What is ironic about Romeo's soliloquy in Act 5, Scene 1?

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This soliloquy tells of what might have been. Romeo notes that his sleep may be “flattering,” as in all too hopeful. Since this is a tragedy, he is correct on this matter. That his “dreams presage some joyful news at hand” sounds deeply ironic considering news of Juliet’s death soon reaches him. However, his dream is not entirely misleading. Perhaps this “truth of sleep” presaged the good news that the friar attempted to send him. The letter would have put Romeo in “cheerful thoughts,” for he would have been able to reunite with his love and possibly even unite the families with the friar’s help. The audience is warned from the beginning that this is a tragedy, so this spark of hope only creates dramatic irony and tension.

In the dream, Juliet finds and kisses Romeo. This actually does happen. After Romeo dies, Juliet kisses him in order to draw poison from his lips. His lips are still warm. One almost wonders if Romeo experiences something akin to his fantasy. Perhaps Juliet’s love was so powerful that Romeo—who for some strange reason could “think”—felt the kiss of life and awoke with her in the afterlife, as “an emperor.” Whatever the case, Romeo’s thoughts about love are almost as wonderful as love itself: “how sweet is love itself possess'd, / When but love's shadows are so rich in joy!”

Of course, this does not happen in the play, as far as the audience witnesses. Romeo dies “with a kiss,” drinking poison immediately before kissing Juliet, and Juliet promptly stabs herself after kissing him. They are kisses of death rather than life. However, in a metaphysical sense, perhaps these kisses give life to their legendary love. They certainly create peace between their families.

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  • It is ironic that Romeo refers to his "flattering sleep", since this is exactly what Juliet is: in a death-like sleep, which is hardly flattering, for it is this 'sleep' of hers which brings her family great misery and results in his death. Balthasar brings him news about Juliet's death upon which he seeks out an apothecary and buys a deadly poison. He later drinks the potion and commits suicide in the Capulets' burial vault.
  • Romeo surmising about trusting the truth of his sleep is further irony, for Juliet's 'sleep' is just that, but it is a sleep of such depth that she is believed dead. This is reverse irony since it would have been better to doubt Juliet's state of death and attempt to revive her, but everyone believed (including Romeo) that she was truly dead.
  • Further irony lies in the fact that Romeo is in such high spirits and that his dreams:

"presage some joyful news at hand" and that

"My bosom's lord sits lightly in his throne"

"Lifts me above the ground with cheerful thoughts."

He is just about to be informed of Juliet's death by Balthasar, news which will drive him to suicide.

  • It is also ironic that he should mention that the dream,

"gives a dead man leave to think", for this is precisely what he would soon be - dead. He is, in fact, predicting his own death.

He further asserts that he was an emperor on his revival - which is not to be.

  • The greatest irony lies in the fact that Romeo dreamt that Juliet found him dead and kissed him back to life, when exactly the opposite happens. Later, when she awakens from her deathly sleep and finds him expired beside her, she takes his dagger and takes her own life.
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Romeo's soliloquy is ironic because he is discussing a dream which is very close to reality.  Romeo is talking about his dream where he is dead and Juliet kisses him back to life.  This is very close to the friar's plan for Juliet.  She will pretend to be dead and it will be Romeo who revives her.  Of course, we know that it will not turn out this way.  It is ironic that Romeo would have this dream just as Balthasar is bringing him the news of Juliet's death.  We know that Juliet is not really dead.  She could be revived from death just as Romeo was in his dream.  Romeo and Balthasar do not know she isn't really dead.  This is an example of dramatic irony because we, the audience, know something that they, the characters, do not.

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