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

Expert Answers
vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.



Read the study guide:
Romeo and Juliet

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question