William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is one of the most renowned works in the English literary canon. The play’s prologue serves as a crucial guide to the characters, themes and events that will follow. This article will analyze the prologue of Romeo and Juliet in detail and explore the elements it introduces us to.
The Play’s Main Characters
The first four lines of the prologue provide us with an introduction to Romeo and Juliet, two young lovers who are destined to meet and ultimately to die for their forbidden love. Their rival families, the Montagues and the Capulets, are also mentioned, as both are key players in the events to come.
The Theme of Fate
The next six lines of the prologue offer a glimpse of the tragic story ahead, cutting to the heart of the play’s themes and introducing us to the concept of fate. Shakespeare alludes to the fact that Romeo and Juliet’s fate is predetermined, as the couple are “star-cross’d” lovers and doomed never to win in life. This idea of fate is explored throughout the play, as it is at odds with the concept of free will.
Its Use of Allusion
Finally, the prologue is full of allusions to other works of literature. Shakespeare draws on tales of old, such as Ovid’s Pyramus and Thisbe, from which he borrows the idea of two lovers divided by their families. He also alludes to the deaths of Dido and Cleopatra, two more doomed couples from classical literature and mythology. By making these allusions, Shakespeare creates a link between the story of Romeo and Juliet and other romantic tragedies that have come before.
Overall, the prologue of Romeo and Juliet introduces us to its main characters, its themes of fate and free will, and its use of allusion. As a result, it serves as a vital guide to the events of the play, setting the stage for this famous tragedy.