Essay: Romeo and Juliet an Analysis

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Romeo and Juliet

An Analysis of the Use of Language in Romeo and Juliet

Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is a play full of characters that are built and developed through the use of language. This paper will analyze the language of the principal character Romeo and show how Shakespeare uses language to turn Romeo from depression to love and finally to despair.

Romeo begins the play by speaking in cliches and of insipid paradoxes: "O brawling love! O. loving hate…" (1.1.164). His language is pathetic, unoriginal, uninspired, and hackneyed. His imagination is bored with that which is around it -- but, then, all that is around it is shallowness: a ridiculous feud fueled by bored young men attempting to prove their masculinity (like Sampson and Gregory) and parents interested only in themselves.

Romeo's complaints, however, also stem from his unrequited love -- not for Juliet -- but for a girl named Rosaline, who has sworn to live chaste (and thus has no time for young Romeo). Romeo considers her extreme ("She is too fair, too wise, wisely too fair") (1.1.212) -- but this is obviously an example of the pot calling the kettle black, considering Romeo's tendency to swing from wild extreme to wild extreme himself. (He moves from depression to ecstasy to despair within the space of 5 acts).

His language and character changes considerably, however, when he meets Juliet. In fact, the first thing he shows is a kind of loss of language upon seeing her: he cries out rather primitively, "O!" (1.5.41) as though in the breakdown of his speech patterns a new language, character and purpose were being erected. Juliet inspires this transformation in Romeo, as he himself articulates: "She doth teach the torches to burn bright!" (1.5.41). The alliteration ("t" sound) and consonance ("ch" sound) is very like the flicking of a lighter or match: his very speech sounds like a fire is being started -- and a kind of animal growl is introduced in the "rr" sound in "burn bright." In one breath, Romeo reveals awareness, inspiration, and attraction.

As Romeo's imagination is sparked by her beauty, it is also given an education. Indeed, when the two speak for the first time, they compose a perfect sonnet (fourteen lines of rhyming iambic pentameter) illustrating that their love is ordered, measured, and beautiful. She encourages Romeo to drop his tired cliches -- and she also inspires him to a higher and better structure and behavior. In the sonnet that they form, the two of them liken their courtship to a holy pilgrimage. Romeo, however, is the one to introduce the theme -- and he does so by comparing Juliet to a shrine and himself to an unworthy sinner who yet dares to approach it: "If I profane with my unworthiest hand / This holy shrine, the gentle sine is this; / My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand / to smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss" (1.5.93-96). Juliet kindly forgives him and even encourages him. Romeo is emboldened but is tempered by Juliet's modesty.

Through Juliet, Romeo rises out of his depression to become himself, as he is "by art as well as by nature" (2.4.45) as Mercutio states: Romeo again is happy, witty, and sociable. He has been given a purpose and a definitive direction, thanks to Juliet. His language is no longer floundering in the depths of melancholy and self-pity. Now it is alive: he has found someone who will happily reciprocate his desire; she "doth grace for grace and love for love allow; / the other did not so," (2.1.90-92) as he tells the Friar.

The test to see how well the young lover can maintain his new state comes soon enough -- hours after the wedding in fact, at a meeting with the fiery Tybalt (Juliet's cousin). Although Romeo enters the scene by suing for peace, his resolve to love does not hold up under the strain of witnessing his friend Mercutio's death… [END OF PREVIEW]

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