How does a reader find the figurative language in a poem?
Figurative language is the use of figures of speech to be more persuasive or interesting in writing or speaking. Figurative language includes, but is not limited to, simile, metaphor, personification, allusion, oxymoron, alliteration and punning.
Shakespeare, of course, is widely regarded as the master of figurative language. One of his most famous plays, Romeo and Juliet, is often read by high school students who are tasked with the analysis of his figurative language. So, how does the reader find the figurative language?
In Shakespeare, it is pretty easy. Rather than saying something in a literal fashion, Shakespeare goes further and attempts to paint a picture with his words. Instead of simply saying that Juliet is beautiful when he first sees her in Act I, Scene 5, Romeo says,
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—
Beauty too rich for use, for Earth too dear.
It is the East, and Juliet is the sun.
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief
That thou, her maid, art far more fair than she.
The gray-eyed morn smiles on the frowning night,
Check’ring the eastern clouds with streaks of light,
And fleckled darkness like a drunkard reels
From forth day’s path and Titan’s fiery wheels.
Why then, O brawling love, O loving hate,
O anything of nothing first create!
O heavy lightness, serious vanity,
Misshapen chaos of well-seeming forms,
Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health,
Still-waking sleep that is not what it is!
Not I, believe me. You have dancing shoes
With nimble soles. I have a soul of lead
So stakes me to the ground I cannot move.