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Romeo and Juliet

Please see the bottom of the page for explanatory notes.

ACT I SCENE II A street. 
 Enter CAPULET, PARIS, and Servant. 
CAPULET But Montague is bound as well as I, 
 In penalty alike; and 'tis not hard, I think, 
 For men so old as we to keep the peace. 
PARIS Of honourable reckoning are you both;
 And pity 'tis you lived at odds so long. 
 But now, my lord, what say you to my suit? 
CAPULET But saying o'er what I have said before: 
 My child is yet a stranger in the world; 
 She hath not seen the change of fourteen years,
 Let two more summers wither in their pride, 10 
 Ere we may think her ripe to be a bride. 
PARIS Younger than she are happy mothers made. 
CAPULET And too soon marr'd are those so early made. 
 The earth hath swallow'd all my hopes but she,
 She is the hopeful lady of my earth: 
 But woo her, gentle Paris, get her heart, 
 My will to her consent is but a part; 
 An she agree, within her scope of choice 
 Lies my consent and fair according voice.
 This night I hold an old accustom'd feast, 20 
 Whereto I have invited many a guest, 
 Such as I love; and you, among the store, 
 One more, most welcome, makes my number more. 
 At my poor house look to behold this night
 Earth-treading stars that make dark heaven light: 
 Such comfort as do lusty young men feel 
 When well-apparell'd April on the heel 
 Of limping winter treads, even such delight 
 Among fresh female buds shall you this night 30
 Inherit at my house; hear all, all see, 
 And like her most whose merit most shall be:



 
 Which on more view, of many mine being one 
 May stand in number, though in reckoning none, 
 Come, go with me.
 To Servant, giving a paper. 
 Go, sirrah, trudge about 
 Through fair Verona; find those persons out 
 Whose names are written there, and to them say, 
 My house and welcome on their pleasure stay. 37 
 Exeunt CAPULET and PARIS. 
Servant Find them out whose names are written here! It is
 written, that the shoemaker should meddle with his 
 yard, and the tailor with his last, the fisher with 
 his pencil, and the painter with his nets; but I am 
 sent to find those persons whose names are here 
 writ, and can never find what names the writing
 person hath here writ. I must to the learned.--In good time. 
 Enter BENVOLIO and ROMEO. 
BENVOLIO Tut, man, one fire burns out another's burning, 
 One pain is lessen'd by another's anguish; 
 Turn giddy, and be holp by backward turning; 
 One desperate grief cures with another's languish:
 Take thou some new infection to thy eye, 
 And the rank poison of the old will die. 50 
ROMEO Your plaintain-leaf is excellent for that. 
BENVOLIO For what, I pray thee? 
ROMEO For your broken shin.
BENVOLIO Why, Romeo, art thou mad? 
ROMEO Not mad, but bound more than a mad-man is; 
 Shut up in prison, kept without my food, 
 Whipp'd and tormented and--God-den, good fellow. 
Servant God gi' god-den. I pray, sir, can you read?
ROMEO Ay, mine own fortune in my misery. 
Servant Perhaps you have learned it without book: but, I 
 pray, can you read any thing you see? 60 
ROMEO Ay, if I know the letters and the language. 
Servant Ye say honestly: rest you merry!
ROMEO Stay, fellow; I can read. 
 Reads. 
 'Signior Martino and his wife and daughters; 
 County Anselme and his beauteous sisters; the lady 
 widow of Vitruvio; Signior Placentio and his lovely 
 nieces; Mercutio and his brother Valentine; mine
 uncle Capulet, his wife and daughters; my fair niece 
 Rosaline; Livia; Signior Valentio and his cousin 
 Tybalt, Lucio and the lively Helena.' A fair 
 assembly: whither should they come? 
Servant Up. 71
ROMEO Whither? 
Servant To supper; to our house. 
ROMEO Whose house? 
Servant My master's. 
ROMEO Indeed, I should have ask'd you that before.
Servant Now I'll tell you without asking: my master is the 
 great rich Capulet; and if you be not of the house 
 of Montagues, I pray, come and crush a cup of wine. 
 Rest you merry! 
 Exit 
BENVOLIO At this same ancient feast of Capulet's 81
 Sups the fair Rosaline whom thou so lovest, 
 With all the admired beauties of Verona: 
 Go thither; and, with unattainted eye, 
 Compare her face with some that I shall show, 
 And I will make thee think thy swan a crow.
ROMEO When the devout religion of mine eye 
 Maintains such falsehood, then turn tears to fires; 
 And these, who often drown'd could never die, 
 Transparent heretics, be burnt for liars! 90 
 One fairer than my love! the all-seeing sun
 Ne'er saw her match since first the world begun. 
BENVOLIO Tut, you saw her fair, none else being by, 
 Herself poised with herself in either eye: 
 But in that crystal scales let there be weigh'd 
 Your lady's love against some other maid
 That I will show you shining at this feast, 
 And she shall scant show well that now shows best. 
ROMEO I'll go along, no such sight to be shown, 
 But to rejoice in splendor of mine own. 100 
 Exeunt 

Next: Romeo and Juliet, Act 1, Scene 3

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Explanatory Notes for Act 1, Scene 2
From Romeo and Juliet. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan.


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1. bound, sc. to keep the peace.

2. In penalty alike, under the same penalty for disobedience.

3. Of honourable ... both, both of you are esteemed as honourable men.

4. at odds, at enmity.

7. But saying ... before, I have nothing to say beyond saying, etc.

8. is yet ... world, as yet knows nothing of the world, is hardly out of the nursery.

10. Let two ... pride, let the leaves and flowers of one more summer fade.

l3. marred, sc. by their youth and beauty quickly fading. For the jingle of marr'd and made, very frequent in Shakespeare, cp. e.g. M. N. D. i. 2. 39, "And make and mar The foolish Fates."

14. The earth ... she, all my children, on whom I pinned my hopes, have died except her.

15. She is ... earth. If the reading is genuine, this probably means 'she is the heiress of my property on whom my hopes are centered'; some take earth to mean body, as in Sonnet cxvi. 1, "Poor soul, the centre of my sinful earth," while others explain "she is the hopeful mistress of my world, my life." Steevens quotes the French phrase Fille de terre, i.e. heiress, in support of the first given meaning, but the expression is not exactly analogous. The line is not found in the first quarto; and, as it has no line to rhyme with it, whereas the rest of the speech is complete in this respect, there is probably some corruption.

17. My will ... part, my consent depends upon hers; my will is but an adjunct to her consent, if you obtain the latter, the former follows as a part and parcel of it.

18, 9. An she agree ... voice, if she assents, my consent and approval go with that choice which she is free to make. Walker and Dyce hyphen fair according, and in 1. 20 old accustomed.

22, 3. and you ... more, and your presence among the full assemblage, welcome as that presence will be, adds to the wealth of company that will grace my halls.

24. my poor house. Said with an assumption of humility.

25. that make ... light, whose beauty is sufficient to light up the darkness of night.

26. comfort, pleasure, contentment of mind: for young men, Daniel follows the first quarto in reading youngmen, taking it to = yeomen, a word which Johnson had conjectured here.

27. 8. When ... treads, Malone compares Sonn. xcviii. 2, 3, "When proud-pied April dress'd in all his trim Hath put a spirit of youth in everything": limping winter, winter that is so long in passing away.

30. Inherit, possess, enjoy; cp. Cor. ii. 1. 215, "I have lived To see inherited my very wishes"; Cymb. iii. 2. 63, "Tell me how Wales was made so happy as To inherit such a haven."

32, 3. Which on more view ... none. The first quarto gives "Such amongst view," etc.; the reading in the text is that of the fourth and fifth quartos, which vary from the second and third only in having on for one. With this reading, the meaning seems to be, her, who when you have carefully eyed a large number of those present, my daughter among the rest, may seem to you to hold the first place, though being but one she does not count for anything in reckoning; none as is generally admitted, clearly refers to the old proverb that one is no number, a proverb to which Shakespeare refers, Sonn. cxxxvi. 8, "Among a number one is reckoned none." This explanation in its more important point is essentially that given by Singer, though the latter words he explains "though she may be reckoned nothing, or held in no estimation." On which used interchangeably with who, see Abb. 265. The majority of editors take mine as the subject to May stand; but to this there seems the objection that Capulet is trying to persuade Paris that he may easily find some one as well fitted for a bride as his own daughter, and therefore would not be likely to suggest that she might hold the first place. But for this objection, I should be inclined to follow (with Steevens and Staunton) the reading of the first quarto, "Such, amongst view of many, mine, being one," etc., though while we say "amongst many," it is perhaps doubtful whether we could say "amongst view of many." The conjectures are many: "Within your," Johnson; "On which more," Capell; "Amongst such," Ulrici; "Such as on," Keightley; "Whilst on," Mason, followed Dyce; "Such amongst few," Badham: while the punctuation of" the former of the two lines is equally various. Possibly we should read 'Such amongst view'd,' i.e. seen among such, my daughter, being one of many, may, etc.

34. trudge, properly meaning to walk along with a heavy step, is here and elsewhere in Shakespeare used to express a busy activity.

37. My house ... stay, I am waiting to give them hearty welcome to my house.

38-41. It is written ... nets, the servant is of course turning the sayings topsy-turvy: meddle with, busy himself with: yard, yard-measure: last, wooden mould of the foot on which shoes are shaped and sewn.

43. I must to. On the omission of the verb of motion, see Abb. 405.

44. In good time, in good luck, Fr. a la bonne heure; said as he sees Benvolio and Romeo approaching, as from them he will be able to find out the directions given to him.

45. one fire ... burning. A reference to a fire in a grate being extinguished by the more powerful fire of the sun; cp. Cor. iv. 7. 54, "One fire drives out one fire; one nail, one nail"; T. G. ii. 4. 192, 3, "Even as one heat another heat expels, Or as one nail by strength drives out another"; and Brooke's Romeus and Juliet, 1. 207, "as out of a planke a nayle a nayle doth drive."

46. another's anguish, the anguish caused by another pain; the subjective genitive.

47. holp, Shakespeare uses both holp and helped, the former more frequently: backward, in the reverse direction.

51. Your plantain-leaf, the plantain-leaf which you know so well; cp. Haml. iv. 3. 22, 4, "Your worm is your only emperor for diet ... your fat-king and your lean-beggar is but variable service"; A. C. ii. 7. 29-31, "Your serpent of Egypt is bred now of your mud by the operation of your sun: so is your crocodile "; and see Abb. 220: the plantain-leaf, the leaf of this herb, or rather weed, was of old supposed to be efficacious in case of fresh wounds and various other ailments; cp. L. L. L. iii. 1. 74, where Costard calls for it for his broken shin.

52. your broken shin, your shin, the skin of which has been broken; your, as in the line above. As a plantain-leaf was used to staunch blood and not for a fracture of a bone, Ulrici supposes a sarcasm here, 'Thy remedy is as excellent for my complaint as a plantain-leaf is for a broken shin.' But a 'broken head' or a 'broken shin' meant a head or a shin of which the skin had been abraded, not in which the bone had been fractured; so in i. 3. 39, "broke her brow" means 'knocked the skin off her forehead.' Romeo is of course teasing Benvolio by his inconsequent remarks, but no such deep meaning is intended as Ulrici suspects.

54. bound ... is, shackled in fetters heavier than those put upon a madman; in former days the restraints put upon lunatics were cruelly severe, they being shut up in dark rooms, heavily fettered and frequently whipped; cp. T. N. iii. 4. 148, 9, "Come, we'll have him in a dark room and bound," said of Malvolio whom they pretend to be mad. Romeo's fetters are of course those of love.

56. God-den, a contraction of 'God give you good even,' found in many similar forms, such as that given in reply by the Servant.

58. mine own ... misery, my own miserable fortune.

59. Perhaps ... book, "for that purpose, the Servant means, it is not necessary for a man to have learned to read" (Delius).

62. Ye say ... merry! thanks for your honest answer and farewell! rest you merry, or "God rest you merry," as in A. Y. L. V. 1. 65, was a common form of farewell among the lower orders, and equivalent to 'good luck to you.' The Servant, getting nothing but "riddling shrift" from Romeo, is about to proceed on his way.

64. County. Another form of 'Count,' oftentimes used by Shakespeare; originally meaning a companion, i.e. of some great leader, the modern 'county' = shire, being the portion of territory of which the Count had the government. Capell pointed out that this list of guests becomes metrical if Anselme is changed to Anselmo and an epithet given to Livia. Following this suggestion, except that he inserts and before Livia, Dyce prints the passage as metre. Very possibly, as Delius suggests, Romeo in reading it aloud inserts some of the epithets which help to make it metrical.

70. should they come? are they expected to come: Up, sc. to the house. Possibly with an allusion to the common expression "Marry, come up" as used by the Nurse, ii. 5. 63, below.

72. Whither? All the old copies give "Whither to supper?" which some editors retain, perhaps rightly. The alteration was suggested by Warburton and first accepted by Theobald.

76. I should ... before, I should have done better before putting these questions to you, to have asked you who your master is.

78. great rich, very rich; great, used adverbially as in ii. H. VI. iii. 1. 379, "as 'tis great like he will."

79. crush a cup of wine, as we now say 'crack a bottle of wine.' Steevens quotes several instances of the expression from old writers.

79, 80. Rest you merry! See above, 1. 62.

81. this same ancient feast, this time-honoured festival of which he speaks and which we all know so well. The expression "this same" or "that same" is frequently used with a contemptuous emphasis, like the modern vulgarity "this here," and even when no contempt is intended there is generally a sort of familiarity implied.

84. unattainted eye, unbiased, impartial, eye; eye not prejudiced by your admiration for Rosaline.

85. show, point out to you.

86. And I ... crow, and I will convince you that she whom you think so lovely is but a poor creature after all.

87. 8. When the devout ... fires, when my eye, that now worships with such devout belief in her beauty, perjures itself by such heresy as you suggest, then let tears turn to fires. The old copies give 'fire,' which was altered by Pope to fires for the sake of the rhyme with liars; Grant White remarks, "The mere difference of a final s seems not to have been regarded in rhyme in Shakespeare's day, and the reading 'fires' tends to impoverish a line not over-rich."

89, 90. And these, ... liars! and may these eyes, which, though often drowned in tears refused to die, be burnt as liars, transparent heretics as they will then prove themselves to be! In transparent there is a pun upon 'evident,' in the figurative sense, and 'clear,' in the literal sense.

92. her match, her equal, much less her superior.

93. you saw her fair, in your eyes she seemed fair.

94. Herself poised ... eye, each of your eyes being filled with her image, whereas, in order that you should judge impartially, her image in your one eye should have been balanced by the image of some other fair one in your other eye; to 'poise,' or 'peize' as Shakespeare sometimes writes it, is to weigh, balance, from Old F. peiser, to weigh.

95. scales, pair of scales, used as a singular; conversely, in M. V. iv. 1. 255, balance is used as a plural, "Are these balance here to weigh The flesh?"

96. Your lady's love. As it is neither the love which he bore to the lady, nor the love which the lady bore to him, we should probably read, with Theobold, lady-love. Though we do not find the word elsewhere in Shakespeare, Dyce has shown that it was already in use.

97. shining, sc. in all the splendour of loveliness.

98. And she ... best, and she who now seems to you fairest in all the world will scarcely seem fair at all; scant, as an adverb, occurs here only in Shakespeare.

99. along, see note on i. 1. 181; no such ... shown, not in the expectation, or for the purpose, of being shown such a sight.

100. splendour of mine own, the splendid beauty of her whom I love.

How to cite the explanatory notes:
Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan, 1916. Shakespeare Online. 20 Feb. 2010. < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/romeo_1_2.html >.


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On the Central Theme of Romeo and Juliet

"Romeo and Juliet stands out from the other great tragedies of Shakespeare, not only in point of time, but in its central theme. It deals with the power of nature in awaking youth to full manhood and womanhood through the sudden coming of pure and supreme love; with the danger which always attends the precipitate call of this awakening; and with the sudden storm which overcasts the brilliant day of passion. The enmity of the rival houses of Montague and Capulet, to which Romeo and Juliet belong, is but a concrete form of this danger that ever waits when nature prompts. Romeo's fancied love for another disappears like a drop of water on a stone in the sun, when his glance meets Juliet's at the Capulet's ball. Love takes equally sudden hold of her. Worldly and religious caution seek to stem the flood of passion, or at least to direct it. The lovers are married at Friar Liaurence's cell; but in the sudden whirl of events that follow the friar's amiable schemes, one slight error on his part wastes all that glorious passion and youth have won. It was not his fault, after all; such is the eternal tragedy when Youth meets Love, and Nature leads them unrestrained to peril." (H. N. MacCracken. An Introduction to Shakespeare. p. 143)

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The History of Romeo and Juliet... The play has remained extremely popular throughout the centuries, but, strangely, producers in the seventeenth century found it necessary to take great literary license with Shakespeare's original work. In some productions, Romeo and Juliet survive their ordeal to live happy, fulfilled lives. And, in 1679, Thomas Otway created a version of the play called The History and Fall of Caius Marius, set in Augustan Rome. Otway transformed the play to revolve around two opposing senators, Metellus and Marius Senior, who are fighting for political control. Read on...

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