An example of foreshadowing occurs in “Romeo and Juliet” when Romeo’s friend Benvolio advises him to find a new love to cure the “rank poison” of an old infatuation, foreshadowing Romeo’s eventual death by poison. Foreshadowing is a technique through which the author hints at later events in a story.
Another example of foreshadowing occurs in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings,” when protagonist Frodo laments that his uncle Bilbo did not kill the creature Gollum when he had the chance. Gandalf rebukes Frodo for wishing death on another so casually, musing that Gollum may still have some role to play in future events. Gandalf’s statement foreshadows the importance of Gollum, who is vital to the destruction of the One Ring. At the end of the novel, Frodo has become so attached to the ring that he is hesitant to destroy it. It is only through his tussle with Gollum that the ring is cast into the fires of Mount Doom.
Foreshadowing can range from subtle to overt. For example, in the opening scene of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” the three witches directly prophesize many of the major events and themes that occur throughout the play. Conversely, foreshadowing may be as understated as the naming of characters, such as in Steinbeck’s “East of Eden,” where protagonists Caleb and Aaron’s names foreshadow their respective fates, based on the biblical story of Cain and Abel.