In Romeo and Juliet, what is meant by the phrase "from forth the fatal loins of these two foes"?  

In Romeo and Juliet, the phrase “from forth the fatal loins of these two foes” simply means that the title characters were born to two feuding families. The “loins,” an old-fashioned word for the sex organs, are “fatal” in that they've produced offspring, Romeo and Juliet, who are destined to die tragic deaths.

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The word "fatal" is an interesting one in this play. It's connected to another phrase that always brings it to mind: "star-crossed." In modern parlance, the word "fatal" is often used as if it means "causing death," as in the phrase, "a fatal blow." However, it doesn't actually mean that at all. It simply means something which has an important effect on the fate of someone or something. So, the "loins" of the feuding families, the Capulets and the Montagues, are not fatal because they cause Romeo and Juliet, their children, to die, but simply because they have a significant effect on the fates of both families.

Breaking down the phrase, "loins" means genitals or reproductive organs, so Shakespeare is saying that the lovers, Romeo and Juliet, have issued from the sexual organs of the Montagues and the Capulets. The implication is that the couplings of the Montagues and Capulets have had an important influence on the goings-on in Verona, probably related to the fact that they are "foes." In the next line, Shakespeare goes on to expressly state that the lives of Romeo and Juliet, the lovers, stem from these loins, which again simply means that they are the descendants of two houses which are at war. The phrase overall is simply a clear statement that Romeo and Juliet, the hero and heroine of the play, seem to have had their lives defined by some element of fate: because they have been born from two warring houses, their coming together has had a significant effect on their own lives and also the world around them.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 25, 2021
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This line appears in the prologue, where Shakespeare offers a quick summary of the plot of the play. This particular line means that Romeo and Juliet come from different sides of two feuding families.

Shakespeare uses a high diction in the prologue, fitting the seriousness of the subject matter and the high birth of both protagonists, who are both the children of lords. Most notably, the line uses high diction in the alliteration of the repeated "f" sounds that begin four of the words. It also puns on the word "fatal," which means deathly but also carries the overtone of fated or destined. The accident of birth that makes the love of the two young people forbidden is both fated and also fatal.

As does the rest of the prologue, this line emphasizes the ironic and tragic connection between love and death. Romeo and Juliet both sprang from the love between a couple, but the love that produced them is intertwined with the hate of a deadly feud.

It is curious that Shakespeare chooses to begin this play with a prologue that lays out what will happen. The opening, however, makes clear that the play, despite the many lighthearted and comedic aspects of its early acts, is nevertheless going to end tragically.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 25, 2021
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“Loins” is an old-fashioned word for the human sex organs. It's a word that's used quite often in works of literature from bygone eras, most notably the Bible.

In the context of Romeo and Juliet, one can say that from the loins of “these two foes”—that is, from the sex organs of the Montagues and the Capulets, feuding families who've been at each other's throats for generations—have come the tragic lovers.

The loins are fatal in that they have produced “star-cross'd lovers” who are fated to meet with a tragic demise. There is more than a hint of foreshadowing here. It's as if Romeo and Juliet, having been born of “fatal loins” were destined to die the way that they did. This was because they were born to “these two foes,” who, as we've already seen, are their feuding families.

One can say, then, that the very fact of Romeo and Juliet having been born to families engaged in a bitter, bloody feud is enough to mark them for a tragic, early death as soon as they're born. In that sense, “fatal” doesn't just mean something that is capable of causing death. It can also mean “fateful,” as in something that has far-reaching, disastrous consequences.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 24, 2021
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"Loins" refers to the sexual organs of the parents, as in "the fruit of their loins."

The "fatal" part has two meanings. The first meaning is fatal as in "deadly," since Romeo and Juliet commit double suicide at the end of the drama.

The second meaning is fatal as in "fated." In the prologue, Romeo and Juliet are also described as "star cross'd lovers," implying outside forces such as fate were turned against their being together from before they were born.

Both meanings of "fatal" lend a sense of doom and the inevitable to Romeo and Juliet's relationship. No matter what they do, they cannot escape their unhappy fate, both due to who their parents are and because fate was against them from the beginning.

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The phrase, mentioned in line five of the Prologue, sets the stage for the action yet to come.  The "loins" refer to the sexual organs of both sets of parents; even in modern society, we sometimes refer to children as the "fruits of our loins."  Thus, those who came "from the loins" would be Romeo and Juliet.  Calling the loins "fatal" helps the audience to understand that things will not end well for Romeo and Juliet; both will perish by the end of the story.  The "foes" referred to within the line are the Montagues and the Capulets, two families that have been at war for a considerable amount of time.

In general, this line fits into a prologue that details the full action of the play before the action even begins.  Some might question giving away the ending during the prologue, but doing so provides its own method of suspense.

 

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