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“Lessing declared Romeo and Juliet to be the only tragedy, that he knew, which Love himself had assisted to compose. I know not (says Schlegel) how to end more gracefully than with these simple words, wherein so much lies:–One may call this poem a harmonious miracle, whose component parts that heavenly power alone could so melttogether. It is at the same time enchantingly sweet and sorrowful, pure and glowing, gentle and impetuous, full of elegiac softness, and tragically overpowering.”
Two households, both alike in dignity,
EscALUs, Prince of Verona.
PARIs, a young Nobleman, Kinsman to the Prince.
Moon, } Heads of Two Houses, at variance with each other
An old Man, Uncle to Capulet.
Rom Eo, Son to Montague.
MERCUTro, Kinsman to the Prince, and Friend to Romeo.
BENvolio, Nephew to Montague, and Friend to Romeo.
TYBALT, Nephew to Lady Capulet.
FRIAR LAURENCE, a Franciscan.
FRIAR John, of the same Order.
BALTHAZAR, Servant to Romeo.
3. }servants to Capulet.
ABRAM, Servant to Montague.
Chorus. Boy, Page to Paris, PETER.
IADY MonTAGUE, Wife to Montague.
Citizens of Verona ; several Men and Women, Relations to both
SCENE, during the greater part of the Play, in Verona ; once, in the Fifth Act, at Mantua.
ROMEO AND JULIET.
Enter SAMPSON and GREGORY, armed with swords and bucklers.
Sampson. GREGORY, o' my word, we'll not carry coals." - - Gre. No, for then we should be colliers. Sam. I mean, an we be in choler, we’ll draw. Gre. Ay, while you live, draw your neck out of the collar. Sam. I strike quickly, being moved. Gre. But thou art not quickly moved to strike. Sam. A dog of the house of Montague moves me. Gre. To move, is—to stir; and to be valiant, is— to stand to it. Therefore, if thou art moved, thou run'st away. Sam. A dog of that house shall move me to stand; I will take the wall of any man or maid of Montague's. Gre. That shows thee a weak slave; for the weakest goes to the wall. Sam. True ; 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. Gre. The quarrel is between our masters, and us their men. Sam. 'Tis all one, I will show myself a tyrant: when I have fought with the men, I will be cruel with the maids; I will cut off their heads. Gre. The heads of the maids f Sam. Ay, the heads of the maids, or their maidenheads ; take it in what sense thou wilt. Gre. They must take it in sense, that feel it. Sam. Me they shall feel, while I am able to stand; and ’tis known I am a pretty piece of flesh. Gre. '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.”
1 To carry coals is to put up with insults, to submit to any degradation, Anciently, in great families, the Scullions, turnspits, and carriers of wood and coals, were esteeemed the very lowest of menials, the drudges of all the rest. Such attendants upon the royal household, in progresses, were called the black-guard; and hence the origin of that term.
Enter. ABRAM and BALTHAZAR.
Sam. My naked weapon is out; quarrel, I will back thee.
Gre. How P turn thy back, and run ?
Sam. Fear me not.
Gre. No, marry; I fear thee!
Sam. Let us take the law of our sides; let them begin.
Gre. I will frown, as I pass by ; and let them take it as they list.
Sam. Nay, as they dare. I will bite my thumb" at them; which is a disgrace to them, if they bear it.
1 Poor John is hake, dried and salted.
2 It should be observed that the partisans of the Montague family wore a token in their hats, in order to distinguish them from their enemies, the Capulets. Hence, throughout this play, they are known at a distance.
3 This mode of insult, in order to begin a quarrel, seems to have been common in Shakspeare's time. It is not unusual with the Italians at the present day. The manner in which this contemptuous action was performed, is thus described by Cotgrave, in a passage which has escaped the industry of all the commentators:– “Faire la nique: to mocke by . nodding or lifting up of the chinne; or more properly, to threaten or defie, by putting the thumbe maile into the mouth, and with a jerke (from the upper teeth) make it to knacke.”
Abr. Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?
Sam. I do bite my thumb, sir.
Abr. Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?
Sam. Is the law on our side, if I say—ay?
Sam. No, sir, I do not bite my thumb at you, sir; but I bite my thumb, sir.
Gre. Do you quarrel, sir?
Abr. Quarrel, sir? no, sir.
Sam. If you do, sir, I am for you; I serve as good a man as you.
Abr. No better.
Sam. Well, sir.
Enter BENvo Lio, at a distance.
Gre. Say—better; here comes one of my master's kinsmen." Sam. Yes, better, sir.
Abr. You lie.
Sam. Draw, if you be men.—Gregory, remember
thy swashing” blow. [They fight. Ben. Part, fools; put up your swords; you know not what you do. [Beats down their swords.
Tyb What, art thou drawn among these heartless hinds f Turn thee, Benvolio, look upon thy death. Ben. I do but keep the peace; put up thy sword, Or manage it to part these men with me. Tyb. What, drawn, and talk of peace F I hate the word, As I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee. Have at thee, coward. [They fight.
1 Gregory is a servant of the Capulets; he must therefore mean Tybalt, who enters immediately after Benvolio. 2 i.e. swaggering or dashing.