Explanatory Notes for Act 2, Scene 2
From Romeo and Juliet. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan.
1. He jests ... wound, Mercutio, who never felt the wound of love, may well jest at the scars which Cupid's arrows have left in my heart. That this is not a general, but a particular, remark is, I think, proved by the answering rhyme, as Staunton has noticed. And as neither the folios nor the quartos make any division of scene, such division, originally due to Rowe, seems clearly wrong.
2. soft! he bids himself 'hush,' cautions himself to talk in a lower voice.
4. envious, jealous.
7. Be not her maid, no longer serve her, no longer keep a vow to live unmarried; as Diana's votaries pledged themselves to do.
8. Her vestal ... green, the life of chastity to which she binds her priestess is one of sickly, jaundiced, hue. In sick and green there is probably, as Delius suggests, an allusion to the "green-sickness" of which Shakespeare often speaks, and which in iii. 5. 157, below, Capulet applies as an epithet to Juliet in his anger at her refusal of Paris, "Out, you green-sickness carrion! out, you baggage! You tallow-face," — an ailment of languishing girls characterized by a pale complexion. The reading of the first quarto is pale for sick, and this is preferred by many editors. Collier would change sick into white, seeing in the line an allusion
to the white and green livery formerly worn by the Court fools;
but it seems unlikely that Shakespeare would use the word fools
in this literal sense when referring to Juliet, while, as Grant
White points out, if such an allusion were intended, it would be
obtained from the reading of the first quarto, pale, without the
violent change to white; vestal livery. Vesta was the Roman goddess of the hearth, corresponding with the Greek Hestia, and her priestesses were vowed to a life of chastity and celibacy; cp. Per. iii. 4. 10, "A vestal livery will I take me to, And never more have joy."
12. what of that? but that matters little.
13. discourses, is eloquent in its mere look.
16. some business, some private affairs of their own which would be hindered by their having to perform their nightly duty of lighting up the sky.
17. in their spheres. According to the Ptolemaic system of astronomy, round about the earth, which was the centre of the system, were nine hollow spheres, consisting of the seven planets, the fixed stars or firmament, and the Primum Mobile; the
spheres with the stars and planets in them being whirled round the earth in twenty-four hours by the driving power, the Primum
21. the airy region, the upper air; region, was originally a division of the sky marked out by the Roman augurs. In later times the atmosphere was divided into three regions, upper,
middle, and lower. Cp. also Haml. ii. 2. 509.
24, 5. O, that ... cheek, cp. Tennyson, The Miller's Daughter,
28. winged messenger, angel.
29. white-upturned, turned up in adoration so that the pupils are scarcely seen.
30. fall back, stand back in awe, and also in order to get a
31. lazy-pacing, slowly drifting. Grant White compares Macb. i. 7. 21-5; lazy-pacing is Pope's conjecture for lasie pacing, of the first quarto; the remaining quartos and the folios give lazie, or lazy, puffing.
34. refuse, disown, disclaim; cp. T. C. iv. 5. 267, "We have had pelting wars, since you refused The Grecians' cause."
37. speak at this, answer her without allowing her to go further, interrupt her at this point.
39. Thou art ... Montague. Staunton explains "That is, as she afterwards expresses it, you would still retain all the perfections which ardorn you, were not called Montague"; and so substantially Grant White, though Dyce calls such an explanation "unintelligible." Others follow Malone in putting the comma after though, as used in the sense of however, with the explanation that Juliet is simply endeavouring to account for Romeo's
being amiable and excellent though he is a Montague, to prove which she asserts that he merely bears the name, but has none of the qualities of that house. Various emendations have also been proposed, but Staunton's explanation seems to me quite satisfactory.
42. be some other name, be somebody else in name than Montague. Lettsom objects that Shakespeare could not have written "be some other name"; but after the expression "What's Montague?", where "Montague" is used as though it were a thing, there seems no reason why we should not have "be some other name."
46. owes, owns; as frequently in Elizabethan literature, the final n of the M. E. owen, to pcssess, being dropped. The modern sense of the word 'to be in debt,' 'to be obliged,' comes from the sense of possessing another's property, but the word has no etymological connection with to 'own' = to possess; it
being from the A.S. agan, to have, while the latter is from the A.S. agnian, to appropriate, claim as one's own, from agn, contracted form of agen, one's own (Skeat, Ety. Dict.).
47. doff, put off; do off, as don, do on; dup, do up; dout, do out.
48. for thy name, in exchange for your name.
53. So stumblest on my counsel, come so unexpectedly upon my secret thouglits; cp. M. N. D. i. 1. 216, "Emptying our bosoms of their counsel sweet," i.e. confiding to each other our inmost thoughts.
53, 4. By a name... am, if I could let you know who I am without using a name, I would gladly do so, for it is impossible for me to name myself without distressing you.
55. saint. Delius points out that this word recalls their first meeting when, as a pilgrim, Romeo had thus greeted Juliet.
58. drunk, unconsciously acknowledging the avidity with which she had listened to his words.
61. if either thee dislike, if either be unpleasant to your ears; dislike is really impersonal, as in Oth. ii. 3. 49, "I'll do't; but it mislike's me."
64. And the place death, and to venture here is to risk your life.
66. o'er-perch these walls, fly over these walls and settle here, as a bird settles upon a branch after a flight from some other spot; a perch is literally a rod, bar, then a bough or twig on which
a bird settles.
67. stony limits, limits formed of stone, i.e. walls; stony, more
commonly used as = of the nature of.
69. are no let to me, are no hindrance to me, cannot bar my way and keep me out.
71. Alack, according to Skeat, either a corruption of 'ah! lord,' or, which seems more probable, from ah! and M. E. lak, loss, failure.
73. proof against, able to endure, hold out against; see note on i. 1. 216.
76. but thou love me ... here, except, unless, you love me, I am quite willing that they should find me here and kill me; without your love, life to me is not worth living.
78. Than death ... love, than that my death should be delayed if I am to be without your love; prorogued, the Lat. prorogare was to propose a further extension of office, lience to defer,
though literally meaning only to ask publicly, from pro-, publicly,
and rogare, to ask.
84. I would adventure for, I would make my voyage in quest of, however great the danger.
88. Fain ... form, gladly would I, if it were possible, stand on ceremony with you, treat you with distant formality; Fain, properly an adjective.
89. but farewell compliment, "but away with formality and punctilio" (Staunton); I now cast such things to the winds.
93. laughs, good-humouredly disdains to punish them. Douce
compares Marlowe's translation of Ovid's Art of Love, i. 633, "For Jove himself sits in the azure skies, And laughs below at lover's perjuries," from which he thinks that Shakespeare borrowed.
94. pronounce it faithfully, assure me of your love without adding an oath to confirm your words.
97. So, provided that.
98. fond, foolishly loving; fond, originally fonned, the past
participle of the verb fonnen, to act foolishly, from the substantive
fon, a fool.
99. light, full of levity, wanton.
101. more cunning ... strange, more skill in affecting coyness.
104. passion, passionate confession; the word was formerly used of any strong emotion.
106. Which the dark ... discovered, which (love) has been revealed to you by the darkness of the night whose office should be to conceal; which you have discovered thanks to the darkness of the night.
110. circled, revolving; not, I think, 'round,' as Schmidt explains.
111. likewise, equally.
113. gracious, attractive, finding favour in my eyes; cp. T. A.
i. 1. 429, "if ever Tamora Were gracious in those princely eyes of thine." This is the reading of the first quarto, the other old copies giving glorious, which Grant White thinks more suitable to the context.
114.of my idolatry, that I worship.
117. I have ... to-night, I feel no joy in now ratifying with oaths a contract between us. Like Romeo, i. 4. 106-11, she has a presentiment of some evil befalling their plighted love.
118. unadvised, imprudent, formed without sufficient consideration.
121, 2. This bud of love ... meet, this new love of ours, cherished in our hearts, may expand into full growth by the time we next meet, as beneath the summer's warmth the bud expands into a beauteous blossom.
as that ... breast, "as to that heart within my breast" (Delius).
126. satisfaction, Delius points out the double sense here of payment and comfort.
129. And yet ... again, and yet I wish I had not given it, in order that I might now again have the joy of giving it.
131. frank, liberal, free of hand; cp. Lear, iii. 4. 20, "Your
old kind father, whose frank heart gave all."
132. the thing I have. sc. her own infinite love.
143. If that ... honourable, if your love is honourable in its
intentions; for that, as a conjunctional affix, see Abb. § 287.
145. procure to come, arrange to have sent.
146. the rite, sc. of marriage.
152. By and by, in a minute, directly.
153. suit. Malone quotes from Brooke's poem, Romeus and Juliet, "and now your Juliet you beseekes To cease your sute, and suffer her to live emong her likes."
154. So thrive my soul — may my soul prosper (according as I mean well to you), the concluding words being broken off by Juliet's farewell.
156. A thousand ... light, in answer to Juliet's wish of good-night he says, nay, not good night but bad night, night made a thousand times the worse by the absence of you who are its only
158. toward ... looks, sc. as schoolboys go toward, etc.
159. Hist! Listen!
159, 60. O, for ... again! would that I had a voice that would
bring back my gentle Romeo as surely as the falconer's voice brings ack the tassel-gentle! "The tassel or tiercel (for so it should be spelled) is the male of the gosshawk; so called because it is a tierce or third less than the female...This species of hawk had the epithet gentle annexed to it, from the ease with which it was tamed, and its attachment to man" (Steevens). "It appears," adds Malone, "that certain hawks were considered as appropriated to certain ranks. The tercel-gentle was appropriated to the prince, and thence was chosen by Juliet as an appellation for her beloved Romeo."
161. Bondage ... aloud, one fettered, constrained by fear of being overheard, like me, is as much unable to call aloud as one whose voice is stopped by hoarseness of the throat.
162. Else ... lies, otherwise by my loud cries I would rend the cave in which Echo dwells; Echo, an Oread who by Juno was changed into a being neither able to speak until somebody had spoken, nor to be silent when anybody had spoken.
163. And make ... mine, and, by compelling her to repeat my cries, make her hoarser than myself even. Dyce compares Comus, 208, "And airy tongues that syllable men's names On sands and
shores and desert wildernesses."
166. silver-sweet, in allusion to the sweet tone of bells made of
167. attending, attentive.
173. to have ... there, in order to keep you standing there.
175. to have ... forget, so that you may continue to forget.
176. Forgetting ... this, forgetting that I have any home but this, forgetting that this is not really my home.
178. a wanton's bird, the pet bird of a mischievous girl, a girl that loves to tease her pets.
180. gyves, chains, fetters.
182. So loving-jealous ... liberty, so fond of it and yet so jealous of its getting its liberty.
186. shall say good night, shall continue saying 'good night.'
188. so sweet to rest, having so sweet a resting place.
189. ghostly father, spiritual father; father, a title given to catholic priests.
190. my dear hap, the good fortune that has befallen me; hap, fortune, chance, accident, from which we get to 'happen' and 'happy.'
How to cite the explanatory notes:
Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan, 1916. Shakespeare Online. 20 Feb. 2013. < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/romeo_2_2.html >.
How to cite the sidebar:
Mabillard, Amanda. Notes on Shakespeare. Shakespeare Online. 20 Feb. 2013. < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/romeo_2_2.html >.
Juliet appears above at a window (stage direction). Shakespeare did not include this stage direction and it is not in Q1 or the First Folio. It was added in the 17th century and has remained ever since, although some editors choose to place the direction right after Romeo's line "He jests at scars that never felt a wound" (1), while others insert it right before Romeo says "It is my lady, O it is my love" (10).
sick and green ] The phrase sick and green refers to the anaemic condition known as chlorosis, or green sickness. The goddess Diana (the moon personified) is sickly pale and envious of Juliet's beauty (6). Juliet, too, as a follower of Diana (i.e,. a virgin) is looking quite sickly pale herself.
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