Oxymoron and Paradox

Shakespeare has written a wondrous piece called Othello we are currently reading in class. Another one of his plays I’ve read is Romeo and Juliet. I read the famous star-crossed lovers story for English III last year. In his renowned mastery of the language, Shakespeare foreshadow’s the intense love Romeo has for Juliet by use of oxymoron:

Why then, O brawling love, O loving hate,
O anything of nothing first created!
O heavy lightness, serious vanity,
Misshapen chaos of well-seeming forms!
Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health,
Still-waking sleep, that is not what it is!
This love feel I, that feel no love in this.
Dost thou not laugh?

(Romeo and Juliet)

In another example, Shakespeare uses an oxymoron to coin one of his many commonplace phrases in Hamlet:

I do repent; but heaven hath pleas’d it so
To punish me with this, and this with me,
That I must be their scourge and minister.
I will bestow him, and will answer well
The death I gave him. So again good night.
I must be cruel only to be kind.
Thus bad begins and worse remains behind.


He talks of being mean to his mother in order to help her. While counter-intuitive, the oxymoron provides a means to stress Hamlet’s care for his mother.

In Animal Farm, Orwell uses a paradox to introduce a major concept of his book:

All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others


While nearly all the animals began working together, the pigs eventually became greedy and forced the others into servitude.

Again in Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare uses a literary device to portray an idea:

The earth that’s nature’s mother is her tomb;

What is her burying grave, that is Rainbow in her womb

(Romeo and Juliet)

The Friar talks of the Earth being the birthplace while being the tomb of all. Commenting on the cyclic nature of life, returning back to one’s birthplace.


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