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The prologue to Act 2 of William Shakespeare’s Rome and Juliet uses a number of different literary devices. Thus alliteration, or the repetition of consonant sounds, appears (for instance) in such phrases as “old desire doth in his death-bed lie,” “beloved and loves,” and “passion lends them power, time means, to meet.” Assonance, or the repetition of similar-sounding vowel sounds, appears (for example) in such phrases as “death-bed,” “foe supposed,” “means, to meet,” and extreme sweet.”
Enjambment, or the lack of punctuation at the end of a line of verse, appears in the first, third, and fifth lines of the following passage:
Being held a foe, he may not have access
To breathe such vows as lovers use to swear;
And she as much in love, her means much less
To meet her new-beloved any where:
But passion lends them power, time means, to meet
Tempering extremities with extreme sweet.
Metaphors, or implied comparisons, appear in such words or phrases as (for instance) “death-bed,” “heir,” and “groaned,” while personification appears (for example) in the reference to “young affection.”
By employing all these devices and various others (such as the world-play on “extremities” and “extreme” in the prologue’s final lines) Shakespeare achieves a number of results, including the following:
- He helps make his writing more interesting and memorable than it would be if it were more prosaic.
- He displays his own poetic inventiveness.
- He achieves variety, as in the switch from the punctuation at the ends of the first eight lines to the use of enjambment in the second half of the prologue.
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