What is Foreshadowing? Types, Examples & Definitions


A drama or a movie has various elements to it used to make it captivating. These elements are called dramatic literary devices. Drama is a fictional presentation of reality, of life and these dramatic literary devices enable drama to become more believable and true to life. Some of the common literary devices used in drama are: Dramatic irony, Soliloquy and Foreshadowing. While Dramatic Irony points to an information known only to the audience and not to the protagonist, a soliloquy is an isolated speech by a character that is accessible only to the spectators. This further facilitates the Dramatic irony for it is through these inner monologues known only to the spectators that Dramatic irony takes place.

Coming to the last and most important literary device, Foreshadowing is the implicit sharing of hints to the audience through dialogue, props and setting to indicate a sense of mystery or a sense of “everything is not as it seems”. These hints prepare the audience for climactic twist at the end of the story.

What is Foreshadowing?

Remember the time you read ‘Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince’ and had a sense of gripping anxiety every time you would see Harry preparing potions from the old book of Potions he’d found? Hermione would warn Harry every time he followed that book and these hints kind of foreshadowed the Potions book to hold more importance than the readers are initially led to believe. It is these moments, when writers, playwrights and filmmakers take the liberty to pass on hints to the audience for them to catch on and find deeper meaning to when met with an unexpected ending that the significance of Foreshadowing is fully understood. Explicit mentioning of facts would never bring the same effect as Foreshadowing does.

Types of Foreshadowing

Foreshadowing can be loosely divided into five types. They are −

Concrete Foreshadowing

Concrete basically refers to ‘clear’ and thereby, Concrete Foreshadowing refers to a clear Foreshadowing practiced by the authors through the explicit mention of a prop or person that holds greater relevance in the future events.

For example, when the Patronus of each of the characters is revealed in the course of the ‘Harry Potter’ series, Harry’s mother, Lily’s Patronus is revealed to be a Doe and in the end of ‘Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince’, Snape’s Patronus too is revealed to be a Doe, the same as Lily’s as a proof of his unconditional love for her. It is in this moment of revelation that we fully understand the relevance of knowing Lily’s Patronus.

Prophetic Foreshadowing

Prophecies play an important role in drama and movies for they explicitly hint at a future event but since their prophecies are never clearly stated, they achieve their full potential when the prophecy is fulfilled in the future and the audience get around to the full meaning of it, making it a prime type of Foreshadowing.

To look at an example, Professor Trelawney made a number of prophecies in the ‘Harry Potter’ series and all came true, the most famous of them being the prophecy that the one born as the “seventh month dies” would kill “the dark lord” and ultimately, Harry does manage to vanquish Voldemort.

Flashback Foreshadowing

The next most important type of Foreshadowing is Flashback. The usage of flashback to show some information or scene that is out of context in the present line of story is an indication to that information being significant to facilitate something in the future.

For example, in the sixth book of Harry Potter, when Harry looks into Tom Riddle’s conversation with his Potions master, Slughorn, as a flashback, it is revealed that he was curious about Horcruxes. It is this flashback that ultimately gives Harry the means to kill Voldemort.

Symbolic Foreshadowing

Symbolic Foreshadowing basically refers to deeply implicit foreshadowing where symbols are used to predict a deeper meaning. The change of weather or the use of colors to point at a situation in the future are characteristic features of Symbolic Foreshadowing. When the sky grows dark in ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’, it is an indication that the dark lord is near, a symbolic foreshadowing of the presence of Voldemort.

The Red Herring Foreshadowing

The Red Herring Foreshadowing refers to creating a false alarm or diverting the attention of the readers from predicting events accurately in order to dissuade them into making false guesses. The repeated presentation of Severus Snape as a villain in the ‘Harry Potter’ series until his death when Harry gains access to his memory and the truth about Snape being his Protector and not his enemy, is revealed. This form of foreshadowing is practiced in order to take the readers by surprise.


Foreshadowing is a skilful dramatic device that requires the smartness not just of the author to create such an event but also of the spectator to identify it. It leads to a nail-biting situation among the audience who will sit at the edge of their seats until the movie or drama is over. Foreshadowing adds an element of mystery, thrill and interest in the spectator who will keep wanting more content by the end or the movie. All superhero movies - be it Marvel or be it DS, use the technique if Foreshadowing to make the movie more gripping to the audience.


Q1. How is Foreshadowing different from Dramatic irony?

Ans. Dramatic irony enables the audience to know everything that they do not know explicitly but Foreshadowing gives out implicit hints that keep the audience guessing instead of knowing things for sure.

Q2. How does Foreshadowing help a play?

Ans. Foreshadowing helps keep the spectators hooked to the play till the end as they do not know what they might expect for certain but at the same time do have a slight idea of what might happen owing to the hidden hints. The anticipation and excitement of the ultimate climax gives a build up to the play it might not otherwise have had.

Q3. Where to find the hints in the play?

Ans. Foreshadowing ultimately works with hints and identifying it might be difficult but what you can do is pay great attention to detail. Be it props like guns or portraits or be it ambiguous dialogues and strange settings, watch closely and you will find your hint.

Q4. Are Flashback Foreshadowing and Prophetic Foreshadowing the same?

Ans. No, Flashback foreshadowing does not have any element of of prophetic Foreshadowing in it unless the prophecy is viewed in flashback

Updated on: 26-Apr-2023


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