Jule Romans is the author of "Shakespeare Love Quotes" and other books. She has over 30 years of experience in education.
The Romeo and Juliet Epilogue: Content and Poetic Structure
The epilogue to Romeo and Juliet is spoken by Prince Escalus at the very end of the play. After the bodies of Romeo and Juliet have been discovered, Friar Laurence makes a full confession explaining the series of events.
Lord Montague and Lord Capulet clasp hands and promise to make peace. They also swear to raise two beautiful statues in Verona's town square as monuments to their children. Prince Escalus then speaks the famous lines:
A glooming peace this morning with it brings.
The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head.
Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things.
Some shall be pardoned, and some punishèd.
For never was a story of more woe
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.
The epilogue to Romeo and Juliet is similar to a Shakespearean sonnet in both meter and rhyme scheme.
Shakespearean sonnets have 14 lines with a specific rhyme scheme and meter. The typical rhyme scheme of a Shakespearean sonnet is ABAB CDCD EFEF GG. Shakespearean sonnets are written in iambic pentameter.
The epilogue to Romeo and Juliet is written in iambic pentameter. It has a rhyme scheme of ABAB CC. However, it is only six lines long, so it cannot officially be called a sonnet. A line-by-line analysis will yield a more complete understanding of the poetic devices and deeper meaning of the words.
Is the Epilogue a Monologue or a Soliloquy?
In some performances, Prince Escalus faces the audience and delivers the epilogue as a soliloquy. A soliloquy is a speech given by a character that is addressed directly to the audience. The other characters on stage cannot hear the speaker.
The epilogue lacks an important feature of a soliloquy, however. It does not reveal the inner thoughts or conflicts of the character. In some interpretations, we might make the inference that Prince Escalus is expressing his own emotions, but it would be a stretch.
In other performances, the director may choose to have Prince Escalus deliver the speech as a monologue. A monologue CAN be heard by the other characters onstage. It is a speech intended to be addressed to the characters themselves.
So, the epilogue has qualities of both a monologue and a soliloquy. Ultimately, even though it is addressed directly to the audience, it is best handled as a monologue.
Hear the Epilogue Spoken Aloud
Analysis of the Ending Lines
- A glooming peace this morning with it brings. (A)
- The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head (B)
- Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things. (A)
- Some shall be pardoned, and some punishèd. (B)
- For never was a story of more woe (C)
- Than this of Juliet and her Romeo. (C)
A glooming peace this morning with it brings
Meaning: This morning brings a sad and gloomy kind of quietness for all of us
At the start of the epilogue, the Prince of Verona (Prince Escalus) begins to speak the closing lines of the play. He says that peace comes this morning but that it is a sad and gloomy kind of quiet.
The best way to understand the meaning of this line is to rearrange the order of the words. Thus, the Prince of Verona is saying: This morning brings a sad and gloomy kind of quietness for all of us. Here is a demonstration of iambic pentameter in this line:
A GLOOM ing PEACE this MOR ning WITH it BRINGS
Note the pattern of one unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. Need a reminder about iambic pentameter? Check out Three Sonnets in Romeo and Juliet, or watch the video below.
The sun for sorrow will not show his head.
Meaning: Even the sun is too sad to show its face
The Prince says that the sun itself won't even come out from behind the clouds. The image is one of a cloudy, overcast morning. The sun is hidden behind the clouds. One can picture all the families and townspeople gathered by the stone monument in the graveyard, under a gloomy, clouded sky.
Romeo and Juliet are both dead, and the sun itself is also sad for all the events that have occurred. Even the sun has sorrow for the young couple who died tragically. A demonstration of iambic pentameter in this line:
The SUN for SO rrow WILL not SHOW his HEAD.
Notice that there are ten syllables in the entire line, divided into five pairs.
Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things
Meaning: Go out from here now, and talk more about all these very sad events.
Prince Escalus tells everyone to leave the graveyard now. They are to "go hence"-- meaning go out from here, probably back to their homes. He says that there will be more talk about these events.
It is not entirely clear whether the townspeople should talk amongst themselves or whether the Escalus will talk with each of them to determine justice. The next line implies that there will be some conversations to determine who is really responsible. A demonstration of iambic pentameter in this line:
Go HENCE to HAVE more TALK of THESE sad THINGS
This is a good and easy example because every word in this line is a different syllable. That makes it much easier to look at the meter of the line.
Some shall be pardoned and some punished.
Meaning: Some of the people involved with be forgiven, and some of the people will be punished (by the law)
There are many characters who could be implicated in the deaths of Romeo and Juliet. Friar Laurence has already made his confession and been pardoned by the Prince of Verona.
The Nurse helped Romeo and Juliet to have their wedding night before Romeo's banishment. After that, the Nurse advises Juliet to Marry Count Paris and forget all about Romeo. Her role in the tragedy is one that could be punished. The Montague and Capulet families are also responsible because they continued the feud.
For never was a story of more woe
Meaning: This story (of Juliet and Romeo) is the saddest story that has ever been told- there has never been a story that is this sad.
Prince Escalus is saying that this story is one of the saddest stories that has been told. The story is certainly sad because there are so many points at which the tragedies could have been prevented.
Romeo and Juliet might have lived if Tybalt had not killed Mercutio. If Friar John had delivered the letter to Romeo in Mantua, Romeo would have known that Juliet was only sleeping.
The Prince does not name specific incidents, he simply refers to the overall tragedy. A demonstration of iambic pentameter in this line:
For NEver WAS a STOry OF more WOE
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.
Meaning: This story of Juliet and Romeo (is the saddest story ever told)
In the last line, the lovers are named again. This restates the love between the two young people and reminds the audience of the events of the play.
It's not a complete recap of the play, but the epilogue still serves to review and put closure on the story. A demonstration of iambic pentameter in this line:
Than THIS of JULiet AND her ROmeO
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2018 Jule Romans