Critic Bloom continues, "But it could be said also that the audience would understand that Romeo, as a lover-hero, really belongs to another religion, the religion of love, which doesn't collide with Christianity or prevent him from confessing to Friar Laurence, but nonetheless has different standards of what's good and bad" (Bloom 2000, 159). Thus, a strong love like Romeo and Julie profess for each other, is like a drug or religion, creating another link to a theme of this play. Just as a religious zealot can become immersed in their beliefs, zealous lovers can become immersed in each other, with fateful results, as this play clearly shows.
Birth and death play a central role in the imagery of the play, too. Early in the play, Romeo refers to his love for Rosaline as a living death. Critic Hager continues, "Romeo says: 'She hath forsworn to love, and in that vow / Do I live dead, that live to tell it now' (1.1.223)" (Hager 1999, 108). Of course, birth and death represent the promise of the future and the reality of the end, but they also represent the senseless deaths of the two young lovers, kept apart by family and fate, and the use of vivid imagery represents the senseless waste of these two young lives. They also represent the passion these two young people develop for each other, and that the only true thing that can keep them apart, (and ultimately together) is death.
Clearly, this play's themes of tragedy, loss, isolation, and forbidden love all come alive in Shakespeare's vivid imagery. There are so many passages in the play that bring up strong emotion and vivid pictures; it is difficult to choose from them all. Woven throughout the text, that seems so promising for the young people at the start, are the themes of loss, isolation, forbidden love, and tragedy. Even in the most memorable of the play's scenes, such as the balcony scene, these themes are present. The young lovers must meet under cover of darkness, they are isolated from one another, and fate has brought them together when their families have been feuding for years. These themes continue throughout their courtship and love. Romeo is eventually banished from Verona over the death of Tybalt, and kills himself as soon as he hears of Juliet's "death." Death is the ultimate form of isolation and loss in this play, and the ultimate tragedy, since the implication is that since they killed themselves, they will be isolated in death, as well as in life. Without the imagery, and the many different types of images, this play simply would not be the same. It would not be a romantic, it would not be as tragic, and it would probably not still be on the bookshelves of millions of people around the world. Shakespeare knew how to manipulate words into themes by using poetic and vibrant images that stick in the mind's of the audience, and that is one of the most important elements of this complex play.
Shakespeare's use of imagery in this work is also why it remains so memorable. Part of that is the tragic implications of the work and its themes, but the words Shakespeare uses paint very vivid pictures, and they remain some of the most famous lines in the play. One of the major images in the play is light. Critic Bloom notes, "They meet at night, their marriage lasts one night, until light parts them. When they finally come together, it is at night in a tomb, which becomes their tomb in actuality" (Bloom 2000, 96). In accordance with this prevalent theme, Shakespeare uses vivid images of light to get this theme across to the audience. He writes early in the play, " but soft, what light through yonder window breaks? / it is the East and Juliet is the sun. / Arise fair Sun and kill the envious Moon, / Who is already sick and pale with grief / That thou her maid art far more fair than she" (Shakespeare 2.1.44-48).
This is one of the most well know speeches from the play, and it is an excellent example of the imagery that makes this play memorable. The use of imagery has created enduring characters and situations that are still studied hundreds of years after Shakespeare's death. One of the reasons for this is that the language and methods are so unforgettable and consuming. Without the use of imagery in this play, it would not be nearly so impressive or unforgettable, which indicates how important imagery is to the overall aspect of important literary works.
In conclusion, the imagery of "Romeo and Juliet" really makes the play what it is. This is a tragic love story focusing on forbidden love, isolation, and loss, and it uses vivid imagery to bring all this to the reader or viewer. The real tragedy of this play is not the loss of the lovers - that seems inevitable from the start. The real tragedy is what caused this loss - the feud between the families - and that it is essentially ended with the death of the children. The real tragedy is the feud had to end in such tragic results, when with a bit of understanding and courage; the entire play could have ended in a much happier fashion. Love and death, dark and light, and fate are all themes of the imagery in this play, but ultimately, the theme is one of understanding and negotiation, and that is why this play is a true tragedy in every sense of the word.
Bloom, Harold, ed. 2000. William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers.
Brown, Carolyn E. 1996. Juliet's Taming of Romeo. Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 36, no. 2: 333+.