In the play Romeo & Juliet, William Shakespeare utilizes a variety of contrasts.
The most relevant, making the greatest impact on the content of the play, are namely light versus dark, love versus hate, high versus low, etc.
An example of love versus hate occurs through the relationship Romeo and Juliet and the hate between their families. The love that Romeo and Juliet share completely opposes the deep roots of anger and hate between their parents. The quote from the Chorus beest states this.
“Chorus: Two houses, both alike in dignity . From ancient grudge break to new mutiny . A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life: Whose misadventured piteous overthrows, Doth with their death bury their parents’ strife. “
The sincere and strong love of Romeo and Juliet contrasts with the extreme, petty grudges held by their parents.
Another example of controversy towards love is stated in the scene, where Romeo contmplates about paradoxes describing love, or even the kind of love he iss experiencing, which we would call a hopeless crush. It is both love and hate at the same time.
“Yet tell me not, for I have heard it all.
Here’s much to do with hate, but more with love.
Why, then, O br
O any thing, of nothing first create!
O heavy lightness! serious vanity! (1.1.178)”
For Romeo love seems to be something that can take many forms, be anything, but created out of nothing. It is a sad happiness and a serious foolishness. It is a “Mis-shapen chaos of well-seeming forms” (1.1.179), a phrase which evokes the lover’s experience of fantasizing about his beloved, but in such a jumbled way, that it’s more frustrating than enjoyable.
Romeo gives some more paradoxes about love:”This love feel I, that feel no love in this” (1.1.182-183), which means that he feels love, but is not in love with being in love. He says love is the smoke made of sighs, and when the smoke is clleared away, it’s a fire in a lover’s eyes. It’s a stormy sea of tears:
“Love is a smoke raised with the fume of sighs;
Being purged, a fire sparkling in lovers’ eyes;
Being vex’d a sea nourish’d with lovers’ tears:
What is it else? a madness most discreet,
A choking gall and a preserving sweet.” (1.1.194)
From the first scene to the last, the play is filled with contrasts of light and dark.
The quarrel in the first scene, that takes place in broad daylight un
Later, when Benvolio is asked by Lady Montague if, he’s seen Romeo, he describes how he noticed Romeo in a grove of sycamore, and how Romeo, when he caught sight of Benvolio, retreated further into the woods. Montague, worried about his son, says Romeo has gotten in the habit of avoiding the light:
“Many a morning hath he there been seen,
With tears augmenting the fresh morning dew,
Adding to clouds more clouds with his deep sighs;
But all so soon as the all-cheering sun
Should in the furthest east begin to draw
The shady curtains from Aurora’s bed,
Away from the light steals home my heavy son,
And private in his chamber pens himself,
Shuts up his windows, locks fair daylight out
And makes himself an artificial night:
Black and portentous must this humor prove,
Unless good counsel may the cause remove.” (1.1.131-142)
Both Benvolio and Montague speak of sunlight as holy and healthful, and both consider Romeo’s preference for the dark a dangerous sign of depression.
At the other scene, where, inviting Paris to his feast, Capulet says, “At my poor house look to behold this night / Earth-treading stars that make dark heaven light” (1.2.24-25). The “Earth-treading stars” are the beautiful ladies who wi
The idea that feminine beauty shines brightly is repeated at the end of the scene. Benvolio is trying to persuade Romeo to get over Rosaline by comparing her beauty to that of other ladies. He says, “Compare her face with some that I shall show, / And I will make thee think thy swan a crow” (1.2.86-87). Romeo answers that “The all-seeing sun / Ne’er saw her match since first the world begun” (1.2.92-93), but Benvolio replies that at Capulet’s feast he “will show you shining ” (1.2.98) maids that will make Romeo consider Rosaline just ordinary. Not persuaded, Romeo declares that he will go to the feast, “no such sight to be shown, / But to rejoice in splendor of mine own” (1.2.101). “Splendor” is a word for great beauty, but its primary meaning is “great light.”
Before Capulet’s door, as his friends are ready to go in to the feast, Romeo announces that he’s not really in the mood. He says,
“Give me a torch: I am not for this ambling;
Being but heavy, I will bear the light” (1.4.11-12).
As a torch-bearer, he wouldn’t wear a mask or do any dancing. He’s in a dark mood,
On first seeing Juliet, Romeo exclaims:
“O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiope’s ear;
Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear!
So shows a snowy dove trooping with crows,
As yonder lady o’er her fellows shows.” (1.5.44-49)
Thus, Romeo describes Juliet’s beauty in terms of dark and light. “She doth teach the torches to burn bright” means both that her beauty is brighter than the blaze of any torch and that her presence makes the whole room light up. The bright blaze of Juliet’s beauty is made even brighter by the contrasts with the blackness of an “Ethiope” and the blackness of crows.
The contrast between high and low is observed in the scene, where Mercutio, Benvolio are ready to go into Capulet’s feast, but Romeo is holding back. Mercutio says to him, “You are a lover; borrow Cupid’s wings, / And soar with them above a common bound” (1.4.17-18), but Romeo replies, “I am too sore enpierced with his shaft / To soar with his light feathers, and so bound, / I cannot bound a pitch above dull woe: / Under love’s heavy burden do I sink” (1.4.19-22).
Moreover, references to time and contrasts are mentioned throughout the play.
The very first reference to time traced in the first prologue, where the Chorus twice tells us that Romeo and Juliet will fall in love, die, and so bring about the end of the feud between the Capulets and Montagues. And all this will be shown in “two hours’ traffic [business] of our stage” (Prologue 12).
Immediately after Lady Capulet urges Juliet to marry Paris, a servant rushes in with an urgent message: “Madam, the guests are come, supper served up, you called, my young lady asked for, the nurse cursed in the pantry, and every thing in extremity. I must hence to wait; I beseech you, follow straight” (1.3.100-103). Lady Capulet promises that they will all come right away, and tells her daughter that Paris is waiting for her. The Nurse also urges Juliet on, saying, “Go, girl, seek happy nights to happy days” (1.3.105). The Nurse and Lady Capulet expect Juliet to make the most important decision of her life in the next few minutes. We see that, the action is hastened, where it on the contrary should be executed in a slower pace.
At Capulet’s door, Romeo suddenly becomes unwilling to enter, and his friends urge him to quit delaying. Benvolio says, “Supper is done, and we shall come too late”(1.4.105). Romeo answers, “I fear, too early: for my mind misgives / Some consequence yet hanging in the stars” (1.4.106-107). In other words, Romeo feels he is rushing into danger. Nevertheless, he goes in with his friends.
By balancing between haste and timing, the author in a way manipulates the reader, to be maintained cautious of the plot and action.