From Romeo and Juliet. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan.
*Line numbers have been adjusted.
1, 2. Where's Potpan ... away? [Where can Potpan be],
that he is not here to help in removing the plates and dishes?
he shift ... a trencher! does he call himself a waiter?...: a trencher, from F. trencher, to cut, was a wooden
platter used to cut food upon, and cleaned by scraping: shift a
trencher, as we should now say 'change the plates.' Nichols
points out that these platters were continued much longer in
public societies, particularly in Colleges and Inns of Court, and
that they are still retained at Lincoln's Inn.
3, 4. When good ... thing, when it comes to this, that nearly
every one forgets his duties, that perhaps only one or two — and
those fellows with hands begrimed with their dirty work — remember to do their work, things are at a pretty pass; shall has
the idea of inevitable consequence; foul, used in the double sense
of 'shameful' and 'dirty.'
5. joint-stools, stools that folded up when not in use: court-
cupboard, "a sort of movable sideboard without doors or drawers,
in which was displayed the plate of the establishment" (Dyce).
6. plate, the silver dishes, forks, spoons, etc., of which it was
necessary to take care that they should not be stolen; the word
is nothing more than the feminine of the F. plat, flat, but in the
form plata was by the Spanish used of silver plate. Good thou,
my good fellow; on the use of thou, see Abb. §§ 231, 232.
7. marchpane, a confection common in the desserts of our
ancestors, of which various recipes are given, the ingredients
being principally almonds, filberts, sugar, and flour: as thou
lovest me, if you love me, as I am sure you do.
12, 3. Cheerly, boys; ... all, stir yourselves, my boys; don't
grudge a little extra labour; he who lives longest will inherit
most; the latter words being a proverb (somewhat like "the
devil take the hindmost") meaning 'he who works hardest and
lives longest will fare the best.'
14. gentlemen, said to Romeo and his friends.
15. a bout with you, a turn at dancing with you. Daniel
follows the later quartos and the folios in reading "walk a bout"
(i.e. the adverb 'about,' generally written in Shakespeare's day
as two words), comparing M. A. ii. 1. 99, "Lady, will you walk
a bout, with your friend," said as an invitation to dance.
16. my mistresses, my fine madams.
17. Will now ... dance, will have the courage, by refusing to
dance, to admit that she has corns: makes dainty, hesitates
18. am I ... now? have I touched you to the quick by hinting
that some of you possibly have corns? Corns being commonly
caused by wearing too tight shoes - the ladies by admitting that
they were troubled in this way would be confessing to the vanity
of trying to make their feet look smaller than they naturally
19. I have seen the day, I can well recall the time.
22. 'tis gone, 'tis gone, 'tis gone, but that is long, long, ago;
said with a regretful repetition. Cp. the solemn repetition in
Macb. V. 5. 19, "To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day."
24. A hall, a hall! Clear the room for the dance; as we say,
"A ring, a ring!" when preparations are being made for a fight
with fists: foot it, dance away merrily! So, Temp. i. 2. 380,
"Foot it featly here and there"; for it, used indefinitely, see
Abb. § 226.
25. you knaves, you fellows there; knave, from A.S. cnafa, a
boy, was of old used in the sense of servant, the modern sense
being of later origin; and Capulet here uses the term in good-humoured command: turn the tables up, fold up the tables (and
set them against the wall to give more room); tables in former
days were like the modern camp tables, the leaves and the frame
on which they were spread out being made to fold up.
28. cousin. Used in Shakespeare for any relationship not of
the first degree.
31. Were in a mask, took part in a masquerade: By 'r lady,
by our lady, i.e. the Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ; a common
form of petty oath.
33. nuptial, marriage; in Shakespeare's day the word was
used in the singular, as conversely 'funerals,' F. funerailles, Lat.
funera, both plural, where we should use the singular.
34. Come pentecost ... will, however quick Pentecost may
come; not till Pentecost, however near that may be. Pentecost,
Whitsuntide, originally a Jewish festival, Gk. ... the fiftieth (day), sc. after the Passover.
35. we mask'd, we took part in a masquerade.
36. elder, older; we now use the word only in comparison of
37. Will you ... that, nonsense! how can you say such a thing.
38. ward, one under guardianship; not yet of age.
39. What lady, the use of what is less definite than if the question had been 'who is that lady?'
39, 40. which ... knight, who graces the hand of yonder knight
by taking it in the dance: on that ... which, see Abb. § 267.
43, 4. It seems ... ear. Steevens compares Sonn. xxvii. 11, 2,
"Which, like a jewel hung in ghastly night, Makes black night
beauteous and her old face new": Ethiope's, generically for any
dark-skinned race; in A. Y. L. iv. 3. 35, it is ever used figuratively of written words, "Such Ethiop words, blacker in their
effect Than in their countenance."
45. too rich for use, too splendid for common wear; cp. M. A.
ii. 1. 340-2, where Beatrice, on the Prince asking whether she
would have him as a husband, replies, "No, my lord, unless I
might have another for working-days: your grace is too costly to
wear every day."
46. trooping' with crows, the reference is to a flock of crows
alighting on a field and marching about in search of worms.
47. her fellows, not 'her equals' but 'her associates,' those like
her taking part in the dance.
48. The measure ... stand, as soon as the dance is over, I will
watch to see where she takes up her position, i.e. to wait till she
accepts a partner for the next dance. In watch ... stand Shakespeare was probably thinking of the station taken up by the
huntsman watching for game, as in L. L. L. iv. 1. 10, Cymb.
iii. 4. 111, Juliet being the game which Romeo is to stalk.
49. my rude hand, my hand which will be guilty of profanity
in venturing to touch hers.
50. forswear it, sight! he appeals to his eyes to disclaim having ever before seen real beauty.
52. should be a Montague, cannot possibly be any but a member
of the house of Montague; ought to be a member, etc., unless I
am greatly mistaken; should being the past tense of shall, inherits
the idea of necessity belonging to that word.
54. an antic face. "Tybalt refers to the mask which Romeo
had donned, a grinning face such as merry-andrews wear"
(Delius); antic, originally, as here, an adjective, and a doublet of
antique, meaning "old," then "old-fashioned," and finally
55. To fleer ... solemnity, to grin and mock at our festivities;
solemnity, originally something occurring annually like a religious
rite, Lat. solemnis, annual, then anything celebrated with pomp
and parade; cp. Macb. iii. 1. 14, "To-night we hold a solemn
supper, sir"; T. A. v. 2. 115, "And bid him come and banquet
at thy house. When he is here, even at thy solemn feast";
especially a nuptial celebration, as in M. N. D. v. 1. 376, "A
fortnight hold we this solemnity, In nightly revels and new
56. by the stock ... kin, I swear by the honour of that family to
which I am proud to belong.
57. I hold ... sin. Here it is really superfluous, the construction
being 'I hold the striking of him dead not a sin, no sin.' Abbott
(§417) takes To strike as equivalent to a noun absolute.
60. in spite, out of malice; with a malicious intention, sc. that
61. To scorn at. Though we still use the preposition at after
'scorn' as a substantive, we omit it after the verb.
62. Young Romeo is it? this is said more as an assertion than
as a question; a question to which the speaker felt that he knew
63. Content thee, do not vex yourself, keep your temper; as
frequently in Shakespeare in the imperative mood with the
64. bears him, carries himself, behaves...
65. 6. brags ... be, is proud of him as being: well-govern'd, of
well-regulated character and conduct.
67. for the wealth, even if by so doing I could acquire the
68. do him disparagement, offer him an indignity; act towards
him in a way unworthy of his rank O. F. parage, lineage, rank).
69. be patient, restrain yourself; be calm.
70. the which, giving a more definite force than which alone,
"is generally used either where the antecedent, or some word like
the antecedent, is repeated, or else where such a repetition could
be made if desired. In almost all cases there are two or more
possible antecedents from which selection must be made" (Abb. § 270).
71. Show a fair presence, look pleasant and courteous.
72. An ill-beseeming semblance, in apposition with frowns;
which give a look to the feast that ill becomes it.
74. shall be, said with imperious command; I am determined
that he shall be allowed to take part in the feast.
75. What, goodman boy! What! my fine fellow, do you
presume to say who shall be endured and who not? goodman
boy, used in the same sarcastic sense in Lear, ii. 2. 48, "With
you, goodman boy, an you please"; the term goodman was more
commonly applied in good-natured familiarity, to old men, like
'gaffer,' a corruption of grandfather: go to, don't talk nonsense;
a phrase very commonly used in reproof or in exhortation.
77. You'll not endure him! do you tell me you'll not endure
him?you? said with great scorn.
77, 8. God shall ... guests! is it you, in Heaven's name, that
are going to raise a riot among my guests? God ... soul, used as
a form of oath, and equivalent to the more modern vulgarism,
'As I hope to be saved.'
79. You will set cock-a-hoop? You are going to set everything
at sixes and sevens, are you ? You are going to set all by the
ears, are you? The origin of the phrase 'to set cock-a-hoop' is
doubtful. Blount, Glossographia, 1670, says that the 'cock' was
the spigot of a vessel, and that this being taken out and laid on
the 'hoop' of the vessel "they used to drink up the ale as it ran
out without intermission ... and then they were Cock-on-Hoop, i.e.
at the height of mirth and jollity".... But there is no clear
evidence that 'cock' ever meant a spigot, or that the 'hoop' of
the vessel was used as a place on which to lay it. Whatever its
origin, the phrase came by extension to mean (a) To abandon
oneself to reckless enjoyment, (b) To cast off all restraint, become
reckless, (c) To give a loose to all disorder, to set all by the ears.
In modern use 'cock-a-hoop' means elated, exultant, boastfully
and loudly triumphant. The attempt to connect 'hoop' with
the F. huppe, a tufted crest, or with 'whoop' as in 'war-whoop,' are mere guesses. See Murray's Eng. Dict.: you'll be
the man! you are going to take this upon you, are you! a pretty
fellow you to assume this function!
81. is 't so, indeed? Ulrici points out that this is an answer
to some remark of one of the guests, and so also the words, 'I
know what,' in the next line, are an interrupted answer or
address to a guest. So, too, perhaps, the words 'marry 'tis
time,' in the following line.
82. This trick ... you, you may possibly find that this freak of
yours will hereafter cost you dear. The reading of the old copies
is "This trick may chance to scathe you, I know what": and
if this is the genuine reading, the meaning will be "this freak
of yours may chance to cost you dear in a certain way that
I am not going to mention"; a dark hint probably that Tybalt
will find himself not mentioned in his will.
83. You must contrary me! the idea that you of all men in the
world should venture to cross me in this way! The verb contrary
(with the accent penultimate) was common in former days, and
the adjective with the same accent is still to be heard among uneducated persons.
84. Well said, my hearts! Well done, my brave fellows; my
hearts, an exclamation of encouragement; so "my hearties,"
still among sailors: a princox, a conceited upstart; derived by
some from Lat. praecox, early ripe, precocious; by others from prime-cock, a cock of fine spirit, hence a pert, conceited, forward person.
86. I'll make you quiet, if you will not be quiet of your own
accord, I will take means to make you so.
87, 8. Patience ... greeting, enforced patience meeting with
passionate anger in my breast makes me tremble all over with
their hostile encounter, i.e. what with this restraint put upon
me by my uncle and my own passionate indignation, I am all of
a tremble; cp. Macb. i. 3. 139, 40, "My thought, ...Shakes so
my single state of man," though the shaking there is figurative.
Steevens quotes the proverb "Patience perforce is a medicine for
a mad dog. "
89, 90. but this intrusion ... gall, Romeo may enjoy himself for
the moment, but hereafter he shall pay dearly for having thrust
himself in upon our festivities. Lettsom takes sweet as a substantive and convert as transitive, but the verb is frequently
used intransitively in Shakespeare, and it seems unecessary to
insist upon the antithesis.
92-4. the gentle fine ... kiss, the appropriate penance, which I
shall think a light one, is that my lips, here ready for the purpose, should smooth away that profane touch by a tender kiss,
as devout pilgrims wipe out their sins by kissing the shrine to
which they have made their pilgrimage; the reading of the old
copies is "gentle sin," or "sinne," and is retained by Ulrici and
Delius, though their explanation seems very forced. Ulrici
shows that 'Romei' was formerly a title given to pilgrims to
Rome, by later Italian writers to pilgrims generally, and thinks
that this accounts for Romeo's assuming a pilgrim's dress.
96. which mannerly ... this, which, instead of being guilty of
profanation in touching mine, only shows a courteous reverence.
97, 8. For saints ... kiss, for even saints allow their hands to
be touched by pilgrims, and joining hand in hand is the salutation used by holy palmers. Palmers were pilgrims who had
visited the sacred shrine in Palestine, and brought back palms in
token of their having accomplished their pilgrimage. They are
here called holy as having thus earned forgiveness of their sins.
101. what hands do, sc. kiss, as Juliet had said that the hands
of holy palmers did.
102. They pray, ... despair, their province is to pray, yours to
answer their prayer; which unless you do, my faith will turn to
despair. Grant White follows the old copies in putting a comma
only after do in the previous line, and explains, "they [i.e. the
lips] pray that they may do what hands or palms do: grant thou
103. do not move, do not allow themselves to be won over
from what they know to be right.
104. move not, pretending to take her words literally: my
prayer's effect, the result of my prayer, that which my prayer
has been effectual in obtaining.
106. took, frequent in Shakespeare, as well as taken.
107. O trespass sweetly urged! how sweetly do you accuse me
of sin! it is no pain to be accused of sin in such terms as you use.
108. You kiss by the book, "you kiss methodically; you offer
as many reasons for kissing, as could have been found in a
treatise professedly written on the subject" (Amner, i.e. Steevens).
So, in A. Y. L. v. 4. 95, "we quarrel in print, by the book," i.e.
according to rules duly laid down; cp. Haml. v. 1. 149, "we
must speak by the card," i.e. with the utmost preciseness.
110. What, who; but with a sense of indefiniteness.
114. lay hold of her, win her as his bride.
115. the chinks, her father's wealth; the chinking coin.
116. O dear account ... debt, sad relation! then is my life
forfeited to, at the mercy of, one who is my foe; since, as
Staunton says, bereft of Juliet he could not live.
117. the sport ... best, we shall not by staying see anything
better than what we have seen.
118. Ay, so ... unrest, Romeo, applying the words in a larger
sense, says, I fear indeed that I shall never know such happiness
as I have known this night.
120. a trifling ... towards, a slight banquet, feast, nearly ready.
Schmidt takes banquet here as = dessert, which seems to me to
spoil Capulet's affected humility: towards, in this sense Shakespeare more commonly uses toward, as e.g. M. N. D. iii. 1. 81,
Haml. V. 2. 376.
121. Is't e'en so? must you really go? said in answer to the
excuses of Romeo and his friends: thank you all, i.e. for coming.
124. sirrah, said to one of the servants: by my fay, assuredly;
fay, a corruption of 'faith': waxes, grows, is becoming.
126. yond, properly an adverb, as yon is properly an adjective.
129. that ... be, a confusion of 'That, I think, is,' and 'I think
that that be' (Abb. § 411); but probably a confusion that would
only be put into the mouth of an illiterate person.
133. My grave ... bed, I am not likely ever to marry; except
my union with death I shall have no marriage. Cp. Romeo's
lament, v. 3. 102-5.
136. My only ... hate! To think that the only love I can ever
feel should have sprung from him whom above all men I am
bound to hate! hate, object of hatred.
137. Too early ... late! Alas, that I should ever have seen
him, without knowing who he was, and should have found out
who he is only when it is too late to recall the love I have given
138, 9. Prodigious ... enemy, portentous to me is the offspring
to which love has given birth, seeing that I am compelled to love
him who is (by the inheritance of an ancestral feud) a hated
140, 1. A rhyme ... withal. The Nurse having overheard Juliet's
last words - she, from terror of their being reported to her parents,
pretends that she is only repeating some lines she has just heard;
Anon, anon, coming, coming; as a more modern writer would
say; literally in one (moment)...
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_5.html >.
Cotter, Henry James. Shakespeare's Art. London: Robert Clarke Co., 1902.
Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. Eds. W.A. Neilson and A.H. Thorndike. New York: Macmillan, 1911.
"The play has received its share of attention from Shakespeare's critics; and although it offers no
such difficult problems of interpretation as do Hamlet or Macbeth, there has been a considerable difference among critics in regard to its moral purpose. How there can be two opinions about this, it is difficult to see. The play was obviously not written to point a moral. It is a story of youthful love running counter to family feud, and ending in disaster. Something is made of the evil of feud, the horror of death, the strokes of blind fortune, but much more of the devotion and unselfishness of the two lovers, growing in beauty and significance for us under the stress of their great passion. The idealization of their love gives the play its unity and impressiveness. To hunt for logic in the details of its structure or to seek for a sermon in its lyric passion is to refuse to yield to the sway of the
whole spirit of the play." (W. A. Neilson. The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. p. xvi)
Thoughts on Romeo and Juliet... "Our poet made Romeo and Juliet exceptionally great personages, for truly and beautifully does Schlegel write of them: 'It was reserved for Shakespeare to unite purity of heart and the glow of imagination, sweetness and dignity of manners and passionate violence in one ideal picture.'
Romeo is the grace of the drama, Juliet its beauty, Laurence its strength, Mercutio its brilliancy, and the grossness of the Nurse gives ground color to the picture." (Henry James Cotter. Shakespeare's Art, p. 69)