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Romeo and Juliet

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ACT II SCENE V Capulet's orchard. 
[Enter JULIET]
JULIETThe clock struck nine when I did send the nurse;
In half an hour she promised to return.
Perchance she cannot meet him: that's not so.
O, she is lame! love's heralds should be thoughts,
Which ten times faster glide than the sun's beams,
Driving back shadows over louring hills:
Therefore do nimble-pinion'd doves draw love,
And therefore hath the wind-swift Cupid wings.
Now is the sun upon the highmost hill
Of this day's journey, and from nine till twelve10
Is three long hours, yet she is not come.
Had she affections and warm youthful blood,
She would be as swift in motion as a ball;
My words would bandy her to my sweet love,
And his to me:
But old folks, many feign as they were dead;
Unwieldy, slow, heavy and pale as lead.
O God, she comes!
[Enter Nurse and PETER]
O honey nurse, what news?
Hast thou met with him? Send thy man away.
NursePeter, stay at the gate.
[Exit PETER]
JULIETNow, good sweet nurse,--O Lord, why look'st thou sad?21
Though news be sad, yet tell them merrily;
If good, thou shamest the music of sweet news
By playing it to me with so sour a face.
NurseI am a-weary, give me leave awhile:
Fie, how my bones ache! what a jaunt have I had!
JULIETI would thou hadst my bones, and I thy news:
Nay, come, I pray thee, speak; good, good nurse, speak.
NurseJesu, what haste? can you not stay awhile?
Do you not see that I am out of breath?30
JULIETHow art thou out of breath, when thou hast breath
To say to me that thou art out of breath?
The excuse that thou dost make in this delay
Is longer than the tale thou dost excuse.
Is thy news good, or bad? answer to that;
Say either, and I'll stay the circumstance:
Let me be satisfied, is't good or bad?
NurseWell, you have made a simple choice; you know not
how to choose a man: Romeo! no, not he; though his
face be better than any man's, yet his leg excels
all men's; and for a hand, and a foot, and a body,
though they be not to be talked on, yet they are
past compare: he is not the flower of courtesy,43
but, I'll warrant him, as gentle as a lamb. Go thy
ways, wench; serve God. What, have you dined at home?
JULIETNo, no: but all this did I know before.
What says he of our marriage? what of that?
NurseLord, how my head aches! what a head have I!
It beats as it would fall in twenty pieces.
My back o' t' other side,--O, my back, my back!50
Beshrew your heart for sending me about,
To catch my death with jaunting up and down!
JULIETI' faith, I am sorry that thou art not well.
Sweet, sweet, sweet nurse, tell me, what says my love?
NurseYour love says, like an honest gentleman, and a
courteous, and a kind, and a handsome, and, I
warrant, a virtuous,--Where is your mother?
JULIETWhere is my mother! why, she is within;
Where should she be? How oddly thou repliest!
'Your love says, like an honest gentleman,60
Where is your mother?'
NurseO God's lady dear!
Are you so hot? marry, come up, I trow;
Is this the poultice for my aching bones?
Henceforward do your messages yourself.
JULIETHere's such a coil! come, what says Romeo?
NurseHave you got leave to go to shrift to-day?
NurseThen hie you hence to Friar Laurence' cell;
There stays a husband to make you a wife:
Now comes the wanton blood up in your cheeks,70
They'll be in scarlet straight at any news.
Hie you to church; I must another way,
To fetch a ladder, by the which your love
Must climb a bird's nest soon when it is dark:
I am the drudge and toil in your delight,
But you shall bear the burden soon at night.
Go; I'll to dinner: hie you to the cell.
JULIETHie to high fortune! Honest nurse, farewell.

Next: Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, Scene 6


Explanatory Notes for Act 2, Scene 5

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


3. that's not so, it is impossible that that should be the case.

4. O, she is lame, not literally, but in comparison with what a messenger of love should be.

6. Driving ... hills. It is perhaps doubtful whether this means 'when they drive back shadows beyond frowning hills and so cause them to disappear'; or 'when they drive back shadows that rest upon the frowning hills'; lour is said to be connected with leer, M. E. lere, A.S. hleor, the cheek, hence the face, look.

7. doves, sacred to Venus; cp. M. N. D. i. 1. 171, "By the simplicity of Venus' doves"; M. V. ii. 6. 5, "O, ten times faster Venus' pigeons fly To seal love's bonds new-made"; also V. A. 1189-92.

8. wind-swift, swift as the wind; cp. T. C. iv. 2. 14, "wings more momentary-swift than thought."

9, 10. upon the highmost ... journey, at its zenith; journey, is in itself literally a day's travel.

12. affections, passions; the warm feelings which youth and love inspire.

14. bandy. A metaphor very common in Shakespeare and the old dramatists from the game of tennis in which the ball is banded or bandied, i.e. struck forwards and backwards, from each end of the court; the origin of the word is obscure: love, the concrete, lover, while in the next line the word is used in the abstract.

16. But old ... dead, but old folks, like my Nurse, do many of them behave as if they had no life at all in their limbs. The reading of the old copies is fain or faine; feign is Johnson's conjecture. After old folks there is a slight aposiopesis, Juliet qualifying her statement by the word many, and there seems no difficulty in feign ... dead in the sense of 'pretend they have no life, no strength in them for the duty they have to do.' Dyce conjectured that the 'copy' of the printer of the second quarto had more yfaith and was corrupted by him into many fain.

17. pale as lead. Here it is objected that lead is not pale, and dull has been suggested in its place; but lead in its original state is of an ashy colour, and the epithet pale is applied to it by Chaucer.

18. honey, sweet, darling; also used as a substantive in this sense, Oth. ii. 1. 206.

22. news, frequently used by Shakespeare as a plural noun, like the F. nouvelles, of which it is a translation; so Lat. nova, new things, i.e. news.

24. By playing ... face, by giving voice to it with the accompaniment of so sour a face.

25. a-weary. The a- represents a corruption of the A.S. intensive of, thoroughly, as in 'afeard,' 'an-hungered,' etc.: give me leave, excuse me.

26. what a jaunce ... had! what a hunt I have had to find him! cp. below 1. 53, and R. II. v. 5. 94, "Spurr'd, gall'd and tired by jauncing (i.e. hard riding) Bolingbroke." The word is from the F. jancer; Cotgrave gives "Jancer un cheval. To stir an horse in the stables till he sweat withal"; connected with our jaunt.

34. Is longer ... excuse, takes longer to tell than the tale would which you make excuses for not telling.

36. I'll stay the circumstance, I will wait for the details.

38. you have made ... choice, this is a pretty choice you have made in choosing Romeo for a husband; simple, foolish.

39. no, not he, he's not the sort of man you ought to have chosen.

39, 40. though his face ... men's. The Nurse pretending or intending to qualify her complimentary estimate by some detraction, only intensifies her praise.

41, 2. not to be talked on, not worth speaking about; on for of, as frequently in colloquial language: compare, comparison; frequent in Shakespeare as a substantive.

43. flower of courtesy, as in ii. 4. 56 we had "pink of courtesy."

44. Go thy ways, here ways is not the plural, but the old genitive used adverbially, on your way.

44, 5. have you ... home? is dinner over?

48. what a head, i.e. aching head.

50. My back ... side, perhaps means 'and my back, too, how it aches!'

51. Beshrew, a mild form of imprecation, to shrew meaning to 'curse.'

52. jaunting, see above, 1. 26.

59. Where should she be? where else do you expect her to be?

61. O God's lady dear, O, by the blessed Virgin!

62. so hot, so eager, so impatient; marry, come up, a vulgar phrase of reproof or impatience: I trow, literally 'I trust,' 'believe,' but often used to express surprise or indignation.

63. Is this ... bones? Is this how you reward me for all my trouble?

65. Here's such a coil! what a fuss you make of the matter! coil is frequently used by Shakespeare in the sense of bustle, stir, turmoil. "Like nmny half-slang words," says Skeat, "it is Celtic. Gaelic goil, boiling, fume, battle, rage, fury"... .

68. hie you, hasten.

71. They'll be ... news, you have such a guilty conscience (sc. as to having given your love to Romeo) that anything is enough to call up a blush into your cheek.

75. in your delight, in order that you may reap the benefit, that you may enjoy happiness, while I profit nothing by my pains.


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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