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Portents in Romeo and Juliet
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  1. PortentsinRomeo and Juliet

  2. The Stars

  3. Many words have double meanings, or refer to fate or the stars From forth fatal loins of these two foes A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life. -- Prologue

  4. Beneath her balcony, Romeo imagines that Juliet’s eyes are stars in heaven. Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven, Having some business, do entreat her eyes To twinkle in their spheres till they return. 2.2.15-17.

  5. Juliet also imagines Romeo among the stars in heaven, foreshadowing his death. (In tragedies, thoughts come true, because action follows feeling.) Come, gentle night, and, when I shall die, Take him and cut him out in little stars, And he will make the face of heaven so fine That all the world will be in love with night. 3.2.21-24

  6. Romeo ignores his dream. I fear, too early, for my mind misgives Some consequence yet hanging in the stars Shall bitterly begin his fearful date With this night’s revels. 1.4.106-07

  7. The nurse ignores a premonition concerning the letter R. Nurse: Does not rosemary and Romeo begin both with a letter? Romeo: Ay nurse, what of that? Both with an R. Nurse: Ah, mocker, that’s the dog’s name. R is for the--no, I know it begins with some other letter--and she has the prettiest sententious of it, of you and rosemary, that it would do you good to hear it. 2.4.206 ff.

  8. Tragedy results when a virtue becomes a vice.

  9. Even plants have a double meaning: a lesson, says the friar, that applies to people. Virtue itself turns vice, being misapplied, And vice sometime by action dignified. Within the infant rind of this fair flower Poison hath residence and medicine power. 2.3.21-24

  10. Gold can be a virtue or a vice. It buys Romeo poison--a vice. Romeo: There is thy gold, worse poison to men’s souls, Doing more murther in this loathsome world, Than these poor compounds that thou mayest not sell. I sell thee poison, thou hast sold me none. 5.1.79-82

  11. But it also pays for statutes of Romeo and Juliet, to assure their fame. Montague: For I will raise her statue in pure gold. . . . Capulet: As rich shall Romeo’s by his lady’s lie. 5.3.299-300, 303-304

  12. What is Juliet’s strength, her virtue, that becomes a vice? I have a faint cold fear thrills through my veins, That almost freezes up the heat of life. . . . . How if, when I am laid into the tomb, I wake before the time that Romeo Come to redeem me? there’s a fearful point! . . . . O, look! methinks I see my cousin’s ghost Seeking out Romeo, that did spit his body Upon a rapier’s point. Stay, Tybalt, stay! Romeo, Romeo, Romeo! Here’s drink--I drink to thee. 4.3.15-16, 30-32, 55-58

  13. The world of tragedy is one of good and evil, but the difference may seem hard to discern. Who is good, who bad? By convention, the person who draws first is the aggressor.

  14. Who draws first? The Riverside Edition Merc. O vile, dishonorable, vile submission! Alla stoccato carries it away. [Draws]* Tybalt, you rat-catcher, will you walk? Tyb. What wouldst thou have with me? Merc. Good King of Cats, nothing but one of your nine lives . . . Tyb. I am for you. [Drawing]** 3.1.73 ff. *Capell **Rowe

  15. Shakespearean tragedy requires (bad) timing and a near miss (not). Romeo steps between them.] Hold, Tybalt! Good Mercutio! [Tybalt under Romeo’s arm thrusts Mercutio in.] Away Tybalt [with his followers]. . . . . Ben. What, art thou hurt? Merc. Ay, ay, a scratch, a scratch, marry, ‘tis enough. . . . No, ‘tis not so deep as a well, nor so wide as a church-door, but ‘tis enough, ‘twill serve. 3.1.90 ff.

  16. What is Juliet’s strength, her virtue, that becomes a vice? I have a faint cold fear thrills through my veins, That almost freezes up the heat of life. . . . . How if, when I am laid into the tomb, I wake before the time that Romeo Come to redeem me? there’s a fearful point! . . . . O, look! methinks I see my cousin’s ghost Seeking out Romeo, that did spit his body Upon a rapier’s point. Stay, Tybalt, stay! Romeo, Romeo, Romeo! Here’s drink--I drink to thee. 4.3.15-16, 30-32, 55-58

  17. Their fame--sadly, ironically--depends on their deaths. For never was story of more woe Than this of Juliet and her Romeo. • 5.3.309-310

  18. A bit obvious, if we think about it--artificial, just like the sonnets interspersed in the play, the oxymorons, the regular meter. Shakespeare, in this play, gives us an art we can understand, unlike King Lear.