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Examples of Hyperbole and Classical Allusion in Act 1 of Romeo and Juliet


In Act 1 of Romeo and Juliet, hyperbole is evident when Romeo describes Juliet's beauty as making "the torches to burn bright." Classical allusion appears when Romeo compares Juliet to the sun, invoking the mythological figure Phoebus Apollo, the sun god. These literary devices enhance the dramatic and romantic elements of the play.

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Can you provide an example of hyperbole and classical allusion in Act 1 of Romeo and Juliet?

A classical allusion is a reference to classical literature or mythology, where the word "classical" is traditionally understood to indicate the cultures of ancient Greece and Rome. Hyperbole is a figure of speech that deliberately and obviously exaggerates something for effect.

In the first act of the play, Benvolio suggests that Rosaline will prove amenable to Romeo's suit of love. Romeo responds by making an allusion to Roman mythology. He speaks both of Cupid (the god of love) and Diana (virgin goddess of the hunt). He says of Rosaline that   

… she'll not be hit
With Cupid's arrow; she hath Dian's wit;
And, in strong proof of chastity well arm'd,
From love's weak childish bow she lives unharm'd.

Cupid shoots people with arrows that make them fall in love. Diana is sworn never to marry. The allusions are apt because Rosaline "hath forsworn to love."

We may reasonably suspect Romeo of engaging in hyperbole here. He suggests that Rosaline rejects love in general, which is likely a big exaggeration. She rejects Romeo, which isn't the same thing as being committed to the rejection of all lovers (as was the case for the goddess Diana).

But there are other cases of hyperbole in the first act, as when Romeo suggests that because of his love sickness he is "bound more than a madman is," imprisoned, "whipped and tormented."

At one point, in Scene 4, Romeo says his emotions are so low he can't physically move. 

I have a soul of lead

So stakes me to the ground I cannot move.

Clearly, this is a gross exaggeration since Romeo is talking and walking around. 

Another example of hyperbole is when Capulet suggests that his party is going to feature ladies that are so dazzling, they are like stars so bright they make the dark sky light:

At my poor house look to behold this night

Earth-treading stars that make dark heaven light.

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Can you provide an example of hyperbole and classical allusion in Act 1 of Romeo and Juliet?

Hyperbole is "exaggeration for the sake of emphasis." In Act I, scene 1, there is hyperbole when Sampson says, "I will tear down the castle wall of any man or maid of Montague’s."

You will find a classical allusion in the same scene. After the Prince has warned the Capulets and Montagues to stop disturbing the peace or else, Montague says how glad he is that Romeo wasn't involved. He goes on to say that Romeo has not been himself; he is depressed because he has lost his lady love. Then Montague says:

But just as soon as the sun (which should make you happy)
Moves well above the horizon, as the Goddess of Morning Aurora
Draws back the shady bed curtains from her bed,
My depressed son runs away from the light and comes home,
And locks himself in his bedroom,

In Roman mythology, Aurora is the goddess of dawn who brings the light of day. Keep looking. I'm sure you can find more.

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Can you provide an example of hyperbole in act 1, scene 3 of Romeo and Juliet?

Hyperbole is a figure of speech that is an obvious exaggeration created for effect or emphasis.

An exaggerated character herself, the Nurse enters the scene in Act III with yards of clothing catching the wind, prompting Mercutio to call out, "A sail, a sail!" Previously in Act I, Scene 3, she employs hyperbole for emphasis to Juliet. As Juliet's mother suggests a husband to her daughter in the form of the young nobleman Paris, the Nurse attempts to underscore Paris's attractiveness by expressing her glowing praise for him:

A man, young lady! Lady, such a man
As all the world--Why, he's a man of wax. 1.3.77-78

With these words, the Nurse tries to convince Juliet that Paris is as great as any man in the world. Moreover, he is as perfect as a wax model; it is as though he were sculpted and given perfect features and perfect proportions. Then, after Lady Capulet comments that no summer in Verona is as handsome, the Nurse adds, "He's a flower, in faith, a flower!" (1.3.80)

By this expression she means that Paris is as handsome as the summer to which Lady Capulet alludes in the previous line ("Verona's summer hath not such a flower").

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Can you provide an example of hyperbole in act 1, scene 3 of Romeo and Juliet?

I’ll lay fourteen of my teeth –

And yet, to my teen be it spoken, I have but four –

She’s not fourteen.

The Nurse uses hyperbolic expression to make a joke at her own expense in Act 1, scene 3 of Romeo and Juliet. She and Lady Capulet are discussing Juliet’s age, and the Nurse, having raised Juliet almost from birth, knows her age better than anyone. First she claims that she will bet her own teeth on Juliet being under 14 – a bet that no one expects her to make in seriousness, after all (she’s really going to have teeth pulled if she is somehow wrong?) and then bemoans the fact that she can’t bet fourteen teeth because she only has four. It’s hyperbole because no one is expected to think that the Nurse truly has only four teeth – in fact, unless there’s a great deal of makeup involved, the audience will be able to plainly see that she has more teeth than that – but tooth loss was very common in old age at the time, and so the nurse is actually making a self-deprecating joke about her age: so old she only has four teeth left. It’s typical of the Nurse’s breezy, jokey attitude in the first part of the play, an attitude that gets increasingly grim and serious as the play progresses toward its tragic end.

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