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Romeo and Juliet

Please see the bottom of the page for explanatory notes.

ACT I SCENE III A room in Capulet's house. 
[Enter LADY CAPULET and Nurse]
LADY CAPULETNurse, where's my daughter? call her forth to me.
NurseNow, by my maidenhead, at twelve year old,
I bade her come. What, lamb! what, lady-bird!
God forbid! Where's this girl? What, Juliet!
[Enter JULIET]
JULIETHow now! who calls?
NurseYour mother.
JULIETMadam, I am here.
What is your will?
LADY CAPULETThis is the matter:--Nurse, give leave awhile,
We must talk in secret:--nurse, come back again;10
I have remember'd me, thou's hear our counsel.
Thou know'st my daughter's of a pretty age.
NurseFaith, I can tell her age unto an hour.
LADY CAPULETShe's not fourteen.
NurseI'll lay fourteen of my teeth,--
And yet, to my teeth be it spoken, I have but four--
She is not fourteen. How long is it now
To Lammas-tide?
LADY CAPULETA fortnight and odd days.
NurseEven or odd, of all days in the year,20
Come Lammas-eve at night shall she be fourteen.
Susan and she--God rest all Christian souls!--
Were of an age: well, Susan is with God;
She was too good for me: but, as I said,

On Lammas-eve at night shall she be fourteen;
That shall she, marry; I remember it well.
'Tis since the earthquake now eleven years;
And she was wean'd,--I never shall forget it,--
Of all the days of the year, upon that day:
For I had then laid wormwood to my dug,30
Sitting in the sun under the dove-house wall;
My lord and you were then at Mantua:--
Nay, I do bear a brain:--but, as I said,
When it did taste the wormwood on the nipple
Of my dug and felt it bitter, pretty fool,
To see it tetchy and fall out with the dug!
Shake quoth the dove-house: 'twas no need, I trow,
To bid me trudge:
And since that time it is eleven years;
For then she could stand alone; nay, by the rood,40
She could have run and waddled all about;
For even the day before, she broke her brow:
And then my husband--God be with his soul!
A' was a merry man--took up the child:
'Yea,' quoth he, 'dost thou fall upon thy face?
Thou wilt fall backward when thou hast more wit;
Wilt thou not, Jule?' and, by my holidame,
The pretty wretch left crying and said 'Ay.'
To see, now, how a jest shall come about!
I warrant, an I should live a thousand years,50
I never should forget it: 'Wilt thou not, Jule?' quoth he;
And, pretty fool, it stinted and said 'Ay.'
LADY CAPULETEnough of this; I pray thee, hold thy peace.
NurseYes, madam: yet I cannot choose but laugh,
To think it should leave crying and say 'Ay.'
And yet, I warrant, it had upon its brow
A bump as big as a young cockerel's stone;
A parlous knock; and it cried bitterly:
'Yea,' quoth my husband,'fall'st upon thy face?
Thou wilt fall backward when thou comest to age;60
Wilt thou not, Jule?' it stinted and said 'Ay.'
JULIETAnd stint thou too, I pray thee, nurse, say I.
NursePeace, I have done. God mark thee to his grace!
Thou wast the prettiest babe that e'er I nursed:
An I might live to see thee married once,
I have my wish.
LADY CAPULETMarry, that 'marry' is the very theme
I came to talk of. Tell me, daughter Juliet,
How stands your disposition to be married?
JULIETIt is an honour that I dream not of.70
NurseAn honour! were not I thine only nurse,
I would say thou hadst suck'd wisdom from thy teat.
LADY CAPULETWell, think of marriage now; younger than you,
Here in Verona, ladies of esteem,
Are made already mothers: by my count,
I was your mother much upon these years
That you are now a maid. Thus then in brief:
The valiant Paris seeks you for his love.
NurseA man, young lady! lady, such a man
As all the world--why, he's a man of wax.80
LADY CAPULETVerona's summer hath not such a flower.
NurseNay, he's a flower; in faith, a very flower.
LADY CAPULETWhat say you? can you love the gentleman?
This night you shall behold him at our feast;
Read o'er the volume of young Paris' face,
And find delight writ there with beauty's pen;
Examine every married lineament,
And see how one another lends content
And what obscured in this fair volume lies
Find written in the margent of his eyes.90
This precious book of love, this unbound lover,
To beautify him, only lacks a cover:
The fish lives in the sea, and 'tis much pride
For fair without the fair within to hide:
That book in many's eyes doth share the glory,
That in gold clasps locks in the golden story;
So shall you share all that he doth possess,
By having him, making yourself no less.
NurseNo less! nay, bigger; women grow by men.
LADY CAPULETSpeak briefly, can you like of Paris' love?100
JULIETI'll look to like, if looking liking move:
But no more deep will I endart mine eye
Than your consent gives strength to make it fly.
[Enter a Servant]
ServantMadam, the guests are come, supper served up, you
called, my young lady asked for, the nurse cursed in
the pantry, and every thing in extremity. I must
hence to wait; I beseech you, follow straight.
LADY CAPULETWe follow thee.
[Exit Servant]
Juliet, the county stays.
NurseGo, girl, seek happy nights to happy days.110

Next: Romeo and Juliet, Act 1, Scene 4


Explanatory Notes for Act 1, Scene 3 From Romeo and Juliet. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan.
*Line numbers have been adjusted.


3. What, an exclamation of impatience at not finding her; so why frequently in the same way: lady-bird, a term of endearment; the lady-bird is really a small scarlet insect which flits about from leaf to leaf.

4. God forbid! sc. that anything should have happened to her.

5. How now! what's the matter, that you call out in this way for me!

7. This is the matter, this is what I want to speak to you about: give leave awhile, leave us alone for a time; cp. K. J. i. 1. 230, "James Gurney, wilt thou give us leave awhile?" and i. H. IV. iii. 2. 1, "Lords, give us leave; the Prince of Wales and I Must have some private conference."

11. I have remember'd me, on second thought, there is no need for you to leave us; me, used reflexively; cp. T. N. v. 1. 286, "alas, now I remember me," i.e. now that I come to think of the matter again: thou's, a colloquialism for 'thou shalt,' as in Lear, iv. 6, 246, "ise try " is a provincialism for 'I shall try': counsel, consultation, deliberation.

12. of a pretty age, well grown, of a marriageable age.

13. Faith, in faith, assuredly: unto an hour, exactly.

15. lay, stake as a wager.

16. to my teen, to my sorrow, sorry as I am to say it; cp. Temp. i. 2. 64, "To think of the teen that I have turned you to." Here of course for the sake of the jingle with "fourteen."

18. Lammas-tide, "a name for the first of August ... The literal sense is 'loaf-mass,' because a loaf was offered on this day as an offering of first fruits [sc. of the harvest] ... —A.S. hlaf, a loaf, and maesse, a mass" (Skeat, Ety. Dict.): -tide, for time, as Nares remarks, adding, "Tide was also scrupulously used by the Puritans, in composition, instead of the popish word mass, of which they had a nervous abhorrence. Thus, for Christmas, Hallowmass, Lammas, they said Christ-tide, Hallow-tide, Lamb-tide," Lammas being in those days popularly supposed to be derived from lamb and tide.

20. Even or odd, ... year, whether the number of days between now and Lammastide be even or odd, on that day and no other.

21. Come ... night, an instance, as Wright remarks, note on M. N. D. i. 2. 6, 7, of an uneducated person's anxiety to be scrupulously exact.

22. Susan, her own daughter.

23. of an age, of one and the same age.

24. She was too good for me, I did not deserve so good a child, and therefore she was taken from me...

27. the earthquake. It has been supposed by some that Shakespeare is here alluding to the earthquake that took place in England in 1580, and that therefore the play was written in 1591; by others that he alludes to the far more serious earthquake in Italy in 1570.

28. wean'd, made to give up being suckled. The word is from the A.S. wenian, to accustom, and, as Skeat points out, the child who is being accustomed to bread, etc., is at the same time disaccustomed to, or weaned from, the breast. Hence our present use of the word in the sense of 'disaccustom to.'

30. laid ... dug, sc. in order to make the dug distasteful to the child, wormwood being a plant with a bitter juice. Skeat has shown that the word has really nothing to do with either worm or wood, but is from the A.S. wermod = mind preserver, from A.S. werian, to protect, and A.S. mod, mind, thus pointing back "to some primitive belief as to the curative property of the plant in mental afflictions."

31. Sitting ... wall, again wishing to display her extreme accuracy.

33. Nay, ... brain, for, believe me, I remember the circumstances most minutely; the use of Nay here is elliptical, and equivalent to 'nay, do not wonder, for,' 'nay, you need not doubt my memory, for'; bear a brain, much the same as the more modern 'have a good head,' an expression of which the commentators quote many instances from old writers.

36. To see ... dug! what a pretty sight it was to see it get augry and quarrel with the dug! tetchy, fretful, peevish; the sense, says Skeat, is 'full of tetches or teches, i.e. bad habits, freaks, whims, vices'; of course nothing to do with touchy, which is often used in the sense of peevish.

37. Shake ... dove-house. Wise (Shakespeare: His Birthplace and its Neighbourhood, p. 112), remarks, "a peculiar use of the verb 'quoth' is noticeable among the lower orders in Warwickshire. It is universally applied to inanimate things: for instance, though the ploughshare could not speak, still the verb 'quoth' would not be inapplicable to it. 'Jerk, quoth the ploughshare,' that is, the ploughshare went — to use a vulgarism — jerk. So, precisely in this sense in Romeo and Juliet the old Nurse says, 'Shake, quoth the dove-house,' that is,' the dove-house went or began shaking." Cp. Heywood, The Fair Maid of the West, iv. 1, "I was sent to the top-mast to watch, and there I fell fast asleep. 'Bounce,' quoth the guns, down tumbles Clem [the speaker]." Here the shaking, on on the child's distaste with the dug, is ominous of the Nurse's duty being at an end.

37, 8. 'twas no need ... trudge, there was no need to bid me [goodbye], for the child's quarrelling with the dug was enough to show that my duties were over.

40. for then ... alone, i.e. for then she was between two and three years old; the first quarto gives high-lone, and Dyce has shown that the phrase a high lone, for quite alone, was in use by old writers.

40, 1. nay ... about, nay, not only could stand alone, but, I swear, could have run about everywhere though her feet were not as steady as they might be; the rood, the cross (of Christ), sometimes used for the crucifix, i.e. the cross with a figure of Christ on it.

43. broke her brow, broke the skin of her brow by a fall as she was running about on her not too steady feet. See note on i. 2. 52.

63. Peace, ... grace, very good, I have done. May God set the mark of his favour upon you, show that He loves you! to, for, as an object of.

65. An I might ... wish, if I might only live to see you married, my fondest wish would be gratified; once belongs to live not to married.

69. How stands ... married? how are you disposed as regards marriage? is your inclination for or against marriage? Cp. A. Y. L. i. 1. 131, "Orlando hath a disposition to come in disguised against me to try a fall."

72. I would say ... teat, i.e. but if I were to pay you that compliment, I should also be complimenting myself.

74. ladies of esteem, honourable ladies, ladies of rank and character.

75. by my count, if my memory is right.

76, 7. I was ... maid. "In the old poem Juliet's age is set down at sixteen [1. 1864, "Scarce saw she yet full sixteen yeres"]; in Paynter's novel at eighteen ["sith as yet shee is not attayned to the age of xviii. yeares"]. As Shakespeare makes his heroine only fourteen, Lady Capulet would be twenty-eight; while her husband, having done masking some thirty years, must be at least three score [60 years old]. Knight veils the disparity, and perhaps improves the passage [by reading a for your], but we believe without authority" (Staunton).

78. for his love, in marriage; as his bride.

80. As all the world — the Nurse's enthusiasm is too great for expression: a man of wax, "well made, as if he had been modelled in wax" (Weston); an explanation which Dyce confirms by a quotation from Fair Em, a play sometimes attributed to Shakespeare, i. 3. 50-2, Simpson's ed., "A body, were it framed of wax By all the cunning Artists of the world. It could not better be proportioned."

87. every married lineament, all his features, each of which is in such complete harmony with the rest; cp. ii. H. IV. v. 1. 77, "their spirits are so married in conjunction with the participation of society"; T. C. i. 3. 100, "The unity and married calm of states."

88. And see ... content, and mark "how one sets off another's beauty, to satisfy the eye" (Schmidt).

89, 90. And what ... eyes, and whatever is not clearly expressed in the lines of that face, in those lineaments, find illustrated by the light of his eyes. In old books the text was illustrated by comments in the margin, to which the reader was often directed by an index finger. For other instances in Shakespeare of a face compared to a book, cp. K. J. ii. 1. 485, Lucr. 615, M. N. D. ii. 2. 122; for the form margent, cp. Haml. v. 2. 162, Lucr. 102, L.L.L. ii. 1. 246, in the two latter the figure being the same as that in the text.

91, 2. This precious book ... cover, to him, though full of excellence, yet incomplete, the bonds of marriage will give that grace of completeness which the binding gives to the book; cp. K. J. ii. 1. 437, 8, "He is the half part of a blessed man Left to be finished by such as she." Mason points out that in cover there is a quibble on the law phrase for a married woman, styled feme covert in law-French.

93, 4. The fish ... hide, as the beauty of the element in which it lives sets off the beauty of the fish, so man is graced by his union with woman; pride is taken in covering with a beautiful outside that which is beautiful within, and his innate virtues will find their complement in your outward beauty. I cannot believe with Farmer that there is any allusion to the fish-skin covers in which books were sometimes bound, or with Clarke that Lady Capulet means to say "the fish is not yet caught which is to supply this 'cover' or 'coverture.' The bride who is to be bound in marriage with Paris has not yet been won."

95, 6. That book ... story, that book which locks in a golden story in golden clasps is by many prized as much for those clasps as for its precious contents; and your outward beauty will be as much regarded as his inward excellence.

97, 8. So shall ... less, so shall you be a sharer in all that adorns him, and by taking him in marriage shall in no way lessen your own estimation. These two lines summarize the whole passage from "This precious book" to "golden story," and are entirely opposed to the interpretations of 11. 69, 70, given by Farmer and Clarke.

100. like of, approve of, accept; for this partitive sense, cp. Temp. iii. 1. 57, "a shape to like of"; M. A. v. 4. 59, "if you like of me."

101. I'll look ... move, I will look with the object of liking, if so be that looking is likely to cause liking. Quibbles abound so greatly in this scene that I'll look to may have the double meaning of 'I will expect to.'

102. endart mine eye, set darts in; see Abb. § 440, on the force of en- as a prefix.

103. Than your consent ... fly, than you would approve of my doing.

105. asked for, inquired about: cursed, "because she is not at hand to help" (Delius).

106. in extremity, on the tip-toe of bustle: wait, attend upon the guests: straight, straightway; at once.

109. stays, is waiting for your coming.

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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The First Romeo

Richard Burbage is considered to be the first great actor of the English theatre. He was the son of James Burbage, the theatrical entrepreneur who built the Theatre in Shoreditch on the outskirts of London, and the brother of another famous actor of the day, Cuthbert Burbage. He was wildly popular, and played most of the major Shakespearean characters, including Othello, Hamlet, Lear, Richard III and Romeo. When Burbage died, writers praised his worth as an actor and expressed great sorrow that
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Thoughts on the Nurse "The old woman is no doubt proud of her charge, and in the garrulity of old age, largely spiced with individual coarseness, she dilates upon her services with a complacent feeling of satisfaction that whatever is good in the girl had its origin in her nurture. She rejoices that Juliet should be sought by Paris, not because she knows anything of that suitor's fitness, but because it is a fine thing for a maiden to have a lover. She is equally rejoiced that Juliet should have fallen in love with Romeo. She will help in the secret marriage, because it is easier to do so than to refuse." K. Deighton. Read on...


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