English Literature



Romeo and Juliet


Why does Shakespeare use foreshadowing in Romeo and Juliet?

2 years ago


2 Replies




Johnathan Jenkins

2 Answers

Danielle M Profile Picture
Danielle M Verified Sherpa Tutor ✓

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Shakespeare's use of foreshadowing is to let readers know that Romeo and Juliet are destined, as "star-crossed lovers," to fall in love and die creates dramatic irony, increasing suspense and tension for the audience. Dramatic irony occurs when the audience knows more than the characters, and it´s main function is to increase tension. 

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Susie W Profile Picture
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Hi Jonathan,

Shakespeare uses foreshadowing to raise suspense and intensify the audience's sense of tragedy.

By foreshadowing the whole story in the Prelude, he makes us watch the rest of the play mainly wondering HOW things will happen, rather than whether or not.

You might think that would make an audience member feel a bit hopeless, but it's a bit like the modern technique used in crime and detective dramas and thrillers on TV or film, where entire series often start with the details of the crime and so we're not wondering whether someone ends up dead, as much as HOW it went down.

The tragedy bit comes in because while we are watching the dominoes fall, the causation play out, we sit in the audience (or stand if we are in The Globe Theatre) and really feel the awfulness of each accident, bit of bad luck or wrong decision a character makes. Shakespeare uses the foreshadowing in this way to really make us focus on the choices which individual characters make and how they could have been avoided by the exercise of their own free will.

You might be interested to know that there were in fact no fewer than 7 different versions of the story of Romeo and Juliet going around London and Europe at the time Shakespeare wrote his version, so he was definitely going all out to show the audience his 'take' on the psychology involved, rather than making up a new story. That could be another big reason why he uses foreshadowing in this particular play - becausee he almost had to and it pushed him into this forensic approach!



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