Romeo and Juliet
The Use of Religious Imagery in Romeo and Juliet College
Throughout Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare makes heavy use of religious imagery, especially when concerned with the young couple. This imagery serves two purposes in the play. It underlines the purity of Romeo and Juliet’s love by associating it with a pure feeling such as religion, and it creates an escape from their damnation according to Christian values by creating the religion of love.
In the Christian faith, which was ubiquitous in Shakespeare’s England, suicide is against God’s will, and therefore punishable by eternal damnation. As Paul Budra points out in the Study Guide, it would have been rather unpleasant for Shakespeare to leave his audience with an image of Romeo and Juliet in Hell. Therefore he had to find a way to “get around this problem” (43). The lovers, in a sense, create their own religion. This is exemplified from their first meeting. When Romeo sees Juliet for the first time, he says, “O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright! / It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night / As a rich jewel in and Ethiop’s ear” (Shakespeare, 1.4.157-9). His language here suggests their love standing out as a light against darkness. With Verona being a warring city state of...
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