What are five literary elements used in the prologue to Act 2 of William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet?

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vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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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.