Enriched English 9/Hour 3
18 December 2008
Light of Day, Dark of Night
"O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright! / It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night" (1.5.46-47) is a romantic example of light and dark imagery used by Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet that helps to create vivid pictures for comparisons between characters and differences in mood. In Romeo and Juliet, light and dark imagery is used for many things. Shakespeare uses it as a metaphor strengthener, a role-reverser, and a way to create large comparisons between characters.
Metaphors are an important part of not only this play, but also of Shakespeare's work in general. The first metaphor that is used is "And I will make thee think thy swan a crow" (1.2.90). Benvolio says this to Romeo when he is trying to get Romeo to go to the Capulet's party, saying that Romeo will find someone better than Rosaline to fall in love with. The next major light and dark imagery spot is when Romeo and Juliet meet. Romeo's thinks of Juliet as a "snowy dove trooping with crows" (1.5.50), and the "fair sun" (2.2.2). When Juliet discovers that Romeo killed Tybalt, however, she speaks of him as a "book containing such vile matter / So fairly bound" (3.2.83-84). All of these are excellent examples of Shakespeare's use of light and dark imagery to strengthen metaphors.
There is one scene in the play where light and dark switch places, and light symbolizes sadness and loss, and dark symbolizes love and happiness. This happens on the morning after Romeo and Juliet's honeymoon. "Night's candles are burnt out [… and] I must be gone and live, or stay and die" (3.5.9-11) Romeo says; they both know that if he stays with Juliet, he will be killed. "More light and light- more dark and dark our woes" (3.5.36) is the perfect summarizing line for that switch of light and dark imagery.
Using this method of imagery to assist with major comparisons between characters is very helpful; it creates a more vivid image of the differences that are being brought up and makes the good seem better and the bad seem worse. Shakespeare uses this when Romeo is underneath Juliet's balcony and is comparing Juliet to Rosaline, saying "Juliet is the sun! / Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon" (2.2.2-3). Romeo's crush on Rosaline has set, and his love for Juliet has arisen.
Shakespeare used light and dark imagery in Romeo and Juliet to help make this a very vivid and believable play with characters that can be empathized with and understood. Because this play is so simple and yet so complex, it has been something that has thrived through generations and generations of people, and it will always be a timeless classic.
A/N: This is the essay I wrote for Romeo and Juliet. I kind of BS-ed it, but that's okay. 'Cause now it's done and I don't have to fricking write it anymore! Yay!