Literary and dramatic devices

Foreshadowing

Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet relies heavily on foreshadowing. This means that many actions or lines hint at something that will happen later on – typically pointing to the lovers’ deaths. We know right from the start that the play will end in tragedy because the first prologue tells us that these lovers are “star-crossed” (l. 6) and “death-marked” (l. 9). In spite of this, the play keeps reminding us of the coming tragedy through numerous examples of foreshadowing. This has the effect of building tension and suspense.

One example is when the lovers part after their wedding night. Juliet suddenly experiences a sense of doom and thinks that Romeo looks “as one dead in the bottom of a tomb.” (3.5.56) She does not know it, but this is the last time she will see him alive.

Another example is Act 3, Scene 1, which is a turning point for the worse in the play since this is when Mercutio and Tybalt die and Romeo is banished. As Mercutio is dying, he curses the Montague and Capulet families: “A plague o’ both your houses!” (3.1.95) The curse later becomes true when both Romeo and Juliet commit suicide, leaving their distraught families to mourn them. 

We encourage you to look for examples of foreshadowing of your own, as the play is full of it. Analytically, this device is very relevant since it can be linked directly to the ending of the play and its genre (tragedy).

Dramatic irony

Romeo and Juliet is a play where the characters often keep secrets from one another. Most examples of this have to do with the forbidden love between the young lovers and their secret wedding. 

This game of knowledge is carried out via dramatic ...

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