Compare and contrast the images of love in: Act I Scene V, Act II Scene II and Act V Scene III

Authors Avatar

Romeo & Juliet Coursework

Compare and contrast the images of love in: Act I Scene V, Act II Scene II and Act V Scene III

The play “Romeo and Juliet” by William Shakespeare is a romantic tragedy set in Italy. It tells the story of two “star-crossed lovers” and how they fall in love, but then die as a result of this. The play is filled with various images of love to display the relationship between the two main characters, Romeo and Juliet. The complex images used by Shakespeare are a reflection of the play itself and the experiences of the characters.

Shakespeare displays love through many different images. Throughout the play, religious imagery, the contrast between light and dark, nature, death and many other images are used to express the emotions between the characters. The reason for displaying love through images, and not just plainly, is that by using imagery, the love and the particular phrase becomes more memorable, and therefore powerful.

The three scenes that will be compared are: Act I Scene V, Act II Scene II and Act V Scene III. Act I Scene V is where Romeo and Juliet first meet at Capulet’s party. They talk to each other and share their first kiss. Act II Scene II is commonly referred to as the ‘balcony scene’ and is the setting for the second meeting between Romeo and Juliet. Here they decide that they will get married to each other the next day. Act V Scene III is the final scene of the play and is where the tragedy occurs. This is where both Romeo and Juliet both kill themselves.

The most prominent display of love is through religious imagery. Not only does this help to show the character’s feelings, it also helps to place the play in its setting. The constant mention of religion reminds the audience that the play was set in Italy and the strict Catholic views that they held in the country. This helps to make the imagery stronger and more meaningful. Setting a play in different country was also quite common at the time, and Shakespeare set many of his other plays abroad as well, for example, Hamlet and The Merchant Of Venice. Setting the play in an exotic, foreign location also would have appealed to the audience at the time. At the time, plays were the only way which people could learn about other places as they could not travel easily. Plays set in foreign countries appealed to people, as they would be able to experience places and things that they otherwise would not be able to.

The first hint of religious imagery in Act I Scene V is when Romeo is describing Juliet. He says that she is “for earth too dear”, possibly referring to an angel. The first dialogue between Romeo and Juliet is an extended Christian metaphor. Using this metaphor, Romeo convinces Juliet to let him kiss her. However, the metaphor has another role. The religious images of the conversation show that their love can be linked to God, therefore making it pure and perfect, but in using religious language to describe their growing feelings for each other, they come close to becoming blasphemous. Romeo compares Juliet to an image of a saint that should be worshiped. This again, helps to set the play, as in England at the time, the Church would not have accepted this, as it saw idol worship as blasphemous. However, in Italy, where the Catholic Church was the head, idol worship was accepted.

The first dialogue between Romeo and Juliet is a sonnet, which is seen as an idealized poetic form to write about love, which again shows that their love is perfect. It begins with Romeo using religious metaphors by calling Juliet a “holy shrine” and that his lips are “two blushing pilgrims” which must kiss the shrine to get rid of his sin. This is a metaphor as Romeo says that his lips are “pilgrims” and that Juliet is a “holy shrine”. This would have an effect on the audience, as these metaphors would have been seen as controversial by religious people. For these people, it would have also foreshadowed the end, as blasphemous statements would have been met with death. Juliet picks up on these metaphors and extends them by saying that just holding hands is enough as that is a “holy palmers’ kiss”. This has historical relevance, because a greeting between palmers – pilgrims – would be to touch hands – palms – but not to kiss. This tells the audience the Juliet is also interested in Romeo, as if she wasn’t; she would just ignore him or tell him to go away. The fact that she is extending his metaphor shows that she has some interest in him, but does not want to rush straight to the point, as she only allows him to touch her hand at first, and doesn’t immediately allow him to kiss her. Romeo persists in his attempts to get Juliet to kiss him by asking her “Have not saints lips” to which she replies “Ay pilgrim lips that they must use in prayer.” Romeo then says “let lips do what hands do. They pray; grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.” Here he is once again asking for a kiss otherwise his faith will turn to despair. His “faith” is his love for Juliet. The last couplet of the sonnet is shared between them both, with Juliet starting by saying that “saints do not move” when they grant prayers, and Romeo responding by saying “then do not move” while I take my prayer. After the sonnet is spoken, and they have kissed, Romeo says that he is “purged” from his sin. Juliet then uses this to invite him for another kiss, saying that she has now taken his sin. Romeo replies by saying “Give me my sin again.”

Join now!

However, the use of a sonnet also foreshadows the ending of the play. The prologue to the play was a sonnet, and it told the audience of the death of Romeo and Juliet. This sonnet links to the previous one, and shows the audience that the love between Romeo and Juliet will cause the both  to eventually die. With a single sonnet, Shakespeare finds a means of expressing perfect love and linking it to a tragic fate.

The starting of religious imagery in Act II Scene II is when Romeo is describing Juliet as she stands by her window. He ...

This is a preview of the whole essay

Here's what a teacher thought of this essay


This is a very careful, thorough piece of work. The writer has gone to great trouble to identify every incidence of love imagery in these three scenes and to examine their effect on the audience, especially in the historical and social context of the time the play was first performed. The phasing from lightness to darkness is well noted, though a little laboured. Sentence construction is well controlled, though some quotations are slightly inaccurate and there are occasional faults in punctuation. The style can be a bit plodding, with over-explanation sometimes. There is a tendency to split up related material into too many paragraphs. However, overall this is a competent essay. 5 stars