Last Updated 20 Jun 2022

Allusion in Romeo and Juliet

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Shakespeare uses allusion in the play Romeo and Juliet to reinforce the themes of young love and youth being impetuous. Throughout the play Shakespeare uses allusion to reinforce these themes by putting in myths that have tragic ends much like the end of the play. One myth that Shakespeare uses in the play many times is Cupid and Psyche. Cupid is the Roman god of love. The myth of Cupid is that there was a king that had three daughters and each of them was beautiful but not as much of the youngest Psyche.

She was so beautiful that she left the altars of Venus, Cupid’s mother, deserted. Venus then sent out Cupid to punish Psyche for distracting all the men from her and make her fall in love with a hideous man. Instead, when Cupid sees Psyche he shoots himself with the arrow and falls in love with her. Psyche is never allowed to see Cupid but they marry. One day her sisters told Psyche that Cupid was actually a serpent and tells her to sneak a look. When she does this she realizes that Cupid is actually beautiful and Cupid leaves and says he will never see her again.

After this Psyche begs for Venus to let her see Cupid again and Venus makes her do almost impossible tasks but succeeds them. After this Cupid asks Zeus to give her immortality so she will not distract mortal men from Venus. The mythical reference of Cupid and psyche refers to love at first sight between Romeo and Juliet. Cupid has the power to make anyone hit with his arrow to love the next person they see. Romeo and Juliet feel that they were both pierced by Cupid’s arrow when they met. This allusion refers to the theme, love at first sight.

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This theme is seen in the book as a very powerful theme because over the course of a week Romeo and Juliet create an immense love for each other that cannot be matched. That is how this allusion drives the theme of the play. Another myth that Shakespeare uses in the play is that of Phoebus and Phaeton. The myth of Phoebus and Phaeton is that a young boy who was the son of Phoebus thought he could do anything and was very impatient. One day the children at his school made fun of him and told him he couldn’t do everything.

He went home to his mother and asked if he could do everything and she said yes because he was the son of the sun god Phoebus. She then told Phaeton to go ask Phoebus if he could do everything. He went to him and asked if he could do everything. Phoebus then promised him to let him do anything he wanted to try. Phaeton said he wanted to drive the chariot of the sun for one day. Phoebus then tries to get Phaeton to try something else but he refuses. He then goes on to say he will drive the chariot.

Immediately after getting into the chariot Phaeton loses control of the horses because they knew it was not their master and did what they pleased. After a while of the horses wreaking havoc on the earth, Zeus struck down Phaeton and killed him and the horses immediately stopped. The allusion to Phaeton and Phoebus helps drive the theme that youth is impetuous. The reason why this allusion supports one of the themes of the book is because in the play Romeo and Juliet both never thought about what they were about to go through with and how it might affect their lives.

In the myth Phaeton never realizes that his father may be right in not letting him ride the chariot because it is extremely dangerous to someone with no experience. All of the characters in the story that were impetuous had early demises because of there impulsivity and having no regard of the repercussions of what may happen to them. Impetuousness also led to the demise of Tybalt and Mercutio in the play by them not thinking of the dangers if they fought. Those are the reasons why the allusion drives the theme of the play.

Another allusion that Shakespeare uses in the play is the myth of Echo and Narcissus. The myth of Echo is that she is a nymph who loves to talk and is always talking and always has to get the last word in. One day Hera casts a spell on her so that she can only get the last word and says exactly what the person said and can never be the first. In one myth Echo meets Narcissus whom she falls in love with at first sight. Narcissus has a spell on him in which he cannot love anyone but himself. Echo tries to make contact with him but only annoys him because she repeats everything he says.

When one of the nymphs prays to the avenging goddess to let Narcissus feel what it’s like to have affection but not have it returned. When he goes to drink water he sees his reflection and never leaves it because it is too beautiful. After gazing at it for a long time he dies. After he dies Echo goes into a cave until she dies. The allusion to Echo and Narcissus drive the theme of love at first sight. The reason why that theme is supported by the myth is because as soon as Echo saw Narcissus she loved him. If Narcissus wasn’t so in love with himself he may have loved her back.

But in the end Echo and Narcissus both died for a love that wouldn’t happen and was cursed from the start. In Romeo and Juliet this is seen because Romeo and Juliet both loved each other but there love was forsaken because of there different families and flaws in there personalities. Juliet also says that if Romeo does not want to have her love then she will go into a cave and die there as Echo did. Another allusion that Shakespeare uses in the play is the one of Aurora, the goddess of dawn. The myth of Aurora is that she falls in love with the son of the king of Troy.

She asks Zeus to grant him physical immortality in which he would live forever but he would still age. After he had lived far passed that of a normal mortal should have he lost the power to use his limbs. After he became extremely weak Aurora turned him into a grasshopper. The myth of Aurora helps drive the theme of love at first sight because she fell in love with Tithonus and always loved him even when he was a grasshopper and an old man. In the play Romeo did not get out of bed because Rosaline had rejected him and he didn’t want to leave his room and he tried to create night in the daytime because he was depressed.

After he met Juliet Romeo became extremely happy and this shows the theme of youth being impetuous also because he got over Rosaline so quickly. That is how the allusion helps drive the themes from the book. Once last allusion that Shakespeare in the play is the myth of Hermes. The myth of Hermes is about a messenger who was born by Jupiter and a mortal woman. He goes on to steal cattle from the sun god Apollo very sneakily. Apollo tells Zeus about this and then Hermes has to give them back. Apollo later goes on to forgive him and Hermes makes a lyre for him.

After he grows up he is assigned to lead dead souls into the underworld. He was also promoted to watch Apollo’s herds when he was younger. This allusion supports the theme youth is impetuous because in the play to show that Romeo wants to get the message to Juliet fast that he wants her love. Hermes the winged messenger could do it and get the message to Juliet faster than anyone. Romeo also uses it as a way to show that Hermes is delivering a message to him from heaven that he should be with Juliet. Those are the allusions that help drive the theme of the play.

Allusion in Romeo and Juliet essay

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