Duality and Contrasts in Romeo and Juliet

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 William Shakespeare used opposing concepts to create a sense of contrast in his writing. He frequently established the theme of duality in Romeo and Juliet, which is a play about two lovers whose love filled bounty is “…boundless as the sea”(II ii 133). Duality means two-sided, as in two concepts.

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These concepts include love and hate, life and death, and good and bad. He demonstrates these examples within the language, characters, and events in the play. Romeo and Juliet is a play of contrasts and duality. The characters in the play show duality as a result of the feud between the Montagues and Capulets.

The two families despised each other, which alluded the idea that Romeo and Juliet would never be together. But eventually, their love is what brought the Montagues and the Capulets to end their feud. In the play, it says “My only love sprung from my only hate! / Too early seen unknown, and known too late! / Prodigious birth of love it is to me. / That I must love a loathed enemy” (I v 138-140). In this quote, Juliet expresses her disappointment as she learns that Romeo is a Montague. This example explores the concept of love and hate. Friar Laurence explores good and bad when he says, “In man as well as herbs, grace and rude will”(II iii 28). Friar Laurence is insinuating that, as herbs do, a man also has these two sides, implying the constantly reiterated theme of the play – duality.

Man and herbs can concurrently be beneficial and malevolent. In Act III, Juliet says “O serpent heart, hid with a flowering face!”(III ii 74). In this excerpt from the play, Juliet is in a state of incredulity when she learned Romeo had murdered Tybalt. Romeo looked like one thing, but he was really another, which highlights Romeos dual personality, good and bad. Furthermore, the language in the play introduces examples of contrasts and duality. In the play it says, “The earth, that’s nature’s mother, is her tomb / What is her burying, grave that is her womb (II iii 9-10). In this quote, Friar Lawrence explains how the earth provided a womb and a tomb. The dual natures of the womb and the tomb represent the notion of life and death. Continuing the concept of life and death, Friar Laurence says “For this, being smelt, with that part cheers each part; / Being tasted slays all senses with the heart.”(II iii 25-27).This quote displays how some flowers have dual natures, as well as people. The flower is fragrant, however, its poisonous behalf could kill if ingested.

Additionally, the quote “These violent delights have violent ends / And in their triumph die, like fire and powder (II vi 9), signifies how some things can take a turn for the worse. Friar Laurence warned Romeo and Juliet not rush into their marriage because good could potentially turn bad. Moreover, numerous events display the primary theme of the play. In Act 4, Juliet’s unwanted wedding with Paris ultimately turns into a funeral. In the play is says, “Turn from their office to black funeral; / Our instruments to melancholy bells, / Our wedding cheer to a sad burial feast, / Our solemn hymns to sullen dirges change / Our bridal flowers serve for a buried corse, / And all things change them to the contrary”(IV vi 86-91). Lord Capulet finds a bright side to Juliet’s death. He had already brought in musicians and put up decorations for the wedding, but now they will aid in the funeral.

This, again, shows the concept of good and bad in Shakespeare’s writing. Another event in the story that showcases duality is when Tybalt slays Mercutio out of rage for Romeo. In the play it says, “Alive in triumph—and Mercutio slain! / Away to heaven, respective lenity, / And fire-eyed fury be my conduct now”(III i 84-86) In this quote, Romeo reveals his hatred towards Tybalt by avenging his love for his friend. Accordingly, Romeo defeats Tybalt and kills him. Through Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare spread the two sided theme of duality. These concepts, including love and hate, life and death, and good and bad, develop throughout the language, characters, and events in the play. Romeo and Juliet is a play of contrasts and duality.

Works cited:

  • Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet.  

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