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INTRODUCTION

BY

F. J. FURNIVALL, M.A., Ph.D., D.Litt.

ASSISTED BY JOHN MUNRO

ROMEO AND JULIET. -The group of Shaks pere's work in which Romeo and Juliet finds a place is bound together, not by farce or comedy of errors, but by strong passion and by richness of fancy. The love which rises in the Errors and develops in The Two Gentlemen, bursts into full force in Romeo and Juliet. The play gives us that passion lawful in woman and man; Venus and Adonis gives it us unlawful in woman; The Rape of Lucrece unlawful in man; and in Juliet we have the first striking figure of Shakspere's youthful conception of womanhood. That glorious figure of girlhood, clad in the beauty of the Southern spring, stepping out for scarce two days from the winter of her loveless home into the sunshine and warmth of love, and then sinking into the chill and horrors of the charnel-house and the grave, is one that ever haunts the student of Shakspere. Wander where he will, the Cenci eyes of Juliet are still on him, and draw him to them as with the attraction of a loadstone. The play was prepared for in The Two Gentlemen by the lament of Valentine for his banishment from Sylvia

1 The Passion Group: Romeo and Juliet (1591-3), Venus and Adonis (1593), Lucrece (1593-4), part of the Passionate Pilgrim, printed

1599.

“And why not death, rather than living torment ?

To die is to be banished from myself,
And Sylvia is myself : banished from her
Is self from self, a deadly banishment.
Except I be by Sylvia in the night,
There is no music in the nightingale ;
Unless I look on Sylvia in the day,
There is no day for me to look upon."

This deeper, richer note of love than Shakspere had yet struck (how thin Berowne's—Biron's—sounds beside it !) becomes deeper and richer still in Romeo and Juliet. It is there indeed the very ecstasy of love, that without which life is worthless, that without which death is welcome. See, too, how Shakspere has thrown himself into the life of Italy. As Miss Constance Astley well asks, Who feels himself in England while reading Romeo and Juliet ? Fierce Tybalt, gay fiery Mercutio, gallant Benvolio, tender, chivalrous Romeo: we see them breathe and move under the intense blue of an Italian sky. The day is hot, the Capulets are abroad, Mercutio's laugh rings down the street, his jewelled cap flames in the sun-light, such sights and sounds as these crowd upon our fancy in the streets of Verona, more than any historical reminiscences of Can grande.” Passion lends the lovers power, as the Chorus says. It is the time of affections and warm youthful blood, “For now these hot days is the mad blood stirring.” But these violent

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delights have violent ends,” and Juliet's “I have no joy in this contract to-night,” and Romeo's “My mind misgives some consequence,” with the Friar's “ They stumble, that run fast,” and Juliet's “illdivining soul,” prepare us for the end that awaits the delicious, passionate love of the garden scene. Far above anything of the kind that Shakspere has yet given us stands this, and the lovers' subsequent meeting and parting. The character of Juliet, too who is the guiding spirit of the play, and far above Romeo, whose sentimental weeping for Rosalind, and unmanly grovelling in tears on hearing of his exile, call forth the Friar's well-deservd reproach,is also greater than any we have had before. Mercutio as contrasted with Berowne is also a great advance-note that delightful imputation of his own quarrelsomeness to the quiet Benvolio, the only commonsense man of the party : it's worthy of Falstaff :—while the Nurse is the first and only figure of her kind, except perhaps Mrs. Quickly, in Shakspere. That fussy, bustling, hot-temperd old Capulet is a capital figure too: he'd be surely akin to Browning's “ Italian Person of Quality, Down in the City," if the latter could be well cayennd. But the play is young all through, not only in its passion, its excess of fanoy verging on conceit, but in its simile of Paris and the book in I. iii., and in its lamentation scene (IV. v.), in which the Nurse almost reproduces Pyramus and Thisbe, and which has been even supposed by some to belong to an old play. The quarrels of the families take us into the history of mediæval Italy; the deaths of the children bring about the reunion which their lives could not accomplish. The date of the play is fixt by the Nurse's allusion

.

“On Lammas-eve at night shall she be fourteen

"Tis since the earthquake now eleven years ;
And she was weaned,”

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which eleven should be seemingly thirteen, unless Juliet was suckled till she was three. The great earthquake of Shaks pere's time, to which he also probably alludes in Venus and Adonis, was in 1580, and I am content with the date of 1591 for the play, though it may stretch to 1593. It was certainly known in some form before 1595, the date of Weever's sonnet wherein it is mentiond. Its links with Midsummer-Night's Dream are seen in Mercutio's Queen Mab speech, and in its white wonder of dear Juliet's band” and “so shows & snowy dove trooping with crows,” when set by Demetrius's speech on the “ pure congealed white, high Taurus snow,” which is turned to a crow by contrast with Helena's hand, &c., &c. Romeo and Juliet was first publisht in 1597, by John Danter, in a spurious “ edition made up partly from copies of portions of the original play, partly from recollection and from notes taken during the performance.” (P. A. Daniel.) Secondly, in 1599, by Cuthbert Burby, in a genuine edition which “ gives us for the first time a substantially true representation of the original play.” 3, by John Smethwick, in 1609, Q. 3, from Q. 2; and from this 3rd Quarto were printed the undated 4th Quarto and the Folio of 1623. (Q. 5

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