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Romeo and Juliet

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ACT V SCENE II Friar Laurence's cell. 
FRIAR JOHNHoly Franciscan friar! brother, ho!
FRIAR LAURENCEThis same should be the voice of Friar John.
Welcome from Mantua: what says Romeo?
Or, if his mind be writ, give me his letter.
FRIAR JOHNGoing to find a bare-foot brother out
One of our order, to associate me,
Here in this city visiting the sick,
And finding him, the searchers of the town,
Suspecting that we both were in a house
Where the infectious pestilence did reign,10
Seal'd up the doors, and would not let us forth;
So that my speed to Mantua there was stay'd.
FRIAR LAURENCEWho bare my letter, then, to Romeo?
FRIAR JOHNI could not send it,--here it is again,--
Nor get a messenger to bring it thee,
So fearful were they of infection.
FRIAR LAURENCEUnhappy fortune! by my brotherhood,
The letter was not nice but full of charge
Of dear import, and the neglecting it
May do much danger. Friar John, go hence;20
Get me an iron crow, and bring it straight
Unto my cell.
FRIAR JOHNBrother, I'll go and bring it thee.
FRIAR LAURENCENow must I to the monument alone;
Within three hours will fair Juliet wake:
She will beshrew me much that Romeo
Hath had no notice of these accidents;
But I will write again to Mantua,
And keep her at my cell till Romeo come;
Poor living corse, closed in a dead man's tomb!30

Next: Romeo and Juliet, Act 5, Scene 3


Explanatory Notes for Act 5, Scene 2

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

1. Holy Franciscan friar. "Friar Laurence and his associates must be supposed to belong to the Franciscan order of friars. In his kindliness, his learning, and his inclination to mix with and, perhaps, control the affairs of the world he is no unapt representative of one of this distinguished order in its best days... Warton says the Franciscans 'managed the machines of every important operation or event, both in the religious and political world'" (Knight). The Franciscan orders include the three orders of the Minorites and all the less important associations who trace their rule to St. Francis of Assisi. The rule originally prescribed by St. Francis was very strict, and, rigidly enforced, would have made all the members of the order pious beggars. It soon became one of the most important of the medieval monastic orders, and produced a long array of distinguished theologians and churchmen.

3, 4. what says ... letter. The two alternatives, if they had exactly corresponded in form, would have been either 'tell me what Romeo says, or, if he has written, let me see what his letter contains,' or, 'what does Romeo say, or, if he has written, what does he write? let me see his letter.'

5. a bare-foot brother, a member of our order, who, as our rules enjoin, goes barefooted in his walks.

6, 7. to associate me ... sick, to accompany me in my visits to the sick. "Each friar," says Steevens, "has always a companion assigned him by the Superior [of the Monastery] when he asks leave to go out; and thus, says Baretti, they are a check upon each other." Cp. Webster, The Devil's Law-Case, iii. 3, "mischiefs are like the visits of Franciscan friars, They never come to prey upon us single." Malone, though he afterwards withdrew the conjecture, wished to transpose 11. 7 and 8. The construction is made sufficiently harsh by the nominative finding him without any finite verb, but the searchers of the town clearly goes with suspecting, not with visiting. For the participle used with a nominative absolute, see Abb. 376.

8. the searchers of the town, those appointed to find out what houses were infected by the plague and to prevent all communication with them. Malone points out that in Romeus and Juliet the plague is represented as raging at Verona, not at Mantua.

9. were in a house, belonged to a convent; house, i.e. religious house.

11. Seal'd up the doors, put the official seal upon the doors, thus marking the house as one not to be entered from the outside or quitted by its inmates.

12. So that ... stay'd, so that the haste I should have made to go to Mantua was prevented by my being confined there.

14. here it is again, I now return it to you.

16. they, the messengers I wished to employ.

17. by my brotherhood, I swear by my holy order.

18. nice, trivial, of slight importance; cp. above, iii. 1. 159: full of charge, of weighty consequence.

19. dear, precious, vital, important.

21. crow, crowbar; to wrench open the tomb; straight, immediately.

25. this three hours, see note on iv. 3. 40.

26. beshrew, reproach; literally 'curse.'

27. accidents, events, sc. the interruption of communication owing to the plague.


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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