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Romeo and Juliet

Please see the bottom of the page for explanatory notes.

[Enter] Chorus
ChorusNow old desire doth in his death-bed lie,
And young affection gapes to be his heir;
That fair for which love groan'd for and would die,
With tender Juliet match'd, is now not fair.
Now Romeo is beloved and loves again,
Alike betwitched by the charm of looks,
But to his foe supposed he must complain,
And she steal love's sweet bait from fearful hooks:
Being held a foe, he may not have access
To breathe such vows as lovers use to swear;10
And she as much in love, her means much less
To meet her new-beloved any where:
But passion lends them power, time means, to meet
Tempering extremities with extreme sweet.

ACT II SCENE I A lane by the wall of Capulet's orchard. 
[ Enter ROMEO, alone. ]
ROMEOCan I go forward when my heart is here?
Turn back, dull earth, and find thy centre out.
[ He climbs the wall, and leaps down within it. ]
BENVOLIORomeo! my cousin Romeo!
MERCUTIOHe is wise;
And, on my life, hath stol'n him home to bed.
BENVOLIOHe ran this way, and leap'd this orchard wall:
Call, good Mercutio.
MERCUTIONay, I'll conjure too.
Romeo! humours! madman! passion! lover!
Appear thou in the likeness of a sigh:10
Speak but one rhyme, and I am satisfied;
Cry but 'Ay me!' pronounce but 'love' and 'dove;'
Speak to my gossip Venus one fair word,
One nick-name for her purblind son and heir,
Young Adam Cupid, he that shot so trim,
When King Cophetua loved the beggar-maid!
He heareth not, he stirreth not, he moveth not;
The ape is dead, and I must conjure him.
I conjure thee by Rosaline's bright eyes,
By her high forehead and her scarlet lip,20

By her fine foot, straight leg and quivering thigh
And the demesnes that there adjacent lie,
That in thy likeness thou appear to us!
BENVOLIOAnd if he hear thee, thou wilt anger him.
MERCUTIOThis cannot anger him: 'twould anger him
To raise a spirit in his mistress' circle
Of some strange nature, letting it there stand
Till she had laid it and conjured it down;
That were some spite: my invocation
Is fair and honest, and in his mistress' name30
I conjure only but to raise up him.
BENVOLIOCome, he hath hid himself among these trees,
To be consorted with the humorous night:
Blind is his love and best befits the dark.
MERCUTIOIf love be blind, love cannot hit the mark.
Now will he sit under a medlar tree,
And wish his mistress were that kind of fruit
As maids call medlars, when they laugh alone.
Romeo, that she were, O, that she were
An open et caetera, thou a poperin pear!40
Romeo, good night: I'll to my truckle-bed;
This field-bed is too cold for me to sleep:
Come, shall we go?
BENVOLIOGo, then; for 'tis in vain
To seek him here that means not to be found.
[ Exeunt ]

Next: Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, Scene 2


Explanatory Notes for Act 2, Scene 1

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



1, 2. Now old desire ... heir, Romeo's passing fancy for Rosaline is now at its last gasp, and his newly-conceived love for Juliet is hastening to take its place in his heart. The desire for something of the nature of a toy, something that merely captivates the fancy, is giving way to real passion; mere desire has had its day and is now succeeded by a warmer, truer, feeling. Cp. Tennyson, The Gardener's Daughter, 13-20.

3. fair, beauty; frequently of old used in this sense, whether in the abstract or the concrete sense: for ... for, on the doubled preposition, see Abb. § 407: would die, determined to die.

4. With tender ... fair, Benvolio's prophesy, i. 2. 94-9, has now come true.

6. Alike bewitched, i.e. both equally bewitched.

7. his foe supposed, her whom, as belonging to the Capulet family, he would naturally regard as an enemy: complain, pour forth his plaints of love; cp. T. G. v. 4. 5, "The nightingale's complaining notes."

8. And she steal ... hooks, and she only by stealth pluck the tempting fruits which love displays with such dangerous lure.

11. And she ... less, while to her, equally love-stricken, the means are much less...

14. Tempering ... sweet, mingling with the keen dangers delights [just] as keen; correcting the sharp taste of danger by the sweetness which followed upon its being braved.

Scene 1

1, 2. Can I go ... out, can I leave the place and return home when she, who is the fountain of my life, is here? turn back, gross, earthy body, and find in her the pivot on which you revolve; for earth, in the sense of what is gross or dull, cp. Temp. "What ho! slave! Caliban? Thou earth thou!" R. II. iii. 4. 78, "Darest thou, thou little better thing than earth Divine his downfall?" For the simile Delius compares T. C. iii. 2. 186, "As true as steel, as plantage to the moon, As sun to day, as turtle to her mate, As iron to adamant, as earth to the centre."

3. wise, sc. in betaking himself to bed.

5. on my life, I will stake my life: stol'n him, we should now omit the reflexive pronoun.

6. orchard, garden, as always in Shakespeare; properly a yard of orts or worts, i. e. vegetables; now used only for a garden or enclosure of fruit-trees.

8. I'll conjure too, I will not only call, but also conjure him in the terms suitable to one in love; as he does in the following lines.

9. humours, "amorous fancies" (Clarke). The various words are in imitation of those used by conjurers in their invocations.

10. Appear thou ... sigh. He calls upon him to appear in the form of a sigh (a form appropriate to lovers) as conjurers and witches invoked spirits in any form suitable to their ends.

11. Speak ... satisfied, utter but a single rhyme, the language in which lovers speak, and I shall know that all is well with you, that you have not broken your neck in the leap you took.

13. my gossip Venus, my dear old crony Venus. A gossip is literally a god-relative, a sponsor in baptism, and as these sponsors were frequently talkative old women, it came to mean an idle, chattering person, and lastly idle talk, the modern sense.

14. nick-name. Properly an eke-name, a name used to eke out a name, an additional name, frequently with a familiar or endearing or contemptuous sense; cp. newt = an ewt, and conversely an auger = a nauger: purblind, originally, as here, pureblind, wholly blind; so again in T. C. i. 2. 31, "purblind Argus, all eyes and no sight"; though Shakespeare also uses the word in its more modern and less correct sense of partly blind, short sighted, V. A. 679, 1. H. VI. ii. 4. 21.

15. Adam Cupid. The old copies give Abraham Cupid; Upton conjectured Adam, which has been adopted by most modern editors, the allusion being to Adam Bell, a notable archer, said to be meant in M. A. i. 1. 261, "If I do, hang me in a bottle and shoot at me; and he that hits me let him be clapped on the shoulder, and called Adam." Dyce conjectured that Abraham was a corruption of abron, i.e. auburn, and this reading has been accepted by Grant White and Hudson. Schmidt explains the old reading as being "in derision of the eternal boyhood of Cupid, though, in fact, he was at least as old as Abraham" — a very far-fetched explanation, as it seems to me. Others, again, take Abraham as an allusion to the Abraham, or Abram, men, as cheats and begging impostors were formerly called, Cupid's roguery in love matters being the point of the raillery: he that shot so trim, from the ballad of 'King Cophetua and the beggar maid,' once so popular, of which Malone quotes the following stanza, "The blinded boy that shoots so trim, From heaven down did hie, And drew a dart and shot at him, In place where he did lie."

18. The ape, "an expression of tenderness, like poor fool" [Lear, v. 3. 305] (Malone); so "poor monkey," Macb. iv. 2. 59.

20. high forehead. Formerly considered a great beauty, as a broad forehead is nowadays; so in Temp. iv. 1. 250, A. C. iii. 3. 35, low foreheads are disparaged, though nowadays, if broad also, they are admired by many. As Grant White says, "There are fashions even in beauty."

22. [demesnes, territory. -- Shk. Online]
[ * Lines 21-22 were removed from K. Deighton's original work due to the suggestive content. -- Shk. Online]

23. in thy likeness, in your own form and shape; not as in the case of conjurers' invocations in some transformed shape.

24. An if, see Abb. § 103: thou wilt anger him, sc. by venturing to make use of his mistress's name.

31. only but, one of the two words is superfluous.

33. To be consorted ... night, to hold communion with the dewy night; but with a quibble upon humorous. Steevens quotes several instances from old writers of the word used in a literal sense, e.g. Chapman's translation of Homer's Iliad, bk. ii., "The other gods and knights at arms slept all the humourous night."

35. cannot hit the mark, cp. above, i. 1. 213-7.

38. [medlars, small fruits; slang for the female anatomy. -- Shk. Online]

40. [poperin pear, French pear; slang for the male anatomy. -- Shk. Online]

[* Lines 36-40 were removed from K. Deighton's original work due to the suggestive content.]

41. truckle-bed, properly a bed on wheels (Lat. troclea, a wheel) which was used by attendants, and in the daytime wheeled under the 'standing bed'; cp. M. W. iv. 5. 7; sometimes called a 'trundle-bed,' as the first quarto reads. In speaking of his bed as a truckle bed, Mercutio probably means that any bed, even a truckle-bed, would be better than a "field-bed," i.e. lying upon the cold ground.

42. to sleep, sc. in.

44. Go, then, yes, let us go.

45. that means ... found, that is determined not to be found; that 'means not-to-be found,' not that 'means-not to be found.'

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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