In the Shadows: Examining Light and Dark Imagery in "Romeo and Juliet" Essay

In the Shadows: Examining Light and Dark Imagery in "Romeo and Juliet" Essay

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John Steinbeck once said “It's so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone”. In order to appreciate something for all that it truly is, one must learn to compare it to its opposite. These opposites both complement each other and bring out the worst in one another. Moreover, they also produce energy through the tension they create. This is true of opposition everywhere, literature included. Authors often make use of it, thus making their works more interesting and relatable. In the play Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare uses light and dark imagery to create a tension that mirrors the energy we encounter in our everyday lives. In particular, this energy is found in setting, characterization, and the theme of love.

All of the scenes in the play take place in either the light of day or the darkness of night. Although this may seem obvious, the opposition between these settings plays an important role in conveying the mood of both characters and events. Traditionally, the brightness of sunlight is used to represent hope and joy. Nevertheless, Shakespeare often uses the light of day to create irony by setting a dark ambience. In the opening scene of Act 1, Lady Montague is looking for her son. When Benvolio says that he saw him walking towards the woods, Montague responds with,“Many a morning hath he there been seen. / With tears augmenting the fresh morning’s dew” (1.1.128-129). Montague is stating that Romeo is crying in the forest, as he does most mornings. This relates his sadness to daybreak, and establishes that the brightness of day often carries a solemn feeling. Similarly, it creates irony in the fact that although the setting is bright and joyful, Romeo’s mood is somber. The signifi...


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...they hadn’t appeared he could have stayed along Juliet’s side. This is important to the play as a whole for envy is a dangerous thing; it is the resentfulness brought on by something owned by another. When faced with this feeling, one can sometimes be pushed to do complete cruel actions, and even take that which they do not own. Here, Romeo and Juliet’s ability to be together is being taken away, for their love is one that most would not understand. The other Capulets and Montagues, who have never looked passed their name barriers, have never been able to experience love without boundaries the way Romeo and Juliet have learned to.

In the play Romeo and Juliet, an energy that duplicates that of our everyday lives is created through William Shakespeare’s use of light and darkness. This imagery is distinctly found in setting, characterization, and the theme of love.

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