Explanatory Notes for Act 2, Scene 3
From Romeo and Juliet. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan.
*Line numbers have been adjusted.
1. grey-eyed, of a pale blue not yet tinted with the coloured rays of the sun.
2. Chequering, interlacing, variegating; a 'chequer' was originally a chess-board, a board divided into squares coloured
alternately dark and light, then, among various other senses, an alternation of colours. Cp. M. A. v. 3. 27, "the gentle day,
Before the wheels of Phoebus, round about, Dapples the drowsy east with spots of grey;" where "grey" is used as in l. 1, above.
3. flecked, spotted, streaked.
4. From forth ... wheels, out of the path about to be taken by the sun's bright wheels: Titan, the original Titans dwelt in
heaven, from which, after a contest, they were hurled by Zeus beneath Tartarus; among their descendants were Helios (the sun)
and Selene (the moon); the fiery wheels are those of the chariot which Helios drove round the world each twenty-four hours.
6. dank, moist, damp; according to Skeat, probably a nasalized form of the provincial English dag, dew.
7. osier cage, basket made of withes; the osier is the water-willow: of ours, belonging to our monastery.
8. baleful, poisonous, harmful, i.e. if not properly used, but
containing valuable medicinal properties.
9, 10. The earth ... womb, that is the mother of all nature, is
also the tomb of all nature; and, conversely, that in which all
things are buried, is that from which all things spring.
11. from her womb, sprung from her.
12. We sucking ... find, we find drawing their nourishment
from the bosom of their natural mother.
13. virtues, useful properties.
15. mickle ... grace, abundant and mighty is the excellence;
mickle, like much, from the A.S. mycal, great, and connected
16. stones, minerals: their true qualities, their properties when
turned to their right use.
19, 20. Nor aught ... abuse, nor anything so good that, if
diverted from its proper use, does not forswear its original nature
and, by the accident of being thus diverted, become harmful; in
stumbling the meaning is that its original tendency was good,
but that something coming in its way caused it to stagger from
22. And vice ... dignified, and vice sometimes a worthiness by
the way in which it works, by the good result it effects, though
its intention was evil.
23. infant, as yet undeveloped: for small, the reading of the
first quarto, the other copies give weak, which Daniel prefers as
marking the contrast with power in the next line.
24. medicine power, medicinal power.
25, 6. For this, ...heart, for this, if smelled, by the property of
its odour cheers the frame through every part, whereas, if
tasted, it destroys the heart and with it all the senses. It seems
better, with Delius, to take that part to mean 'the odour,' than
with Malone, to understand it as 'the part that smells, the
olfactory nerves.' For slays, the second quarto gives the tempting reading stays, i.e. brings to a standstill, which Mommsen
adopts; in H. V. ii. 1. 92, 3, we have the expression "The King has killed his heart," but there it is a metaphor and is put into
the mouth of the Hostess.
27. encamp them still, ever pitch their camp.
28. rude will, brutal obstinacy, perverseness.
30. the canker, the worm that preys upon blossoms; Lat.
cancer, a crab. Hunter remarks, "The beautiful lines given to
the Friar are introduced for the sake of repose; but in the choice
of the topic in these seven [eight] lines [i.e. 11. 23-30] the Poet
seems to have had a further view. Poison is hereafter to become
a main agent in the piece, and the Poet prepares the audience
for the use of poison by familiarizing them, in the early portion
of the play, with the idea, and thus preparing them to witness
the use of it without being so much shocked as they would be
were no such preparation made."
31. Benedicite, an ecclesiastical salutation at meeting or parting; literally 'bless, praise,' sc. God.
32. What early ... me? what voice so early greets me so
34. to bid good morrow to, i.e. to leave; literally to salute
with the words 'good morning,' i.e. with words used after one has
35. keeps his watch, is ever wakeful, ever present and on the
37. unbruised youth, youth that has not yet known the
wounds of time and trouble: unstuff'd brain, brain free from
38. golden sleep, calm and invigorating sleep.
40. distemperature, uneasiness of mind, mental disorder; cp.
Per. v. 1. 27, "Upon what ground is his distemperature?"
43. the sweeter ... mine, all the sweeter was the rest I enjoyed.
46. that name's woe, the sorrow that name used to cause me,
sc. by Rosaline's unkindness to his suit.
47. That's my good son, well done, my son; I am glad to hear
that, my son; an exclamation of approval very common in Shakespeare, e.g. Temp. i. 2. 215, "Why, that's my spirit!" Cor. v.
3. 76, "That's my brave boy."
51, 2. both our ... lies, the remedy for the disease of both of us
lies in your hands; lies, a confusion of proximity due to the
singular nouns help and physic coming between the nominative
and the verb; and perhaps in part, as Delius says, because
both our remedies is in reality a singular — the remedy of
both of us.
53. no hatred, i.e. towards her whom I have called "mine
54. My intercession ... foe, the intercession I make with you
on my own behalf is one which will benefit my foe also.
56. Riddling ... shrift, if your confession is made in riddles, the
absolution you will receive from me will be equally ambiguous;
for shrift, see note on l. 1. 165, above.
60. And all combined, and the union between us is complete.
63. as we pass, as we walk along.
65. Saint Francis, the patron saint of his Order, the Franciscan.
69. Jesu Maria, Jesus, son of the Virgin Mary; Jesu, the
69, 70. what a deal ... Rosaline, what floods of salt tears have
coursed down your cheeks on Rosaline's account, and made them
pale; sallow, used proleptically.
72. To season ... taste, to give freshness and relish to that love
which now no longer has any taste of such seasoning, which now
has lost all relish to your palate; cp. T. N. i. 1. 30, "she will
veiled walk And water once a day her chamber round With eye offending brine; all this to season A brother's dead love, which
she would keep fresh And lasting in her sad remembrance."
Daniel conjectures 'that of itself doth taste.'
73. The sun ... clears, the sun has not yet cleared away the
vapours caused by your thick sighs for Rosaline; cp. Romeo's
words above, "Love is a smoke raised with the fume
77, 8. If e'er ... Rosaline, if ever you were really yourself, not
a counterfeit, and if these woes you pretended to feel were
genuine, then they and you alike belonged to Rosaline and no
80. Women ... men, when men show themselves such weak
creatures, there is nothing wonderful in women being frail.
82. doting, loving to excess, foolishly.
83, 4. Not in a grave ... have, I did not bid you bury love in a
grave only in order that as soon as you had buried one you should
86. Doth grace ... allow, meets kindness with kindness, love
87, 8. she knew ... spell, her refusal to give love in return was
only because she knew that your love was but a parrot-like
acquaintance with such love.
90. In one respect, in consideration of one point.
92. To turn, as to turn.
93. I stand ... haste, it is imperative upon me to make great
haste, I depend, for success, upon losing no time; see Abb. § 204.
94. Wisely ... fast, an adaptation of the Latin saying, Festina
How to cite the explanatory notes:
Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan, 1916. Shakespeare Online. 20 Dec. 2013. < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/romeo_2_3.html >.
How to cite the sidebar:
Mabillard, Amanda. Notes on Shakespeare. Shakespeare Online. 20 Dec. 2013. < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/romeo_2_3.html >.
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