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Hyperbole in Romeo and Juliet

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  • 0:01 Romeo and Juliet and Hyperbole
  • 1:26 'Star-Crossed Lovers'
  • 2:04 Hyperbole in Romeo and Juliet
  • 3:48 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Andrea Hale
In this lesson we will review what hyperbole is and look at examples of hyperbole in the play 'Romeo and Juliet.' We will also discuss why hyperbole is used in this play.

Romeo and Juliet and Hyperbole

The epic love story. Love at first sight. Star-crossed lovers. What is the first story that comes to mind hearing these descriptions? It's likely you think of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, the tragic story of an ill-fated romance between members of warring families. Romeo and Juliet changed literature with its approach to language, including its use of hyperbole.

Hyperbole is a literary tactic in which a writer exaggerates to the point that it is not meant to be taken literally. It is often used to emphasize a point and sometimes used for humorous effect. We use hyperbole frequently in our daily communication. For example, we might say, 'That video took forever to load' or 'I'm dying of embarrassment.' The video really did not really take forever to load, and the speaker isn't actually dying. When we say things like this, people understand our true meaning and that we are emphasizing a point. We could say, 'The video took longer than usual to load' or 'I'm embarrassed from that incident,' but these phrases don't emphasize our point as strongly. Think about the praises we heaped on Romeo and Juliet a few seconds ago. The epic love story. Love at first sight. We even described Romeo and Juliet using hyperbole.

'Star-Crossed Lovers'

Let's look at the famous phrase 'star-crossed lovers,' which comes from a phrase in Romeo and Juliet. If we take it at face value, what does it mean to be a star-crossed lover? Centuries ago, people believed the stars ruled our fates. When stars are crossed in a relationship, it is doomed to fail. The stars are working against the lovers and, in the end, Romeo and Juliet's relationship fails, and they both die. The stars are not literally crossed; the phrase is a hyperbole. Phrases like 'star-crossed lovers' are used frequently throughout the play to emphasize the love that these two share.

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