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ZoyaPandher
Mrs.Hope
EnglishLPS
15January2016
LiteraryAnalysis:ShakespearesUseofAllusionsin
RomeoandJuliet
RomeoandJuliet
,aplaywrittenbythefamous16centuryEnglishpoetWilliam
Shakespeare,isaclassicromantictragedy.Fromthebeginningofthestory,itismadeclearthat
thetaledoesnothaveatypicalhappyending.Thestrongthemesandmotifsthatarecarriedin
theplayarehelpedtomakeanimpactontheaudiencewiththeuseofallusions.Allusionsare
briefreferencestothingswellknown,andareoneoftheliterarydevicesoftenusedby
Shakespearein
RomeoandJuliet
.Intheplay,mythologicalandhistoricalallusionsarebothused
toimpactShakespeareswriting.
Historicalallusionsareutilizedatcertainpoints,althoughnotasoftenasmythological
allusions.Shakespeareoftenreferstolegendaryfiguresatthesametimeashistoricalfigures,
whichcanbeseenwhenMercutioexclaims,Withouthisroe,likeadriedherring:flesh,flesh,
howartthoufishified!NowisheforthenumbersthatPetrarchflowedin:Lauratohisladywas
butakitchenwenchmarry,shehadabetterlovetoberhymeherDidoadowdyCleopatraa
gipsyHelenandHerohildingsandharlotsThisbeagreyeyeorso,butnottothepurpose...to
BenvolioandRomeo(2.4.3945).ThesereferencesareputtousesothatMercutiocanmakefun
ofRomeoforleavinghisfriendsattheCapuletpartytospendtimewithRosaline,asMercutio
believes.WhenPetrarch(afamousItalianRenaissancepoetwhowroteaboutlove)ismentioned
inconjunctionwithLaura(anidealizedlove),MercutioisteasingRomeosinfatuationwith

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RosalinebysayingthatLauralookslikeakitchenmaidnexttoRosaline.Hemakeshispoint
clearerbycomparingRosalinetovariousfamousandbeautifulwomen.NexttoRosaline,hesays
thatDido(thequeenofCarthage)dressedfrumpily,Cleopatra(pharaohofEgypt)waslikea
nomad,HelenandHerowereunprincipledandloose.HethensaysthatThisbe(partofapairof
illfatedloversinamythwrittenbyOvid)mayhavehadblueeyes,butnexttoRomeoslove,
theydontmatter.ThesehistoricalallusionshelpthereadertounderstandthatRomeoisa
zealousandbesottedlover,andthatiswhyhisfriendsgoadhim.
Shakespeareusesmythologicalallusionsthemostinthisplay,mostspecifically
referencestoRomanmythology.Oneexampleofamythologicalallusioncanbefoundwhen
Romeosays,Shellnotbehit/WithCupidsarrow.ShehathDianswit...Noropeherlapto
saintseducinggold...toBenvoliowhiletalkingaboutRosaline,themaidenthatheisinlove
with(1.1.216,217,222).CupidistheRomangodoflove,andRomeousesthisallusionto
explainhowhismaidenwillnoteasilyfallinlove.Hefurthersthisstatementbysayingthatshe
hasthemindsetofDian,whowastheRomangoddessofthehuntandaneternalvirgin.By
sayingthatRosalinewouldneveropenherlaptoevensaintseducinggold,Romeoreferences
theGreekmythinwhichthegodZeusvisitsthewomanDanaintheformofagoldshowerand
impregnatesher,whichmeansthatRosalineissosetinherwaysthatshewouldnotchangeher
beliefsevenforagod.TheseallusionshelptoillustrateRomeosdespair,asheisinlovewitha
womanwhowillneverlovehimback.
Thepatternofmainlyhistorical,legendary,ormythologicalallusionsbeingbroughtinto
playisonethatcontinuesthroughtheentiretyofShakespearesplay.Fromthis,theconclusion
canbedrawnthatShakespearewasinfluencedinhiswritingbytheageoftheRenaissancethat

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hewaslivingin.Thiswouldexplainhismanyclassicalreferencesin
RomeoandJuliet
,whether
theyaretofactorfiction.TheRenaissancewasaperiodofclassicalrevival,inwhichGreekand
Romanculturewasbeingbroughtbacktolife.Theseallusionshelptodisplaytheimpactthatthe
timehadonShakespeare.
Historical,andmythologicalallusionsaretwodifferenttypesofallusionsoftenemployed
throughthedurationof
RomeoandJuliet
.Itiscrucialtopayattentiontotheseliterarydevices,
astheyareinstrumentalinhelpingthereaderunderstandtheplay.Allusionsbothplayapartin
makingthecharactersthoughtsandopinionsclearerandcausingthereadertofeelcertain
emotionsassociatedwithwhateverisbeingreferenced.Allusionsgreatlycontributetothe
experienceofreadingthegreatShakespeareanclassic
RomeoandJuliet
.