Imagery in William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

Imagery in William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

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Romeo and Juliet - Imagery

 

 

Literary devices play a crucial and essential role in almost all works of literature. Literary devices are techniques used by the writer in order to conjure moods and ideas within the reader. Writers use different literary devices for different purposes. One very important literary device is imagery. In imagery, words are used to invoke an image in the reader's mind. One writer that utilizes a great deal of imagery is William Shakespeare. In William Shakespeare's tragedy Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare uses images of poison and death to create moods of death and sorrow.

 

In Romeo and Juliet, poison very often represents death. One example of where images of poison represent death occurs after Juliet receives a potion from Friar Lawrence that is supposed to put her to sleep for forty-two hours. Before she takes it, she expresses a portentous doubt about her trust in the cunning Friar's plan. She worries about the possibility of this potion actually being a pernicious poison, which could lead to her untimely death. She shows her misgivings when she states, "What if it be a poison which the friar Subtly hath minist'red to have me dead" (4.4. 24-25). Another illustration of imagery where poison symbolizes death is when Romeo goes to the Apothecary. After hearing news of Juliet's "death," Romeo talks of procuring poison to wreak death upon himself. He says, "A dram of poison... That the life-weary taker may fall dead" (5.2. 60-62). Finally, images of poison are used to represent death when Romeo is found dead by Juliet. When Juliet awakes from her sleep and realizes Romeo has died, she discerns that poison has been the cause. This is evident as she states, "Poison, I see, hath been his timeless end" (5.3. 162). In this passage, images of poison represent a weapon for death. Images of poison that represent death play a major role in Shakespeare's play.

 

Besides poison representing death, Shakespeare also uses images of death which symbolize sorrow. One example of such imagery involves the time when Romeo leaves the Capulet party and leaves Juliet behind. He uses images of a lifeless body and death to show the sorrow he feels when he is not with his beloved Juliet.

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He shows that he cannot live without her when he says, "Can I go forward when my heart is here? Turn back, dull earth, and find thy center out" (2.1. 1-2). In this way, death represents his inner sorrow. In addition, images of death are used to represent sorrow when Lord Capulet finds Juliet "dead." To express his great sorrow for the sudden, unexpected death of his only daughter, he speaks of her death. He says, "Death lies on her like an untimely frost Upon the sweetest flower of all the field" (4.5. 29-30). Finally, images of death are used to portray extreme sorrow when Romeo visits the Capulet tomb. There, he finds Juliet who is feigning death, and laments the loss of his one true love. He talks of death when he says, "Death, that hath sucked the honey of thy breath" (5.3. 92). Before he kills himself, he also speaks of death as he states, "A dateless bargain to engrossing death!...Thy drugs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die" (5.3. 115; 120). This talk of death produces a mood of sorrow within the reader. It is clear that imagery involving death and sorrow plays a central role in Romeo and Juliet.

 

In the tragedy Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare's use of images of death and poison to evoke emotions and feelings within the reader is essential.

 
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