Personification in Romeo & Juliet

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  • 0:03 Introduction to Romeo…
  • 0:56 Defining Personification
  • 1:20 Examples
  • 3:37 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Rachel Noorda
Expert Contributor
Jenna Clayton

Jenna received her BA in English from Iowa State University in 2015, and she has taught at the secondary level for three years.

This lesson discusses personification, or giving human characteristics to animals and objects, in Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet'. The examples of personification in 'Romeo and Juliet' include instances of personifying objects to emphasize Juliet's beauty.

Introduction to Romeo and Juliet

Have you ever heard of the expression star-crossed lovers to explain two people who fall in love but are destined to fail due to outside forces? That famous expression comes from one of the most famous, romantic and tragic love stories of all time, Romeo and Juliet.

Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy by William Shakespeare. It is a play about two young people who fall in love. Unfortunately, they also come from two different families who have been fighting for generations. The love between Romeo and Juliet is forbidden and has to be kept secret. They get married secretly, but then when Juliet is forced to marry someone else, she fakes her own death so that she can escape and be with Romeo. The only problem is that Romeo thinks she is dead and kills himself because he cannot imagine living without her. When Juliet wakes up and sees Romeo is dead, she, too, kills herself.

Defining Personification

Personification is giving human characteristics to animals and objects. Personification is a type of literary device, a technique used by a writer to convey a message in a particular way. Personification is a technique used by the writer as a way to connect the reader with the animal or object. Another reason to use personification is that it can create vivid descriptions that add richness to the writing.


The first example comes from Friar Laurence.

FRIAR LAURENCE: The grey-eyed morn smiles on the frowning night,

Chequering the eastern clouds with streaks of light

In this quote, there are two examples of personification. The first is grey-eyed morn smiles. This description of the morning tells you that it was grey, but it does it in a way that personifies the morning, by giving it eyes. It also personifies the morning by saying that the morning can smile, a way to describe the bright, happy look of a beautiful morning.

The second example of personification in this quote is frowning night. Obviously, the night cannot frown, but this description gives the night the human ability to frown.

In this next quote, you'll see a personification of the moon from Romeo:

ROMEO: 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:

Be not her maid, since she is envious

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Additional Activities

Analysis of Personification in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

Personification Examples

For this activity, you will be given several examples of personification from Romeo and Juliet. Read each example carefully and then explain what is being personified. Then analyze the meaning of the quote.

Example #1 (Benvolio speaking to Romeo in Act I Scene I)

Alas that love, so gentle in his view,

Should be so tyrannous and rough in proof!

Example #2 (Lady Capulet speaking about Juliet in Act I Scene II)

Earth hath swallowed all my hopes but she;

She's the hopeful lady of my earth.

Example #3 (Romeo speaking to Juliet in Act II Scene II)

By love, that first did prompt me to inquire.

He lent me counsel, and I lent him eyes.

Example #4 (Friar Lawrence speaking to Romeo in Act II Scene III)

Care keeps his watch in every old man's eye,

And, where care lodges, sleep will never lie...

A Possible Response to Example #1:

In this example, Benvolio is personifying love by comparing it to a person who appears gentle on the outside. However, in reality, this person is oppressive and cruel. Benvolio makes this statement to explain to Romeo that love, which looks amazing and beautiful on the surface, can cause tremendous pain.

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