What are two examples of metaphors in Romeo and Juliet?

Metaphors can be found throughout Romeo and Juliet and are often used to express extreme emotions like love, anticipation, or grief. In act 1, scene 5, Romeo metaphorically compares Juliet’s hand to a shrine, a holy place. Later, when Juliet is waiting for Romeo to come to their marriage bed, she metaphorically compares “night” to “a sober-suited matron” (3.2). At the end of the play, Lord Capulet says, “Death is my heir” (4.5), metaphorically likening his offspring and legacy to death itself.

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Shakespeare is a wordsmith for the ages. He is the master of figurative language—metaphors included.  Metaphors often get confused with similes. Remember that smilies compare two seemingly unlike things or ideas with the words "like" or "as." A metaphor makes a comparison without using these words. One example of a metaphor is when Juliet waits for Romeo to come to her on the wedding night. She compares the darkness of night to a woman:

"Come, civil night,
Thou sober-suited matron, all in black" (III.ii.11-12).

As shown above, the night is a woman dressed in black. Again, notice that she doesn't say that the night is like anyone; rather, she calls it a "sober-suited matron." Thus, this is an example of a metaphor, not a simile.

Another possible example of a metaphor in Romeo and Juliet might be when Lord Capulet tells the Friar that his daughter is dead. This line is mostly personification—a type of metaphor that gives human characteristics to something not human. Capulet personifies Death by assigning human roles to it:

"Death is my son-in-law, Death is my heir" (IV.v.40).

As shown above, Lord Capulet sees Juliet's death as the future that he has lost. For example, he will not have Paris as a son-in-law, and he will not have a grandson because death has taken their places.


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William Shakespeare's tragedy Romeo and Juliet is fraught with metaphors! A metaphor is a form of figurative language which applies non-literal descriptions in order to draw comparisons between two otherwise unrelated things. We see many metaphors in the first few acts of the play as Romeo and Juliet meet and fall in love. One might argue that the use of this kind of language is more artful, more poetic, and heightens the emotional and dramatic stakes of the dialogue. 

In Act One, Scene Five, Romeo has crashed the Capulet family's celebration. It is here that he first sees the lovely Juliet and remarks:

...It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night

Like a rich jewel in an Ethiope's ear..."

Romeo uses this metaphor to compare Juliet's appearance to that of beautiful jewelry, rendering her as exotic and mysterious with his reference to Africa.

When Romeo and Juliet finally do meet later in this same scene, Romeo proclaims:

If I profane with my unworthiest hand

This holy shrine, the gentle is this:

My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand

To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.

Again, Romeo uses metaphor to compare Juliet's hand to a holy place (implying that touching her is a spiritual experience) and to identify his lips a"pilgrims" (a word which refers to a person who travels to a sacred location).  The impression that this leaves us with is that Romeo and Juliet's connection is almost religious or a matter of destiny. 

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