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Romeo and Juliet

Please see the bottom of the page for explanatory notes.

ACT II SCENE III Friar Laurence's cell. 
[Enter FRIAR LAURENCE, with a basket]
FRIAR LAURENCEThe grey-eyed morn smiles on the frowning night,
Chequering the eastern clouds with streaks of light,
And flecked darkness like a drunkard reels
From forth day's path and Titan's fiery wheels:
Now, ere the sun advance his burning eye,
The day to cheer and night's dank dew to dry,
I must up-fill this osier cage of ours
With baleful weeds and precious-juiced flowers.
The earth that's nature's mother is her tomb;
What is her burying grave that is her womb,10
And from her womb children of divers kind
We sucking on her natural bosom find,
Many for many virtues excellent,
None but for some and yet all different.
O, mickle is the powerful grace that lies

In herbs, plants, stones, and their true qualities:
For nought so vile that on the earth doth live
But to the earth some special good doth give,
Nor aught so good but strain'd from that fair use
Revolts from true birth, stumbling on abuse:20
Virtue itself turns vice, being misapplied;
And vice sometimes by action dignified.
Within the infant rind of this small flower
Poison hath residence and medicine power:
For this, being smelt, with that part cheers each part;
Being tasted, slays all senses with the heart.
Two such opposed kings encamp them still
In man as well as herbs, grace and rude will;
And where the worser is predominant,
Full soon the canker death eats up that plant.30
[Enter ROMEO]
ROMEOGood morrow, father.
What early tongue so sweet saluteth me?
Young son, it argues a distemper'd head
So soon to bid good morrow to thy bed:
Care keeps his watch in every old man's eye,
And where care lodges, sleep will never lie;
But where unbruised youth with unstuff'd brain
Doth couch his limbs, there golden sleep doth reign:
Therefore thy earliness doth me assure
Thou art up-roused by some distemperature;40
Or if not so, then here I hit it right,
Our Romeo hath not been in bed to-night.
ROMEOThat last is true; the sweeter rest was mine.
FRIAR LAURENCEGod pardon sin! wast thou with Rosaline?
ROMEOWith Rosaline, my ghostly father? no;
I have forgot that name, and that name's woe.
FRIAR LAURENCEThat's my good son: but where hast thou been, then?
ROMEOI'll tell thee, ere thou ask it me again.
I have been feasting with mine enemy,
Where on a sudden one hath wounded me,50
That's by me wounded: both our remedies
Within thy help and holy physic lies:
I bear no hatred, blessed man, for, lo,
My intercession likewise steads my foe.
FRIAR LAURENCEBe plain, good son, and homely in thy drift;
Riddling confession finds but riddling shrift.
ROMEOThen plainly know my heart's dear love is set
On the fair daughter of rich Capulet:
As mine on hers, so hers is set on mine;
And all combined, save what thou must combine60
By holy marriage: when and where and how
We met, we woo'd and made exchange of vow,
I'll tell thee as we pass; but this I pray,
That thou consent to marry us to-day.
FRIAR LAURENCEHoly Saint Francis, what a change is here!
Is Rosaline, whom thou didst love so dear,
So soon forsaken? young men's love then lies
Not truly in their hearts, but in their eyes.
Jesu Maria, what a deal of brine
Hath wash'd thy sallow cheeks for Rosaline!70
How much salt water thrown away in waste,
To season love, that of it doth not taste!
The sun not yet thy sighs from heaven clears,
Thy old groans ring yet in my ancient ears;
Lo, here upon thy cheek the stain doth sit
Of an old tear that is not wash'd off yet:
If e'er thou wast thyself and these woes thine,
Thou and these woes were all for Rosaline:
And art thou changed? pronounce this sentence then,
Women may fall, when there's no strength in men.80
ROMEOThou chid'st me oft for loving Rosaline.
FRIAR LAURENCEFor doting, not for loving, pupil mine.
ROMEOAnd bad'st me bury love.
FRIAR LAURENCENot in a grave,
To lay one in, another out to have.
ROMEOI pray thee, chide not; she whom I love now
Doth grace for grace and love for love allow;
The other did not so.
FRIAR LAURENCEO, she knew well
Thy love did read by rote and could not spell.
But come, young waverer, come, go with me,
In one respect I'll thy assistant be;90
For this alliance may so happy prove,
To turn your households' rancour to pure love.
ROMEOO, let us hence; I stand on sudden haste.
FRIAR LAURENCEWisely and slow; they stumble that run fast.

Next: Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, Scene 4


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 with [Greek].

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 its path.

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 pleasantly?

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 risen.

35. keeps his watch, is ever wakeful, ever present and on the alert.

37. unbruised youth, youth that has not yet known the wounds of time and trouble: unstuff'd brain, brain free from anxieties.

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 enemy."

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 vocative case.

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 of sighs."

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 one else.

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 exhume another.

86. Doth grace ... allow, meets kindness with kindness, love with 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 lente.

How to cite the explanatory notes:
Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan, 1916. Shakespeare Online. 20 Dec. 2013. < >.

How to cite the sidebar:
Mabillard, Amanda. Notes on Shakespeare. Shakespeare Online. 20 Dec. 2013. < >.


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What's Happening

microsoft images Romeo travels to the cell of Friar Laurence, who has been out in the fields all morning gathering herbs. He ponders the dual nature of these "baleful weeds and precious juiced flowers" that have the power to kill and the power to heal. Cheerful and excited, Romeo greets the Friar and tells him of his new love and plans for marriage. Friar Laurence, who has been Romeo's friend and confessor for sometime, is confused and concerned about Romeo's sudden change of heart. Read on...


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Thoughts on Friar Laurence "He has been Romeo's spiritual adviser from early youth, his confidant in regard to Rosaline, and his aid is now sought to solve the difficulty of marriage with Juliet. A good old man who in his youth has known stormy passions and the stress of life, he has sought in religion and retirement the comfort he could not elsewhere find; his great delight is to alleviate suffering of whatever kind, and above all to promote peace among his fellow-creatures. In the matter, however, before us, his pursuit of this goodly task masters his sounder judgment, and with too ready compliance he assents to Romeo's request. He in fact does evil that good may come — and with the usual result of such temporizing." K. Deighton. Read on...


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Notes on Shakespeare...

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Shakespeare acquired substantial wealth thanks to his acting and writing abilities, and his shares in London theatres. The going rate was £10 per play at the turn of the sixteenth century. So how much money did Shakespeare make? Read on...

We have a Roman scholar named Boethius to thank for the medieval and Renaissance fixation on fate and "fortune's wheel." Queen Elizabeth herself translated his hugely popular discourse on fate's role in the Universe, The Consolation of Philosophy. Although the idea of the wheel of fortune existed before Boethius, his work was the source on the subject for Chaucer, Dante, Machiavelli, and of course, Shakespeare. Read on...

It is little surprise that the plague was the most dreaded disease of Shakespeare's time. Carried by fleas living on the fur of rats, the plague swept through London in 1563, 1578-9, 1582, 1592-3, and 1603 (Singman, 52). The outbreaks in 1563 and 1603 were the most ferocious, each wiping out over one quarter of London's population. 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...