Personification a figure of speech in which an animal, non-living character, or a natural phenomenon is given human-like qualities. Let’s understand this concept better through some examples of personification in Romeo and Juliet.
Did You Know?
Romeo and Juliet was based on a poem, which was further based on two real lovers who lived in Verona, Italy, who died for each other in the year 1303.
Words used to personify something are meant to express emotions on levels where simple words fall short in description, allowing the reader to imagine the scene or scenario through the eyes of the writer or poet, thus, bringing the words used to life. Personification creates visual imagery, captivating the reader’s attention and imagination. By giving an inanimate character human-like emotions, the writer distracts the reader from the original concept, only to go on and accentuate the emotions felt by the character.
Act 1, Scene 1, Page 7
Benvolio: An hour before the worshiped sun peered forth.
Meaning: An hour before the sun rose in the east.
Act 1, Scene 1, Page 11
Romeo: Love’s weak childish bow she lives uncharmed.
Meaning: Romeo speaks of Rosaline, and says that she can’t be impressed and won’t listen to loving words.
Act 1, Scene 2, Page 2
Capulet: When well-appareled April on the heel of limping winter treads.
Meaning: The above lines indicate the climatic change from winter to spring. It also indicates the onset of change and new love.
Act 1, Scene 4, Page 2
Romeo: Is love a tender thing? It is too rough, too rude, too boisterous, and it pricks like thorn.
Meaning: Romeo questions love, and gives it human emotions of being tender, rough, rude, and boisterous, while comparing it to thorns.
Act 1, Scene 4, Page 2
Mercutio: If love be rough with you, be rough with love; prick love for pricking, and you beat love down.
Meaning: Mercutio believes in ‘an eye for an eye’, and advises Romeo to denounce love.
Act 2, Scene 2, Page 4
Romeo: By love, that first did prompt me to inquire. He lent me counsel and I lent him eyes.
Meaning: Love is personified, and it, like a person, guided Romeo to look for Juliet. It told him what to do, and made him look from another perspective.
Act 2, Scene 2, Page 7
Romeo: Love goes toward love, as schoolboys from their books, but love from love, toward school with heavy looks.
Meaning: Love is compared to lovers who are attracted and enthusiastic about each other. He then compares love to schoolboys who have a love-hate relationship with their books and school. They love going to school, but hate their heavy books. Here he expresses the bitter-sweet pang he feels when he separates from Juliet; he knows he has to part from her just for the night, which makes his heart heavy, at the same time he’s optimistic and keen on meet her again, which puts him at ease.
Act 2, Scene 3, Page 2
Friar Laurence:Care keeps his watch in every old man’s eye, and where care lodges, sleep will never lie.
Meaning: Here, care means worry about someone. Friar Laurence explains that worry is for old men, and where there is worry, there is no sleep. He advises Romeo not to worry, as it will keep him awake at night.
Act 3, Scene 2, Page 1
Juliet:For thou wilt lie upon the wings of night, whiter than new snow upon a raven’s back. Come, gentle night, come, loving, black-browed night, give me my Romeo.
Meaning: Juliet compares Romeo’s fair skin to snow on a raven’s back. She awaits night, as Romeo meets her only at night and for them to be together. She personifies night by giving it characteristics like being gentle, loving, and giving; as it brings Romeo along with it.
Act 3, Scene 2, Page 4
Juliet:Back, foolish tears, back to your native spring.
Meaning: She tells herself not to cry, by ordering the tears to return to where they come from.
Act 3, Scene 2, Page 5
Juliet:Poor ropes, you are beguiled, Both you and I, for Romeo is exiled.
Meaning: Juliet compares herself to the rope ladder that Romeo used, which now lay useless like her. She says she will die a virgin widow as Romeo will not be around as he’s sent on exile.
The thing that makes Shakespeare so famous in his work, is his manipulation of words. He personified contrasting elements such as life and death, light and dark, day and night, etc. In his works, you will realize his use and fluidly of personification. That might just be the reason behind the immortality of Romeo and Juliet; these little things and play of words woven intricately that makes generations after generations fall in love with Shakespeare and his masterpiece Romeo and Juliet.