Foreshadowing is a technique that is frequently used in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to create several dramatic effects. Repeated references reminding us of the inevitable deaths make suspense, anticipation, as well as dramatic irony because we know the ending that the characters do not. A first example of foreshadowing is shown by a quote from Friar Lawrence as he explains the balance of nature:
O mickle is the powerful grace that lies
In plants, herbs, stones, and their true qualities:
For nought so vile, that on the earth doth live;
But to the earth some special good doth give;
Nor ought so good but, strain’d from that fair use,
Revolts from true birth, stumbling on abuse.
Virtue turns itself vice, being misapplied,
And vice sometime by action dignified (2.3. 15-22)
In nature, everything has its proper place and it is people’s misapplication of its resources that destroys the balance between good and bad. While a mentor to Romeo and Juliet, the friar fails to follow his own teachings; he meddles, steps out of his role, and also abuses nature by using it to attempt to fix his problems. He foreshadows his own foolishness and the problems that will arise when two heirs of opposing houses defy their places in society. Before their marriage, Romeo makes a bold statement that challenges the fates and foreshadows the following crisis. He declares that “Death may come and do what he wants as long as he had Juliet” (2.6. 7-8) that foreshadows a twist in fortune for their new love as well as the coming of death, specifically the following murders of Mercutio and Tybalt. As the plot escalates, foreshadowing of death becomes more frequent that the two lovers begin to see death in each other. As they part, Juliet gravely notices that he looks “as one dead in the bottom of a tomb” (3.5.56) to which Romeo replies, “…trust me love, in my eye so do you:/Dry sorrow drinks our blood” (3.5.58-9). They see a tragic ending in their love story and foreshadow their own deaths. Constant foreshadowing keeps readers in anticipation for the deaths; however, when the ending finally happens, it is still surprising. In conclusion, although we know the results of the future because of the reminders scattered throughout quotes, the looming knowledge of Romeo and Juliet’s deaths make the actual event more dramatic and meaningful.
Written February 2, 2011.
This is the last assignment I’m posting on Romeo and Juliet, I promise! I love the play, but I’m not obsessed with it, I just thought it might be a resource to someone out there. If you missed the last Romeo and Juliet piece I posted, here it is: https://thebookybunhead.wordpress.com/2013/04/01/romeo-and-juliet-essay-themes-in-ballet-and-play/
Thanks for reading,