Contrasts in Romeo and Juliet

“O brawling love, O loving hate”, conventionally Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy, but like most of Shakespeare’s plays it contains other elements such as: comedy, love, hatred, conflict and also symbolism, however Shakespeare’s use of contrast to capture the audience’s interest and to create a multitude of other effects is the only method of creating interest that is consistently apparent throughout the diverse themes and concepts within the play. Shakespeare uses contrast in a variety of ways: to draw attention to or to illustrate specific points he is trying to make, to grasp the audience’s attention and to add drama to key events or ideas in the play.One of the main contrasts in Romeo and Juliet is that between love and hate. Those two opposites contrast against each other and also within themselves; different types of love and hate present themselves within different situations and within different characters. In the case of Romeo when Mercutio is killed by Tybalt he avenges his death by killing Tybalt. His love for Mercutio or, Loyalty is what drives him to this.The loyalty and somewhat toughened love between family members can also sprout hatred towards the other family so much so that through loyalty “gentle Romeo” was driven to kill Tybalt, “here’s much to do with hate, but more with love” shows how love in Romeo and Juliet often transformed to hate, and hate is sometimes not far detached from love.This type of loyalty contrasts against the idea of sexual love illustrated by Mercutio who is far more subtle and suggestive “I conjure thee by Rosaline’s bright eyes, By her high forehead, and her scarlet lip, By her fine foot, straight leg, and quivering thigh” or sarcastic and implicative “he is wise ,and, on my life, hath stol’n him home to bed” than the Nurse who makes blatantly undisguised remarks about sex, “seek happy days with happy nights” this contrast between these two characters is in the way they convey there idea of love which is practically the same for each of them (completely sexually orientated) in different ways adding variety and interest to the play and further highlighting the idea of ‘true’ love between Romeo and Juliet that Shakespeare is trying to convey: the nymphomaniac Nurse frequently makes comic references to her devalued idea of sexual love or more precisely sexual lust: as she reminisces about a joke her husband made “dost thou fall upon thy face?Thou wilt fall backwards when thou has more wit” is the cause of much hilarity to they nurse. Mercutio assumes Romeo’s interest in love is no more than his own obsession with sex. This ‘jolly’ irreverence and inability to differentiate between sex and love is in sharp contrast with the far more serious romantic love between Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare includes this contrast to try and emphasise the purity of Romeo and Juliet’s love. Again the tender and gentle love of the two “star-crossed lovers” contrasts extremely against the outwardly aggressive loyal love, that presents itself within both of the families, and projects itself as a want for revenge and aggression toward the other family.Another key source of contrast exists between light and dark, and day and night. In the mind the natural associations with light and dark are of dark being negative, evil or dangerous and light being positive, good or spiritual. In religions light is often used as a metaphor for good and dark one for evil. People are often afraid of the dark or night because it is seen to conceal potential dangers or threats or simply because they fear that which is unknown; hidden by the dark. However throughout Romeo and Juliet the pattern that emerges is that is the reverse of the traditional view of light and dark. At night it is a chance for the two lovers to meet and converse. Virtually every scene that involves Romeo and Juliet exchanging their love takes place at night.The nighttime is portrayed as an opportunity for Romeo and Juliet’s love to blossom and for them to be together, whereas in the day their love is berated by their families and threatened by the feuding between the two households. Also during the day the bloody battles between the Capulets and Montagues arise. In the day people are killed and murdered, Romeo is forlorn and lovesick “Ay me! Sad hours seem long” and Juliet is incarcerated within her parent’s rules, decisions and orders, she lives simply, obeys and is made to abide by restrictions lain down upon her “no more deep will I endart mine eye than your consent gives it strength to fly”. However when they meet at night Romeo becomes joyous and content “So thrive my soul!” and Juliet is emancipated from her restricted life and for the first time in the play considers her own feelings and opinions and thinking for herself, trying to take control of her life; “Thou art thyself, though not a Montague. What’s Montague?”The night is a shroud, which at numerous points in the play nurtures and protects the love between Romeo and Juliet “I have nights cloak to hide me”. The darkness and the night signify happiness and salvation for Romeo and Juliet, but the coming of the day brings sorrow and separation; “it is the sparrow and not the lark” this line spoken by Juliet as the morning comes when she tries to prolong their time together by pretending it is still the night. This reversal between night and day plays with the assumptions of the audiences. It is intriguing and suggests that all may not be as it seems.But, more importantly it also symbolises how Romeo and Juliet’s love still flourishes even against the great adversity of their family’s fighting. Shakespeare achieves this by creating positive situations of love, of peace and of happiness, from hatred. It seems oxymoronic for these things to happen, but Romeo and Juliet is based upon contrast so the good coming from the bad is what gives the play its uniqueness and admirable longevity.Another contrast of great significance is within the personality changes of characters that occur during the play and between other certain characters throughout the play. At the start of the play Romeo and Juliet are two very different characters. Romeo, at first seems a weak character seemingly drunken with desire for Rosaline or perhaps more with desire for just the idea of love.He is drowned in sorrow with his failure to acquire love which makes him blind to the world around him by “grief’s” of his “own.” He mopes and romanticises of Rosaline. Juliet is cheerful in her own ignorance to life and lives a routine of obeying her parents and letting others lead her “I’ll look to like if looking, liking moves”. They are both immature with regard to life but it is there meeting and love that makes them grow, so that they die as fully-fledged adults. It is during the balcony scene that Juliet first starts to take responsibility for that which is going on around her.When Romeo climbs into the orchard her first reactions are practical concerns; “the orchard walls are high and hard to climb”, Romeo so absorbed with in his love of his love replies that “loves wings” carried him over. Juliet fears that guards may see him but again he dismisses her with “I have nights cloak to hide me”. As the speech progresses Juliet becomes more involved in her love than with more rudimentary issues and they part, each with a similar state of mind; in a dreamy world of love and romance. The contrast between Romeo and Juliet illustrates how improbable the two lovers are with their many opposing qualities.Also, Juliet’s character before this scene contrasts to her character during and after it. It is as if she has developed very quickly because of her love. In a similar way to Juliet later on, Romeo adopts some of Juliet’s qualities and changes. When Romeo is awoken by the lark in the morning and knows that he must leave in this situation Juliet tries to get him to stay by telling him “it is the sparrow and not the lark”. In this situation Romeo is the most sensible of the pair whereas Juliet is still thinking only of love.When Romeo hears that he is to be banished he at firsts abandons all hope and submits, But Friar Laurence disapproves of his moping and encourages him to take action and “attend to his lady”. Now he begins to take responsibility for the what goes on around him. Both Romeo and Juliet’s characters merge to one character that is in contrast each of them before they met. This contrast within their selves is used by Shakespeare to symbolise how their personalities blend together as they fall in love and to illustrate more clearly the differences between their true love against sexual, loyal, romantic love.The purely sexual love of Mercutio and the nurse, The purely loyal love of Benvolio and Sampson both contrast with Romeo and Juliet’s love. At the end of the play Romeo and Juliet become almost the same character, dependent on each other. The melding together of the two lovers is a symbol of their love, which is made much more apparent to the audience because of the contrast between the hatred of the Montagues and the Capulets. When Romeo and Juliet fell in love their differences fade away; their love was a metaphor for the combining of two households at the end of the play.All of the contrast used in the play is used to create one main effect which is to illuminate how two seemingly different entities despite their surrounding can become one. It does this by contrasting many ideas, people and things to eventually create a similarity between them all. At the end of the play families are united, everything changes, contrast fades away as the play reaches its climax, although many things that before seemed so far separated now are joined, it ends with one stark contrast: between the horror of Romeo and Juliet’s wasted life, wasted love, and the birth of the union between the families.

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