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Romeo and Juliet Glossary
Nay, as they dare and bite my thumb (1.1)

    Nay, as they dare. I will bite my thumb at them. (31)

Nay, as they dare, don't say 'as they please,' but rather 'as they dare.' Sampson throughout the dialogue is the greater blusterer: bite my thumb, an insulting gesture. Singer quotes Cotgrave: "Faire la nique: to mocke by nodding or lifting up the chinne; or more properly, to threaten or defie, by putting the thumbe naile into the mouth, and with a jerke (from the upper teeth) make it to knacke." An Italian custom intended to provoke a quarrel.

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Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet. Ed. K. Deighton. New York: MacMillan and Co., 1903. Shakespeare Online. 20 Aug. 2010. (date when you accessed the information) < >.


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