At the end of Act 1 Scene IV of Romeo and Juliet, what does Romeo tell Benvolio, foreshadowing future action in the play?

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accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The incidence of foreshadowing is something that is incredibly common in this excellent tragedy, as both Romeo and Juliet at various points in the play predict tragedy is in the offing for them both. In this case, having decided to go to the Capulet ball that night, Romeo tells Benvolio that he will go, but he fears that events will be set in motion at this ball that will result in the loss of his life. Note what he says to Benvolio:

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 despied life, closed in my breast,

By some vile forfeit of untimely death.

Note the way that this speech makes reference to "the stars." In Elizabethan times, people felt that the planets, or "the stars" controlled a person's fate or destiny. Thus it is that "stars" are mentioned a lot in this play. Of course, this speech foreshadows the way that Romeo will meet Juliet at the ball that evening and the way that the tragedy of the play will develop as a result.

mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In Act I, Scene 4, Benvolio suggests that Romeo accompany him to a masque in order to forget about his lost love, Rosaline. They are held back by Mercutio's monologue on Queen Mab, and Benvolio worries that they will be too late. But Romeo remarks with powerful insight:

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 despied life, closed in my breast,
By some vile forfeit of untimely death.

These lines are pregnant with foreshadowing.

  • Romeo fears that he is too early, sensing that he should not meet anyone. His meeting with Juliet is exactly "too early" as had he waited, Juliet may have been engaged to Paris.
  • "Some consequence" does, indeed, begin this night; he meets Juliet, and as a consequence of seeing and talking with her, Romeo falls in love.
  • The mention of "in the stars" alludes to the Prologue in which the lovers, Romeo and Juliet, are referred as "star-crossed lovers," meaning that they are fated. So, Romeo senses that fate will play a role in his life this night as it makes its "fearful date."
  • "expire the term/of this despised life" foreshadows Romeo's feelings of agony in Act V, Scene 2, as he feels that he is "life-weary" and purchases poison, so he can join Juliet in her tomb.
  • "untimely death" presages what occurs for both Romeo and Juliet. 
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