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Romeo and Juliet

Please see the bottom of the page for explanatory notes.

ACT I SCENE IV A street. 
[ Enter ROMEO, MERCUTIO, BENVOLIO, with five or six Maskers, Torch-bearers, and others ]
ROMEOWhat, shall this speech be spoke for our excuse?
Or shall we on without a apology?
BENVOLIOThe date is out of such prolixity:
We'll have no Cupid hoodwink'd with a scarf,
Bearing a Tartar's painted bow of lath,
Scaring the ladies like a crow-keeper;
Nor no without-book prologue, faintly spoke
After the prompter, for our entrance:
But let them measure us by what they will;
We'll measure them a measure, and be gone.10
ROMEOGive me a torch: I am not for this ambling;
Being but heavy, I will bear the light.
MERCUTIONay, gentle Romeo, we must have you dance.
ROMEONot I, believe me: you have dancing shoes

With nimble soles: I have a soul of lead
So stakes me to the ground I cannot move.
MERCUTIOYou are a lover; borrow Cupid's wings,
And soar with them above a common bound.
ROMEOI am too sore enpierced with his shaft
To soar with his light feathers, and so bound,20
I cannot bound a pitch above dull woe:
Under love's heavy burden do I sink.
MERCUTIOAnd, to sink in it, should you burden love;
Too great oppression for a tender thing.
ROMEOIs love a tender thing? it is too rough,
Too rude, too boisterous, and it pricks like thorn.
MERCUTIOIf love be rough with you, be rough with love;
Prick love for pricking, and you beat love down.
Give me a case to put my visage in:
A visor for a visor! what care I30
What curious eye doth quote deformities?
Here are the beetle brows shall blush for me.
BENVOLIOCome, knock and enter; and no sooner in,
But every man betake him to his legs.
ROMEOA torch for me: let wantons light of heart
Tickle the senseless rushes with their heels,
For I am proverb'd with a grandsire phrase;
I'll be a candle-holder, and look on.
The game was ne'er so fair, and I am done.
MERCUTIOTut, dun's the mouse, the constable's own word:40
If thou art dun, we'll draw thee from the mire
Of this sir-reverence love, wherein thou stick'st
Up to the ears. Come, we burn daylight, ho!
ROMEONay, that's not so.
MERCUTIOI mean, sir, in delay
We waste our lights in vain, like lamps by day.
Take our good meaning, for our judgment sits
Five times in that ere once in our five wits.
ROMEOAnd we mean well in going to this mask;
But 'tis no wit to go.50
MERCUTIOWhy, may one ask?
ROMEOI dream'd a dream to-night.
MERCUTIOAnd so did I.
ROMEOWell, what was yours?
MERCUTIOThat dreamers often lie.
ROMEOIn bed asleep, while they do dream things true.
MERCUTIOO, then, I see Queen Mab hath been with you.
She is the fairies' midwife, and she comes
In shape no bigger than an agate-stone
On the fore-finger of an alderman,60
Drawn with a team of little atomies
Athwart men's noses as they lie asleep;
Her wagon-spokes made of long spinners' legs,
The cover of the wings of grasshoppers,
The traces of the smallest spider's web,
The collars of the moonshine's watery beams,
Her whip of cricket's bone, the lash of film,
Her wagoner a small grey-coated gnat,
Not so big as a round little worm
Prick'd from the lazy finger of a maid;70
Her chariot is an empty hazel-nut
Made by the joiner squirrel or old grub,
Time out o' mind the fairies' coachmakers.
And in this state she gallops night by night
Through lovers' brains, and then they dream of love;
O'er courtiers' knees, that dream on court'sies straight,
O'er lawyers' fingers, who straight dream on fees,
O'er ladies ' lips, who straight on kisses dream,
Which oft the angry Mab with blisters plagues,
Because their breaths with sweetmeats tainted are:80
Sometime she gallops o'er a courtier's nose,
And then dreams he of smelling out a suit;
And sometime comes she with a tithe-pig's tail
Tickling a parson's nose as a' lies asleep,
Then dreams, he of another benefice:
Sometime she driveth o'er a soldier's neck,
And then dreams he of cutting foreign throats,
Of breaches, ambuscadoes, Spanish blades,
Of healths five-fathom deep; and then anon
Drums in his ear, at which he starts and wakes,90
And being thus frighted swears a prayer or two
And sleeps again. This is that very Mab
That plats the manes of horses in the night,
And bakes the elflocks in foul sluttish hairs,
Which once untangled, much misfortune bodes:
This is the hag, when maids lie on their backs,
That presses them and learns them first to bear,
Making them women of good carriage:
This is she--
ROMEOPeace, peace, Mercutio, peace!100
Thou talk'st of nothing.
MERCUTIOTrue, I talk of dreams,
Which are the children of an idle brain,
Begot of nothing but vain fantasy,
Which is as thin of substance as the air
And more inconstant than the wind, who wooes
Even now the frozen bosom of the north,
And, being anger'd, puffs away from thence,
Turning his face to the dew-dropping south.
BENVOLIOThis wind, you talk of, blows us from ourselves;110
Supper is done, and we shall come too late.
ROMEOI fear, too early: for my mind misgives
Some consequence yet hanging in the stars
Shall bitterly begin his fearful date
With this night's revels and expire the term
Of a despised life closed in my breast
By some vile forfeit of untimely death.
But He, that hath the steerage of my course,
Direct my sail! On, lusty gentlemen.
BENVOLIOStrike, drum.120

Next: Romeo and Juliet, Act 1, Scene 5


Explanatory Notes for Act 1, Scene 4
From Romeo and Juliet. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan.
*Line numbers have been adjusted.


Stage Direction. Maskers, men wearing masks and prepared to take part in a masquerade, i.e. an assembly of maskers or buffoons, not the same as masque.

1. this speech, which they had prepared; see note on 1. 3.

2. Or shall we on, or shall we go forward, on to the house.

3. The date ... prolixity. "In Henry VIII, when the king introduces himself to the entertainment given by Wolsey, he appears, like Romeo and his companions, in a mask, and sends a messenger before him to make an apology for his intrusion. This was a custom observed by those who came uninvited, with a desire to conceal themselves for the sake of intrigue, or to enjoy the greater freedom of conversation. Their entry on these occasions was always prefaced by some speech in praise of the beauty of the ladies or the generosity of the entertainer; and to the prolixity of such introductions allusion is here made. So, in Histriomastix, 1610, a man wonders why the maskers enter without any compliment: 'What come they in so blunt, without device? Of the same kind of masquerading, see a specimen in Timon [i. 2. 121, et seqq.], where Cupid precedes a troop of ladies with a speech" (Steevens).

4. hoodwinked with a scarf, with his eyes blinded with a scarf; to 'hoodwink' is to blind the eyes by covering the head with a hood, as hawks were blinded, until the moment arrived for flying them at their prey, by a hood drawn over their eyes; the word is used figuratively in Macb. iv. 3. 72, "the time you may so hoodwink"; and Cymb. v. 2. 16, Temp. iv. 1. 206. The object here is of course to symbolize Cupid's blindness.

5. Bearing ... lath. "The Tartarian bows, as well as most of those used by the Asiatic nations, resembled in their form the old Roman or Cupid's bow, such as we see on medals and bas-reliefs. Shakespeare used the epithet to distinguish it from the English bow, whose shape [when bent] is the segment of a circle" (Douce); painted ... lath, not a real bow made of yew, but a painted imitation made of a slip of such wood as is used for toys.

6. like a crow-keeper, as a crow-keeper scares crows; a crow- keeper is a boy employed to scare birds from the crops, of which crows are supposed to be the greatest enemies; but the word is also used of a stuffed figure, made of sticks with an old coat covering it, and sometimes armed with a bow; in this passage, as Nares points out, such a figure is clearly meant.

7, 8. Nor no ... entrance, nor any halting prologue, indistinctly delivered as the actor follows the prompter reading from the book at the wings of the stage, to gain admission for us. For the emphatic double negative, see Abb. 406. Ulrici supposes a without-book prologue to be a prologue not in the book that is, not composed by the poet; but this seems a forced meaning, and probably nothing more is meant than a contrast between prologues read out from the book and those delivered from memory: entrance, a trisyllable ent(e)rance; see Abb. 477.

9. But let them ... will, but, let them judge of us as they please, take our measure by whatever standard they choose.

10. We'll measure ... gone, we will just go through a dance with them and then depart; a measure, though used for dancing to music generally, was especially applied to a slow, stately, dance resembling the later minuet: them, for them, for their behalf, but probably used here to correspond with measure us in the previous line. On what is commonly called the ethical dative, see Abb. 220.

11. Give me a torch, let me play the part of torch-bearer: I am not for, I am not inclined for, do not care to take part in: ambling, used contemptuously of an affected manner of movement; cp. Haml. iii. 1. 151, "you jig, you amble, and you lisp ... and make your wantonness your ignorance."

12. Being ... light, the same pun as in i. 1. 164.

13. we must ... dance, we shall not be contented unless you dance.

15. nimble, light, and so enabling the wearers to be nimble, active: soul, of course with the sorry pun which Shakespeare has again in M. V. iv. 1. 123, J. C. i. 1. 15.

16. So stakes me, ... move, which so pins me down that I cannot move; for the omission of the relative, see Abb. 244.

18. above ... bound, to a height to which without them you could not leap.

19. enpierced, pierced in my heart; see Abb. 440.

20. and so bound, and with that restraint, pinned down as I am by his shafts; of course for the sake of the quibble. Steevens quotes a similar quibble in Paradise Lost iv. 18, though there the substantive means boundary, limit.

21. bound a pitch above, soar above. Taken in connection with the previous line, pitch is probably used in the technical sense of the height to which a falcon towers; for that sense used figuratively, as here, cp. R. II. i. 1. 109, "How high a pitch his resolution soars"; J. C. i. 1. 78, "Will make him fly an ordinary pitch"; dull, heavy, laden.

29. a case, a mask.

30, 1. A visor ... deformities, a fig for masks! I care nothing what prying eye examines the blemishes of my face, notes the plainness of my face. A visor for a visor! apparently means, I care not a jot, not the value of a mask, for the concealment of my plainness which a visor affords: quote, cp. T. C. iv. 5. 233, "I have with exact view perused thee, Hector, And quoted every joint"; Haml. ii. 1. 112, "I am sorry that with better heed and judgement I had not quoted him."

32. Here are ... me, if anything is to blush for me, it shall be these beetle-brows of mine, i.e. I'll face them all without being in the least ashamed of myself: beetle-brows, probably heavy and shaggy, bushy, brows: the etymology is doubtful, but "it is probable ... that the comparison is to the short tufted antennae of some species of beetles, projecting at right angles to the head, which might have been called 'eyebrows' in Eng. as well as in Fr.; for the expression sourcils de hanneton 'cockchafers' eyebrows' is the name given to a species of fringe made in imitation to the antennae of these insects" (Murray, Eng. Dict.).

33, 4. and no sooner ... legs, and let us all, as soon as we enter, engage in the dance; i. e. so as more easily to escape observation.

36. Tickle ... heels, caper about in the dance; senseless, without feeling, which may be tickled without objecting to it, but also with an allusion to the empty-headedness of the wantons themselves. In the days before carpets, it was customary to strew the floors with rushes.

37. For I am ... phrase, for I am fortified against such frivolities by an old-world proverb which suits my frame of mind. The grandsire phrase is apparently that of the following line, of which Steevens gives an illustration from Ray's Proverbs, "A good candle-holder," i.e. spectator, "proves a good gamester." Some commentators include the next line also, while Malone refers the phrase to that line alone. Milton uses "proverbed" as = 'made a byword of,' S. A. 203, "Am I not sung and proverbed for a fool In every street."

39. The game ... done. Malone says the proverb "Our sport is at the best" (see below i. 5. 117) meant 'we have had enough of it'; Ritson that the allusion is to "a proverbial saying which advises to give over when the game is at the best"; though how this would apply to Romeo's state of mind, it is not easy to see. Possibly the meaning is 'The game (i.e. dancing) was never one I much cared for, and I am not going to argue the point further.'

40. Tut, dun's the mouse ... word, nonsense! what have you to do with the word dun (done)? It comes very well from the lips of a constable in his favourite phrase, but not from a fine fellow like you. What precise meaning the phrase had has not been discovered, though there is of course a reference to the colour of the mouse, and the same quibble with done is found in many old writers. Nor is it clearer why the monopoly should belong to the constable. Malone, indeed, supposes it to have meant "Peace, be still!" but the passage he quotes seems to prove nothing...

41. 2. If thou art dun ... love. "Dun is in the mire is a Christmas gambol, at which I have often played. A log of wood is brought into the midst of the room : this is Dun (the cart-horse), and a cry is raised that he is stuck in the mire. Two of the company advance, either with or without ropes, to draw him out. After repeated attempts, they find themsehes unable to do it, and call for more assistance. The game continues till all the company take part in it, when Dun is extricated of course; and the merriment arises from the awkward and affected efforts of the rustics to lift the log, and from sundry arch contrivances to let the ends of it fall on one another's toes. This will not be thought a very exquisite amusement; and yet I have seen much honest mirth at it" (Gifford). The saying, which was also the name of a tune, was a very old one, and Douce quotes it from the Manciple's prologue in Chaucer, 1. 4: this sir-reverence love, this dung-heap, love. The term sir-reverence is a corruption of 'save reverence,' Lat. salva reverentia, an apologetical expression for the use of anything indelicate, and later on "in one instance became the substitute for the word which it originally introduced; as 'I trod in a sa reverence' dropping the real name of the thing" (Nares).

43. we burn daylight, we are wasting time; originally used of burning candles by daylight, as Mercutio explains in answer to Romeo's literal acceptation of the words.

46. light lights. The quartos, except the first, give "lights lights by day." I have followed Daniel in adopting Nicholson's easy and most satisfactory emendation.

47, 8. Take our good meaning ... wits, take our words as they were meant, for it is in that meaning that our good sense show itself much oftener than in the use of our five wits; if our words are strictly taken, they are often misunderstood. The five wits were common wit, imagination, fantasy, estimation (i.e. judgment), and memory; though the phrase was sometimes used as an equivalent to the five senses.

49. mask, masquerade, masked ball; not a masked entertainment such as that in the Tempest, iv. 1, or Milton's Comus.

57. Queen Mab. The origin of the name Mab is uncertain, and Shakespeare, according to Thoms, is apparently the earliest writer to give her the title of queen. He mentions that Beaufort, in his Antient Topography of Ireland, speaks of Mabh as the chief of the Irish fairies, and adds that the word Mab is Celtic, meaning both in Welsh, and in the kindred dialects of Brittany, a child or infant, "and it would be difficult to find an epithet that better befits Shakespeare's description of the dwarf-like sovereign." If Shakespeare was the first to apply the designation of Fairy Queen to Mab, that designation seems to have been a well-recognized one, for Jonson in his Satyr, written in 1603, speaks of "a bevy of Fairies, attending on Mab their queen." [Please click here for more on Queen Mab.]

58. the fairies' midwife, the fairy whose "department it was to deliver the fancies of sleeping men of their dreams, those children of an idle brain" (Steevens); see 1. 94, below.

59. In shape ... agate-stone, in size no bigger than the small figures engraved, or cut in relief, on agate stones set in rings. Shakespeare again refers to these figures as symbols of diminutiveness, in M. A. iii. 1. 65, where Beatrice is said to compare a tall man to "a lance ill-headed" and a short one to "an agate vilely cut"; while in ii. H. IV. i. 2. 19, Falstaff, speaking of his page, says "I was never manned with an agate till now."

60. On the ... alderman. In the first quarto for alderman we have burgomaster, the Dutch equivalent of our mayor, and Steevens points out that in the old pictures of these dignitaries the ring is generally placed on the fore-finger, whereas in England it appears to have been more commonly worn on the thumb.

61. atomies, only another form of atoms, the Lat. pl. of atomus, atomi, being treated as an English singular; literally something so small as to be incapable of division; cp. A. Y. L. iii. 2. 245, "It is as easy to count atomies as to resolve the propositions of a lover."

63. long-spinners' legs, what children call a 'daddy-long-legs,' but different from the common spider; cp. M. N. D. ii. 2. 21, "Hence, you long-legged spinners, hence!"

64. cover, awning, hood.

65. traces, that by which the vehicle is drawn.

68. grey-coated gnat, what Milton, Lycidas, 28, calls the "gray-fly," either the trumpet-fly, or possibly the cricket.

70. Prick'd ... maid, taken out with a needle from the finger of a lazy maid. It was of old popularly believed that small parasites were sometimes harboured in the flesh of the fingers of lazy persons. Nares quotes Beaumont and Fletcher, The Woman Hater, iii. 1. 111, 2, "Keep thy hands in thy muff and warm the idle Worms in thy fingers' ends."

71-3. Her chariot ... coachmakers. Lettsom would place these lines after 1. 58, as "it is preposterous to speak of the parts of a chariot before mentioning the chariot itself": joiner, carpenter, grub, worm; the squirrel and the grub, because the former is fond of cracking nuts, and the latter of boring its way through the shell, both eating the kernel and so hollowing out the shell which thereby becomes fitted for a coach for fairies.

73. Time out o' mind, from time immemorial.

74. in this state, with this pomp and splendour.

76. court'sies, bowing and cringing in the presence of those whose favour they seek to win.

76. straight, straightway, immediately.

80. Because ... are, allusions to the sweatmeats eaten by ladies to sweeten the breath are very common in the old dramatists, and one of the names given to them was "kissing-comfits," as in M. W. v. 5. 22.

82. smelling out a suit, scenting out some appointment, office, etc., for which he might become a suitor to the king, or to those high in his favour. As courtiers have already been mentioned, it has been proposed to substitute 'counsellor's' here.

83. tithe-pig, a pig given to a priest in payment of tithes, or tenth parts of the parishioner's annual income.

85. another benefice, i.e. an increase to his income by his being presented with a richer living, better church preferment, or perhaps a living in addition to that already held by him, it being common in those days for priests to hold more than one living at a time.

88. Spanish blades. The toledo, a sword made at Toledo, in Spain, was in high favour formerly, the steel of the blade being of great excellence and finely tempered.

89. Of healths ... deep,... of cups which no thirst could drain dry; the pledges drunk to the health of friends, mistresses, etc., are put for the cup from which they are drunk.

90. Drums in his ears, he dreams that the signal for battle has been sounded by the drums, and he must up and arm.

91. swears a prayer or two, his vocabulary is so largely made up of oaths that even when in his alarm he tries to remember a prayer, he cannot do so without an admixture of blasphemy; cp. A. Y. L. ii. 7. 150, "Then a soldier, Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard."

92. And sleeps again. Cp. Macb. ii. 2. 22-5, where, during the murder of Duncan, the sleeping chamberlains start up in their sleep, "There's one did laugh in's sleep, and one cried 'Murder': I stood and heard them; But they did say their prayers, and address'd them Again to sleep."

93. That plats ... night. "It was believed that certain malignant spirits ... assumed occasionally the likeness of women clothed in white; that in this character they sometimes haunted stables in the night-time, carrying in their hands tapers of wax, which they dropped on the horses' manes, thereby plaiting them in inextricable knots" ... (Douce).

94. And bakes ... hairs, and causes the hair of those who are uncleanly in person to become caked in elf knots; the reference is said to be to a horrid disease called plica polonica, in which the hair became injected with blood, an infliction superstitiously attributed to the malice of wicked elves. See next note, and cp. Lear, ii. 3. 10, "my face I'll grime with filth; Blanket my loins; and elf my hair in knots." For baked = caked, clotted, cp. Haml. ii. 2. 481, "horridly trick'd With blood of fathers, mothers, daughters, sons, Baked and impasted with the parching streets." Queen Mab's hatred of sluttishness is again referred to in M. W. V. 5. 50, "Elves, list your names; silence, you airy boys. Cricket, to Windsor chimneys shalt thou leap: Where fires thou find'st unraked and hearths unswept, There pinch the maids as blue as bilberry: Our radiant queen hates sluts and sluttery"; a passage which Jouson has imitated in his Satyr, 34-7, where, speaking of "Mab, the mistress Fairy," he says, "She that pinches country wenches, If they rub not clean their benches, And with sharper nails remembers When they rake not up their embers."

95. Which once ... bodes, the disentangling of which forebodes, etc. The nominative to bodes is the adjectival clause Which untangled; so the noun clause in Haml. iii. 1. 182, "Whereon his brains still beating puts him thus From fashion of himself," i.e. the beating of his brains puts; A. C. i. 2. 115, "our ills told us Is as our earing," i.e. the telling of our ills is, etc. Why the disentanglement should have this effect is not clear, unless it is that it would further provoke the malice of Mab at seeing her work undone. On this subject of "elf-locks" and the "entangling" or the "untangling" there has in recent years been much controversy. Daniel, in the revised edition of our play, published by the New Shakspere Society, prefers "entangled," believing the entanglement, not the disentanglement, to be inauspicious.

W. G. Black, in Notes and Queries, 5th Series, xi. 22, quotes a passage from Sir T. Overburie's Vision, 1616, which perhaps bears out Daniel's contention; and W. G. Stone, in the same journal, xi. 205, quotes from Turner's Remarkable Providence, 1697, a further passage in support of the same view. "'Pride of Hair was punished,' saith Dr. Bolton, 'at first with an ugly Intanglement, sometime in the form of a great Snake, sometime of many little ones, full of Nastiness, Vermin, and noisome Smell; and that which is most to be admired, and never Age saw before, pricked with a Needle, they yielded bloody drops. This first began in Poland, afterwards entered into Germany; and all that then cut off his horrible snaky Hair, either lost their Eyes, or the Humour falling down upon other Parts tortured them extremely '..." Brinsley Nicholson remarks that "while a felting or inextricable interlacing of the hair a result of neglect and want of cleanliness was doubtless known in England (a state called by Dr. Copland 'false plica'), there is not, so far as I am aware, any recorded instance of the occurrence of the true plica polonica in England so early as Shakespeare's time." J. W. Legg says that if there is an allusion here to the plica polonica, "it is absolutely necessary to accept the early reading 'untangled.' If we accept 'entangled' as the reading, then we must reject any allusion under the name of 'elf-locks' to the plica: for the entanglement of the plica boded no misfortune; it was a piece of great good fortune, which lasted for ever if the hair did not become untangled."

101. Thou talk'st of nothing, your talk is all nonsense.

104. fantasy, fancy; of which it is the older form.

105. of substance, as regards substance; in the matter of substance.

106. wooes, with the hope of softening it.

107, 8. Even now ... And, at one moment ... and at the next.

109. dew-dropping south, so Cymb. iv. 2. 34-9, "the spongy south"; and of the south wind, A. Y. L. iii. 5. 50, "Like foggy south puffing with wind and rain."

110. This wind ... ourselves, this inconstancy, in which we resemble the wind, diverts us from our purpose, is hindering us from joining the festivities.

112. misgives, forebodes; more commonly with the reflexive pronoun.

113. yet ... stars, as yet impending in the stars that govern our fates, not yet fallen, but threatening to do so.

114. shall bitterly ... date, is surely about to start on that cruel course which shall end so fatally. Cp. below, ii. 2. 117.

115. expire, for other instances of intransitive verbs used transitively see Abb. 291.

116, 7. Of a despised ... death, of my unfortunate life prematurely paying the penalty of an undeserved death; despised, held of no account by the powers above; not thought worthy of being allowed the ordinary span.

119. lusty gentlemen, my brave fellows.

120. strike, drum, said to the attendant bearing the drum, which gives the signal for resuming the march of the procession.

How to cite the explanatory notes:
Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan, 1916. Shakespeare Online. 20 Feb. 2010. < >.

Cotter, Henry James. Shakespeare's Art. London: Robert Clarke Co., 1902.


Even more...

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 King James I of England: Shakespeare's Patron
 The Earl of Southampton: Shakespeare's Patron
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 Ben Jonson and the Decline of the Drama
 Publishing in Elizabethan England
 Shakespeare's Audience
 Religion in Shakespeare's England

 Alchemy and Astrology in Shakespeare's Day
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 London's First Public Playhouse
 Shakespeare Hits the Big Time

Thoughts on Mercutio

"Mercutio never forgot that "man is the only animal that laughs." "Laugh, and the world laughs with you," wrote Ella Wheeler Wilcox, a line that she can not better in its truth; and so Romeo and Benvolio ever enjoyed the wit that was unlike most wit, unkind to none but self, -- bright as the sword of Tybalt, without its sharpness or its cruelty. He is the Cervantes of the Drama, aiming his bright shafts at the ridiculous character of duelling and its causes, for his honor "will quarrel with a man for cracking nuts, having no other reason but be cause he has hazel eyes." Mercutio's heart, ever sensitive to the concerns of his friends, would, by underrating, fain undo their cares. He becomes a "grave man" when Romeo's life no longer had a summer sky wherein his wit might sparkle." (James Henry Cotter. Shakespeare's Art. p. 86)

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Notes on Queen Mab... Mercutio jests with Romeo, musing that Mab, the bringer of dreams, has visited his lovesick friend. At the beginning of Mercutio's speech Mab seems a whimsical creation, much like the fairies in A Midsummer Night's Dream. But we soon realize that Mercutio's Queen Mab is a malevolent hag. Please click here to learn more about Queen Mab and read a paraphrase of Mercutio's speech in plain English.


 What Is Accomplished in Act I?
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 Friar Laurence's First Soliloquy
 The Dramatic Function of Mercutio's Queen Mab Speech


An Example of Tragic Irony... The audience watching Romeo and Juliet knows from the Prologue that the lovers will die, but neither character is aware of his or her fate. This makes the passing references to death spoken by the lovers all the more shocking to the audience. Read on...


 Mercutio's Death and its Role in the Play
 Costume Design for a Production of Romeo and Juliet
 Themes in Romeo and Juliet
 Shakespeare's Treatment of Love

 Shakespeare on Fate
 Sources for Romeo and Juliet
 The Five Stages of Plot Development in Romeo and Juliet
 Annotated Balcony Scene, Act 2
 Blank Verse and Rhyme in Romeo and Juliet

 How to Pronounce the Names in Romeo and Juliet
 Introduction to Juliet
 Introduction to Romeo
 Introduction to Mercutio
 Introduction to The Nurse

 Introduction to The Montagues and the Capulets
 Famous Quotations from Romeo and Juliet
 All About Queen Mab
 Why Shakespeare is so Important

 Shakespeare's Language
 Shakespeare's Boss: The Master of Revels
 What is Tragic Irony?
 Seneca's Tragedies and the Elizabethan Drama
 Characteristics of Elizabethan Drama