What does Shakespeare foreshadow in Act 3 of Romeo and Juliet?

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In act 3 of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, the character Benvolio's foreshadows the continued fighting between the feuding Montagues and Capulets. This foreshadowing comes true almost immediately, and fighting results in the deaths of Mercutio and Tybalt. Act 3 ends with Romeo and Juliet foreshadowing their own deaths and with Juliet's fateful line, "If all else fail, myself have power to die."

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Act 3 of William Shakespeare's romantic tragedy Romeo and Juliet is fraught with foreshadowing from beginning to end. The hints, clues, and implications of events that happen later in the play begin with the very first lines of the act.

BENVOLIO. I pray thee, good Mercutio, let's retire.
The day is hot, the Capulets abroad.
And if we meet, we shall not scape a brawl,
For now, these hot days, is the mad blood stirring (3.1.1–4).

Benvolio fears another brawl like the one that opens the play, after which the Prince dismisses the brawlers under penalty of death.

Shortly after Benvolio's opening lines of the scene, Tybalt enters looking for a fight. He's intent on fighting with Romeo, to whom he's already sent a letter of challenge, but when Romeo enters and refuses to fight Tybalt, Mercutio steps in for Romeo, and Tybalt kills Mercutio.

After Tybalt deals Mercutio a deadly blow, Mercutio repeats a combination curse and prophecy as he lies dying.

MERCUTIO. A plague o' both your houses! ...

A plague o' both your houses! ...

A plague o' both your houses! ...
Your houses! (3.1.90, 99, 106, 108)

Shakespeare's couldn't have been more emphatic in foreshadowing the many deaths, reminiscent of a plague, yet to occur in the play: Tybalt, who dies within minutes, as well as Paris, Lady Montague (who few people remember), Romeo, Juliet, all of whom die in the last act of the play.

Towards the end of act 3, scene 1, Romeo neatly, and oxymoronically, sums up his fate and his role in the play.

ROMEO. O, I am fortune's fool (3.1.138).

Romeo's foolish fortunes have barely begun. He's already met, fallen in love at first sight with, and married Juliet—the daughter of his family's greatest foe—and he just killed Juliet's beloved cousin, Tybalt.

Next, the Prince banishes Romeo from Verona for killing Tybalt, which holds its own foreshadowing.

PRINCE. Let Romeo hence in haste,
Else, when he is found, that hour is his last (3.1.200).

When Romeo is once again in Verona, in Juliet's tomb in the last scene of the play, that hour is, indeed, his last.

The foreshadowing comes fast and furious in the last scene of act 3. In act 3, scene 5, Romeo and Juliet awake together after their wedding night, and as the dawn breaks, Romeo reluctantly prepares to leave Verona before he's found by the Prince's men and put to death for violating the Prince's decree of banishment.

ROMEO. Let me be ta'en, let me be put to death.
I am content, so thou wilt have it so. ...
I have more care to stay than will to go.
Come, death, and welcome! Juliet wills it so (3.5.17–18, 23–24).

This is all very brave and romantic—and portentous—until the Nurse enters and urges Romeo to be on his way, and Romeo hurriedly climbs out the window.

JULIET. Then, window, let day in, and let life out (3.5.41).

As Juliet sees Romeo off, she foreshadows his death, and Romeo foreshadows hers.

JULIET. O God, I have an ill-divining soul!
Methinks I see thee, now thou art below,
As one dead in the bottom of a tomb.
Either my eyesight fails, or thou look'st pale.

ROMEO. And trust me, love, in my eye so do you.
Dry sorrow drinks our blood. Adieu, adieu! (3.5.53–58)

This is the last time that Juliet sees Romeo alive. The next time that Romeo sees Juliet, she's lying in her tomb. Thinking that she's dead, Romeo kills himself, but Juliet is simply sleeping because of a sleeping potion given to her by Friar Laurence. Juliet wakes from the sleeping potion to find Romeo next to her, "As one dead in the bottom of a tomb."

Act 3, scene 5 ends with the most clearly foreshadow-y and fateful of Juliet's lines in the entire play:

JULIET. If all else fail, myself have power to die (3.5.253).

True to her own foreshadowing, Juliet dies by her own hand at the end of the play.

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In act 3, scene 5, after their night together, Shakespeare uses the words the newlywed Romeo and Juliet say to each other to foreshadow their deaths. Romeo has climbed down over the balcony where he first addressed Juliet from below in act 2. The whole scene has been filled with foreboding, as Romeo has not wanted to leave and Juliet has anxiously hurried him off at dawn, fearful her relatives will find him and kill him. Now, looking down at him, she says,

Methinks I see thee, now thou art so low, / As one dead in the bottom of a tomb. Either my eyesight fails, or thou look'st pale.

This image of Romeo looking as if he is dead foreshadows how she will find him in the crypt a few days later, when he really will be dead.

Romeo answers that Juliet looks deathly as well and says,

Dry sorrow drinks our blood.

This foreshadows Juliet's bloodier death, as she kills herself with a dagger on finding Romeo's corpse. It also foreshadows the sorrow both will experience at finding each other dead or seemingly dead.

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Act III is the first time Shakespeare presents significant tragedy in Romeo and Juliet. This act is when the death of Mercutio occurs, which is a substantial moment for Romeo and the world of the play. While bleeding, Mercutio spits, "A plague o' both your houses! I am sped" (III.i.90), and this curse is the main foreshadowing that occurs in Act III. This line links back to the initial prologue when the narrator outlines the events of the play and discusses the tragedy that will befall the two lovers. Mercutio reinforces this foreshadowing when he announces the plague.

Mercutio's plague is the first time Romeo hears a foreshadowing of doom, but the audience has already heard this warning. This tension increases the dramatic irony within the play. Shakespeare's use of foreshadowing, coupled with dramatic irony, is one of the reasons Romeo and Juliet continues to be a timeless classic. 

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