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Foreshadowing in Romeo and Juliet

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I have night's cloak to hide me from their sight;
And but thou love me, let them find me here:
My life were better ended by their hate,
Than death prorogued, wanting of thy love. (II. ii. 75-79)

William Shakespeare used foreshadowing throughout Romeo and Juliet with many of the characters to enhance the audience’s interest and feeling of suspense. In acts two and three, Friar Lawrence, Juliet and Romeo all foreshadow Romeo and Juliet’s demise at the end of the play.

Romeo meets with Friar Lawrence prior to his marriage to Juliet, and Friar Lawrence while agreeing to marry them offers these words to Romeo:

These violent delights have violent ends
And in their triumph die, like fire and powder,
Which as they kiss consume: the sweetest honey
Is loathsome in his own deliciousness
And in the taste confounds the appetite:
Therefore love moderately; long love doth so;
Too swift arrives as tardy as too slow. (II. vi. 9-15)

This is a wonderful example of foreshadowing their tragic ending. The audience and Romeo are looking forward to their love being united in marriage, but Shakespeare uses the Friar’s words to foreshadow their future, thereby elevating the suspense for the audience.

Juliet in the morning after consummating their marriage, and as Romeo is leaving, looks down from her balcony and comments that he has the pale face that death brings:

O God, I have an ill-divining soul!
Methinks I see thee, now thou art below,
As one dead in the bottom of a tomb:
Either my eyesight fails, or thou look'st pale (III. vi. 52-56)

Romeo responds that she as well looks pale: “And trust me, love, in my eye so do you. Dry sorrow drinks our blood. Adieu, adieu!”(III. vi. 57-58) Romeo and Juliet do not know that the next time they see one another, one of them will be dead. The audience knows that a sorrowful ending awaits these “star-crossed lovers,” and this excellent use of foreshadowing heightens their anticipation.

Romeo, after slaying Tybalt in a moment of vengeance and rage has been banished from Verona by the prince. Romeo laments his situation with Friar Lawrence, and in this scene foreshadows his and Juliet’s impending death:

….But Romeo may not; he is banished:
Flies may do this, but I from this must fly:
They are free men, but I am banished.
And say'st thou yet that exile is not death?
Hadst thou no poison mix'd, no sharp-ground knife,
No sudden mean of death, though ne'er so mean,
But 'banished' to kill me?--'banished'?
O friar, the damned use that word in hell;
Howlings attend it: how hast thou the heart,
Being a divine, a ghostly confessor,
A sin-absolver, and my friend profess'd,
To mangle me with that word 'banished'? (III. iii. 40-51)

Romeo is speaking of death being preferred over banishment from Verona, and because of this never seeing Juliet again. By the end of the play, the foreshadowed poison and the knife will be the cause of Romeo and Juliet’s death.

William Shakespeare’s clever use of foreshadowing throughout the play Romeo and Juliet elevated the audience’s attention, and anticipation of the final outcome. Romeo and Juliet, as well as Friar Lawrence foretold of these tragic events to come.

Wash they his wounds with tears: mine shall be spent,
When theirs are dry, for Romeo's banishment.
Take up those cords: poor ropes, you are beguiled,
Both you and I; for Romeo is exiled:
He made you for a highway to my bed;
But I, a maid, die maiden-widowed.
Come, cords, come, nurse; I'll to my wedding-bed;
And death, not Romeo, take my maidenhead! (III. ii. 131-138)

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