Use of language in Romeo and Juliet

When writing about language you can comment on the words Shakespeare uses, why he uses them, and what impact this has on the audience.

curriculum-key-fact
When analysing language, you could use this structure:
  • What has the writer done?
  • How have they done it?
  • Why have they done it?
  • What's the effect on the reader?
How has he done it?Why has Shakespeare done this?Effect on the audience?
Imagery"A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life, whose misadventured piteous overthows doth with their death bury their parents' strife."Shakespeare has used this to allow the audience to imagine the play's plot from the very beginning. The image of a pair 'of star-crossed lovers' is very tragic and symbolises two people who have gone against fate to be with each other, with disastrous consequences.This excites the audience, as they are watching a play with tragic consequences. From the onset, the audience knows what is going to happen and witnesses the downfall of the two main characters, Romeo and Juliet.
Metaphorical language"I have a soul of lead so stakes me to the ground I cannot move."Shakespeare has used this to highlight Romeo's feelings towards Rosaline. Romeo describes his soul as being as heavy as 'lead'. This illustrates that Romeo believes he is in love and is highly dramatic.This makes the audience wary of Romeo's feelings towards Juliet, as he claimed to love Rosaline.
Rhyming couplet"For never was a story of more woe/than this of Juliet and her Romeo."Shakespeare finishes his play with the rhyming couplet of 'woe' and 'Romeo'. This makes the audience feel sympathetic towards Romeo and Juliet, as it recognises how their love story is tragic and full of woe.

How to analyse language

In this passage, Romeo has realised Juliet is a Capulet and has gone back to talk to her. He spies her on the Capulet balcony.

ROMEO

It is my lady, O, it is my love!

O, that she knew she were!

She speaks, yet she says nothing. What of that?

Her eye discourses, I will answer it.

Here's how to analyse this quotation to show how Shakespeare presents Romeo's feelings towards Juliet.

  • Repetition of the personal pronoun "my": this indicates that Romeo feels Juliet belongs to him; they are bound together already. This shows how he feels about Juliet.
  • 'Lady/Love' - the titles Romeo gives Juliet indicate how he feels about her, as she is a "lady" and his "love".
  • 'She speaks, yet she says nothing'. - this is an oxymoron. Romeo stating that Juliet speaks but doesn't say anything isn't possible. From this, Shakespeare hints that Romeo has a connection with Juliet that the audience isn't aware of or would understand.
  • 'What of that?' - this rhetorical question is Romeo questioning his thoughts and feelings aloud. He cannot believe that he has this instantaneous connection with Juliet.
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