Light and Dark. Neither would exist without the other. In ‘Romeo and Juliet’, Shakespeare brilliantly uses metaphors to describe the brightly shining passion between the two lovers to contrast with the darkness of the family rivalry. The endless battle between light and dark, and life and death reveals the struggle that Romeo and Juliet face to overpower the hatred between the Capulet’s and the Montague’s. By the tragic ending of the play, even though death overcomes Romeo and Juliet, a whole new sense of life and peace has emerged between the two warring households.
Within the entire play, Shakespeare continually refers to light using metaphorical terms to resemble it as the powerful love between Romeo and Juliet. Upon Romeos first glance at Juliet, he says, “O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright! ” In this scene, Shakespeare created Romeo’s line to express how Juliet’s beauty outshined the torches lighting the hallway. Near the beginning of Act II, when Romeo sees Juliet on her balcony, repeatedly compares her shining beauty light when he states “Juliet is the sun”, and “The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars”.
By now Shakespeare has made it evident that anything compared to light is beautiful and magnificent, and he continues to use this metaphor to describe Romeo and Juliet’s love. Later on in the play when Juliet is anxiously waiting for the nurse to arrive she describes how slow the nurse is compared to her and Romeos love by saying “which ten times faster glide than the suns beams. Their love is like the rays of sun that are more powerful than anything. In Act III, upon being banished, Romeo exclaims how “heaven is here, where Juliet lives. The bright and happy haven is wherever Juliet is, thus resembles how much Romeo loves and needs Juliet. Finally in Act V, as Romeo solemnly looks at Juliet lying in the tomb, he says “for here lies Juliet, and her beauty makes this vault a feasting presence full of light. ” Once again, Juliet’s beauty has been compared to lighting up a whole room.
Shakespeare wrote this on purpose however, for Romeo made the comparison upon his first glance at Juliet, and his last. By comparing Romeo and Juliet’s love using light metaphor, Shakespeare is able to communicate to he audience through a whole new spectrum. Accompanying many of the light metaphors, Shakespeare incorporates the use of dark metaphor into the entire play as well. He uses the dark to represent all the hatred surrounding Romeo and Juliet, especially the rivalry between their two families. In the beginning of act II, after Romeo describes Juliet as the sun, he says “Arise fair sun, and kill the envious moon, who is already sick and pale with grief”. The moon which sits in the dark sky at night resembles the family rivalry and how horrible and “sick” it is.
Soon later, Juliet tells Romeo “o swear not by the moon, the inconstant moon” Juliet claims her only reasoning is because the moon comes and goes and she doesn’t want their love to be inconstant as well, but Shakespeare cleverly wrote this line to correspond with what Romeo had said, just moments ago. Although not directly obvious or stated, Juliet’s line “o swear not by the moon, the inconstant moon” had a double meaning. Not only to compare the moon with inconstancy, but to also compare it to the hideous warring households, so she wouldn’t want Romeo to swear their love by it.
In Act IV, Shakespeare has a brief reference to dark as Juliet says “The horrible conceit of death and night”. Although short, this reference still demonstrates how Shakespeare can sneak in hints revealing that dark is “horrible” and like “death”, much like the relationship between the Capulet’s and Montague’s. Relating hatred and the family rivalry to dark was smart for Shakespeare to do because not only is it clearly understandable- as if people didn’t already associate dark with terrible things- but it also gives the audience another way to look at Romeo and Juliet, and the woeful tale it is.
The endless battle between light and dark, and life and death reveals the struggle that Romeo and Juliet face to overpower the hatred between the Capulet’s and the Montague’s. Near the beginning of Act II, Friar Laurence says “The grey-eyed morn smiles on the frowning night, Chequering the eastern clouds with streaks of light, And flecked darkness like a drunkard reels From forth day’s path and Titan’s fiery wheels: Now, ere the sun advance his burning eye, The day to cheer and night dank dew to dry” The Friar here is implying that the light will overpower the dark as it stumbles ut of the way. Shakespeare may have written this to act as a premonition that Romeo and Juliet’s love will succeed over the family rivalry. Later on in Act II, Juliet anxiously awaiting news about her beloved Romeo exclaims “Which ten times faster glide than the sun’s beams. Driving back shadows over louring hills:” Juliet describes that the powerful and reassuring rays of sun is like her and Romeos love overpowering or “driving back” the “dark shadows” of the two warring households.
Near the end of Act III, in Romeo and Juliet’s last scene before he leaves for banishment, Juliet says “To be to thee this night a torch-bearer, and light thee on thy way to Mantua:” The “torch-bearer” that Juliet is talking about is their illuminating love which will light the dark “night” that is Romeo’s banishment, due to the family rivalry. Shakespeare brilliantly evokes a wide and oscillating variety of emotions when using the contrast of light and dark, to define the struggle Romeo and Juliet encounter against their two warring families.
By the tragic ending of the play, even though death overcomes Romeo and Juliet, a whole new sense of life and peace has emerged between the two rival families. After the two lovers were found dead together, the prince announced “A glooming peace this morning with it brings; the sun, for sorrow, will not show his head”. Something terrible has happened, but the sun just happens to be rising. Shakespeare does this to display that as the sun lifts into the sky, the rivalry between the Montague’s and the Capulet’s will too. People may think that dark overpowers in the end, but Shakespeare would say otherwise.
With the dark of death, light shone brighter than ever, for the source of the initial dark of the family rivalry was lifted into a bright peace. Although not obvious, Friar Laurence was correct; light has prevailed in the end. Light and dark. Neither would exist without the other. In ‘Romeo and Juliet” Shakespeare uses light and dark to resemble love and hate. But is there really something so vague as love and hate? There can be no single definition of love, or hate. Likewise, there can’t just be light and dark. What about the shades of grey? What about what’s in between.
There has to be an in between. Even more than Shakespeare’s references to light and dark are his hints at what lies in the middle. The “shadows” and the “sun beams” reveal that there is more to light and dark. And there is more to the story of Romeo and Juliet, but what it may be, Shakespeare left no metaphors, or comparisons. He left the open idea that the audience could decide for themselves. Because unless you have William Shakespeare on your speed dial, we may never know the true meaning behind his writing. We can only allow our minds to interpret it as we please.