Romeo and Juliet
Please see the bottom of the page for explanatory notes.
|ACT II SCENE IV ||A street.|| |
|[Enter BENVOLIO and MERCUTIO]|
|MERCUTIO||Where the devil should this Romeo be?|
|Came he not home to-night?|
|BENVOLIO||Not to his father's; I spoke with his man.|
|MERCUTIO||Ah, that same pale hard-hearted wench, that Rosaline.|
|Torments him so, that he will sure run mad.|
|BENVOLIO||Tybalt, the kinsman of old Capulet,|
|Hath sent a letter to his father's house.|
|MERCUTIO||A challenge, on my life.|
|BENVOLIO||Romeo will answer it.|
|MERCUTIO||Any man that can write may answer a letter.||10|
|BENVOLIO||Nay, he will answer the letter's master, how he|
|dares, being dared.|
|MERCUTIO||Alas poor Romeo! he is already dead; stabbed with a|
|white wench's black eye; shot through the ear with a|
|love-song; the very pin of his heart cleft with the|
|blind bow-boy's butt-shaft: and is he a man to|
|BENVOLIO||Why, what is Tybalt?|
|MERCUTIO||More than prince of cats, I can tell you. O, he is|
|the courageous captain of compliments. He fights as||20|
|you sing prick-song, keeps time, distance, and|
|proportion; rests me his minim rest, one, two, and|
|the third in your bosom: the very butcher of a silk|
|button, a duellist, a duellist; a gentleman of the|
|very first house, of the first and second cause:|
|ah, the immortal passado! the punto reverso! the|
|MERCUTIO||The pox of such antic, lisping, affecting|
|fantasticoes; these new tuners of accents! 'By Jesu,|
|a very good blade! a very tall man! a very good|
|whore!' Why, is not this a lamentable thing,|
|grandsire, that we should be thus afflicted with|
|these strange flies, these fashionmongers, these|
|perdonnez-moys, who stand so much on the new form,|
|that they cannot at ease on the old bench? O, their|
|bons, their bons!||32|
|BENVOLIO||Here comes Romeo, here comes Romeo.|
|MERCUTIO||Without his roe, like a dried herring: O flesh, flesh,|
|how art thou fishified! Now is he for the numbers|
|that Petrarch flowed in: Laura to his lady was but a|
|kitchen-wench; marry, she had a better love to|
|be-rhyme her; Dido a dowdy; Cleopatra a gipsy;|
|Helen and Hero hildings and harlots; Thisbe a grey|
|eye or so, but not to the purpose. Signior|
|Romeo, bon jour! there's a French salutation|
|to your French slop. You gave us the counterfeit|
|fairly last night.|
|ROMEO||Good morrow to you both. What counterfeit did I give you?|
|MERCUTIO||The slip, sir, the slip; can you not conceive?|
|ROMEO||Pardon, good Mercutio, my business was great; and in|
|such a case as mine a man may strain courtesy.|
|MERCUTIO||That's as much as to say, such a case as yours|
|constrains a man to bow in the hams.|
|ROMEO||Meaning, to court'sy.||49|
|MERCUTIO||Thou hast most kindly hit it.|
|ROMEO||A most courteous exposition.|
|MERCUTIO||Nay, I am the very pink of courtesy.|
|ROMEO||Pink for flower.|
|ROMEO||Why, then is my pump well flowered.|
|MERCUTIO||Well said: follow me this jest now till thou hast|
|worn out thy pump, that when the single sole of it|
|is worn, the jest may remain after the wearing, sole singular.|
|ROMEO||O single-soled jest, solely singular for the|
|MERCUTIO||Come between us, good Benvolio; my wits faint.||60|
|ROMEO||Switch and spurs, switch and spurs; or I'll cry a match.|
|MERCUTIO||Nay, if thy wits run the wild-goose chase, I have|
|done, for thou hast more of the wild-goose in one of|
|thy wits than, I am sure, I have in my whole five:|
|was I with you there for the goose?|
|ROMEO||Thou wast never with me for any thing when thou wast|
|not there for the goose.|
|MERCUTIO||I will bite thee by the ear for that jest.|
|ROMEO||Nay, good goose, bite not.||70|
|MERCUTIO||Thy wit is a very bitter sweeting; it is a most|
|ROMEO||And is it not well served in to a sweet goose?|
|MERCUTIO||O here's a wit of cheveril, that stretches from an|
|inch narrow to an ell broad!|
|ROMEO||I stretch it out for that word 'broad;' which added|
|to the goose, proves thee far and wide a broad goose.|
|MERCUTIO||Why, is not this better now than groaning for love?|
|now art thou sociable, now art thou Romeo; now art|
|thou what thou art, by art as well as by nature:|
|for this drivelling love is like a great natural,|
|that runs lolling up and down to hide his bauble in a hole.|
|BENVOLIO||Stop there, stop there.|
|MERCUTIO||Thou desirest me to stop in my tale against the hair.|
|BENVOLIO||Thou wouldst else have made thy tale large.|
|MERCUTIO||O, thou art deceived; I would have made it short:|
|for I was come to the whole depth of my tale; and|
|meant, indeed, to occupy the argument no longer.|
|ROMEO||Here's goodly gear!|
|[Enter Nurse and PETER]|
|MERCUTIO||A sail, a sail!||90|
|BENVOLIO||Two, two; a shirt and a smock.|
|Nurse||My fan, Peter.|
|MERCUTIO||Good Peter, to hide her face; for her fan's the|
|Nurse||God ye good morrow, gentlemen.|
|MERCUTIO||God ye good den, fair gentlewoman.|
|Nurse||Is it good den?|
|MERCUTIO||'Tis no less, I tell you, for the bawdy hand of the|
|dial is now upon the prick of noon.|
|Nurse||Out upon you! what a man are you!|
|ROMEO||One, gentlewoman, that God hath made for himself to|
|Nurse||By my troth, it is well said; 'for himself to mar,'|
|quoth a'? Gentlemen, can any of you tell me where I|
|may find the young Romeo?|
|ROMEO||I can tell you; but young Romeo will be older when|
you have found him than he was when you sought him:
|I am the youngest of that name, for fault of a worse.|
|Nurse||You say well.|
|MERCUTIO||Yea, is the worst well? very well took, i' faith;|
|Nurse||if you be he, sir, I desire some confidence with|
|BENVOLIO||She will indite him to some supper.|
|MERCUTIO||A bawd, a bawd, a bawd! so ho!|
|ROMEO||What hast thou found?|
|MERCUTIO||No hare, sir; unless a hare, sir, in a lenten pie,|
|that is something stale and hoar ere it be spent.||[Sings]
|An old hare hoar,|
|And an old hare hoar,|
|Is very good meat in lent|
|But a hare that is hoar|
|Is too much for a score,|
|When it hoars ere it be spent.|
|Romeo, will you come to your father's? we'll|
|to dinner, thither.|
|ROMEO||I will follow you.|
|MERCUTIO||Farewell, ancient lady; farewell,||[Singing]
|'lady, lady, lady.'|
|[Exeunt MERCUTIO and BENVOLIO]|
|Nurse||Marry, farewell! I pray you, sir, what saucy|
|merchant was this, that was so full of his ropery?|
|ROMEO||A gentleman, nurse, that loves to hear himself talk,|
|and will speak more in a minute than he will stand|
|to in a month.||119|
|Nurse||An a' speak any thing against me, I'll take him|
|down, an a' were lustier than he is, and twenty such|
|Jacks; and if I cannot, I'll find those that shall.|
|Scurvy knave! I am none of his flirt-gills; I am|
|none of his skains-mates. And thou must stand by|
|too, and suffer every knave to use me at his pleasure?|
|PETER||I saw no man use you a pleasure; if I had, my weapon|
|should quickly have been out, I warrant you: I dare|
|draw as soon as another man, if I see occasion in a|
|good quarrel, and the law on my side.|
|Nurse||Now, afore God, I am so vexed, that every part about|
|me quivers. Scurvy knave! Pray you, sir, a word:|
|and as I told you, my young lady bade me inquire you||132|
|out; what she bade me say, I will keep to myself:|
|but first let me tell ye, if ye should lead her into|
|a fool's paradise, as they say, it were a very gross|
|kind of behavior, as they say: for the gentlewoman|
|is young; and, therefore, if you should deal double|
|with her, truly it were an ill thing to be offered|
|to any gentlewoman, and very weak dealing.|
|ROMEO||Nurse, commend me to thy lady and mistress. I|
|protest unto thee--|
|Nurse||Good heart, and, i' faith, I will tell her as much:|
|Lord, Lord, she will be a joyful woman.|
|ROMEO||What wilt thou tell her, nurse? thou dost not mark me.|
|Nurse||I will tell her, sir, that you do protest; which, as|
|I take it, is a gentlemanlike offer.|
|ROMEO||Bid her devise|
|Some means to come to shrift this afternoon;|
|And there she shall at Friar Laurence' cell|
|Be shrived and married. Here is for thy pains.||150|
|Nurse||No truly sir; not a penny.|
|ROMEO||Go to; I say you shall.|
|Nurse||This afternoon, sir? well, she shall be there.|
|ROMEO||And stay, good nurse, behind the abbey wall:|
|Within this hour my man shall be with thee|
|And bring thee cords made like a tackled stair;|
|Which to the high top-gallant of my joy|
|Must be my convoy in the secret night.|
|Farewell; be trusty, and I'll quit thy pains:|
|Farewell; commend me to thy mistress.||160|
|Nurse||Now God in heaven bless thee! Hark you, sir.|
|ROMEO||What say'st thou, my dear nurse?|
|Nurse||Is your man secret? Did you ne'er hear say,|
|Two may keep counsel, putting one away?|
|ROMEO||I warrant thee, my man's as true as steel.|
|NURSE||Well, sir; my mistress is the sweetest lady--Lord,|
|Lord! when 'twas a little prating thing:--O, there|
|is a nobleman in town, one Paris, that would fain|
|lay knife aboard; but she, good soul, had as lieve|
|see a toad, a very toad, as see him. I anger her|
|sometimes and tell her that Paris is the properer|
|man; but, I'll warrant you, when I say so, she looks|
|as pale as any clout in the versal world. Doth not|
|rosemary and Romeo begin both with a letter?|
|ROMEO||Ay, nurse; what of that? both with an R.|
|Nurse||Ah. mocker! that's the dog's name; R is for|
|the--No; I know it begins with some other|
|letter:--and she hath the prettiest sententious of|
|it, of you and rosemary, that it would do you good|
|to hear it.|
|ROMEO||Commend me to thy lady.|
|Nurse||Ay, a thousand times.||180||[Exit Romeo]
|Nurse||Peter, take my fan, and go before and apace.|
Next: Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, Scene 5
Explanatory Notes for Act 2, Scene 4
From Romeo and Juliet. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan.
*Line numbers have been adjusted due to Deighton's omission of Mercutio's suggestive lines [the bawdy hand...(90) and no hare...spent (105-112)].
1. Where ... should ... be? where can this troublesome fellow,
Romeo, possibly have got to?
3. man, servant.
4. pale, a depreciatory epithet, as Capulet below, iii. 5. 158,
calls Juliet "tallow-face."
11, 2. Nay, he will answer ... dared, nay, he will not merely
answer the letter in writing, but will answer its writer in person,
and show him what he dares do being challenged; for answer, =
meet in combat, cp. A. C. iii. 13. 27, "And answer me declined,
sword against sword." For the play on the two senses of dare,
Delius compares ii. H. VI. iii. 2. 203, "What dares not Warwick,
if false Suffolk dare him?"
13. he is already dead, i.e. and therefore there is no need for
Tybalt to challenge him.
15. pin, centre; literally the wooden peg by which the target
was fastened to the mark at archery practice.
16. butt-shaft, arrow used in shooting at the butts; a butt was
properly a mound or erection on which the target was set up, O. F. but, a goal: a man, the proper sort of person, seeing what
his condition is.
17. Why, what is Tybalt? why, what is there about Tybalt
that is so terrible?
18. prince of cats. "Tybert is the name given to the cat in
Reynard the Fox" (Warburton); and that name, or Tibalt, is in
old writers frequently used of cats.
18, 9. he's the courageous ... compliments, he is at the head of
the troop of valiant formalists, men versed in all the nicest forms
19, 20. as you sing prick-song, with the minutest attention to
every detail; prick-song, "harmony pricked or noted down, in
opposition to plain-song, where the descant rested with the will
of the singer" (Chappell's Popular Music of the Olden Time, etc.,
quoted by Dyce).
20, 1. rests me ... bosom, poises his weapon during the time
that a musician could count one, two, and by the time that he
could count three, has it right through you; a rest is a pause in
musical time, and a minim, formerly spelled minum, was once the
shortest note, from Lat. minimum, the least. For one, two, cp.
Temp. iv. 1. 44, 5, "Before you can say 'come' and 'go,' And
breathe twice and cry 'so, so.'
21, 2. the very ... button, one who in fencing can hit a button
with as much certainty as a butcher can stick a pig. Staunton
quotes Silver's Paradoxes of Defence, 1599, "thou that takest
upon thee to hit anie Englishman with a thrust upon anie
22, 3. a gentleman ... cause, "a gentleman of the first rank, of
the first eminence among these duellists, and one who understands
the whole science of quarrelling, and will tell you of the first cause
and the second cause for which a man is to fight" (Steevens).
These causes are wittily ridiculed in A. Y. L. v. 4. 51, et seqq.
24. the immortal ... reverso. "The passado, more properly passata, meant a step forward or aside in fencing. ... The punto reverso was also an Italian term, meaning a back-handed stroke" (Staunton): the hai. "The hay is the [Italian] word hai, used when a thrust reaches the antagonist" (Johnson).
26. fantasticoes, fantastic fellows with their duelling jargon.
27. these new tuners of accents, these fellows who are ever introducing new terms: a very good blade! a fine fencer! the
weapon being put for the wielder of it.
28. tall, lusty, spirited; in this sense a term generally used
by Shakespeare either with irony, or as a piece of bragging, or
put into the mouth of mean persons; cp. the phrase " a tall man
of his hands," M. W. i. 4. 26; "a tall fellow of thy hands," W. T.
V. 2. 177.
29. grandsire, my staid, sober friend.
29, 30. these strange flies, this new kind of buzzing insects,
these fellows who are here, there, and everywhere with their incessant chatter; cp. Haml. v. 2. 84: fashion-mongers, fellows
who are forever inventing some new fashion or other: these pardonnez-moys, these fellows with their everlasting affectation of
courtesy; these fellows who ever have on their lips the phrase
pardonnez moy, excuse me.
31. Stand ... form, are so punctilious in observing the new
formalities; with a pun on form in the sense of a long wooden
32. Oh, their bons, their bons! oh, how sick I am of their
eternal exclamation of bon! i.e. good. The old copies give 'their
bones, their bones,' and though Theobald's correction is almost
certainly right, there is probably a pun on bones in allusion to
the former sentence.
34. Without his roe. "That is, he comes but half himself - he
is only a sigh — O me! i.e. me O! the half of his name" (Seymour):
like a dried herring, from which, before it was dried, the roe had
been taken out to be preserved separately.
35. fishified, made like a fish: Now ... numbers, now is he
given up to such love-songs.
36. Laura, Petrarch's mistress, to whom so much of his poetry
is addressed: to, compared with.
37. marry, ... her, by the holy Virgin, she was more fortunate
than Rosaline in the poet who celebrated her perfections.
38. a dowdy, a mere slattern: a gipsy, a sun-burnt vagabond;
from M. E. Egypcien, an Egyptian, the gipsies, though really of
Indian origin, being formerly supposed to have come from Egypt.
Cleopatra, though by birth an Egyptian, was by descent Greek.
hildings, menial wretches. "Hilding is short for hilderling
and hilderling stands for M. E. hinderling, base, degenerate"...
(Skeat, Ety. Dict.).
39. a grey eye ... purpose, a lady whose grey eyes were fairly
good, but nothing to be compared with those of Rosaline.
41. slop, baggy trousers; more commonly in the plural, as in
M. A. iii. 2. 36, "a German from the waist downward, all
slops"; ii. II. IV. i. 2. 34, "What said Master Dombledon
about the satin for my short cloak and my slops?"
44. The slip ... conceive, why, the slip; are you so dull that
you cannot see my little joke? slips were pieces of counterfeit
money, brass covered over with silver, and to 'give one the slip'
is to play one the trick of stealing away unnoticed.
45. great, important.
46. may strain courtesy, may be forgiven if he does not stand
48. to bow in the hams, to be particularly polite; to bow low
in respect to the knee, to curtsy, as Romeo interprets the phrase,
not to treat us as you did.
50. Thou hast ... it, "your reply was of a piece with my speech" (Grant White); but though kindly is primarily used as
= of the same kind, or sort, the way in which "courtesy" and
"courteous" are insisted upon shows that there is a play upon
the other sense of the word.
53. Pink for flower, by pink you mean flower; you are using
the species for the genus.
55. then is ... flowered, then is my court-shoe well flowered,
ornamented, for it is pinked (i.e. punched with holes in patterns)
abundantly. This 'pinking' is still to be seen in ladies' shoes;
pump, so called because worn for pomp; from F. pompe, pomp,
56. follow me this jest, cap this jest for me by another, and
another, till, etc.
57. the single sole of it, pumps are made with thin, or single,
soles to give lightness in dancing.
57, 8. that, when ... singular, that, when its thin sole is worn
out, there may remain nothing but the bare feet. Mercutio's
jest is something like the phantom grin of the Cheshire cat in
Alice in Wonderland, and to try to embody his wit as the
weaving of coarse canvas out of the spider's web.
59. O single-soled ... singleness! O threadbare feet, unique
only in being so silly! Singer has shown that single-soled or
'single-souled' was often used for 'simple,' 'silly,' and sometimes meant 'threadbare.' He quotes from Cotgrave, "Monsieur
de trois au boissean et de trois a un epee: a threadbare, coarse-spun, single-soled gentleman."
60. my wits faint. This, the reading of the later quartos and
the first folio, seems better than that of the first quarto more
generally adopted, "my wits fail."
61,2. Switch ... match, give me whip and spurs, whip and
spurs; for I'll cry 'Done with you!' I'll make a match with
you, enter myself for a race against you. I have adopted
Capell's for in place of 'or,' the reading of the old copies, since
an alternative seems to make nonsense of the passage.
63. the wild-goose chase. " A kind of horse race which resembled the flight of wild geese [which fly in a long stream,
marshalled by one of the older birds]. Two horses started
together; and whichever rider could get the lead, the other was
obliged to follow him over whatever ground the foremost jockey
chose to go. That horse which could distance the other won
the race" ... (Holt White). The references to this kind of
'steeple-chase' are frequent in the old dramatists.
65, 6. was I ... goose? did I touch you there in my reference
to the goose? did you feel that the cap fitted you when I mentioned the word goose? The expression, 'to be here, or there,
with' a person seems to have been especially used of contemptuous
exclamations, gestures, etc.; thus in W. T. i. 2. 217, "They're
here with me already, whispering, rounding 'Silicia is a so-forth.'"
In Cor. iii. 2. 73, "here be with them" means 'here salute them
with a courteous wave of the bonnet.'
67, 8. Thou wast ... goose, you were never with me for any
purpose except that of playing the part of a goose; the words
with me being taken in their literal sense.
69. I will bite thee by the ear. "This odd mode of expressing
pleasure, which seems to be taken from the practice of animals,
who, in a playful mood, bite each other's ears, etc., is very
common in our old dramatists" (Giffbrd on Jonson's Every Man
out of his Humour, v. 4). Cp. e.g. Chapman, Byron's Tragedy,
V. 1, "let me draw Poison into me with this cursed air. If he bewitched me and transformed me not; He hit me by the ear and
made me drink Enchanted waters."
70. bite not, according to Steevens a proverbial saying.
71. sweeting, an apple of that name, remarkable for its sweetness, which is still grown about Stratford. Often used as a term
of endearment, as in Oth. ii. 3. 252, T. N. ii. 3. 43.
73. And is it not ... goose. An allusion to the apple sauce usual
with roast goose.
74. cheveril, kid leather, i.e. something very pliant, capable of being stretched; O. F. chevrele, kid, diminutive of chevre, from
capra, a she-goat. Cp. H. VIII. ii. 3. 32, "which gifts ... the
capacity Of your soft cheveril conscience would receive, If you
might please to stretch it."
76. for that word 'broad,' for the sake of bringing in that
word 'broad.' "What Romeo means," says Collier, "is that Mercutio has proved himself 'far and wide abroad' a goose";
possibly as Singer suggests Romeo is playing on the term 'brood-goose,' i.e. a brooding-goose, which we have in Beaumont and
Fletcher's Humorous Lieutenant, iii. 1. 54, "They have no more
burden than a brood-goose, brother."
80. by art ... nature, not merely your natural self, but yourself
improved by art, i.e. by the cultivation of your natural wit.
81. a great natural, a loutish idiot; one born a fool; cp.
A. Y. L. i. 2. 52, "when Fortune makes Nature's natural the
cutter-off of Nature's wit," referring to the professional Fool,
Touchstone; also 1. 57, "hath sent this natural for our whetstone."
82. bauble, the Fool's sceptre, a short stick ornamented at the
top with a fool's head, or a doll; or sometimes an inflated
bladder with which the Fool belaboured those who offended him.
84. against the hair, against the grain, with a pun on the word
tale (tail); T. C. i. 2. 27, "he is melancholy without cause, and
merry against the hair"; M. W. ii. 3. 41, "if you should fight,
you go against the hair of your professions."
88. to occupy the argument, to take part in the discussion; to
occupy, a cant term; see ii. H. IV. ii. 4. 161, "these villains
will make the word as odious as the word 'occupy'; which was
an excellent good word before it was ill sorted."
89. Here's goodly gear! here's a pretty business! said as he
sees the Nurse approaching; but also with a play on the word
gear in the sense of 'dress,' here's a fine object! Cp. L. L. L.
V. 2. 303, "Disguised like Muscovites, in shapeless gear." The
original sense of the word is 'preparation,' hence 'dress,' 'harness,' 'tackle.'
90. A sail, a sail! the exclamation of the watch at sea when a
strange vessel is seen approaching. Cp. Samson's sarcastic
exclamation as he sees Dalila approaching in all her finery,
Samson Agonistes, 710, et seqq., "But who is this, what thing of
sea or land? Female of sex it seems. That, so bedecked, ornate,
and gay, Comes this way, sailing Like a stately ship Of Tarsus,
bound for the isles of Javan or Gadire, With all her bravery on,
and tackle trim, Sails filled, and streamers waving," etc.
91. a shirt and a smock, a man and a woman; the undergarment of each being used for the persons.
93. Anon! here! present.
94. My fan. The commentators point out that the fans of those
days were very large and might well require a man to carry them.
95. Good Peter, ... face, do, good Peter, give it to her, etc.
97. God ye ... gentlemen, see note on i. 2. 57.
99. Is it good den? is it so late as that? is it past noon, that
one ought to say 'good even'?
105. I am the youngest ... worse, I am that young Romeo you seek, the youngest in fact of those who bear that name, in
the absence of any less worthy of it. Romeo jestingly alters the
ordinary form of excuse, 'for fault of a better.'
107. is the worst well? does this 'worst,' as Romeo by inference calls himself, satisfy you? took, understood.
109. confidence, conference; as in M. A. iii. 5. 3, "Marry, sir, I would have some confidence with you that decerns you nearly"
(Dogberry's speech); and again M. W. i. 4. 172.
110. indite, invite; which the first quarto reads, though the
word is doubtless Benvolio's mocking imitation of the Nurse's
113, 4. lady, lady, lady, the burden of the Ballad of Susanna,
of which Staunton quotes a stanza from Percy's Reliques.
116. merchant, formerly used in a contemptuous sense, like the
modern 'huckster': ropery, possibly only the Nurse's mistake
for 'roguery,' though the word was commonly used for roguery,
mischief, with an allusion to the hangman's rope; so also 'rope-
tricks,' 'rope-ripe,' 'roper.'
118. stand to, maintain.
120. a', he; in Old English ha and a are sometimes found = he,
she, it, they; a' is common in the old dramatists, and we even
find 'am for them, e.g. Middleton, The Phoenix, ii. 2, "Should
still affect 'am. "
120, 1. I'll take him down, I'll make him pay for it: an a' ... is,
and would do so even if it were, etc.: Jacks, saucy fellows; so
"a Jack-sauce," II. V. iv. 7. 148. Skeat quotes Tyrwhitt on
Chaucer's 'Sir John': "I know not how it has happened that in
the principal modern languages, John, or its equivalent, is a name
of contempt, or at least of slight. So the Italians use Gianni,
from whence Zani; the Spaniards Juan, as bobo Juan, a foolish
John; the French Jean, with various additions; and in English,
when we call a man a John, we do not mean it as a title of
122. Scurvy, literally afflicted with scurf, hence mean, vile.
123. flirt-gills. "An arbitrary transposition of the compound
word gill-flirt, that is a flirting-gill, a woman of light behaviour ...
Gill was a current and familiar term for a female"... (Nares):
skains-mates. "The word skain, I am told by a Kentishman, was
formerly a familiar term in parts of Kent to express what we now
call a scape-grace, or ne'er-do-well .... Others derive the word from skean, a
sword, and mate, companion, i.e. brothers of the sword, roystering companions, with which Schmidt compares the G. spiesgeselle.
124, 5. And thou ... pleasure, and you could stand there could
you, and allow me to be insulted as any scoundrel chose! shame
on you for your cowardice!
133. what she hade ... myself. Distrusting Romeo's attendant,
the Nurse comes to the conclusion that she cannot better perform
her errand than by keeping back the very object of that errand.
134. a fool's paradise, a state of fallacious happiness. Milton, P. L. iii. 495, has a "Paradise of Fools" which he makes
identical with the Limbo to which he consigns all popish observances, insignia, and their wearers.
138. weak dealing. 'Wicked' has been suggested for weak, but
the point seems to lie, as Clarke observes, in the Nurse's intending to use a most forcible expression, and blundering upon a
most feeble one. Fleay, apud Daniel, suggests that, if any
change is needed, the old word wicke, still in use in the midland
counties in the sense of foul, wicked, should be adopted.
139. commend me, give my best compliments; literally recommend me to her favour (by bearing my loving greetings).
141. Good heart, my good fellow; a form of familiar address,
like 'poor heart,' 'old heart,' 'noble heart.'
152. Go to, nonsense, you must.
156. a tackled stair, a rope ladder; like the ratlines or ratlins
of a vessel, the small transverse ropes across the shrouds forming
157, 8. which to the high ... secret, by which I must in the
darkness of night convoy myself to the summit, pinnacle, of my happiness; the 'top-gallant sail' in a vessel is the sail above the
top-sail, and the nautical figure in top-gallant and convoy is
suggested to Romeo's mind by the "tackled stair."
159. quit, requite; as very frequently in Shakespeare, both in
a good and a bad sense.
164. Two may keep ... away, two may keep a secret, if one is
168, 9. that would ... aboard, that would be only too glad to
'get a cut at her,' to make her his own: lieve, gladly; lieve, or
lief, like "fain" in the previous line, is properly an adjective
meaning dear, pleasing.
170. sometimes. "But a few hours have in fact elapsed since
last night's interview between the lovers, yet the dramatic effect
of a longer period is thus given to the interval by the introduction of the single word 'sometimes'" (Clarke): and tell her, by
telling her: properer, handsomer; proper, Lat. proprius, one's
own, then what becomes a man, and so handsome.
172. versal, universal.
173. Doth. An instance of the singular inflection preceding a
plural subject: a letter, one and the same letter: rosemary, in
Haml. ii. 5. 175, Ophelia says, "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance," to which adage Juliet in her "prettiest sententious
of it" was probably referring; the word has nothing to do with
either the flower or with the name Mary, being from the Lat.
ros marinus, dew of the sea, i.e. the plant that delights in the
spray of the sea.
175. that's the dog's name. From its resemblance to the snarling
of a dog, the letter R was by the Romans called 'the dog's letter,'
and Jonson in his English grammar says "R is the dog's letter,
and hurreth in the sound." The Nurse having heard the adage,
substitutes name for letter.
175, 6. R is for the — No; ...letter, R is for the dog, she was
going to say, but breaks off and continues, I know your name
does not begin with such an ugly sound. The old copies give
"R is for the no," which Tyrwhitt emended "R is for the dog,
No"; the reading in the text is Ritson's conjecture.
176, 7. she hath ... of it, she frames the prettiest sentences or
sentiments about it.
182. apace, quickly; "at an earlier period the word was
written as two words, a pas, as in Chaucer.... It is also to be
remarked that the phrase has widely changed its meaning. In
Chaucer ... it means 'a foot-pace,' and was originally used of
horses when proceeding slowly, or at a walk. The phrase is composed of the Eng. indef. article a, and the M. E. pas, Mod. E.
pace, a word of F. origin" (Skeat, Ety. Dict.).
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_4.html >.
How to cite the sidebar:
Mabillard, Amanda. Notes on Shakespeare. Shakespeare Online. 20 Dec. 2013. < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/romeo_2_4.html >.
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Notes on the Nurse "A trusted member of a high-born household, she fancies her behaviour to be modelled on their example, plumes herself on decorum, in her walks abroad must be attended by her own servant, like her betters must be careful of the proprieties of the fan, with due self-respect must bridle at the familiarities of that 'saucy merchant,' Mercutio, 'so full of his ropery,' and let it be known to all men that she is 'none of his flirt-gills'". K. Deighton. Read on...
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Shakespeare's parents, Mary Arden and John Shakespeare, had eight children. Shakespeare had two sisters named Joan, one born in 1558 and the other in 1569. No one knows first-born Joan's exact date of death, but it is assumed that she died in infancy. Second-born Joan survived her famous brother by more than 30 years. Read on...
The Globe Theatre was constructed in 1599, out of timber taken from the Theatre. It stood next to the Rose, on the south side of the Thames, and was the most elaborate and attractive theatre yet built. The Globe was designed and constructed for the Chamberlain's Men by Cuthbert Burbage, son of the Theatre's creator, James Burbage. The lease for the land on which the Globe stood was co-owned by Burbage and his brother Robert, and by a group of five actors -- Will Kempe, Augustine Phillips, John Heminge, Thomas Pope, and William Shakespeare. Much of Shakespeare's wealth came from his holdings in the Globe. Read on...
In Elizabethan England, during the times when plays were not completely outlawed, going to the theatre was the favourite activity of the masses. When disease ravaged London, actors would travel across the English countryside, entertaining farmers. There were also many days devoted to feasting, such as Mad Day, Midsummer Day, and Ascension Day (just to name a few), when people would drink and make merry. Read on...
Shakespeare's complex sentence structures and use of now obsolete words lead many students to think they are reading Old or Middle English. In fact, Shakespeare's works are written in Early Modern English. Once you see a text of Old or Middle English you'll really appreciate how easy Shakespeare is to understand (well, relatively speaking). Read on...
Shakespeare was familiar with seven foreign languages and often quoted them directly in his plays. His vocabulary was the largest of any writer, at over twenty-four thousand words. Read on...