Explanatory Notes for Act 1, Scene 2
From Romeo and Juliet. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan.
1. bound, sc. to keep the peace.
2. In penalty alike, under the same penalty for disobedience.
3. Of honourable ... both, both of you are esteemed as honourable men.
4. at odds, at enmity.
7. But saying ... before, I have nothing to say beyond saying,
8. is yet ... world, as yet knows nothing of the world, is hardly
out of the nursery.
10. Let two ... pride, let the leaves and flowers of one more
l3. marred, sc. by their youth and beauty quickly fading.
For the jingle of marr'd and made, very frequent in Shakespeare,
cp. e.g. M. N. D. i. 2. 39, "And make and mar The foolish
14. The earth ... she, all my children, on whom I pinned my
hopes, have died except her.
15. She is ... earth. If the reading is genuine, this probably
means 'she is the heiress of my property on whom my hopes are
centered'; some take earth to mean body, as in Sonnet cxvi. 1,
"Poor soul, the centre of my sinful earth," while others explain
"she is the hopeful mistress of my world, my life." Steevens
quotes the French phrase Fille de terre, i.e. heiress, in support of
the first given meaning, but the expression is not exactly
analogous. The line is not found in the first quarto; and, as it
has no line to rhyme with it, whereas the rest of the speech is
complete in this respect, there is probably some corruption.
17. My will ... part, my consent depends upon hers; my will is
but an adjunct to her consent, if you obtain the latter, the former
follows as a part and parcel of it.
18, 9. An she agree ... voice, if she assents, my consent and
approval go with that choice which she is free to make. Walker
and Dyce hyphen fair according, and in 1. 20 old accustomed.
22, 3. and you ... more, and your presence among the full
assemblage, welcome as that presence will be, adds to the wealth
of company that will grace my halls.
24. my poor house. Said with an assumption of humility.
25. that make ... light, whose beauty is sufficient to light up
the darkness of night.
26. comfort, pleasure, contentment of mind: for young men,
Daniel follows the first quarto in reading youngmen, taking it to
= yeomen, a word which Johnson had conjectured here.
27. 8. When ... treads, Malone compares Sonn. xcviii. 2, 3,
"When proud-pied April dress'd in all his trim Hath put a spirit
of youth in everything": limping winter, winter that is so long
in passing away.
30. Inherit, possess, enjoy; cp. Cor. ii. 1. 215, "I have lived
To see inherited my very wishes"; Cymb. iii. 2. 63, "Tell me
how Wales was made so happy as To inherit such a haven."
32, 3. Which on more view ... none. The first quarto gives
"Such amongst view," etc.; the reading in the text is that of the
fourth and fifth quartos, which vary from the second and third
only in having on for one. With this reading, the meaning
seems to be, her, who when you have carefully eyed a large
number of those present, my daughter among the rest, may seem
to you to hold the first place, though being but one she does not
count for anything in reckoning; none as is generally admitted,
clearly refers to the old proverb that one is no number, a
proverb to which Shakespeare refers, Sonn. cxxxvi. 8, "Among
a number one is reckoned none." This explanation in its more
important point is essentially that given by Singer, though the
latter words he explains "though she may be reckoned nothing,
or held in no estimation." On which used interchangeably with
who, see Abb. § 265. The majority of editors take mine as the
subject to May stand; but to this there seems the objection that
Capulet is trying to persuade Paris that he may easily find some
one as well fitted for a bride as his own daughter, and therefore
would not be likely to suggest that she might hold the first place.
But for this objection, I should be inclined to follow (with
Steevens and Staunton) the reading of the first quarto, "Such,
amongst view of many, mine, being one," etc., though while we
say "amongst many," it is perhaps doubtful whether we could
say "amongst view of many." The conjectures are many:
"Within your," Johnson; "On which more," Capell;
"Amongst such," Ulrici; "Such as on," Keightley; "Whilst
on," Mason, followed Dyce; "Such amongst few," Badham:
while the punctuation of" the former of the two lines is equally
various. Possibly we should read 'Such amongst view'd,' i.e.
seen among such, my daughter, being one of many, may, etc.
34. trudge, properly meaning to walk along with a heavy step,
is here and elsewhere in Shakespeare used to express a busy
37. My house ... stay, I am waiting to give them hearty
welcome to my house.
38-41. It is written ... nets, the servant is of course turning the
sayings topsy-turvy: meddle with, busy himself with: yard,
yard-measure: last, wooden mould of the foot on which shoes
are shaped and sewn.
43. I must to. On the omission of the verb of motion, see
Abb. § 405.
44. In good time, in good luck, Fr. a la bonne heure; said as
he sees Benvolio and Romeo approaching, as from them he will
be able to find out the directions given to him.
45. one fire ... burning. A reference to a fire in a grate being
extinguished by the more powerful fire of the sun; cp. Cor. iv. 7.
54, "One fire drives out one fire; one nail, one nail"; T. G. ii. 4.
192, 3, "Even as one heat another heat expels, Or as one nail by
strength drives out another"; and Brooke's Romeus and Juliet,
1. 207, "as out of a planke a nayle a nayle doth drive."
46. another's anguish, the anguish caused by another pain;
the subjective genitive.
47. holp, Shakespeare uses both holp and helped, the former
more frequently: backward, in the reverse direction.
51. Your plantain-leaf, the plantain-leaf which you know so
well; cp. Haml. iv. 3. 22, 4, "Your worm is your only emperor
for diet ... your fat-king and your lean-beggar is but variable
service"; A. C. ii. 7. 29-31, "Your serpent of Egypt is bred now of
your mud by the operation of your sun: so is your crocodile ";
and see Abb. § 220: the plantain-leaf, the leaf of this herb, or
rather weed, was of old supposed to be efficacious in case of fresh
wounds and various other ailments; cp. L. L. L. iii. 1. 74, where
Costard calls for it for his broken shin.
52. your broken shin, your shin, the skin of which has been
broken; your, as in the line above. As a plantain-leaf was used
to staunch blood and not for a fracture of a bone, Ulrici supposes
a sarcasm here, 'Thy remedy is as excellent for my complaint as
a plantain-leaf is for a broken shin.' But a 'broken head' or a
'broken shin' meant a head or a shin of which the skin had been
abraded, not in which the bone had been fractured; so in i. 3. 39,
"broke her brow" means 'knocked the skin off her forehead.'
Romeo is of course teasing Benvolio by his inconsequent remarks,
but no such deep meaning is intended as Ulrici suspects.
54. bound ... is, shackled in fetters heavier than those put upon
a madman; in former days the restraints put upon lunatics were
cruelly severe, they being shut up in dark rooms, heavily fettered
and frequently whipped; cp. T. N. iii. 4. 148, 9, "Come, we'll
have him in a dark room and bound," said of Malvolio whom they
pretend to be mad. Romeo's fetters are of course those of love.
56. God-den, a contraction of 'God give you good even,' found
in many similar forms, such as that given in reply by the Servant.
58. mine own ... misery, my own miserable fortune.
59. Perhaps ... book, "for that purpose, the Servant means, it
is not necessary for a man to have learned to read" (Delius).
62. Ye say ... merry! thanks for your honest answer and farewell! rest you merry, or "God rest you merry," as in A. Y. L.
V. 1. 65, was a common form of farewell among the lower orders,
and equivalent to 'good luck to you.' The Servant, getting
nothing but "riddling shrift" from Romeo, is about to proceed
on his way.
64. County. Another form of 'Count,' oftentimes used by
Shakespeare; originally meaning a companion, i.e. of some great
leader, the modern 'county' = shire, being the portion of territory
of which the Count had the government. Capell pointed out that
this list of guests becomes metrical if Anselme is changed to
Anselmo and an epithet given to Livia. Following this suggestion,
except that he inserts and before Livia, Dyce prints the
passage as metre. Very possibly, as Delius suggests, Romeo in
reading it aloud inserts some of the epithets which help to make
70. should they come? are they expected to come: Up, sc. to
the house. Possibly with an allusion to the common expression
"Marry, come up" as used by the Nurse, ii. 5. 63, below.
72. Whither? All the old copies give "Whither to supper?"
which some editors retain, perhaps rightly. The alteration was
suggested by Warburton and first accepted by Theobald.
76. I should ... before, I should have done better before putting
these questions to you, to have asked you who your master is.
78. great rich, very rich; great, used adverbially as in
ii. H. VI. iii. 1. 379, "as 'tis great like he will."
79. crush a cup of wine, as we now say 'crack a bottle of wine.'
Steevens quotes several instances of the expression from old
79, 80. Rest you merry! See above, 1. 62.
81. this same ancient feast, this time-honoured festival of
which he speaks and which we all know so well. The expression
"this same" or "that same" is frequently used with a contemptuous emphasis, like the modern vulgarity "this here," and
even when no contempt is intended there is generally a sort of
84. unattainted eye, unbiased, impartial, eye; eye not prejudiced by your admiration for Rosaline.
85. show, point out to you.
86. And I ... crow, and I will convince you that she whom you
think so lovely is but a poor creature after all.
87. 8. When the devout ... fires, when my eye, that now worships with
such devout belief in her beauty, perjures itself by
such heresy as you suggest, then let tears turn to fires. The old
copies give 'fire,' which was altered by Pope to fires for the sake
of the rhyme with liars; Grant White remarks, "The mere
difference of a final s seems not to have been regarded in rhyme
in Shakespeare's day, and the reading 'fires' tends to impoverish
a line not over-rich."
89, 90. And these, ... liars! and may these eyes, which, though
often drowned in tears refused to die, be burnt as liars,
transparent heretics as they will then prove themselves to be! In
transparent there is a pun upon 'evident,' in the figurative
sense, and 'clear,' in the literal sense.
92. her match, her equal, much less her superior.
93. you saw her fair, in your eyes she seemed fair.
94. Herself poised ... eye, each of your eyes being filled with her
image, whereas, in order that you should judge impartially, her
image in your one eye should have been balanced by the image of
some other fair one in your other eye; to 'poise,' or 'peize' as
Shakespeare sometimes writes it, is to weigh, balance, from Old
F. peiser, to weigh.
95. scales, pair of scales, used as a singular; conversely, in
M. V. iv. 1. 255, balance is used as a plural, "Are these balance
here to weigh The flesh?"
96. Your lady's love. As it is neither the love which he bore to
the lady, nor the love which the lady bore to him, we should
probably read, with Theobold, lady-love. Though we do not find
the word elsewhere in Shakespeare, Dyce has shown that it was
already in use.
97. shining, sc. in all the splendour of loveliness.
98. And she ... best, and she who now seems to you fairest in
all the world will scarcely seem fair at all; scant, as an adverb,
occurs here only in Shakespeare.
99. along, see note on i. 1. 181; no such ... shown, not in
the expectation, or for the purpose, of being shown such a sight.
100. splendour of mine own, the splendid beauty of her whom
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_2.html >.
"Romeo and Juliet stands out from the other great tragedies of Shakespeare, not only in point of time,
but in its central theme. It deals with the power of nature in awaking youth to full manhood and womanhood through the sudden coming of pure and supreme
love; with the danger which always attends the precipitate call of this awakening; and with the sudden storm which overcasts the brilliant day of passion.
The enmity of the rival houses of Montague and Capulet, to which Romeo and Juliet belong, is but a concrete form of this danger that ever waits when nature
prompts. Romeo's fancied love for another disappears like a drop of water on a stone in the sun, when his glance meets Juliet's at the Capulet's ball. Love
takes equally sudden hold of her. Worldly and religious caution seek to stem the flood of passion, or at least to direct it. The lovers are married at Friar
Liaurence's cell; but in the sudden whirl of events that follow the friar's amiable schemes, one slight error on his part wastes all that glorious passion and
youth have won. It was not his fault, after all; such is the eternal tragedy when Youth meets Love, and Nature leads them unrestrained to peril." (H. N. MacCracken. An Introduction to Shakespeare. p. 143)
The History of Romeo and Juliet... The play has remained extremely popular throughout the centuries, but, strangely, producers in the seventeenth century found it necessary to take great literary license with Shakespeare's original work. In some productions, Romeo and Juliet survive their ordeal to live happy, fulfilled lives. And, in 1679, Thomas Otway created a version of the play called The History and Fall of Caius Marius, set in Augustan Rome. Otway transformed the play to revolve around two opposing senators, Metellus and Marius Senior, who are fighting for political control. Read on...