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Romeo and Juliet

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ACT V SCENE I Mantua. A street. 
[Enter ROMEO]
ROMEOIf I may trust the flattering truth of sleep,
My dreams presage some joyful news at hand:
My bosom's lord sits lightly in his throne;
And all this day an unaccustom'd spirit
Lifts me above the ground with cheerful thoughts.
I dreamt my lady came and found me dead--
Strange dream, that gives a dead man leave
to think!--
And breathed such life with kisses in my lips,
That I revived, and was an emperor.
Ah me! how sweet is love itself possess'd,10
When but love's shadows are so rich in joy!
[Enter BALTHASAR, booted]
News from Verona!--How now, Balthasar!
Dost thou not bring me letters from the friar?
How doth my lady? Is my father well?
How fares my Juliet? that I ask again;
For nothing can be ill, if she be well.
BALTHASARThen she is well, and nothing can be ill:
Her body sleeps in Capel's monument,
And her immortal part with angels lives.
I saw her laid low in her kindred's vault,20
And presently took post to tell it you:
O, pardon me for bringing these ill news,
Since you did leave it for my office, sir.
ROMEOIs it even so? then I defy you, stars!
Thou know'st my lodging: get me ink and paper,
And hire post-horses; I will hence to-night.
BALTHASARI do beseech you, sir, have patience:
Your looks are pale and wild, and do import
Some misadventure.
ROMEOTush, thou art deceived:
Leave me, and do the thing I bid thee do.30
Hast thou no letters to me from the friar?
BALTHASARNo, my good lord.
ROMEONo matter: get thee gone,
And hire those horses; I'll be with thee straight.
Well, Juliet, I will lie with thee to-night.
Let's see for means: O mischief, thou art swift
To enter in the thoughts of desperate men!
I do remember an apothecary,--
And hereabouts he dwells,--which late I noted
In tatter'd weeds, with overwhelming brows,
Culling of simples; meagre were his looks,40
Sharp misery had worn him to the bones:
And in his needy shop a tortoise hung,
An alligator stuff'd, and other skins
Of ill-shaped fishes; and about his shelves
A beggarly account of empty boxes,
Green earthen pots, bladders and musty seeds,
Remnants of packthread and old cakes of roses,
Were thinly scatter'd, to make up a show.
Noting this penury, to myself I said
'An if a man did need a poison now,50

Whose sale is present death in Mantua,
Here lives a caitiff wretch would sell it him.'
O, this same thought did but forerun my need;
And this same needy man must sell it me.
As I remember, this should be the house.
Being holiday, the beggar's shop is shut.
What, ho! apothecary!
[Enter Apothecary]
ApothecaryWho calls so loud?
ROMEOCome hither, man. I see that thou art poor:
Hold, there is forty ducats: let me have
A dram of poison, such soon-speeding gear60
As will disperse itself through all the veins
That the life-weary taker may fall dead
And that the trunk may be discharged of breath
As violently as hasty powder fired
Doth hurry from the fatal cannon's womb.
ApothecarySuch mortal drugs I have; but Mantua's law
Is death to any he that utters them.
ROMEOArt thou so bare and full of wretchedness,
And fear'st to die? famine is in thy cheeks,
Need and oppression starveth in thine eyes,70
Contempt and beggary hangs upon thy back;
The world is not thy friend nor the world's law;
The world affords no law to make thee rich;
Then be not poor, but break it, and take this.
ApothecaryMy poverty, but not my will, consents.
ROMEOI pay thy poverty, and not thy will.
ApothecaryPut this in any liquid thing you will,
And drink it off; and, if you had the strength
Of twenty men, it would dispatch you straight.
ROMEOThere is thy gold, worse poison to men's souls,80
Doing more murders in this loathsome world,
Than these poor compounds that thou mayst not sell.
I sell thee poison; thou hast sold me none.
Farewell: buy food, and get thyself in flesh.
Come, cordial and not poison, go with me
To Juliet's grave; for there must I use thee.

Next: Romeo and Juliet, Act 5, Scene 2


Explanatory Notes for Act 5, Scene 1

From Romeo and Juliet. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan.

1. If I may ... sleep, if I may take for truth the encouraging vision that sleep has shown me, a vision that, however, may be merely illusive. A great deal has been written as to the contradiction of terms in flattering truth; but Romeo seems to mean nothing more than that he hardly dares to trust a dream so unexpectedly favourable to his hopes, just as, in ii. 2. 139-41, Juliet says, "I am afraid, Being in night, all this is but a dream, Too flattering-sweet to be substantial." The first quarto gives 'flattering eye,' which many editors adopt, explaining "the visions with which my eye flattered me during sleep," or taking 'eye' for view, prospect. The conjectures are as numerous as they generally are when there is no need for them, and include 'soother,' 'sooth of,' 'signs of,' 'toys of,' 'breath of,' 'birth of,' 'vouch of,' and, most monstrous of all, 'death of,' due to Collier's MS. Corrector.

3. My bosom's lord, my love; cp. T. N. ii. 4. 22, "It gives a very echo to the seat Where Love is throned": in; on, as frequently.

4. an unaccustom'd spirit, a frame of mind different to that which had been his ever since he began to love, and especially different from that in which, i. 4. 106-11, he had presaged the terrible consequences that actually follow.

5. Lifts me ... ground, makes me 'tread on air,' as we say.

6. I dreamt ... dead, cp. Juliet's foreboding, iii. 5. 55, 6.

7. that gives ... think, in which it is possible for a dead man to think.

8. in, within, into.

9. an emperor, not, I think, literally, but in the sense of the happiest and most glorious of mortals.

10. possess'd, when actually enjoyed.

17. is well, is at peace in death; a frequent euphemism; cp. ii. H. IV. V. 2.3, A. C. ii. 5. 33.

18. in Capel's monument, in the family vault of the Capulets; for monument in this sense, cp. above, iii. 5. 203. As Malone points out, Shakespeare found Capel and Capulet used indiscriminately in Romeus and Juliet.

21. took post, hurried off; literally mounted a post-horse. "Post originally signified a fixed place, as a military post; then, a fixed place on a line of road where horses are kept for travelling, a stage, or station; thence it was transferred to the person who travelled in this way, using relays of horses, and finally to any quick traveller; Eastwood and Wright, Bible Wordbook" (Skeat, Ety. Dict.). For the word = a post-horse, cp. ii. H. IV. iv. 3. 40, "I have foundered (i.e. exhausted) nine score and odd posts."

23. it, the task of bringing you news.

24. defy, renounce, reject, refuse to believe in you any longer. Cp. K. J. iii. 4. 23, "I defy all counsel, all redress." The later quartos and the folios give deny, the meaning of which would be much the same.

27. have patience, compose yourself.

28, 9. do import ... misadventure, indicate some terrible purpose in your mind.

32. No matter, it does not matter, signify: get thee gone, see note on iv. 1. 122.

33. those horses, sc. that I just now spoke of.

35. Let's see for means, let me consider how to find means to effect my purpose.

38. a', see note on ii. 4. 120: noted, marked, noticed.

39. weeds, clothes; from "A.S. waede, neut., also waid, fem., a garment ... literally something which is wound or wrapped round, exactly as 'weed wide enough to wrap a fairy in,' Shakespeare, M. N. D. ii. 1. 256" (Skeat, Ety. Dict.): overwhelming brows, bushy, hanging, eyebrows; see note on "beetle-brows," above, i. 4. 32.

40. Culling of. For 'of' following a verbal noun, see Abb. 178: meagre, thin and pinched.

41. to the bones, so that there was nothing left of him but skin and bones; to expressing the result.

42. needy, scantily furnished: a tortoise, like the "alligator" and "ill-shaped fishes," symbols of his profession formerly hung up in an apothecary's shop, just as nowadays we see the huge bottles of coloured water in the windows of a chemist's shop.

43. alligator, the sharp-nosed crocodile, the magar of Indian rivers as contrasted with the naryal, or snub-nosed crocodile; literally 'the lizard,' i.e. the lizard par excellence, from Span, el, the, Ar. al, and lagarto, lizard, Lat. lacerta.

44. ill-shaped, strange-shaped, and therefore more attractive of notice: about his shelves, here and there on his shelves.

45. A beggarly account, a poor and scanty store.

47. old cakes of roses, dried petals of roses (sold for scenting clothes, etc.) which had become caked together from so long remaining untouched.

50. An if, see Abb. 103.

51. Whose sale ... Mantua, the sale of which is in Mantua punished with immediate death.

52. a caitiff wretch, a miserable creature; caitiff, from Lat. captivus, a captive, prisoner, then a mean-looking, miserable, being; now used as a substantive only: would, the relative omitted.

53. this same ... need, this thought of mine, as I now see, did but anticipate the need in which I stand at this moment.

54. must, is destined to.

55. As I remember, if my memory is right: should be, ought to be.

56. Being holiday, it being a holiday.

59. Hold, here, take: there is forty ducats, for the singular inflection preceding a plural subject, see Abb. 335; ducats, a coin so called from the inscription it bore, "Sit tibi, Christe, datus Quem tu regis iste Ducatus," Ducatus meaning a Duchy, and thence a coin struck by a Duke. Its value seems to have varied at different times from three shillings and fourpence to four shillings and twopence.

60. A dram, here probably the amount in weight, i.e. the eighth part of an ounce; see note on iii. 5. 91; such ... gear, such quickly operative stuff; for gear, see note on ii. 4. 89.

63. the trunk, the body; literally a piece cut off, from Lat. truncus, maimed, mutilated; hence often for the body without the limbs: discharged, freed, liberated; for the sake of the simile from a cannon.

64. hasty, that blazes up eagerly on a spark being applied to it. In J. C. iii. 4. 112, Shakespeare uses the epithet of fire struck out of a flint and immediately vanishing; "O Cassius, you are yoked with a lamb That carries anger as the flint bears fire; Who, much enforced, shows a hasty spark, And straight is cold again."

66. mortal, fatal.

67. to any he, so he for him, Haml. i. 2. 104, "From the first corse till he that died to-day," where till is a proposition: utters, sells; "is a regular frequentative form of the M. E. outen, to put out, and means to keep on putting out" ... (Skeat, Ety. Dict.); so to 'utter' (i.e. circulate) spurious coin.

68. bare, sc, of all comforts.

69. And fear'st, and yet fear.

70. Need ... eyes, the hungry look in your eyes declares only too plainly that want and oppression have brought you close to starvation; stareth, stare in, and starteth have been conjectured for starveth, but are immeasurably less forcible; Need and oppression is little more than a hendiadys = oppressive need, and the compound idea hence has a singular verb. See also Abb. 336.

71. Contempt ... back, beggary, that subject of men's scorn, shows itself in your tattered clothes. Here again the idea is compound.

72. is not thy friend, does nothing to befriend you.

73. affords, furnishes.

76. I pay ... will, then consider that it is your poverty and not your will that accepts this payment, and so satisfy your conscientious scruples; consider that your will is no free agent, it being so completely under the constraint of poverty.

77. you will, you choose.

79. dispatch, a euphemism for 'kill.'

80. thy gold, the gold I offered you.

80-2. worse poison ... sell, cp. Timon's language when coming upon gold as he digs for roots, Tim. iv. 3. 30 et seqq.

83. I sell thee ... none, compared to the gold you receive in exchange, your drug is nothing of a poison.

84. get thyself in flesh, set yourself into good condition of body, eat heartily and put on flesh.

85. cordial, used of anything that comforts and gladdens the heart; Lat. cordi-, from cor, heart, with suffix -alis: go with me, as if he were addressing some familiar friend.


How to cite the explanatory notes:

Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan, 1916. Shakespeare Online. 20 Feb. 2010. (date when you accessed the information) < >.


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