What does this passage from Romeo and Juliet mean? "The fearful passage of their death-mark’d love / and the continuance of their parents’ rage..."

2 Answers

poetrymfa's profile pic

poetrymfa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

This passage appears in the prologue of the first act of Romeo and Juliet and is meant to inform audiences about what they are about to see on the stage before them; in other words, these lines act as a sort of "trailer" for the production. The prologue in its entirety reads as follows:

Two households, both alike in dignity,

In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,

From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,

Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.

From forth the fatal loins of these two foes

A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life;

Whose misadventured piteous overthrows

Do with their death bury their parents' strife.

The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love,

And the continuance of their parents' rage,

Which, but their children's end, nought could remove,

Is now the two hours' traffic of our stage;

The which if you with patient ears attend,

What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.

In other words, the audience is about to bear witness to the story of the grudge between two equally respectable families of Verona who have given birth to two ill-fated lovers: Romeo, a Montague, and Juliet, a Capulet. The love--and inevitable demise--of this pair ultimately buries the grudge that was carried by their parents. The play will last for two hours, and the players request that the audience give them its full attention so as to fully understand what is about to happen. 

malibrarian's profile pic

malibrarian | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

This is from the opening Prologue of Act I, wherein the Chorus actually tells the audience right from the start what the play is about and how it will end. To really understand those lines, though, I would suggest reading them in context with the two lines that follow them:

"The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love,
And the continuance of their parents' rage,
Which, but their children's end, nought could remove,
Is now the two hours' traffic of our stage..."

The Chorus tells us that we're going to hear a story about two "star-crossed lovers," Romeo and Juliet, who are doomed to die as a result of the feud between their two families, and that only "their children's end" (their deaths) could get the Capulets and the Montagues to stop fighting.

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