Explanatory Notes for Act 1, Scene 1
From Romeo and Juliet. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan.
1. alike, equal; cp. K. J. ii. 1. 231, "Strength match'd with
strength, and power confronted power: Both are alike; and both
alike we like."
2. fair Verona. The capital of one of the nine provinces of Venetia, and of all the cities of those provinces second in importance to Venice alone. Originally founded by the Gauls, it afterwards became a Roman colony, and was the residence of the Lombard princes in the middle ages; later on it suffered
severely from the contests between the Ghibellines and the Guelphs, the former the supporters of the imperial authority in Italy, the latter its opponents. The supposed house of the Capulets and the tomb of Juliet are still shown, though the tradition regarding both is without any authority. Romeo and Juliet is, however, founded on events that actually took place, and Escalus, prince of Verona, was Bartolommeo della Scala, who
died in 1303.
3. grudge, ill will, hatred: mutiny, discord, the active manifestation of the ill-will cherished by the two families; for this sense of the word, cp. below, i. 5. 82, "You'll make a mutiny among my guests"; Cor. ii. 3. 264, "This mutiny were better put in hazard, Than stay, past doubt, for greater." The original sense of the word is merely 'movement,' thence 'commotion,' it being through the French from the Lat. movere, to move.
4. Where, in which strife: though in civil blood, civil hands,
civil means that which relates to the community of citizens, there
is probably in the latter phrase a play upon the word in its sense
of 'polite,' 'well-mannered.'
5. these two foes, the two hostile families.
6. star-cross'd, destined by the stars to ill-fortune. For a
fuller reference to the astrological beliefs of the time, see Lear. i. 2. 112-144.
7, 8. Whose ... strife, the ill-fated termination of whose love buries in their graves the strife that raged between their parents; misadventured, unfortunate; one of those adjectives formed from nouns which are so frequent in Shakespeare, and which have generally been mistaken for participles: Do, the quartos
give Doth, which is justified by some on the grounds that it is
the old southern plural in -eth, as in M. V. iii. 2. 33, "Where men enforced doth speak everything" (the reading of the first folio), by others as an instance of the singular verb where the sense
of the subject is collective. The latter seems the more probable case here.
9. The fearful ... love, the terrible course of their love marked
out for death; for passage, cp. T. C. ii. 3. 140, "The passage and whole carriage of this action Rode on his tide."
11. but, except.
12. the two ... stage, that in which our stage deals for two
hours, the transaction with which our play is concerned. The
duration of a play is frequently spoken of in the prologues to
them as being of two hours only, though three hours is sometimes
14. miss, be deficient, or, perhaps, miss the mark. This prologue, which is written on the same metrical scheme as the Sonnets, viz., two rhymed quatrains closing in a rhymed couplet, is omitted in the folios, and by some is supposed not to be Shakespeare's.
Act I. Scene I.
1. carry coals, put up with insults. A phrase very common in
the old dramatists and owing its origin to the fact that the
carriers of coals were the lowest of menials. Cp. e.g. H. V. iii. 2. 49, "Nym and Bardolph are sworn brothers in filching, and
in Calais they stole a fire-shovel: I knew by that piece of service the men would carry coals"; Jonson, Every Man Out of His
Humour, v. 1. 18, 9, "here comes one that will carry coals, ergo,
will hold my dog"; Chapman, May Day, iii. , speaks of "an un-cole-carrying spirit."
2. colliers, a term of contempt, not merely from their being
ready to carry coals, i.e. put up with insults, but from the blackness of their appearance. So, in T. N. iii. 4. 130, Satan for his blackness is called "foul collier."
3. an we be ... draw, if our temper be up, we will draw our
4. Ay, ... collar, yes, so long as you live, do your best to get
out of difficulties; merely said for the sake of the pun on colliers,
choler, and collar.
5. moved, excited, stirred to anger.
6. But thou ... strike, but it takes a good deal to provoke you
to such a step.
7. A dog ... me, I am easily provoked to striking whenever I
meet one of the rascally retinue of the Montague household.
10, 1. shall ... stand, is certain to provoke me to take up my
stand for a combat with him; for shall, to denote inevitable
futurity without reference to will, desire, see Abb. § 315: will
take the wall, will assert my right to walk nearest the wall, on
the inside of the pathway, not allow myself to be thrust off the
pavement on to the roadway; and so to get the better of any one.
12, 3. goes to the wall, is thrust against the wall; a proverbial
expression for getting the worst of a dispute. Schmidt (Lex.)
quotes from the Life and Death of Thomas Lord Cromwell (a play
sometimes attributed to Shakespeare), iii. 3, "though the drops
be small, Yet have they force to force men to the wall."
14, 5. the weaker vessels, women; a term taken from the
Bible, i. Peter, iii. 7, "Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them
according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto
the weaker vessel."
16. men, servants; cp. Temp. ii. 1. 274, "'Ban, 'Ban, Cacaliban Has a new master; get a new man."
19. 'Tis all one, that makes no difference. In the previous
line Hartley conjectures 'not us' for "us," which would make
Sampson's answer more pertinent.
22. thy tool, your weapon, sword; generally in this sense used
in a contemptuous way: here comes two, for the inflection in -s,
preceding a plural subject, see Abb. § 335. Malone quotes from
Gascoigne's Devise of a Masque a passage to show that the partizans of the Montagues wore a token in their hats to distinguish them from their enemies, the Capulets, and that hence, throughout the play, they are known at a distance.
24. quarrel, provoke them to fight by using taunting words: back, support; now more commonly 'back up. ' Delius compares i. H. IV. ii. 4. 166, "call you that backing of your friends? a
plague upon such backing!"
26. Fear me not, do not fear as to the way in which I shall
behave, do not be afraid of my running away; me, for me, as
27. marry, a corruption of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, equivalent to 'by Mary,' and used as a petty oath; a corruption employed in order to avoid the statutes against profane swearing: I fear thee! do you fancy that I fear you? pretending to take
the words in their more ordinary sense.
28. Let us ... begin, let us make sure of having the law on our
side by leaving it to them to begin the quarrel.
30. list, choose, please; from the A.S. lust, pleasure; often
used in old authors as an impersonal verb, 'it lists me,' like 'it
31. Nay, as they dare, don't say 'as they please,' but rather
'as they dare.' Sampson throughout the dialogue is the greater
blusterer: bite my thumb, an insulting gesture. Singer quotes
Cotgrave: "Faire la nique: to mocke by nodding or lifting up
the chinne; or more properly, to threaten or defie, by putting the
thumhe naile into the mouth , and with a jerke (from the upper
teeth) make it to knacke." An Italian custom intended to provoke
32. if they bear it, if they should take it quietly, not resent it.
36. of our side, on our side.
42. If you do, ... you. An elliptical expression for 'you say that you do not quarrel, but if you do, I am ready to meet you.'
45. Well, sir. Sampson is non-plussed and does not like to
venture on the word 'better.'
46. here comes ... kinsmen. As it is Benvolio, one of the Montagues, who first comes on the scene, Steevens is probably right in supposing that Gregory's eyes are looking in the direction
from which Tybalt, who enters immediately afterwards, is
coming, and does not see Benvolio.
49, 50. thy swashing blow, that crushing blow of yours for
which you are so famous. To 'swash' is to strike with a heavy and sounding blow. Shakespeare also uses the word in the sense of 'swaggering,' A. Y. L. i. 3. 122, "We'll have a swashing and a
martial outside"; and swasher for a bully, H. V. iii. 2. 30, "As
young as I am, I have observed these three swashers."
53. What, art thou ... hinds? What! have you drawn your
sword to take part in a quarrel between these cowardly boors?
Is that the sort of occupation for a man of your rank? If you
want to fight, you will find in me a foe worthy of your steel.
54. Turn thee ... death, leave those hinds and face me from
whose sword you will meet your death.
56. manage it, wield it, make use of it; to manage, in the
sense of wielding weapons, was formerly a common expression;
cp. R. II. iii. 2. 118, "Yea, distaff women manage rusty bills
Against thy seat"; ii. H. IV. iii. 2. 292, "Come, manage me
your caliver"; 301, "a' would manage you his piece thus."
Literally meaning to 'handle,' from Lat. manus, a hand, it is
now more commonly used in a figurative sense: with me, in cooperation with me.
57. What, drawn, ... peace! The "fiery Tybalt" cannot conceive the idea of a sword being drawn for any other purpose than that of fighting. For drawn, in this absolute sense, cp. H. V. ii.
l. 39, "well a day, Lady, if he be not drawn now."
59. Have at thee, coward! here goes for a blow at you. Shakespeare has also "have after," "have to," "have through," "have with"; 'let me,' or 'let us,' having to be supplied.
60. Clubs, bills, partisans! a common cry in affrays in London for armed persons to part the combatants. The clubs were those borne by the London apprentices who were called in for this purpose, though sometimes the cry was raised to stir up a disturbance; for the cry in the former case, cp. T. A. ii. 1. 37, "Clubs, clubs! these lovers will not keep the peace"; in the latter, H. VIII. V. 4. 53, "I missed the meteor once, and hit that woman; who cried out 'Clubs!' when I might see from far some forty truncheons drawn to her succour"; bills, originally a kind of pike carried by the English infantry, later on the weapon with which the civic watchmen were armed; partisans, much the same as the pike or halberd; etymology doubtful.
Stage Direction.In his gown, i.e. what we should now call dressing-gown; showing, as Delius points out, that he had been disturbed in his night's rest.
62. my long sword. "The weapon used in active warfare; a lighter, shorter, and less desperate weapon was used for ornament, to which we have other allusions. [A. W. ii. 1. 32, 3] 'Till honour be bought up and no sword worn But one to dance with'" (Singer).
63. a crutch, a crutch! call rather for a crutch to support your feeble limbs; the sword is no weapon for you.
65. in spite of me, not 'notwithstanding me,' as the words would now mean, but in malicious hostility towards me.
69. Profaners ... steel, who profane the use of weapons by
dying them in the blood of your fellow-citizens.
74. mistemper'd, furious, but also involving the idea of tempered, welded, fashioned, to an evil use. To 'temper' steel is to bring it to the proper degree of hardness by plunging it into icy-cold water when red-hot; cp. Oth. v. 2. 253. In its metaphorical sense mistempered occurs in K. J. v. 1. 12, "This inundation of mistemper'd humour Rests by you only to be qualified."
75. moved, sc. to wrath.
76. bred of an airy word, having their origin in the breath of
70. ancient, eklerly.
80. their .. ornaments, the dress and weapons (sc. walking sticks) suitable to their time of life and gravity. In i. H. VI. iv.
1. 29, the sword is called the "ornament of knighthood," and in M. A. V. 4, 125, in the "reverend staff" (used with a double entendre) the reference is to the walking-sticks or staves headed
with a cross piece of horn or sometimes of amber which were
carried by elderly persons.
81, 2. To wield ... hate, to wield old weapons eaten up by rust in order to separate you whose hearts are eaten up with hatred; 'canker,' a doublet of 'cancer,' is something that corrodes, eats into, a substance, the former being used especially of rust, or of a worm that preys upon blossoms, the latter of the tumour which
eats into the flesh; both from Lat. cancer, a crab. Cp. V. A. 767, "Fowl-cankering rust the hidden treasure eats." For partisans, see note on 1. 60, above.
84. the forfeit of the peace, the penalty due for breaking the
peace. A forfeit is a thing lost by a misdeed, and we speak of
the 'forfeit of the crime,' but not 'the forfeit of the peace.' The word is ultimately from the Lat. foris facere, to do or act abroad or beyond.
85. For this time, for the present: all the rest, all except Capulet.
88. our further pleasure, what else we are pleased to determine.
89. Free-town, a translation of the Villa franca in the Italian story on which the play is founded.
91. new abroach, newly stirring, running afresh; abroach is on broach, from the M. E. phrase setten on broche, and to broach is to pierce a cask in order to set the liquor running by inserting
a peg or spit (broach). Cp. ii. H. IV. iv. 2. 14, "What mischiefs might he set abroach"; and, in the literal sense, of to spit, H. V. V. Chor. 32, "Bringing rebellion broached on his sword."
92. by, present, at hand, on the spot.
94. close fighting, in hand to hand combat.
95. in the instant, at the instant, the very same minute.
96. prepared, sc for fighting, by being drawn.
99. Who, for who personifying irrational antecedents, see Abb. § 264: nothing, in no way: withal, with the stroke of his sword; cp. Macbeth. V. 8. 9, "As easy mayest thou the intrenchant air with thy keen sword impress as make me bleed"; Hamlet. iv. 1. 44, "hit the woundless air"; Temp. iii. 3. 61-4, "the elements, Of whom your swords are temper'd, may as well Wound the loud winds, or with bemocked-at stabs Kill the still-closing waters."
101. more and more, reinforcements to both parties: on part
and part, on one side and the other.
102. parted either part, separated the two parties.
104. the worshipp'd sun, not of course literally as with the Persians, but figuratively, joyously welcomed; and perhaps with an allusion to worshipping the rising sun, i.e. courting those on the high road to power.
106. Peer'd forth, peeped out from; for forth, as a preposition, cp. A. G. iv. 10. 7, "They have put forth the haven": golden ... east, of course golden only when the sun is rising.
107. drave, Shakespeare frequently uses this form as well as
108. sycamore, "properly 'sycomore,' i.e. fig-mulberry tree. ... The trees so called in Europe and America are different from the Oriental sycamore "... (Skeat, Ety. Dict.).
109. That westward . . . side, that grows on the west side of the city.
111. I made, I directed my steps: ware of me, aware of my approach; literally on guard against, from A.S. waer, cautious.
113. affections, inclinations.
114. Which then... found, which (sc. Benvolio's inclinations) then most desired a place where fewest people would be found. The first quarto gives "That most are busied, when they're most alone," and this reading, first introduced by Pope, has been adopted in the Old Variorum Shakespeare, and by Knight, Dyce, Staunton, and Clarke; for most might Allen conjectures more might, remarking, "Shakespeare was not the man (in Romeo and
Juliet, at least) to let slip the chance of running through the Degrees of Comparison, many, more, most": Being ... self, finding my own wearisome company more than enough for myself.
115. Pursued ... his, followed my own inclination to solitude without owing any prompting to his inclination; for his Thirlby conjectured him, which was adopted by Theobald, Hanmer, Warburton, and Johnson.
116. who gladly ... me, who was only too anxious to escape me.
119. his deep sighs, the breath of the deep sighs he drew. Delius compares T. A. iii. 1. 212, "Or with our sighs we'll breathe the welkin dim."
120. all so soon, as soon as ever.
121. should, was bound to.
123. heavy, in mind ; for sake of the antithesis with light.
124. pens himself, shuts himself up; to pen is connected with
pin, and comes ultimately from the Lat. penna, a feather.
127. portentous, ominous.
131. Have you ... means, have you made any great effort to discover it, have you pressed him with persistent questioning or sought to get to the bottom of the matter through his associates?
133. his own ... counsellor, resolutely keeping his own secret, confiding in no one.
136. So far ... discovery, as much beyond the possibility of being sounded, of having the depth of his thoughts measured, and of being got to reveal his secret: to sound is to measure
depth with a plummet; the etymology of the word is doubtful.
137. envious, malignant: worm, the canker worm; see note on 1. 81, above, and cp. T. N. ii. 4. 113-5, "She never told her love, But let concealment like a worm i' the bud Feed on her damask cheek."
142, 3. so please ... denied, if you will be good enough to withdraw out of sight, I will ascertain the cause of his dejection, or at all events will not allow myself to be easily put off in my endeavour to do so. In the sense of 'provided that,' 'on these terms,' so is sometimes preceded by be it (i.e. if it be), as in
M. N. D. i. 1. 39, "Be it so she will not," sometimes is used elliptically, as here, and in both cases sometimes with, and sometimes without, that following it; see Abb. § 1.33; for know, in
the sense of 'ascertain,' 'make oneself acquainted with,' cp. below, v. 3. 198, "Search, seek, and know how this foul murder
comes"; grievance is more commonly used by Shakespeare for 'grief,' 'sorrow,' 'suffering,' as here, though sometimes in the more modern sense of 'cause of complaint,' as below, iii. 1. 55, "reason coldly of your grievances"; for denied, = refused an answer, or an entreaty, cp. R. II. v. 3. 103, "He prays but
faintly and would be denied."
144. happy, fortunate, successful in your attempt.
145. To hear true shrift, as to obtain from a tru confession of his sorrow; for the omission of as after so, see Abb. § 281; shrift, more usually in Shakespeare for confession made to a priest, and the absolution consequent upon it, but sometimes, as here, for confession only; while in Oth. iii. 3. 24, it means a penitential exercise or rigorous discipline. "The verb to shrive is M. E. schriven, shriven ... — A.S. scrifan, to shrive, to impose a penance or compensation, to judge. .. But although it thus appears as a strong verb, it does not appear to be a true Teutonic word. It was rather borrowed (at a very early period) from Lat. scribere, to write, to draw up a law. ... The particular sense is due to the legal use of the word, signifying (1) to draw up a law, (2) to impose a legal obligation or penalty, (3) to impose or prescribe a penance. ... The substantive shrift is M. E. shrift ... A. S. scrift, confession, ... and just as the A. S. verb scrifan is due to Lat. scribere, so A.S. scrift is due to Lat. p.p. scriptus" ... (Skeat, Ety. Dict.)
146. morrow, morning; 'good morrow,' or 'good day,' was the salutation used until noon, after which time it became ' good e'en' (evening): so young, so early. Steevens compares Acolastus,
a comedy, 1540, "It is yet young nyghte, or there is moche of the nyghte to come."
147. new, newly, just now.
149. lengthens, causes to seem tedious.
154. where, with whom; where is often used by Shakespeare in a wide sense = in which, in which case, on which occasion, etc. Cp. W. T. V. 1. 213, "you have broken from his liking Where
you were tied in duty," almost = towards whom; H. V. i. 2. 121, "They have a king and officers of sorts, Where some like magistrates correct at home," almost = in whose case, among
155. in his view, in appearance, to look at; cp. M. V. iii. 2. 132, "You that choose not by the view"; view, sight: still, ever.
156-8. Should ... will! apparently means 'should be able to find the means of wounding those he chooses to wound,' Steevens explains, "Romeo laments that love, though blind, should discover pathways to his will, and yet cannot avail himself of them; should perceive the road which he is forbidden to take"; Singer, "That is, should blindly and recklessly think he can surmount all obstacles to his will." But the personification of love seems to show that it is the objective power of love over others, not his own subjective inability, that Romeo laments;
and to "see pathways to his will" is equivalent to 'to see the way to carry out his will,' 'be able to carry out his will.'
159. What fray was here? What disturbance, conflict, has been raging here? said as he notices the marks of the struggle and the blood of the combatants still fresh on the ground.
161. Here's much hate! this conflict has much to do with hatred, i.e. so far as the rival families are concerned, but has more to do with love, i.e. so far as he is concerned (the object of his love, Rosaline, belonging to the Capulet family); the two things, love and hatred, being in this case so intimately blended, Romeo says he may well speak of brawling love and loving hatred.
162-7. Why, then, ... it is! Hudson well remarks, "Such an affected way of speaking not unaptly shows the state of Romeo's mind; his love is rather self-generated than inspired by any object. As compared with his style of speech after meeting with Juliet, it seems to mark the difference between being love-sick
and being in love." At the same time it should be remembered that such description of love by means of antitheses was common among the sonneteers and the Provencal and Italian poets. Farmer quotes several such laboured contrarieties: create, for the omission of -ed in the past participles of verbs ending in -te,
-t, and -d, see Abb. § 342: well--seeming, apparently well proportioned, symmetrical: that is not what it is, that is a contradiction to itself.
168. that feel ... this, who feel no satisfaction in such love.
169. coz, an abbreviation of 'cousin.'
170. Good heart, dear friend: At thy... oppression, at the
burden your warm heart has to bear.
171. Why, such ... transgression, why, such are the cruelties of which love is commonly guilty. To complete the metre of the line, Collier inserted Benvolio after such; Keightley conjectured gentle cousin; Orger, such a love is, etc.
173-4. Which thou ... thine, which griefs you will increase and multiply by causing my breast to be burdened with griefs of yours.
175. too much, "used substantively as a compound word" (Delius).
177. Being purged ... eyes, which when it is purified of its smoky character, i.e. of the doubts and anxieties with which it is clouded, blazes up as a bright fire in the eyes of lovers; urg'd, puff'd, rag'd, have been suggested for purged, but there seems no need of alteration.
178. Being vex'd, ... tears, which if it is thwarted, chafed by restraint, becomes a sea, etc. The idea is that of a sea swollen by torrents, and raging against its confining shores; cp. J. C. i. 2. 101, "The troubled Tiber chafing with her shores."
179. What is it else? do you ask to what else it may be likened?
180. A choking ... sweet, at one time a bitter so powerful as almost to choke the swallow, at another, something as delicious as fruits used in preserving, As Shakespeare, J. C. i. 1. 4, uses "a labouring day" for "a day on which men labour," and A. C. iii. 13. 77, "his all-obeying breath" for "breath which all obey," so a preserving sweet seems to mean 'a sweet of the kind used for preserving.' Ulrici, who takes preserving as = 'preserved,' explains, "Love may be compared to a preserved sweet because, although against our will, it is kept and cherished"; which appears to me a very forced meaning.
181. Soft! gently; do not be in such a hurry: along, sc. with you; the omission of 'with me, you,' etc., is frequent in Shakespeare.
183. lost. Daniel adopts left, a conjecture by Allen, who says, "It is exactly in Romeo's manner, in this dialogue, that he should take up the very word of Benvolio in his answer." He adds that the converse misprint of left for lost occurs in Cor. i. 4. 55, and Daniel refers to Haml. iii. 1. 99, where the quartos read lost, the folios left.
184. some other where, elsewhere; in another place.
185. in sadness, in all sober truth, in earnest; a sense frequent in Shakespeare, e.g. M. W. iii. 5. 125, T. S. v. 2. 64. So sadly below, i. 1. 187, M. A. ii. 3. 229, and sad constantly: for the uninflected who, see Abb. § 274.
186. what ... tell thee? Romeo pretends to misunderstand
Benvolio's use of sadness.
188. will, testament.
189. word, sc. "sadness": ill-urged, which you do wrong to
make use of so persistently.
190. In sadness, ... woman. Romeo here combines the two senses, seriousness and sorrow.
192. mark-man, aimer; the earlier form of marksman.
193. A right fair mark, a mark easily distinguished.
194, 5. Well, ... arrow, well, in that hit of yours, i.e. in assuming that she must easily be hit, your aim is beside the mark: for it is impossible for Cupid's arrow to hit her, she refuses to allow Cupid's arrow to reach her bosom: Dian's wit, Diana's wisdom, prudence, in repelling all love attacks.
196. And, in strong ... arm'd, and secure in the proof-armour of chastity; 'armour of proof' or 'proof-armour' is armour which has been tested in the manufactory by a severe strain being put upon it; so we speak of swords, guns, cannon, being 'proved' before they are issued for use. Steevens sees in these lines an oblique compliment to Queen Elizabeth, who would be gratified by praise of her chastity and beauty.
197. unharm'd. This, the reading of the first quarto, seems quite satisfactory; but several editors approve of Collier's conjecture encharmed, and Grant White is inclined to read "'Gainst ... love's ... encharmed," following, as regards the preposition, the
text of the first quarto.
198. She will not... terms, she will not suffer herself to be besieged by propositions of love. Probably in terms there is an allusion to the conditions offered by besiegers to the besieged, i.e. she will not make peace with her lovers on the terms of love which they propose.
199. Nor bide ... eyes, nor wait the shock of dangerous love-looks. Cp. M. A. i. 1. 327, "I will ... take her hearing prisoner with the force And strong encounter of my amorous tale."
200. saint-seducing, sufficiently powerful to overcome the scruples of the most saintly persons.
202. That, when ... store, that with her death perishes that with which she is so richly endowed, viz. beauty. Theobald, however, plausibly conjectured "with her dies beauty's store," which several editors have accepted, and which tallies closely with the purport of the earlier Sonnets, probably written about
the same time with Romeo and Juliet.
204. in that sparing ... waste, in being thus sparing of herself, in not allowing her beauty to be propagated by succession, she is guilty of great waste. This thought, again, is closely parallelled by the first Sonnet, where the theme is precisely the same; "Thou that art now the world's fresh ornament And only herald to the gaudy spring. Within thine own bud buriest thy content. And, tender churl, mak'st waste in niggarding."
205, 6. For beauty ... posterity, for beauty, by her severity made to pine away, prevents all succession of like beauty; beauty perishes without an heir. Cp. V. A. 751-60.
207, 8. she is too fair ... despair, fair and wise as she is, her beauty being set off by her wisdom, her personal charms enhanced by her mental graces, it is wrong that she should inherit bliss by driving me to despair. I take wisely too fair to be nothing more than an expansion of too wise, too fair. Delius (apud
Furness) explains, "The excess of her beauty does not accord with the excess of her wisdom; she ought not to try to win heavenly bliss while burdening herself with sin by plunging Romeo into despair." Malone, "There is in her too much sanctimonious wisdom united with beauty, which induces her to continue chaste with the hopes of attaining heavenly bliss."
209, 10. in that vow ... now, by that vow (that she will die unmarried) which I live to tell you, my life is made a living death.
211. ruled, guided, advised.
213. By giving ... eyes, by allowing your eyes to dwell on the beauty of others, not restricting yourself to the contemplation of her charms only.
214, 5. 'Tis the way ... more, the only result of examining the beauty of others would be to make me more curious in noting that beauty of hers which is so exquisite; cp. T. G. iii. 2. 60, "she'll bereave you o' the deeds too, if she call your activity in
question," i.e. if she examines it by trying, as Schmidt explains. Here, however, exquisite and question, both being of the same origin, have suggested each other.
216, 7. These happy masks ... fair? The gist of these lines is as follows; when we behold the masks worn by ladies, the fact of their being black only serves to make us think of the fair complexions they hide; and so, if I look at other beauties, I shall only be led to think of Rosaline: men may lose their eyesight, but that does not prevent their remembering with a yearning regret that they once had that precious possession; and so, if I examine other features, my doing so will only serve to call up the painful remembrance that I have before looked on other features more beautiful (sc. those of Rosaline): if you show me some one exquisitely lovely, the only result will be to put me in mind of one whose loveliness far surpassed hers: These, used generically, these masks that we are so familiar with: fair, used in a double sense (1) beautiful, (2) fair as opposed to dark.
218. strucken. Shakespeare uses struck, strucken, stroken, stricken, and perhaps other forms of the participle.
220. passing, surpassingly; an adverbial use very frequent in Shakespeare, in the same sense as pass'd just below.
221. what doth ... serve, what purpose does her beauty serve; i.e. it serves no other purpose: note, memorandum, writing from which something may be gathered.
224. I'll pay ... debt, I will render you that instruction, teach you to forget, or else die owning myself your debtor. For doctrine, cp. A. C. v. 2. 31, "I hourly learn a doctrine of obedience."
How to cite the explanatory notes:
Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan, 1916. Shakespeare Online. 20 Feb. 2010. < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/romeo_1_1.html >.
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