A figure of speech that makes a comparison between two different things to highlight their similarities is called a simile. The comparison is often made using words such as “like” and “as”. Playwrights, poets, and novelists often include similes to describe the objects vividly thereby enabling the readers to understand the comparison between two different concepts, persons or things easily.
In the Shakespearean play, “Romeo and Juliet”, numerous similes have been used to emphasize the attributes of certain characters, the intensity of emotions and the horror of unavoidable natural phenomenon such as death. A few examples of similes from the play have been highlighted and discussed below:
Similes in “Romeo and Juliet”
“Is love a tender thing? It is too rough,
Too rude, too boisterous, and it pricks like thorn.”
(I. iv. 25)
In these emphatic lines passionately spoken by Romeo, love has been painted as a harsh, harmful and heartbreaking experience. It further expresses that love pricks an individual’s sentiments in the same manner that a thorn prickles or hurts human skin. By drawing a comparison between a thorn and the unsettling aspects of love, this particular simile enables the audience to gain insight into Romeo’s initial view of love at the beginning of the play. Before meeting Juliet, Romeo perceives love as a cold and calculating sentiment that is completely oblivious to the workings of the human heart.
“Scaring the ladies like a crowkeeper,”
(I. iv. 6)
This vivid simile is delivered by Benvolio before attending the Capulet’s ball. In this particular verse, Benvolio is telling his friends, Mercutio and Romeo, that it is a good thing that none of them is dressed up as a silly, blind-folded Cupid – a costume that would scare the ladies in the same way that a ghastly-looking scarecrow terrifies people. This comparison between the scarecrows and young and naïve men dressed as Cupids in a desperate attempt to impress the ladies highlights Benvolio’s humorous and witty nature.
“O, speak again, bright angel, for thou art
As glorious to this night, being o’er my head,
As is a wingèd messenger of heaven”
(II. ii. 29-31)
This sentimental simile demonstrates Romeo’s profound admiration and affection for Juliet. During the famous balcony scene, this simile is addressed to Juliet. It implies that in Romeo’s view, Juliet lights up the night with her bright presence in a similar way that a celestial being animates the heavens with its unspeakable beauty. This vivid comparison effectively conveys Romeo’s immense and untainted love for Juliet. Moreover, it beautifully brings out the passionate, romantic and poetical aspect of Romeo’s character.
“And flecked darkness like a drunkard reels”
(II. iii. 3)
Delivered by Friar Lawrence, this particular verse draws a comparison between the departing darkness of the night and a habitual drunk who staggers and loses his balance. This simile is meant to emphasize the unintended departure of the night. Also, it stresses the fact that the night cannot exert any control over the onset of the day. Like a drunkard who cannot exercise conscious control over his walking ability, the disintegrating darkness recedes without its own volition.
“I’ll warrant him, as gentle as a lamb”
(II. v. 46)
In this particular verse, the nurse is complimenting Romeo by comparing his gentle mannerisms to a lamb. This graphic simile is meant to emphasize the good judgment expressed by the nurse on Romeo’s nature. It leads to her subsequent approval for the relationship between Romeo and Juliet. By comparing Romeo to a lamb, the nurse is essentially highlighting the innocent, untainted and selfless love displayed by Romeo towards Juliet.
“Your love says, like an honest gentleman, and a
courteous, and a kind, and a handsome…”
(II. v. 59-60)
This simile also attests to the nurse’s high and flattering opinion of Romeo. She equates Romeo to a virtuous gentleman who displays unwavering honesty, courtesy, and kindness. She also adds that he appears handsome both in terms of looks and character. From a dramatic viewpoint, this simile serves to reinforce the fact that the nurse’s favorable opinion of Romeo inevitably encourages her to act as an ally to the young lovers.
“And to ’t they go like lightning, for ere I
Could draw to part them was stout Tybalt slain…”
(III. i. 181-182)
In this particular simile, Benvolio draws a comparison between the rapid flickers of lightning and the unanticipated fighting between Tybalt and Romeo. This comparison implies that the sudden feud between Romeo and Tybalt was as chaotic and hasty. It was as fast as the lightning bolts that strike without prior warning.
“…so tedious is this day
As is the night before some festival
To an impatient child that hath new robes
And may not wear them”
(III. ii. 30-33)
Delivered by Juliet before the consummation of her marriage with Romeo. This extended simile serves to highlight her impatience of reuniting with her lover and husband. Juliet compares her long and anxious waiting for Romeo with an eager child impatiently waiting to wear new robes to a festival. By comparing the immeasurable joy of a child looking forward to dressing up for a carnival with her own unrestrained ecstasy and expectation, Juliet is expressing the immense satisfaction and happiness that can only come with her union with Romeo.
“Like powder in a skilless soldier’s flask”
(III. iii. 42)
Friar Lawrence delivers this insightful simile. It serves to highlight his keen observation skills. By comparing Romeo’s intelligence to an inexperienced soldier whose gunpowder explodes due to his naiveté and negligence, the Friar is emphasizing the carelessness in Romeo’s impulsive character. This flaw compels Romeo to make regrettable decisions that later come to haunt him such as the accidental killing of Tybalt.
“This sight of death is as a bell
That warns my old age to a sepulcher”
(V. iii. 215)
After seeing her daughter Juliet dead and lying in a tomb, Lady Capulet maintains that her daughter’s death reminds her of her own impending old age and subsequent demise. Lady Capulet compares the sight of her daughter’s death with a bell that beckons her to her own grave thereby painfully reminding Lady Capulet of her own mortality.