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How does Shakespeare create and describe the private nocturnal world of Romeo and Juliet's love?

Shakespeare creates the private nocturnal world of Romeo and Juliet’s love by contrasting the light and dark of the night and the differing speeds of time and he describes it through references to the dangerous and endless sea. A safe and secluded world is created as the night is personified as a protector. This is described when Romeo and Juliet’s love is portrayed through nautical imagery of voyages and discovery and it is depicted as light, high and winged.

Also throughout ‘Romeo and Juliet’ there is evidence of contrasts and divisions between youth and adults. Their love is given an added sense of sincerity as it lacks the vulgar innuendo of Romeo’s youth and the lover’s experience of time is subjective, fast paced and forward looking.

Romeo and Juliet’s private nocturnal world is created by the differentiation between them and their parents. Time in Romeo and Juliet’s secluded world is fast paced, associated to wings and flight and is looking forward in seconds, whereas this is contrasted with their parents’ world in which time travels really slowly, as they look backwards to social events, in years.

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Romeo and Juliet’s love is associated with flight which implies purity and a fast pace, as ‘nimble pion’d doves draw love’ the consonance of ‘d’ sounds allow the words to run on and merge into one, quickening the pace, which is also accentuated by ‘nimble’. Young love is likened to thoughts as it is only present momentarily and it passes extremely quickly as it ‘ten times faster glides’ the hyperbole of ‘ten times faster’ accentuates the pace of love and ‘glides’ implies that the love is too quick as it slips through the lovers’ grasp as they try to catch it.

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Time in their parent’s world is described as slow, old and crippled as ‘old folks many feign as they were dead, unwieldy, slow heavy and pale as lead.’ These deathly adjectives refer to the slow pace of time. Their crippled parent’s world is described as ‘lame’ this term for an invalid shows the painful slowness. Time in Romeo and Juliet’s world is instantaneous and moments pass too fast, shown by ‘That runaway’s eyes may wink’ the utilisation of ‘wink’ suggests fleetingness and ‘runaway’s’ implies temporality of their love. However in the adult world, time passes in regulated years, which is shown by ‘Some five and twenty years’ the measuring encapsulates time and restricts it. Their parents are looking backwards in time which is demonstrated by the tricolon of ”tis gone, ’tis gone, ’tis gone.’

Night is personified as a protector in order to keep Romeo and Juliet’s world secluded and secret as ‘I have nights cloak to hide me from their eyes’ the temporality of their protection is stressed by it only existing in night and the easiness of possible revelation implies the lover’s fear of being discovered. A metaphor is used comparing the night to a mask in order to heighten their love and make it seem even more contrary to hate ‘the mask of night on Romeo’s face’ this costume hides the lovers from discovery and hate, contrasting and therefore emphasising their love in opposition to the hate and revealing light. However the inconsistency of the night, is shown when Juliet says, ‘O swear not by the moon, th’inconstant moon’ this is exemplified by the contrast that Juliet is not willing to trust instability in their love, although she does let the night lend them its temporary protection.

The separation of Romeo and Juliet’s world from the adult world is emphasised by juxtaposition of night and day, colour and emotions. Shakespeare describes how the lovers try to control time in order to spend time together, ‘Arise fair sun, and kill the envious moon’ the use of ‘Arise’ shows the authority used as they attempt to dictate time, emphasised by the contrast of ‘fair’ and ‘envious’ as they strive to persuade the sun and moon. Shakespeare uses juxtaposition to highlight the partition, ‘A rich jewel in an Ethiop’s ear’ these opposite colours emulate the divide between Romeo and Juliet and the outside world. Contrast here shows the division but also the connections between the Montague’s and Capulet’s, as Juliet states that ‘My only love sprung from my only hate’ these opposites are however linked not only by the repetition of ‘only’ but also due to ‘sprung’ which suggests a connection that could possibly result in destruction. Romeo and Juliet’s love is also linked with death as she will die if she cannot marry Romeo, as ‘My grave is like to be my wedding bed’ this ironic anticipation of events to come shows the relationship between love and death by the reference to sleep in which ‘grave’ and ‘bed’ are used.

Shakespeare describes the lover’s world by using sincerity and lacking vulgar innuendo. Romeo shows how he has matured from courtly love by not following up this line with bawdy imagery, as he says ‘O wilt thou leave me so unsatisfied?’ Romeo starts the sentence with ‘O’ to suggest the previous courtly love, however does not continue in making sexual references but expresses his love. Romeo expresses that he has passed on from the courtly love over Rosaline, as Mercutio ‘Jests at scars that never felt a wound.’ Romeo’s statement that he ‘never felt a wound’ makes it clear that he is trying to forget his love for Rosaline by pretending it never happened. This is also shown by courtly love being depicted as old, crippled and dead, as ‘Old desire doth in his death-bed lie’ the utilisation of ‘death-bed’ implies that his old love is dead and ‘lie’ suggests such frailty that it is too weak to move.

Romeo and Juliet’s love is so great and is portrayed by nautical images. Shakespeare depicts their love by nautical images to highlight its extensiveness, which is evident as ‘My bounty is as boundless as the sea’ Juliet is portrayed as treasure through the metaphor ‘bounty’ and the extent of their love is emphasized by ‘boundless’. Shakespeare illustrates measureless love by Romeo’s declaration of love, which is apparent in ‘My love as deep, the more I give to thee, the more I have, for both are infinite.’ This image refers to the limitless bounds of his love portrayed by the repetition of ‘more’, and the use of ‘deep’ and ‘infinite’ exemplify Romeo’s love. Romeo’s love is also demonstrated by his sacrifice, daring and recklessness to attempt to reach such a treasure as Juliet, for ‘As that vast shore wash’d with the farthest sea, I should adventure for such merchandise.’ The application of superlatives exaggerates the danger and therefore highlights his love for Juliet, shown by ‘farthest’ and the employment of ‘vast’.

In conclusion Shakespeare uses differentiation and contrast between different generations to both describe and create the separate world of Romeo and Juliet’s love. Time is also used to describe the fast paced reckless lives of the lovers. Shakespeare effectively enthrals the audience by first drawing them into a routine courtly love affair, although then startles the audience with sincerity, true love, intimacy and light, winged imagery, moving the play on yet still keeping the content intense and completely original. Shakespeare also adds nautical imagery to great effect as he demonstrates the huge risks that both Romeo and Juliet take in order to be together and it shows the progressive deterioration until their impending deaths.

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How does Shakespeare create and describe the private nocturnal world of Romeo and Juliet's love?. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

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