurative expression that has become so common that its literal meaning is no longer considered and its figurative meaning is taken for granted.

Shakespeare, like Charles Dickens, is considered somewhat of a grandfather of many English idioms because he created them, and the popularity of his works made them famous.

"Romeo and Juliet" has several expressions that could be considered idioms.  The following list, in no particular order, contains examples and their commonly accepted meaning:

  1. Star-crossed lovers: two people whom fate has brought together.
  2. What's in a name...: Juliet's famous soliloquy which questions her attraction to a member of an enemy household has become somewhat of a modern catch phrase for, "What does reputation have to do with anything?"  This phrase is used commonly with material brand names and places in addition to actual people.
  3. I am fortune's fool: A phrase now used to denote exasperation at a negative situation in which one feels helpless.
  4. Wild-goose chase: This phrase is used modernly to describe a fruitless search for something or running back and forth in search of something and coming back empty-handed.  The idea is that the "wild-goose" has a hunter running every which way and in the end he fails to actually capture the bird.
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poetrymfa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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Idiomatic expressions are phrases that have become valuable for their figurative meaning rather than the literal meaning that otherwise might be deduced from their particular syntactical or linguistic arrangement. The previous post discusses the most famous idioms to originate from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Beyond the ones already listed, there are very few clear-cut examples. We could make a case for the following lines. Though their meaning is for the most part derivable from their constituent words (something that is not usually the case with idioms), they do have additional significance that transcends the obvious:

  • "Parting is such sweet sorrow." This phrase has managed to work its way into common vocabulary due to its oxymoronic understanding that pleasure is tied closely to pain. 
  • "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." This phrase has also been popularized in contemporary culture. It suggests that the inherent existence of something is more important than the way we choose to label it.
  • "Star-crossed lovers." This phrase refers to people whose relationship is destined for trouble or who experience conflict.