Foreshadowing is one of the most obvious literary techniques Shakespeare utilizes in most of his plays. He enjoys using prophecies, omens, dreams, and supernatural events to help the audience predict what will happen to their beloved characters on stage. The following are five examples from Shakespeare’s play The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, where Shakespeare lets the audience know that the star-crossed lovers’ fates hang in the balance.
5 Examples of Foreshadowing in Romeo and Juliet
“From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life;
Whose misadventured piteous overthrows
Doth with their death bury their parents’ strife.”
The Chorus is one of Shakespeare’s favorite techniques of foreshadowing what is going to happen next in his plays. In this case, the Chorus comes out in the very beginning of the play and tells the audience exactly what will happen to Romeo and Juliet: two children from these two warring families will take their own lives. However, the Chorus also reveals the important outcome of this tragedy: that their deaths will finally bring an end the long-running feud between the Montagues and the Capulets.
“Three civil brawls bred of an airy word
By thee, old Capulet, and Montague,
Have thrice disturbed the quiet of our streets
And made Verona’s ancient citizens
Cast by their grave-beseeming ornaments
To wield old partisans in hands as old,
Cankered with peace, to part your cankered hate.
If ever you disturb our streets again,
Your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace.”
These words, uttered by Prince Escalus after he arrives on the scene of yet another brawl in the streets between the Montagues and the Capulets that got innocent citizens involved foreshadows the consequences of what will happen if another brawl breaks out. In this case, the Prince is very clear to both families: they will face death if they disturb the streets of Verona with their feud again. This punishment foreshadows the Prince’s decision later on when the streets are disturbed yet again, this time by Tybalt’s desire for revenge, and then Romeo’s own thirst for vengeance.
“I fear too early, for my mind misgives
Some consequence yet hanging in the stars
Shall bitterly begin his fearful date
With this night’s revels, and expire the term
Of a despiséd life closed in my breast
By some vile forfeit of untimely death.”
Before entering the Capulet’s party which he, Benvolio, and Mercutio are secretly crashing, Romeo utters these words to himself and to the audience. He had previously tried to explain to Mercutio and Benvolio that he had a dream that unsettled him, but Mercutio brushed away his fears. Yet, Romeo continues to remain unsettled that entering this party, and the events that will follow, will lead to his untimely death. Shakespeare is using dreams and a bit of supernatural intuition to foreshadow that this party will change everything for 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.”
Friar Lawrence is cautioning Romeo as he awaits Juliet for their secret marriage ceremony. Friar Lawrence tells Romeo that love in moderation is the key to having it last for a long time; however, a love that starts so “violently”, or with intense passion and lust, is less likely to last and more likely to end as intensely as it began– and it doesn’t usually end well. The audience knows that Romeo and Juliet’s love is already extremely passionate, even though they just met the night before. Because their love has begun so intensely, the Friar’s words foreshadow the equally extreme end that Romeo and Juliet will face because of their secret love.
“O God, I have an ill-divining soul!
Methinks I see thee, now thou art so low,
As one dead in the bottom of a tomb.
Either my eyesight fails or thou lookest pale.”
In these lines, Juliet is saying good-bye to Romeo after he is leaving her room where they consummated their secret marriage. As he climbs out of the window and down to the ground below, Juliet doesn’t know that it is the last time she will see him alive, but her intuition foreshadows that this will be their last meeting. Romeo must flee to Mantua, where he is exiled for killing Tybalt. As Juliet and Romeo look at each other, the gray light of early morning makes each look so pale that they look like they are dead; little do they know that the next time they see one another, it will be in a tomb, and they will both soon be dead.