CONCEPTS INTRODUCED IN ROMEO AND JULIET
1. Puns: A pun is a play on words, usually for comic effect. In the opening lines of the first scene two of Capulet servants do a series of puns on coals, collier (coal miner), choler (anger) and collar (noose). Their comic word play tends to downplay the seriousness of the feud between the Capulets and Montagues. But such puns can also be found in serious or even somber passages in the play. When he is fatally wounded and knows he is dying, Romeo's friend, Mercutio, says, "Look for me tomorrow and you'll find me a grave man."
2. Oxymoron: An oxymoron is a self-contradictory phrase, something that cancels itself. If you think about it, such common phrases as "jumbo shrimp" and "freezer burn" really don't go together. Shakespeare most often uses oxymoronic phrases to talk about love and how it makes us feel: "bittersweet" or "sweet sorrow."
3. Taboo Words: Shakespeare has his characters use obscenities when he wishes to emphasize strong feelings or inferior social status. These obscenities, however, don't refer to sex or bodily waste; they are sacrilegious terms, which treat God's name in an irreverent fashion, the greatest taboo in Shakespeare's day. The most frequently used taboo words are "Zounds" (“God's wounds") and "Sblood" ("God's blood"). Occasionally other taboo words are used: "God's Bread!" in Romeo and Juliet.
4. Bawdy: "Bawdy" is what Shakespeare called sexual references. Bawdy can be explicit: Juliet has a bump on her head, says the Nurse, "as big as a young cockerel's stone" (testicle). Or bawdy can be indirect and suggested: In the midst of Romeo's passionate grief over being banished, the Nurse urges him to "arise and stand" for Juliet's sake, inadvertently suggesting a male erection. References to bawdy occur in both comedies and tragedies. They can be very elaborate.
5. Prose/Verse Usage: Shakespeare wrote his plays using two different kinds of language: verse and prose. You can tell if a particular passage is written in verse because the words do not go across the whole column; because the first word of each line begins with a capital letter; and because there is usually a regular rhythm in the words of the line and a consistent number of syllables (10 or 11):
"Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow (11)
That I shall say good night till it be morrow." (11)
You can tell if a particular passage is in prose because the words go clear across the column; because the word at the beginning of each line does not always start with a capital letter; and because there is no consistent rhythm in the words:
"'Therefore women, being the weaker vessels, are ever thrust to the wall. Therefore I will push Montague's men from the wall and thrust his maids to the wall."
We can make the following generalizations (true about 90% of the times) about the use of verse and prose in Shakespeare's plays: upper-class people speak verse; lower class people speak prose. When a character is serious, she will speak verse; when she is joking, she will speak prose. If a character is telling the truth, he will speak verse; if he is lying, he will speak prose.