What was the purpose of Romeo's dream in Act 5 scene 1 of Romeo and Juliet?

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droxonian eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If we look at the very beginning of this scene, we see Romeo saying that his "dreams presage some joyful news at hand." This establishes dramatic irony in light of what follows. Also look at the line, "Juliet, I will lie with thee tonight." This turns out to be, sadly, true, but not in the manner Romeo had intended.

Establishing with these hints that Romeo feels sure he is on his way to a happy ending with Juliet, then, Shakespeare inserts Romeo's tragic dream into the scene to force the audience to question Romeo's belief—can Romeo's optimism actually be borne out in the face of this kind of foreshadowing? Romeo dreams that "my lady came and found me dead," but then that she managed to revive him with a kiss so potent "that I revived, and was an emperor." To an extent, this dream of Romeo's gives the audience false hope, and increases the tension as such, because we know already that Juliet is not really dead, and the image Romeo describes is a mirror of what Juliet hopes will occur between herself and Romeo. The audience at this juncture can still bear out some hope, like Romeo, that what the dream presages is a happy ending, although we know it is extremely unlikely given the genre of the play.

coachingcorner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the play "Romeo and Juliet" by William Shakespeare, the author is preparing the Elizabethan audience for the gruesome events later on in the action. The beauty, warmth and softness of the youthful sweethearts will be juxtaposed with the grisly, dusty cobwebby bones and shrouds of the dead in their tombs in the mausoleum. The dream might be a 'red herring' to put audiences off the secnt - we hope and maybe expect that the situation in the tomb will be resolved - somehow, a mistake, a miracle or whatever-like the dream. All the more shock then, when we, like the parents,realize that the repentance of the feuders is too little too late - they will not rise again.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In my opinion, the only real purpose of this dream is to serve as foreshadowing for what is going to happen later on in the play.

In this dream, Romeo is dead.  But then Juliet comes and sees him.  She kisses him on the lips and he rises from the dead.

This is foreshadowing in sort of an ironic way because his dream will sort of come true.  Romeo will be dead in the tomb where he killed himself.  Juliet will kiss him.  But he will not come back to life.

So the dream is a bit of foreshadowing and dramatic irony.