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Jimmy Powell
Mrs. Hope
World Lit.
16 January 2016
Allusion Essay
Throughout the play Romeo and Juliet, the author, William Shakespeare, uses an
abundance of allusions to enhance his writing. An allusion is a brief reference to a well
known person, place, or anything that a majority of the audience may know. When in
context, an allusion is frequently not elaborated upon yet provides critical information within
the text that the author assumes the audience is aware of and will comprehend how the
allusion is relevant. Shakespeare often uses allusions when emphasizing the theme of love
and when foreshadowing to a later part of the play.
To begin, Shakespeares use of allusions emphasizes the theme of love. Cupid is often
alluded to as he is the god of love within Greek Mythology. He is frequently depicted as a
baby with a bow and arrow. Legend says that when he shoots mortals with his arrows they
instantly fall in love. Towards the beginning of the play Romeo falls in love with who he
thinks is the woman of his dreams, Rosaline. However, Romeos love is unrequited as she
has meager interest in any love. This places Romeo in a heartbroken and wistful state that he
appears unable to break out of. He scoffs at Benvolio who says she will come to love him:
Well in that hit you miss. Shell not be hit with Cupids arrow. She hath Dians wit
(1.1.216-217). Romeo expresses how that no matter what he does Rosaline will never see
him a suitable companion as shown by his reference to cupid that his arrow will never strike
her. Dian as mentioned in the text refers to the Greek goddess Dian of chastity and is highly

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opposed to love and marriage. Rosaline like Dian is committed to staying a virgin and has no
interest in love like Romeo wants. Furthermore, Romeo clearly displays his frustration from
Rosalines unrequited love by snapping back towards the sympathetic Benvolio who was just
trying to alleviate the indignation Romeo is experiencing.
In addition, Shakespeare also uses allusions for the purpose of foreshadowing.
Foreshadowing is referencing something that appears later on within the play. This occurs
when Mercutio says, When King Cophetua loved the beggar maid (2.1.17). King Cophetua
was an African King who although was in a powerful position with much wealth struggled to
find a wife. He had met many alluring princesses yet none of them were to his liking. Then,
one day when peering out his window he spotted a beggar suffering for lack of clothes.
Immediately, he fell in love with her and requested for her to marry him. If she had denied it
is said that the king would have rather committed suicide than go on with his life. Mercutio
alludes to the king and beggar since they are bringing the heartbroken Romeo to a party in
hopes that he may find a new love. Similar to the king, he has struggled to find a woman that
he can have a relationship with. Later on in the play Romeo would have the same
breathtaking reaction to when he first sees Juliet. Like the beggar Juliet returns his love and
they spend joyous moments together. However, when Romeo later thinks Juliet is dead the
pain is unbearable and he kills himself just as the king threatened he would do if he had to
live without the beggar.
In conclusion, Shakespeares allusion throughout the play, Romeo and Juliet,
emphasize the theme of love and provide foreshadowing for an ensuing part of the play.
Common allusions to Cupid, Dian, kings and other mythical creatures aid to develop the

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character of Romeo as well as help give the audience insight into what is happening within
the play on a deeper level.

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