In what way does the Prologue of Romeo and Juliet express different examples of foreshadowing and foresight?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The Prologue shows foresight and a vision of what is to come with its direct reference to Romeo and Juliet and the world in which they live.  Within this, Shakespeare is able to foreshadow one of his fundamental themes in the play that love amidst a world of hatred is possible.  The Prologue foreshadows violence between both families and the conditions of violence that exist in Verona.  Consider the following line:

From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.

This foreshadows that this drama is one where violence is present.  The Shakespearean image of the bloody hand helps to bring this out in terms of the hands that will bring about violence to others.  At the same time, Shakespeare contrasts this world of bloodshed and violence with the tenderness of love, redemption being cast alongside despair:

A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life;

This is a significant line because it foreshadows a couple of realities that will become clear in the play.  The first is that the couple is going against the natural order of violence and hatred that surrounds them.  It is for this reason that they are called "star- cross'd."  Additionally, the ending of the play is present in the idea of their death.  To the extent that Shakespeare "tips his hand" at the ending, he also reminds us that through this act, there will be reconciliation and redemption:

Doth, with their death, bury their parents’ strife.
The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love,
And the continuance of their parents’ rage,

This helps the audience understand that the solution to this condition of bloodshed is the presence of love, a theme that is foreshadowed here to be developed in the play.  The last foreshadowing element is actually a humorous one.  The Prologue reminds the audience that the play is two hours' "traffic" and that one needs to be ready in order to absorb that which is about to unfold.

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