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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 (1583-4), 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 Roineo 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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