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Romeo and Juliet

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Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes5
A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life;
Whose misadventured piteous overthrows
Do with their death bury their parents' strife.
The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love,
And the continuance of their parents' rage,10
Which, but their children's end, nought could remove,
Is now the two hours' traffic of our stage;
The which if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.
ACT I SCENE I Verona. A public place. 
Enter SAMPSON and GREGORY, of the house of Capulet, armed with swords and bucklers.
SAMPSONGregory, o' my word, we'll not carry coals.
GREGORYNo, for then we should be colliers.
SAMPSONI mean, an we be in choler, we'll draw.
GREGORYAy, while you live, draw your neck out o' the collar.
SAMPSONI strike quickly, being moved.5
GREGORYBut thou art not quickly moved to strike.
SAMPSONA dog of the house of Montague moves me.
GREGORYTo move is to stir; and to be valiant is to stand:
therefore, if thou art moved, thou runn'st away.
SAMPSONA dog of that house shall move me to stand: I will10
take the wall of any man or maid of Montague's.
GREGORYThat shows thee a weak slave; for the weakest goes
to the wall.
SAMPSONTrue; and therefore women, being the weaker vessels,
are ever thrust to the wall: therefore I will push
Montague's men from the wall, and thrust his maids
to the wall.
GREGORYThe quarrel is between our masters and us their men.
SAMPSON'Tis all one, I will show myself a tyrant: when I
have fought with the men, I will be cruel with the20
maids, and cut off their heads.
GREGORYThe heads of the maids?
SAMPSONAy, the heads of the maids, or their maidenheads;
take it in what sense thou wilt.

GREGORYThey must take it in sense that feel it.
SAMPSONMe they shall feel while I am able to stand: and
'tis known I am a pretty piece of flesh.
GREGORY'Tis well thou art not fish; if thou hadst, thou
hadst been poor John. Draw thy tool! here comes
two of the house of the Montagues.
SAMPSONMy naked weapon is out: quarrel, I will back thee.
GREGORYHow! turn thy back and run?
SAMPSONFear me not.
GREGORYNo, marry; I fear thee!
SAMPSONLet us take the law of our sides; let them begin.
GREGORYI will frown as I pass by, and let them take it as
they list.30
SAMPSONNay, as they dare. I will bite my thumb at them;
which is a disgrace to them, if they bear it.
ABRAHAMDo you bite your thumb at us, sir?
SAMPSONI do bite my thumb, sir.
ABRAHAMDo you bite your thumb at us, sir?
SAMPSONAside to GREGORY. Is the law of our side, if I say
SAMPSONNo, sir, I do not bite my thumb at you, sir, but I
bite my thumb, sir.
GREGORYDo you quarrel, sir?40
ABRAHAMQuarrel sir! no, sir.
SAMPSONIf you do, sir, I am for you: I serve as good a man as you.
ABRAHAMNo better.
SAMPSONWell, sir.
GREGORYSay 'better:' here comes one of my master's kinsmen.
SAMPSONYes, better, sir.
SAMPSONDraw, if you be men. Gregory, remember thy swashing blow. 49
They fight
BENVOLIOPart, fools!
Put up your swords; you know not what you do.
Beats down their swords
TYBALTWhat, art thou drawn among these heartless hinds?
Turn thee, Benvolio, look upon thy death.
BENVOLIOI do but keep the peace: put up thy sword,
Or manage it to part these men with me.
TYBALTWhat, drawn, and talk of peace! I hate the word,
As I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee:
Have at thee, coward!
They fight
Enter, several of both houses, who join the fray; then enter Citizens, with clubs
First CitizenClubs, bills, and partisans! strike! beat them down!60
Down with the Capulets! down with the Montagues!
Enter CAPULET in his gown, and LADY CAPULET
CAPULETWhat noise is this? Give me my long sword, ho!
LADY CAPULETA crutch, a crutch! why call you for a sword?
CAPULETMy sword, I say! Old Montague is come,
And flourishes his blade in spite of me.
MONTAGUEThou villain Capulet,--Hold me not, let me go.
LADY MONTAGUEThou shalt not stir a foot to seek a foe.
Enter PRINCE, with Attendants
PRINCERebellious subjects, enemies to peace,
Profaners of this neighbour-stained steel,--
Will they not hear? What, ho! you men, you beasts,70
That quench the fire of your pernicious rage
With purple fountains issuing from your veins,
On pain of torture, from those bloody hands
Throw your mistemper'd weapons to the ground,
And hear the sentence of your moved prince.
Three civil brawls, bred of an airy word,
By thee, old Capulet, and Montague,
Have thrice disturb'd the quiet of our streets,
And made Verona's ancient citizens
Cast by their grave beseeming ornaments,80
To wield old partisans, in hands as old,
Canker'd with peace, to part your canker'd hate:
If ever you disturb our streets again,
Your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace.
For this time, all the rest depart away:
You Capulet; shall go along with me:
And, Montague, come you this afternoon,
To know our further pleasure in this case,
To old Free-town, our common judgment-place.
Once more, on pain of death, all men depart.90
MONTAGUEWho set this ancient quarrel new abroach?
Speak, nephew, were you by when it began?
BENVOLIOHere were the servants of your adversary,
And yours, close fighting ere I did approach:
I drew to part them: in the instant came
The fiery Tybalt, with his sword prepared,
Which, as he breathed defiance to my ears,
He swung about his head and cut the winds,
Who nothing hurt withal hiss'd him in scorn:
While we were interchanging thrusts and blows,100
Came more and more and fought on part and part,
Till the prince came, who parted either part.
LADY MONTAGUEO, where is Romeo? saw you him to-day?
Right glad I am he was not at this fray.
BENVOLIOMadam, an hour before the worshipp'd sun
Peer'd forth the golden window of the east,
A troubled mind drave me to walk abroad;
Where, underneath the grove of sycamore
That westward rooteth from the city's side,
So early walking did I see your son:
Towards him I made, but he was ware of me
And stole into the covert of the wood:
I, measuring his affections by my own,
That most are busied when they're most alone,
Pursued my humour not pursuing his,
And gladly shunn'd who gladly fled from me.
MONTAGUEMany a morning hath he there been seen,
With tears augmenting the fresh morning dew.
Adding to clouds more clouds with his deep sighs;
But all so soon as the all-cheering sun120
Should in the furthest east begin to draw
The shady curtains from Aurora's bed,
Away from the light steals home my heavy son,
And private in his chamber pens himself,
Shuts up his windows, locks far daylight out
And makes himself an artificial night:
Black and portentous must this humour prove,
Unless good counsel may the cause remove.
BENVOLIOMy noble uncle, do you know the cause?
MONTAGUEI neither know it nor can learn of him.130
BENVOLIOHave you importuned him by any means?
MONTAGUEBoth by myself and many other friends:
But he, his own affections' counsellor,
Is to himself--I will not say how true--
But to himself so secret and so close,
So far from sounding and discovery,
As is the bud bit with an envious worm,
Ere he can spread his sweet leaves to the air,
Or dedicate his beauty to the sun.
Could we but learn from whence his sorrows grow.140
We would as willingly give cure as know.
BENVOLIOSee, where he comes: so please you, step aside;
I'll know his grievance, or be much denied.
MONTAGUEI would thou wert so happy by thy stay,
To hear true shrift. Come, madam, let's away.
BENVOLIOGood morrow, cousin.
ROMEOIs the day so young?
BENVOLIOBut new struck nine.
ROMEOAy me! sad hours seem long.
Was that my father that went hence so fast?
BENVOLIOIt was. What sadness lengthens Romeo's hours?
ROMEONot having that, which, having, makes them short.
ROMEOOut of her favour, where I am in love.
BENVOLIOAlas, that love, so gentle in his view,
Should be so tyrannous and rough in proof!
ROMEOAlas, that love, whose view is muffled still,
Should, without eyes, see pathways to his will!
Where shall we dine? O me! What fray was here?
Yet tell me not, for I have heard it all.160
Here's much to do with hate, but more with love.
Why, then, O brawling love! O loving hate!
O any thing, of nothing first create!
O heavy lightness! serious vanity!
Mis-shapen chaos of well-seeming forms!
Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire,
sick health!
Still-waking sleep, that is not what it is!
This love feel I, that feel no love in this.
Dost thou not laugh?
BENVOLIONo, coz, I rather weep.
ROMEOGood heart, at what?
BENVOLIOAt thy good heart's oppression.
ROMEOWhy, such is love's transgression.171
Griefs of mine own lie heavy in my breast,
Which thou wilt propagate, to have it prest
With more of thine: this love that thou hast shown
Doth add more grief to too much of mine own.
Love is a smoke raised with the fume of sighs;
Being purged, a fire sparkling in lovers' eyes;
Being vex'd a sea nourish'd with lovers' tears:
What is it else? a madness most discreet,
A choking gall and a preserving sweet.180
Farewell, my coz.
BENVOLIOSoft! I will go along;
An if you leave me so, you do me wrong.
ROMEOTut, I have lost myself; I am not here;
This is not Romeo, he's some other where.
BENVOLIOTell me in sadness, who is that you love.
ROMEOWhat, shall I groan and tell thee?
BENVOLIOGroan! why, no.
But sadly tell me who.
ROMEOBid a sick man in sadness make his will:
Ah, word ill urged to one that is so ill!
In sadness, cousin, I do love a woman.190
BENVOLIOI aim'd so near, when I supposed you loved.
ROMEOA right good mark-man! And she's fair I love.
BENVOLIOA right fair mark, fair coz, is soonest hit.
ROMEOWell, in that hit you miss: she'll not be hit
With Cupid's arrow; she hath Dian's wit;
And, in strong proof of chastity well arm'd,
From love's weak childish bow she lives unharm'd.
She will not stay the siege of loving terms,
Nor bide the encounter of assailing eyes,
Nor ope her lap to saint-seducing gold:200
O, she is rich in beauty, only poor,
That when she dies with beauty dies her store.
BENVOLIOThen she hath sworn that she will still live chaste?
ROMEOShe hath, and in that sparing makes huge waste,
For beauty starved with her severity
Cuts beauty off from all posterity.
She is too fair, too wise, wisely too fair,
To merit bliss by making me despair:
She hath forsworn to love, and in that vow
Do I live dead that live to tell it now.210
BENVOLIOBe ruled by me, forget to think of her.
ROMEOO, teach me how I should forget to think.
BENVOLIOBy giving liberty unto thine eyes;
Examine other beauties.
ROMEO'Tis the way
To call hers exquisite, in question more:
These happy masks that kiss fair ladies' brows
Being black put us in mind they hide the fair;
He that is strucken blind cannot forget
The precious treasure of his eyesight lost:
Show me a mistress that is passing fair,220
What doth her beauty serve, but as a note
Where I may read who pass'd that passing fair?
Farewell: thou canst not teach me to forget.
BENVOLIOI'll pay that doctrine, or else die in debt.

Romeo and Juliet, Act 1, Scene 2


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



1. alike, equal; cp. K. J. ii. 1. 231, "Strength match'd with strength, and power confronted power: Both are alike; and both alike we like."

2. fair Verona. The capital of one of the nine provinces of Venetia, and of all the cities of those provinces second in importance to Venice alone. Originally founded by the Gauls, it afterwards became a Roman colony, and was the residence of the Lombard princes in the middle ages; later on it suffered severely from the contests between the Ghibellines and the Guelphs, the former the supporters of the imperial authority in Italy, the latter its opponents. The supposed house of the Capulets and the tomb of Juliet are still shown, though the tradition regarding both is without any authority. Romeo and Juliet is, however, founded on events that actually took place, and Escalus, prince of Verona, was Bartolommeo della Scala, who died in 1303.

3. grudge, ill will, hatred: mutiny, discord, the active manifestation of the ill-will cherished by the two families; for this sense of the word, cp. below, i. 5. 82, "You'll make a mutiny among my guests"; Cor. ii. 3. 264, "This mutiny were better put in hazard, Than stay, past doubt, for greater." The original sense of the word is merely 'movement,' thence 'commotion,' it being through the French from the Lat. movere, to move.

4. Where, in which strife: though in civil blood, civil hands, civil means that which relates to the community of citizens, there is probably in the latter phrase a play upon the word in its sense of 'polite,' 'well-mannered.'

5. these two foes, the two hostile families.

6. star-cross'd, destined by the stars to ill-fortune. For a fuller reference to the astrological beliefs of the time, see Lear. i. 2. 112-144.

7, 8. Whose ... strife, the ill-fated termination of whose love buries in their graves the strife that raged between their parents; misadventured, unfortunate; one of those adjectives formed from nouns which are so frequent in Shakespeare, and which have generally been mistaken for participles: Do, the quartos give Doth, which is justified by some on the grounds that it is the old southern plural in -eth, as in M. V. iii. 2. 33, "Where men enforced doth speak everything" (the reading of the first folio), by others as an instance of the singular verb where the sense of the subject is collective. The latter seems the more probable case here.

9. The fearful ... love, the terrible course of their love marked out for death; for passage, cp. T. C. ii. 3. 140, "The passage and whole carriage of this action Rode on his tide."

11. but, except.

12. the two ... stage, that in which our stage deals for two hours, the transaction with which our play is concerned. The duration of a play is frequently spoken of in the prologues to them as being of two hours only, though three hours is sometimes given.

14. miss, be deficient, or, perhaps, miss the mark. This prologue, which is written on the same metrical scheme as the Sonnets, viz., two rhymed quatrains closing in a rhymed couplet, is omitted in the folios, and by some is supposed not to be Shakespeare's.

Act I. Scene I.

1. carry coals, put up with insults. A phrase very common in the old dramatists and owing its origin to the fact that the carriers of coals were the lowest of menials. Cp. e.g. H. V. iii. 2. 49, "Nym and Bardolph are sworn brothers in filching, and in Calais they stole a fire-shovel: I knew by that piece of service the men would carry coals"; Jonson, Every Man Out of His Humour, v. 1. 18, 9, "here comes one that will carry coals, ergo, will hold my dog"; Chapman, May Day, iii. , speaks of "an un-cole-carrying spirit."

2. colliers, a term of contempt, not merely from their being ready to carry coals, i.e. put up with insults, but from the blackness of their appearance. So, in T. N. iii. 4. 130, Satan for his blackness is called "foul collier."

3. an we be ... draw, if our temper be up, we will draw our swords.

4. Ay, ... collar, yes, so long as you live, do your best to get out of difficulties; merely said for the sake of the pun on colliers, choler, and collar.

5. moved, excited, stirred to anger.

6. But thou ... strike, but it takes a good deal to provoke you to such a step.

7. A dog ... me, I am easily provoked to striking whenever I meet one of the rascally retinue of the Montague household.

10, 1. shall ... stand, is certain to provoke me to take up my stand for a combat with him; for shall, to denote inevitable futurity without reference to will, desire, see Abb. § 315: will take the wall, will assert my right to walk nearest the wall, on the inside of the pathway, not allow myself to be thrust off the pavement on to the roadway; and so to get the better of any one.

12, 3. goes to the wall, is thrust against the wall; a proverbial expression for getting the worst of a dispute. Schmidt (Lex.) quotes from the Life and Death of Thomas Lord Cromwell (a play sometimes attributed to Shakespeare), iii. 3, "though the drops be small, Yet have they force to force men to the wall."

14, 5. the weaker vessels, women; a term taken from the Bible, i. Peter, iii. 7, "Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel."

16. men, servants; cp. Temp. ii. 1. 274, "'Ban, 'Ban, Cacaliban Has a new master; get a new man."

19. 'Tis all one, that makes no difference. In the previous line Hartley conjectures 'not us' for "us," which would make Sampson's answer more pertinent.

22. thy tool, your weapon, sword; generally in this sense used in a contemptuous way: here comes two, for the inflection in -s, preceding a plural subject, see Abb. § 335. Malone quotes from Gascoigne's Devise of a Masque a passage to show that the partizans of the Montagues wore a token in their hats to distinguish them from their enemies, the Capulets, and that hence, throughout the play, they are known at a distance.

24. quarrel, provoke them to fight by using taunting words: back, support; now more commonly 'back up. ' Delius compares i. H. IV. ii. 4. 166, "call you that backing of your friends? a plague upon such backing!"

26. Fear me not, do not fear as to the way in which I shall behave, do not be afraid of my running away; me, for me, as regards me.

27. marry, a corruption of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, equivalent to 'by Mary,' and used as a petty oath; a corruption employed in order to avoid the statutes against profane swearing: I fear thee! do you fancy that I fear you? pretending to take the words in their more ordinary sense.

28. Let us ... begin, let us make sure of having the law on our side by leaving it to them to begin the quarrel.

30. list, choose, please; from the A.S. lust, pleasure; often used in old authors as an impersonal verb, 'it lists me,' like 'it likes me.'

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 thumhe naile into the mouth , and with a jerke (from the upper teeth) make it to knacke." An Italian custom intended to provoke a quarrel.

32. if they bear it, if they should take it quietly, not resent it.

36. of our side, on our side.

42. If you do, ... you. An elliptical expression for 'you say that you do not quarrel, but if you do, I am ready to meet you.'

45. Well, sir. Sampson is non-plussed and does not like to venture on the word 'better.'

46. here comes ... kinsmen. As it is Benvolio, one of the Montagues, who first comes on the scene, Steevens is probably right in supposing that Gregory's eyes are looking in the direction from which Tybalt, who enters immediately afterwards, is coming, and does not see Benvolio.

49, 50. thy swashing blow, that crushing blow of yours for which you are so famous. To 'swash' is to strike with a heavy and sounding blow. Shakespeare also uses the word in the sense of 'swaggering,' A. Y. L. i. 3. 122, "We'll have a swashing and a martial outside"; and swasher for a bully, H. V. iii. 2. 30, "As young as I am, I have observed these three swashers."

53. What, art thou ... hinds? What! have you drawn your sword to take part in a quarrel between these cowardly boors? Is that the sort of occupation for a man of your rank? If you want to fight, you will find in me a foe worthy of your steel.

54. Turn thee ... death, leave those hinds and face me from whose sword you will meet your death.

56. manage it, wield it, make use of it; to manage, in the sense of wielding weapons, was formerly a common expression; cp. R. II. iii. 2. 118, "Yea, distaff women manage rusty bills Against thy seat"; ii. H. IV. iii. 2. 292, "Come, manage me your caliver"; 301, "a' would manage you his piece thus." Literally meaning to 'handle,' from Lat. manus, a hand, it is now more commonly used in a figurative sense: with me, in cooperation with me.

57. What, drawn, ... peace! The "fiery Tybalt" cannot conceive the idea of a sword being drawn for any other purpose than that of fighting. For drawn, in this absolute sense, cp. H. V. ii. l. 39, "well a day, Lady, if he be not drawn now."

59. Have at thee, coward! here goes for a blow at you. Shakespeare has also "have after," "have to," "have through," "have with"; 'let me,' or 'let us,' having to be supplied.

60. Clubs, bills, partisans! a common cry in affrays in London for armed persons to part the combatants. The clubs were those borne by the London apprentices who were called in for this purpose, though sometimes the cry was raised to stir up a disturbance; for the cry in the former case, cp. T. A. ii. 1. 37, "Clubs, clubs! these lovers will not keep the peace"; in the latter, H. VIII. V. 4. 53, "I missed the meteor once, and hit that woman; who cried out 'Clubs!' when I might see from far some forty truncheons drawn to her succour"; bills, originally a kind of pike carried by the English infantry, later on the weapon with which the civic watchmen were armed; partisans, much the same as the pike or halberd; etymology doubtful.

Stage Direction. In his gown, i.e. what we should now call dressing-gown; showing, as Delius points out, that he had been disturbed in his night's rest.

62. my long sword. "The weapon used in active warfare; a lighter, shorter, and less desperate weapon was used for ornament, to which we have other allusions. [A. W. ii. 1. 32, 3] 'Till honour be bought up and no sword worn But one to dance with'" (Singer).

63. a crutch, a crutch! call rather for a crutch to support your feeble limbs; the sword is no weapon for you.

65. in spite of me, not 'notwithstanding me,' as the words would now mean, but in malicious hostility towards me.

69. Profaners ... steel, who profane the use of weapons by dying them in the blood of your fellow-citizens.

74. mistemper'd, furious, but also involving the idea of tempered, welded, fashioned, to an evil use. To 'temper' steel is to bring it to the proper degree of hardness by plunging it into icy-cold water when red-hot; cp. Oth. v. 2. 253. In its metaphorical sense mistempered occurs in K. J. v. 1. 12, "This inundation of mistemper'd humour Rests by you only to be qualified."

75. moved, sc. to wrath.

76. bred of an airy word, having their origin in the breath of taunting words.

70. ancient, eklerly.

80. their .. ornaments, the dress and weapons (sc. walking sticks) suitable to their time of life and gravity. In i. H. VI. iv. 1. 29, the sword is called the "ornament of knighthood," and in M. A. V. 4, 125, in the "reverend staff" (used with a double entendre) the reference is to the walking-sticks or staves headed with a cross piece of horn or sometimes of amber which were carried by elderly persons.

81, 2. To wield ... hate, to wield old weapons eaten up by rust in order to separate you whose hearts are eaten up with hatred; 'canker,' a doublet of 'cancer,' is something that corrodes, eats into, a substance, the former being used especially of rust, or of a worm that preys upon blossoms, the latter of the tumour which eats into the flesh; both from Lat. cancer, a crab. Cp. V. A. 767, "Fowl-cankering rust the hidden treasure eats." For partisans, see note on 1. 60, above.

84. the forfeit of the peace, the penalty due for breaking the peace. A forfeit is a thing lost by a misdeed, and we speak of the 'forfeit of the crime,' but not 'the forfeit of the peace.' The word is ultimately from the Lat. foris facere, to do or act abroad or beyond.

85. For this time, for the present: all the rest, all except Capulet.

88. our further pleasure, what else we are pleased to determine.

89. Free-town, a translation of the Villa franca in the Italian story on which the play is founded.

91. new abroach, newly stirring, running afresh; abroach is on broach, from the M. E. phrase setten on broche, and to broach is to pierce a cask in order to set the liquor running by inserting a peg or spit (broach). Cp. ii. H. IV. iv. 2. 14, "What mischiefs might he set abroach"; and, in the literal sense, of to spit, H. V. V. Chor. 32, "Bringing rebellion broached on his sword."

92. by, present, at hand, on the spot.

94. close fighting, in hand to hand combat.

95. in the instant, at the instant, the very same minute.

96. prepared, sc for fighting, by being drawn.

99. Who, for who personifying irrational antecedents, see Abb. § 264: nothing, in no way: withal, with the stroke of his sword; cp. Macbeth. V. 8. 9, "As easy mayest thou the intrenchant air with thy keen sword impress as make me bleed"; Hamlet. iv. 1. 44, "hit the woundless air"; Temp. iii. 3. 61-4, "the elements, Of whom your swords are temper'd, may as well Wound the loud winds, or with bemocked-at stabs Kill the still-closing waters."

101. more and more, reinforcements to both parties: on part and part, on one side and the other.

102. parted either part, separated the two parties.

104. the worshipp'd sun, not of course literally as with the Persians, but figuratively, joyously welcomed; and perhaps with an allusion to worshipping the rising sun, i.e. courting those on the high road to power.

106. Peer'd forth, peeped out from; for forth, as a preposition, cp. A. G. iv. 10. 7, "They have put forth the haven": golden ... east, of course golden only when the sun is rising.

107. drave, Shakespeare frequently uses this form as well as drove.

108. sycamore, "properly 'sycomore,' i.e. fig-mulberry tree. ... The trees so called in Europe and America are different from the Oriental sycamore "... (Skeat, Ety. Dict.).

109. That westward . . . side, that grows on the west side of the city.

111. I made, I directed my steps: ware of me, aware of my approach; literally on guard against, from A.S. waer, cautious.

113. affections, inclinations.

114. Which then... found, which (sc. Benvolio's inclinations) then most desired a place where fewest people would be found. The first quarto gives "That most are busied, when they're most alone," and this reading, first introduced by Pope, has been adopted in the Old Variorum Shakespeare, and by Knight, Dyce, Staunton, and Clarke; for most might Allen conjectures more might, remarking, "Shakespeare was not the man (in Romeo and Juliet, at least) to let slip the chance of running through the Degrees of Comparison, many, more, most": Being ... self, finding my own wearisome company more than enough for myself.

115. Pursued ... his, followed my own inclination to solitude without owing any prompting to his inclination; for his Thirlby conjectured him, which was adopted by Theobald, Hanmer, Warburton, and Johnson.

116. who gladly ... me, who was only too anxious to escape me.

119. his deep sighs, the breath of the deep sighs he drew. Delius compares T. A. iii. 1. 212, "Or with our sighs we'll breathe the welkin dim."

120. all so soon, as soon as ever.

121. should, was bound to.

123. heavy, in mind ; for sake of the antithesis with light.

124. pens himself, shuts himself up; to pen is connected with pin, and comes ultimately from the Lat. penna, a feather.

127. portentous, ominous.

131. Have you ... means, have you made any great effort to discover it, have you pressed him with persistent questioning or sought to get to the bottom of the matter through his associates?

133. his own ... counsellor, resolutely keeping his own secret, confiding in no one.

136. So far ... discovery, as much beyond the possibility of being sounded, of having the depth of his thoughts measured, and of being got to reveal his secret: to sound is to measure depth with a plummet; the etymology of the word is doubtful.

137. envious, malignant: worm, the canker worm; see note on 1. 81, above, and cp. T. N. ii. 4. 113-5, "She never told her love, But let concealment like a worm i' the bud Feed on her damask cheek."

142, 3. so please ... denied, if you will be good enough to withdraw out of sight, I will ascertain the cause of his dejection, or at all events will not allow myself to be easily put off in my endeavour to do so. In the sense of 'provided that,' 'on these terms,' so is sometimes preceded by be it (i.e. if it be), as in M. N. D. i. 1. 39, "Be it so she will not," sometimes is used elliptically, as here, and in both cases sometimes with, and sometimes without, that following it; see Abb. § 1.33; for know, in the sense of 'ascertain,' 'make oneself acquainted with,' cp. below, v. 3. 198, "Search, seek, and know how this foul murder comes"; grievance is more commonly used by Shakespeare for 'grief,' 'sorrow,' 'suffering,' as here, though sometimes in the more modern sense of 'cause of complaint,' as below, iii. 1. 55, "reason coldly of your grievances"; for denied, = refused an answer, or an entreaty, cp. R. II. v. 3. 103, "He prays but faintly and would be denied."

144. happy, fortunate, successful in your attempt.

145. To hear true shrift, as to obtain from a tru confession of his sorrow; for the omission of as after so, see Abb. § 281; shrift, more usually in Shakespeare for confession made to a priest, and the absolution consequent upon it, but sometimes, as here, for confession only; while in Oth. iii. 3. 24, it means a penitential exercise or rigorous discipline. "The verb to shrive is M. E. schriven, shriven ... — A.S. scrifan, to shrive, to impose a penance or compensation, to judge. .. But although it thus appears as a strong verb, it does not appear to be a true Teutonic word. It was rather borrowed (at a very early period) from Lat. scribere, to write, to draw up a law. ... The particular sense is due to the legal use of the word, signifying (1) to draw up a law, (2) to impose a legal obligation or penalty, (3) to impose or prescribe a penance. ... The substantive shrift is M. E. shrift ... A. S. scrift, confession, ... and just as the A. S. verb scrifan is due to Lat. scribere, so A.S. scrift is due to Lat. p.p. scriptus" ... (Skeat, Ety. Dict.)

146. morrow, morning; 'good morrow,' or 'good day,' was the salutation used until noon, after which time it became ' good e'en' (evening): so young, so early. Steevens compares Acolastus, a comedy, 1540, "It is yet young nyghte, or there is moche of the nyghte to come."

147. new, newly, just now.

149. lengthens, causes to seem tedious.

154. where, with whom; where is often used by Shakespeare in a wide sense = in which, in which case, on which occasion, etc. Cp. W. T. V. 1. 213, "you have broken from his liking Where you were tied in duty," almost = towards whom; H. V. i. 2. 121, "They have a king and officers of sorts, Where some like magistrates correct at home," almost = in whose case, among whom.

155. in his view, in appearance, to look at; cp. M. V. iii. 2. 132, "You that choose not by the view"; view, sight: still, ever.

156-8. Should ... will! apparently means 'should be able to find the means of wounding those he chooses to wound,' Steevens explains, "Romeo laments that love, though blind, should discover pathways to his will, and yet cannot avail himself of them; should perceive the road which he is forbidden to take"; Singer, "That is, should blindly and recklessly think he can surmount all obstacles to his will." But the personification of love seems to show that it is the objective power of love over others, not his own subjective inability, that Romeo laments; and to "see pathways to his will" is equivalent to 'to see the way to carry out his will,' 'be able to carry out his will.'

159. What fray was here? What disturbance, conflict, has been raging here? said as he notices the marks of the struggle and the blood of the combatants still fresh on the ground.

161. Here's much hate! this conflict has much to do with hatred, i.e. so far as the rival families are concerned, but has more to do with love, i.e. so far as he is concerned (the object of his love, Rosaline, belonging to the Capulet family); the two things, love and hatred, being in this case so intimately blended, Romeo says he may well speak of brawling love and loving hatred.

162-7. Why, then, ... it is! Hudson well remarks, "Such an affected way of speaking not unaptly shows the state of Romeo's mind; his love is rather self-generated than inspired by any object. As compared with his style of speech after meeting with Juliet, it seems to mark the difference between being love-sick and being in love." At the same time it should be remembered that such description of love by means of antitheses was common among the sonneteers and the Provencal and Italian poets. Farmer quotes several such laboured contrarieties: create, for the omission of -ed in the past participles of verbs ending in -te, -t, and -d, see Abb. § 342: well--seeming, apparently well proportioned, symmetrical: that is not what it is, that is a contradiction to itself.

168. that feel ... this, who feel no satisfaction in such love.

169. coz, an abbreviation of 'cousin.'

170. Good heart, dear friend: At thy... oppression, at the burden your warm heart has to bear.

171. Why, such ... transgression, why, such are the cruelties of which love is commonly guilty. To complete the metre of the line, Collier inserted Benvolio after such; Keightley conjectured gentle cousin; Orger, such a love is, etc.

173-4. Which thou ... thine, which griefs you will increase and multiply by causing my breast to be burdened with griefs of yours.

175. too much, "used substantively as a compound word" (Delius).

177. Being purged ... eyes, which when it is purified of its smoky character, i.e. of the doubts and anxieties with which it is clouded, blazes up as a bright fire in the eyes of lovers; urg'd, puff'd, rag'd, have been suggested for purged, but there seems no need of alteration.

178. Being vex'd, ... tears, which if it is thwarted, chafed by restraint, becomes a sea, etc. The idea is that of a sea swollen by torrents, and raging against its confining shores; cp. J. C. i. 2. 101, "The troubled Tiber chafing with her shores."

179. What is it else? do you ask to what else it may be likened?

180. A choking ... sweet, at one time a bitter so powerful as almost to choke the swallow, at another, something as delicious as fruits used in preserving, As Shakespeare, J. C. i. 1. 4, uses "a labouring day" for "a day on which men labour," and A. C. iii. 13. 77, "his all-obeying breath" for "breath which all obey," so a preserving sweet seems to mean 'a sweet of the kind used for preserving.' Ulrici, who takes preserving as = 'preserved,' explains, "Love may be compared to a preserved sweet because, although against our will, it is kept and cherished"; which appears to me a very forced meaning.

181. Soft! gently; do not be in such a hurry: along, sc. with you; the omission of 'with me, you,' etc., is frequent in Shakespeare.

183. lost. Daniel adopts left, a conjecture by Allen, who says, "It is exactly in Romeo's manner, in this dialogue, that he should take up the very word of Benvolio in his answer." He adds that the converse misprint of left for lost occurs in Cor. i. 4. 55, and Daniel refers to Haml. iii. 1. 99, where the quartos read lost, the folios left.

184. some other where, elsewhere; in another place.

185. in sadness, in all sober truth, in earnest; a sense frequent in Shakespeare, e.g. M. W. iii. 5. 125, T. S. v. 2. 64. So sadly below, i. 1. 187, M. A. ii. 3. 229, and sad constantly: for the uninflected who, see Abb. § 274.

186. what ... tell thee? Romeo pretends to misunderstand Benvolio's use of sadness.

188. will, testament.

189. word, sc. "sadness": ill-urged, which you do wrong to make use of so persistently.

190. In sadness, ... woman. Romeo here combines the two senses, seriousness and sorrow.

192. mark-man, aimer; the earlier form of marksman.

193. A right fair mark, a mark easily distinguished.

194, 5. Well, ... arrow, well, in that hit of yours, i.e. in assuming that she must easily be hit, your aim is beside the mark: for it is impossible for Cupid's arrow to hit her, she refuses to allow Cupid's arrow to reach her bosom: Dian's wit, Diana's wisdom, prudence, in repelling all love attacks.

196. And, in strong ... arm'd, and secure in the proof-armour of chastity; 'armour of proof' or 'proof-armour' is armour which has been tested in the manufactory by a severe strain being put upon it; so we speak of swords, guns, cannon, being 'proved' before they are issued for use. Steevens sees in these lines an oblique compliment to Queen Elizabeth, who would be gratified by praise of her chastity and beauty.

197. unharm'd. This, the reading of the first quarto, seems quite satisfactory; but several editors approve of Collier's conjecture encharmed, and Grant White is inclined to read "'Gainst ... love's ... encharmed," following, as regards the preposition, the text of the first quarto.

198. She will not... terms, she will not suffer herself to be besieged by propositions of love. Probably in terms there is an allusion to the conditions offered by besiegers to the besieged, i.e. she will not make peace with her lovers on the terms of love which they propose.

199. Nor bide ... eyes, nor wait the shock of dangerous love-looks. Cp. M. A. i. 1. 327, "I will ... take her hearing prisoner with the force And strong encounter of my amorous tale."

200. saint-seducing, sufficiently powerful to overcome the scruples of the most saintly persons.

202. That, when ... store, that with her death perishes that with which she is so richly endowed, viz. beauty. Theobald, however, plausibly conjectured "with her dies beauty's store," which several editors have accepted, and which tallies closely with the purport of the earlier Sonnets, probably written about the same time with Romeo and Juliet.

204. in that sparing ... waste, in being thus sparing of herself, in not allowing her beauty to be propagated by succession, she is guilty of great waste. This thought, again, is closely parallelled by the first Sonnet, where the theme is precisely the same; "Thou that art now the world's fresh ornament And only herald to the gaudy spring. Within thine own bud buriest thy content. And, tender churl, mak'st waste in niggarding."

205, 6. For beauty ... posterity, for beauty, by her severity made to pine away, prevents all succession of like beauty; beauty perishes without an heir. Cp. V. A. 751-60.

207, 8. she is too fair ... despair, fair and wise as she is, her beauty being set off by her wisdom, her personal charms enhanced by her mental graces, it is wrong that she should inherit bliss by driving me to despair. I take wisely too fair to be nothing more than an expansion of too wise, too fair. Delius (apud Furness) explains, "The excess of her beauty does not accord with the excess of her wisdom; she ought not to try to win heavenly bliss while burdening herself with sin by plunging Romeo into despair." Malone, "There is in her too much sanctimonious wisdom united with beauty, which induces her to continue chaste with the hopes of attaining heavenly bliss."

209, 10. in that vow ... now, by that vow (that she will die unmarried) which I live to tell you, my life is made a living death.

211. ruled, guided, advised.

213. By giving ... eyes, by allowing your eyes to dwell on the beauty of others, not restricting yourself to the contemplation of her charms only.

214, 5. 'Tis the way ... more, the only result of examining the beauty of others would be to make me more curious in noting that beauty of hers which is so exquisite; cp. T. G. iii. 2. 60, "she'll bereave you o' the deeds too, if she call your activity in question," i.e. if she examines it by trying, as Schmidt explains. Here, however, exquisite and question, both being of the same origin, have suggested each other.

216, 7. These happy masks ... fair? The gist of these lines is as follows; when we behold the masks worn by ladies, the fact of their being black only serves to make us think of the fair complexions they hide; and so, if I look at other beauties, I shall only be led to think of Rosaline: men may lose their eyesight, but that does not prevent their remembering with a yearning regret that they once had that precious possession; and so, if I examine other features, my doing so will only serve to call up the painful remembrance that I have before looked on other features more beautiful (sc. those of Rosaline): if you show me some one exquisitely lovely, the only result will be to put me in mind of one whose loveliness far surpassed hers: These, used generically, these masks that we are so familiar with: fair, used in a double sense (1) beautiful, (2) fair as opposed to dark.

218. strucken. Shakespeare uses struck, strucken, stroken, stricken, and perhaps other forms of the participle.

220. passing, surpassingly; an adverbial use very frequent in Shakespeare, in the same sense as pass'd just below.

221. what doth ... serve, what purpose does her beauty serve; i.e. it serves no other purpose: note, memorandum, writing from which something may be gathered.

224. I'll pay ... debt, I will render you that instruction, teach you to forget, or else die owning myself your debtor. For doctrine, cp. A. C. v. 2. 31, "I hourly learn a doctrine of obedience."

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


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microsoft images "In one drama only did he represent ideal love brought to a tragic doom without a hint of inner severance. The wedded unity of Romeo and Juliet is absolute from their first meeting to their last embrace; it encounters only the blind onset of outer and irrelevant events; nothing touches their rapturous faith in one another. This earliest of the authentic tragedies thus represents, in comparison with its successors, only an elementary order of tragic experience; set beside Othello, it appears to be not a tragedy of love, but love's triumphal hymn. Yet it is only in this sense immature. If Shakespeare had not yet fathomed the depths of human misery, he understood completely the exaltation of passion, and Romeo and Juliet, though it gives few glimpses beyond the horizons of his early world, remains the consummate flower of his poetry of ideal love." C. H. Herford. Read on...


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The Dramatic Purpose of Act 1, Scene 1... "The thread of the feud action is here introduced with the peace-making Benvolio on the side of the Montagues and the fiery Tybalt on the Capulet side. The quarrel is suppressed when the Prince enters and, in the presence of the heads of the two houses which have thrice disturbed Verona's streets with broils, declares that death will be the penalty if civil peace is again threatened by their hatred. This warning is a preparation for the tragic climax. The love action is suggested. The strangeness of Romeo's new mood is discussed by his parents and Benvolio. When Romeo enters, it is soon discovered that the cause is unrequited love. Benvolio's determination to teach Romeo to forget this lady prepares the way for the change in the hero's feelings in the masquerade scene." Read on...


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