On June 26, 2015, gay marriage was finally legalized in all 50 states in America. This was a major step in American history because previously, same-sex love and marriage was viewed as a shameful thing that was going against God and society’s rules. However, society has realized that same-sex love is just as valid as traditional love and that they were wrong to have judged gay people and their love. In Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet were not supposed to be together because of their families, but they acted on their love and defied society so they could be together.
Shakespeare uses literary devices in Romeo and Juliet such as metaphors and personification to portray the theme that society’s rules and expectations should be overcome by a person’s individualism and desire. In the beginning of the play, Shakespeare uses literary devices such as symbolism and personification to begin shaping Romeo and Juliet’s individualism and differences from society. When Lady Capulet and the nurse are trying to persuade Juliet to marry Paris, Juliet says, “I’ll look to like, if looking liking move/ But no more deep will I endart mine eye/ Than your consent gives strength to make [it] fly”(1. 3. 103-105).
This symbolism of Juliet’s eye is used to represent sight as a whole. Juliet’s sight represents her thinking about marriage, as it was quite common for preteens and teenagers to get married in the Shakespearean Era. In addition, Shakespeare uses alliteration to place more focus on the quote. The alliteration develops the theme because it puts focus on how even though society and Juliet’s family wants her to get married, Juliet decides to take her time and explore her feelings. Juliet’s desire for independence can be seen in her conversation with her mother when she only agrees to consider marriage because her parents want her to.
Since Juliet decides to take her time, she meets Romeo at the Capulet party and realizes that they are meant to be together, which shows that Juliet’s defiance of society’s expectations leads to her finding her true soulmate. As the play progresses, Shakespeare uses more literary devices to highlight Romeo’s lack of dependence on his family. When Romeo secretly goes to the Capulet house to see Juliet after the party, Juliet says, ‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy. /Thou art thyself, though not a Montague”(2. 2. 41-42). Shakespeare uses an extended metaphor to highlight the conflict between their families.
When Juliet refers to Romeo’s last name as their problem, she is talking about the tension between the Montague and Capulet families that prevents Romeo and Juliet from being openly together. Preventing Romeo from using his last name gives him freedom to be his own person around Juliet without any ties to their families and their expectations. The use of this extended metaphor helps develop the theme because it singles out Romeo’s individualism. It continues to portray Romeo as sympathetic, gentle, and shows how he wants to be uninvolved from his family’s problems.
This is different from the stereotypical man, who was supposed to be commanding, strong, and the head of the family. The use of the extended metaphor also shows Juliet’s belief that if Romeo defies his last name, his individualism and their love will persevere and Romeo and Juliet would be able to be together. It proves the theme because by rejecting their family names, which have been distinguished as the societal barrier through the extended metaphor, there would be nothing to stop Romeo and Juliet from acting on their strong feelings and desires.
As the play progresses into a more ominous tone, Romeo and Juliet continue to defy society’s expectations in order to be together. Throughout the second half of the play, Shakespeare uses more literary devices to portray that people should listen to their desires, even if they have serious consequences because society’s rules would only make them miserable. When Mercutio is killed by Tybalt during a fight, Romeo says, “This day’s black fate on more days doth depend. /This but begins the woe others must end”(3. 1. 124-145). Shakespeare uses foreshadowing to predict that Romeo was going to kill Tybalt.
Not only that, but there is a use of alliteration to put an emphasis on the change of tone in the play. The use of alliteration and foreshadowing is used to develop the theme by showing how Romeo is sympathetic and cares about his friends, unlike his family, who is fixated on their conflict with the Capulet family. Romeo’s reaction to his friend’s death is predicting that the pain that Tybalt created would be avenged in the future. This also relates to the motif of fate and death because Romeo is saying that what Tybalt did was wrong and that fate would help Romeo exact his vengeance on Tybalt.
This defies society’s expectations because while the Capulet family, the Montague family, and the prince think Romeo killed Tybalt as a symbol of war between the families, in reality, did not want to do this. Romeo was depressed and angry about this disparity that Tybalt had caused. In addition to that, Romeo did not want to hurt Tybalt at first because he cared about Juliet’s opinion, but only did it because he felt as if Tybalt had to get punished for what he did. This is the first of many instances where society separated Romeo and Juliet and they had to do whatever it took to be together.
When Juliet begs Friar Lawrence to help her avoid marrying Paris, Friar tells Juliet, “And this shall free thee from this present shame,/If no inconstant toy nor womanish fear/Abate thy valor in the acting it”( 4. 1. 120-122). There is a use of metonymy to characterize fear as a barrier that prevents Juliet from going through with her plan. This further develops the theme because it shows the fear that society has instilled in Juliet. Juliet’s family and society expect Juliet to marry Paris, but Juliet does not want to because she is devoted to Romeo, who she loves and wants to spend the rest of her life with.
This causes her to beg Friar to help her escape the marriage and society’s expectations by doing whatever it takes. Although she is scared of the road ahead, Juliet’s desire to only be with Romeo pushes her to fake her death. Finally, society’s disapproval of Romeo and Juliet’s love drives Romeo to extreme measures in order to be with Juliet. When Romeo is visiting Juliet after she “died”, he says, “O, here/Will I set up my everlasting rest/And shake the yoke of inauspicious stars”(5. 3. 109-111). There is a use of metaphor that represents death as everlasting rest.
It also uses personification to personify the inauspicious stars, which can be seen as fate or society’s expectations, as a physical thing that can be shaken off. In addition to that, but there is a use of foreshadowing to predict that Romeo is going to kill himself. The theme is further developed because in Romeo’s final lines, he is defying society’s disapproval of their love by killing himself. Romeo is so devoted to Juliet and he is willing to kill himself to be with Juliet. He decides that it would be better to spend eternity with Juliet by killing himself than spending the rest of his life alone.
Today in society, people have broken many of the barriers that society had put up in the past decades. For example, gay marriage has been legalized and in some states, cousins can legally marry each other. Although some people may deem these actions as wrong, people have overcome these obstacles in society because they followed their passion and desire. Romeo and Juliet’s sacrifice to be together may have been drastic, but they overcame society’s rules that had forbid their love and they were finally able to spend eternity together.