Natalie Frohlinger

Seth Finkelstein

Globe Theatre          Seth's Essay
    

Home

 History

Interactive  

 Architecture

Essays

 

 

 

 

Paradoxes

In William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet there are many paradoxes. Many characters use paradoxes when they speak to describe their confused emotions. It seems that it is easier for a character to speak in paradoxes rather than reveal how he truly feels about himself or others. This is illustrated when Romeo speaks to Benvolio about Rosaline and also when Juliet realizes that Romeo is a Montague. The Friar’s (6)speech uses flowers as an oxy moron to describe life and death. At the end of act one scene one, Montague and Lady Montague, Romeo’s parents, send Benvolio, Romeo’s cousin, to speak with Romeo because he is depressed. He speaks with paradoxes and says “O brawling love, O loving hate… Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health” (1.1.181-185). Romeo is depressed because he is in love with Rosaline, but Rosaline is not in love with him. Just as lead is stronger and more powerful than a feather so is his love for Rosaline. The feather is symbolic of him and the lead is symbolic of Rosaline. She is the one that controls the outcome of their relationship. He is using paradoxes to describe his confused emotions. He describes two raw emotions; love and hate, as fire and hate are both difficult to extinguish. The coldness that Rosaline shows Romeo extinguishes his love and dampens his burning fire of love. Romeo is lovesick over Rosaline he cannot function in a healthy manner. His love is almost all- consuming which is unhealthy. When Juliet finds out that Romeo is a Montague she uses paradoxes to describe her mixed emotions. “My only love sprung from my only hate” (1.5.152). From the time Juliet was born she was taught to hate the Montagues, but now her love has sprung and grown for Romeo.  She does not know how to deal with these uncontrollable feelings that have come from within her. When Friar Lawrence speaks about flowers he is also using metaphors for people. As a flower grows it becomes more beautiful and more delicate, so has Juliet and Romeo’s love. It is interesting that both Juliet and Friar Lawrence use similar metaphors, but yet he does not know about Romeo and Juliet.  Juliet describes that her lover has sprung, just as a flower does. Friar Lawrence refers to a flower which has “Poison hath residence and medicine power” (2.3.23). Just as a flower is beautiful it can also be poisonous. Romeo and Juliet’s love blossoms like a flower does, but unfortunately it becomes poisonous and deadly. When Friar Lawrence refers to the good and bad flowers, he is speaking about the good and bad people who cannot put aside their differences and hatred toward others. Juliet and Romeo represent the good flowers, like medicine, that love each other and ignore the hatred that spewed upon them by their families. Their parents are so consumed with hatred toward each other that they represent the bad flower, poison, that are filled with poison. After Juliet finds out that Romeo kills her cousin, Tybalt she again uses paradoxes describer her tormented feelings. Juliet says, “beautiful tyrant, fiend angelical! Dove- Feathered raven, wolvish ravening lamb” (3.2.81-82). She sees Romeo as her beautiful love, but yet she also sees him as a “tyrant” because he killed her cousin. She describes him as a “fiend” and yet she also sees him as “angelic”. When she describes him as a fiend she is showing her anger and bitterness towards him for the death of her cousin, but yet in the same breath she sees him as her angel who could do no harm to others. These two symbolic metaphors illustrate the depth of her emotional rage. She also contrasts her description of him as a “dove” and a “ravening wolf”. She is so overcome with her mixed emotions that she cannot distinguish between what is right and wrong. From the beginning of this play, Shakespeare’s characters display behaviors that vary a great deal that their emotions are described by the use of paradoxes. Romeo and Juliet have a forbidden love because of the ongoing hatred that their families have toward one another. Romeo kills Tybalt in a fit of rage to defend the honor of his best friend, Mercutio. When Juliet finds out that Romeo killed Tybalt, she is consumed with anger, but yet her love for Romeo overcomes her hatred. Their unending love toward one another overcomes the hatred that is surrounding them and trying to tear them apart. Their ultimate tragic ending is also symbolic of their enduring love. Romeo cannot fathom the idea of living without Juliet and he takes his life. When Juliet realizes that he is the one that is actually dead, she, too, cannot live without Romeo. She ends her life with a dagger to the heart, because her heart is already broken and dead. The ultimate irony in this play is that the all- consuming hatred that the Montagues and Capulets have for one another destroys the true love between their children, and yet after Romeo and Juliet are dead there is peace between their families. It takes the ultimate sacrifice of their beloved children for the families to realize how juvenile they were acting. They paid the ultimate price for their blind hatred, yet Romeo and Juliet were finally at peace. They could not be together in life so they had to be together in death.