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 calls her a “bright angel” and asks her to speak again. By using this image, the two scenes are linked together as it is a repetition of the image in Act I Scene V, where Romeo also calls Juliet an angel. He then goes on to call Juliet a “winged messenger” to which men fall on their backs to gaze at her, again, calling her an angel. When Romeo first reveals to Juliet that he has been watching her, he addresses her as “dear saint”. This is a continuation of the imagery used in the sonnet when Romeo and Juliet first met, and again, links the two scenes together. The next form of religious imagery used to express their feelings, is used by Romeo. He says to Juliet “Call me but love and I’ll be new baptized.” Here Romeo is saying that if Juliet calls him her love, he will take a new name, so that they can be together. If he changed his name from Montague to something else, they would be able to be together, and not have to meet in secret, which shows his love for Juliet. When Juliet asks Romeo how he got into the garden, he again draws the image of an angel by saying he got there “with love’s light wings”. This is also personification, as he is saying that love has the wings. The effect of this, is that it would put a picture in the audiences minds, which was important at the time, as there was no backdrop or scenery. Juliet then calls Romeo the “god” of her “idolatry”. This is the opposite of Act I Scene V, where Juliet is Romeo’s saint that he worships. Now it is the other way around, and Romeo is Juliet's God to which she idolises. This has historical relevance, as during the Elizabethan time period, and even now, the man was the head of the family, and the woman was below him. Romeo then goes on to call the night “blessed”, obviously another religious image.
One of the other images that Shakespeare constantly uses is light and dark opposites. The images of light and dark are very powerful and the meanings of the images change throughout the various stages of the play. The first mention of light is in the Act I Scene V when Romeo is describing Juliet when he first sees her. He says that “she doth teach the torches to burn bright”, meaning that she stands out, and is very bright. This is reiterated when Romeo uses the simile “like a rich jewel in an Ethiope’s ear”, again stating that she stands out from everybody else, like white against black. This is once again repeated when he finally says “so shows a snowy dove trooping with crows”. The simile of “Ethiope’s ear” was quite relevant at the time of the play. This is because, people were exploring many new, exotic places. This would have a lot of an effect on the audience, as they would be able to see the comparison of their everyday life, and something exotic, which is what Romeo is describing Juliet as.
In Act II Scene II, the images of light and dark continue. Romeo starts by saying “it is the east and Juliet is the sun”. This metaphor is the base for many more images that are used throughout the rest of the scene. Romeo then says “Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon.” This personified image not only links to the previous image, but it is also more powerful than the last due to the contrast between the sun and the moon, opposites. As there was no electricity at the time, light from the sun, moon and stars was much more important than it is now, therefore making this imagery more powerful and relevant at the time. Next, Romeo builds up a large image of Juliet's eyes and compares them to the sky. “Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven, having some business, do entreat her eyes to twinkle in their spheres till they return.” Here Romeo is saying that two of the brightest stars had to go away, and they asked Juliet’s eyes to take their place. He then extends this by saying “What if her eyes were there, they in her head? The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars, as daylight doth a lamp.” Here Romeo is wondering what it would be like if her eyes were in the sky and the stars were in her head. He says that the brightness from her cheeks would outshine the stars the way the sun outshines a lamp. He extends this image one more time by saying “Her eye in heaven would through the airy region stream so bright that birds would sing and think it were not night.” Here Romeo is saying that if her eyes were in the night sky, they would shine so brightly that birds would sing, thinking it was daylight. This is a long and complex image. However, it does its job as it successfully communicates across Romeo’s thoughts and feelings on Juliet. Comparing her eyes to stars had more relevance then than it does now. Juliet then states how she doesn’t want their love to be like light. When Romeo attempts to swear his love by the moon, she stops him and says “O, swear not by the moon, th' inconstant moon, that monthly changes in her circle orb, lest that thy love prove likewise variable.” She doesn’t want their love to be like the moon – constantly changing and inconsistent. She then says that it is too early to make vows. She says it’s “too sudden, too like the lightning” which flashes and disappears before you can say it’s lightning.
Romeo continues his comparisons of Juliet to light in Act V Scene III. After he kills Paris, he put him in the tomb with Juliet; however he says “A grave? Oh no! This is a lantern, dead Paris. Juliet lies here, and her beauty fills this tomb with light.” This links to Act I Scene V when Romeo first sees Juliet, and says that she teaches “torches to burn bright.” This links together when Romeo first sees Juliet and when he last sees her. These two images connect together and show the comparison between the two scenes as these scenes are opposites.
Shakespeare also displays the love between Romeo and Juliet through imagery of birds. The reason for this is that it gives a contrast between the imagery used – of birds – and the situation Juliet is in. In Act II Scene II Juliet states that she is “trapped” in her family’s house. This is the opposite of birds who are free and are able to fly wherever they want. So this imagery shows a comparison between what she wants – to be free with Romeo – and what she has – trapped in a house.
The first mention of birds in Act I Scene V is when Romeo calls Juliet a “snowy dove” that troops amongst crows. This shows that Romeo sees Juliet as pure, as white is seen as the colour of purity and it connotes goodness, whereas black is seen as dirty and connotes evil. This again links back to the religious imagery, and connotes that their love is pure.
In Act II Scene II, Romeo and Juliet use bird imagery to show possession of each other. Juliet wishes that she had a “falconer’s voice” so that she “lure her tassel-gentle back again”. This shows that she wishes to own Romeo, so that he doesn’t have to leave, and when he does go, she can easily bring him back. She then speaks of herself being trapped by saying “bondage is hoarse, and may not speak aloud”. This provides an opposite of what is being said, but what is happening. Romeo then reverses the ownership and makes himself the owner of Juliet as when she calls him, he replies “my nyas?” meaning baby hawk. As they have both displayed their want to have ownership over each other, it shows that they both want to have control over each other as they love each other. Juliet then develops this imagery further when she states her wish to have control over Romeo again when he is about to leave by saying “And yet no further than a wanton’s bird, that lets it hop a little from his hand.” She says she will let him ago, but wishes that she could only let him ago as far as a child would let his pet go, before pulling it back again. Romeo then continues this image by saying he wishes he was her bird. Juliet then finishes it of by saying “Sweet, so would I. Yet I should kill thee with much cherishing.” This is a foreshadowing of the final outcome of the play, as we know they are both going to die. This is also dramatic irony the audience know that they are going to die, through the prologue sonnet, but Romeo and Juliet do not know at this point.
The final mention of birds is in Act V Scene III. After Romeo has died, and Juliet awakes, Friar Laurence tells her to go and that she should get away from the “nest of death”. This links to the Act II Scene II, where Romeo and Juliet are talking about birds, and Juliet said that she would kill Romeo with so much cherishing. He is now dead, and to link it with the bird imagery, Shakespeare called it a “nest of death”. Once again, Shakespeare has ingeniously used imagery in order to show the link between two separate scenes.
Shakespeare continues the foreshadowing, but extends it vastly, by using it to display the feeling between Romeo and Juliet. The first foreshadowing of death is in Act I Scene V. Juliet says “my grave is like to be my wedding bed”. Here she is saying she will die if she can’t marry him. Although she did get to marry him, she does eventually end up dying. In Act II Scene II, the foreshadowing of death is repeated. Juliet states “and the place death”. This is a metaphor and makes the image more powerful. Finally, in Act V Scene III, Romeo personifies death. He speaks to Juliet and says to her, “Death, that hath sucked the honey of thy breath, hath had no power yet upon thy beauty.” He says that although she is dead, death has no power over her beauty. This is dramatic irony, as everybody else knows that she is still alive, which is the reason that she is still beautiful. Romeo then extends his image further. He says, “Ah, dear Juliet, why art thou yet so fair? Shall I believe that unsubstantial death is amorous, and that the lean abhorrèd monster keeps thee here in dark to be his paramour? For fear of that, I still will stay with thee, and never from this palace of dim night depart again.” He asks why she is still so beautiful. He personifies death and says that he is in love with Juliet, and that is why she is still so beautiful. He then says that he doesn’t like that idea, so he will stay there forever with her, by killing himself.
There is also sea imagery used. In Act II Scene II, Juliet says that her “bounty is as boundless as the sea.” Not only is this imagery, but it is also alliteration, which helps to make it more memorable. Romeo continues the sea imagery by saying to Juliet “I am no pilot. Yet, wert thou as far as that vast shore washed with the farthest sea, I would adventure for such merchandise.” This shows a clear image of Romeo’s willingness to be with Juliet as he would risk his life, not being a sailor, just to get Juliet. However, this image is flipped later in Act V Scene III. Right before Romeo drinks the poison, he says “Thou desperate pilot, now at once run on the dashing rocks thy seasick, weary bark.” He uses the same image, not saying how he would “adventure” for Juliet, but how he is ready to die. Romeo then uses the sea not in love, but in hate when talking to Balthasar saying that he is “more fierce” than the “raging sea”. This, along with the previous quote, is a contrast to the original sea imagery. This expresses the change of tone within the play, as when they are both happy, and first in love, the sea imagery is positive. But when the tone of the play has changed, and Romeo is distraught about the death of Juliet, the sea imagery becomes negative.
In Act II Scene II, Juliet compares Romeo to a rose. She says “That we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet.” She says that even if Romeo was called something else, like a rose, he would be just as sweet. Later on in the scene, Juliet foreshadows the ending of the play. She says to Romeo “This bud of love, by summer’s ripening breath, may prove a beauteous flower when next we meet.” She says that the love between her and Romeo is still in its early stages and she hopes by the next time that they meet, it will be like a beautiful; flower. However, the next stage after a beautiful flower is that it withers and dies. This is exactly what happens to them, their love blossoms like a flower, but then dies with their death.
Throughout the play, Shakespeare cleverly used certain images to outline the mood of the play at a particular point. He has used images primarily from religion, nature, light and darkness to express the love between Romeo and Juliet. By using images from the same themes, he helps the audience to link and connect the separate scenes. The use of recurring themes and images helped to reinforce the powerful emotions and love between Romeo and Juliet. As the tone changes throughout the play, so do the images and they become darker and start to foreshadow death more and more. The use of these images helps the audience to visualise and understand the depth and intensity of the characters’ emotions. Shakespeare has cleverly used images from particular themes to express to the audience the powerful but doomed love of Romeo and Juliet.
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