Paradoxical Language in Romeo and Juliet

Oh, me! What fray was here?
Yet tell me not, for I have heard it all.
Here’s much to do with hate, but more with love.
Why, then, O brawling love, O loving hate,
O anything of nothing first create,
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.
(1.1.173-182)

Many of this language seems to be an oxymoron at first glance, but if we really think about some of this language it might make some sense. What could “brawling love” mean? Perhaps it could be love of country for soldiers going to war to protect their country’s freedom and to show love of their country through enduring violence. Or “loving hate” could be a governor denying a pardon of a condemned criminal to show their love for a safe and free land. Or a “feather of lead” could symbolize how a seemingly small thing can weigh us down. There are many possible interpretations to these examples, and to think of possible meanings for them is a great exercise in critical thinking. The more we ponder over them the more that seems to come to mind. When we hear these lines spoken at conversational speed we may draw a blank, though we can still appreciate their poetic quality. I would love to hear in the comments if someone has any possible interpretations of any of the pardoxical phrases used in this speech from Romeo and Juliet. Have a Bard-tastic day!

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