The prologue is rich in personification and metaphor: "civil blood makes civil hands unclean" (line 4). "Civil" in this instance is a reference to respectable and/or respectful. The blood of respectable and respected citizens tarnishes the hands of those being respected and who are respectable.
"Fatal loins" is also metaphoric and refers to the fact that the parents of the characters have given birth to these "star crossed lovers" who are doomed to die - therefore "fatal." The metaphor "star crossed lovers" further suggests the prophetic alignment of the stars - the lovers are doomed from the start.
The metaphor, "their death marked love" informs the audience that the protagonists' love has been shadowed by the presence of death from the outset - their relationship always held a particularly ominous risk.
Furthermore, alliteration is employed throughout the prologue, further emphasizing the danger and turmoil that the lovers will be exposed to. The best example is "from forth the fatal loins of these two foes" (line 5) - the repetition of the "t" and "f" sounds emphasizes the fatality of the affair.
"Patient ears" (line 13) is a request that the audience listen attentively, for the actors will strive to convey the message contained in the play to them.
Further significance could be attached to the fact that the prologue is written in the form of a sonnet, with slight deviations in rhyme and rhythm.
The Prologue contains the first of three sonnets in Romeo and Juliet. (The others are the two-part dialogue of Romeo and Juliet in Act I, Scene 5 and the Prologue to Act Two). Within this sonnet there are certain poetic devices among which are the following:
- metonymy - "two households" for two families. [Metonymy is a figure of speech in which one word or phrase is substituted for another with which it is closely associated.]
- synedoche - "fatal loins" for fathers [Synedoche is a figure of speech in which one part is used for the whole]
- metaphor - "star-crossed lovers" Romeo and Juliet are compared to those doomed by unlucky stars.
- metaphor - "death-marked love
In Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, the author uses end rhyme using a rhyme scheme in the fourteen lines of the Prologue: abab cdcd efef gg.
The first three sets of four lines are stanzas, here called "quatrains."
The last two lines rhyme with each other. They are "rhyming couplets."
It also seems to be written in iambic pentameter, though some lines are awkwardly "timed," and some words may have been "blended" from two syllables to one, as one would write a contraction.