The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet (Dowden)/Introduction
In the text of this edition of Romeo and Juliet I have introduced only two readings not previously found in editions of authority; first, I have placed a comma in I. ii. 32 after the words "view of"; secondly, in III. v. 43 I have inserted the hyphens in "love-lord" and "husband-friend." I hope these slight changes may commend themselves to some readers; if the former be correct, it solves a long recognised difficulty. I have not altered the received punctuation of III. ii. 5–8, although I venture to suggest in Appendix III. ("Runaway's eyes") a new punctuation, which, as regards lines 5, 6, commends itself to me; the suggestion respecting line 7 I offer as a mere possibility. I am not so sanguine as to expect that readers long familiar with the received text will accept my suggestions as to that difficult passage; but how should any critic neglect to add his stone to the cairn under which the meaning lies buried? I accept Theobald's reading "sun" in I. i. 157, and in so doing follow the best modern editors. With some reluctance I read in II. i. 13, "Adam Cupid," yielding to the authority of Dyce (ed. 2), the Cambridge editors, Furness, and others; and in a note I try to point out possibilities which may justify or lead towards justifying the "Abraham" of all the early texts.
I may add here that if the nickname "Abraham" was given to Cupid because he is the "father of many nations," an additional comic effect might be gained by choosing for Cupid a name recognised as a favourite one with Elizabethan Puritans. In Middleton's The Family of Love, Dryfat, a member of the "Family," says, "I have Aminadabs and Abrahams to my godsons." I must leave it to some more ingenious critic to make the discovery that we should read "Abron Cupid," and that Shakespeare had noticed in Cooper's Thesaurus (1573): "Abron, the name of a man, whose sensualitie and delicate life is growne to a Proverbe."
The Quarto editions of Romeo and Juliet are the following:—
"An Excellent conceited Tragedie of Romeo and Iuliet, As it hath bene often (with great applause) plaid publiquely, by the right Honourable the L. of Hunsdon his Servants. London, Printed by Iohn Danter. 1597" (Q 1).
"The Most Excellent and lamentable Tragedie, of Romeo and Iuliet. Newly corrected, augmented, and amended: As it hath bene sundry times publiquely acted, by the right Honourable the Lord Chamberlaine his Servants. London Printed by Thomas Creede, for Cuthbert Burby, and are to be sold at his shop neare the Exchange. 1599." This, the second Quarto, I refer to as Q, unless there is special occasion to distinguish it as Q 2.
The third Quarto (Q 3) was printed in 1609 for John Smethwick; the title-page describes the tragedy as having been "sundry times publiquely Acted, by the Kings Majesties Servants at the Globe."
The fourth Quarto (Q 4), printed also for John Smethwicke, is without date. In some copies the word "Globe" is followed by "Written by W. Shake-speare." In other copies (said by Halliwell-Phillipps to be the later issues) the name of the author does not appear.
The fifth Quarto (Q 5) is dated 1637; it was printed by "R. Young for John Smethwicke."
The text of Romeo and Juliet in the first Folio, 1623, (F) was derived from Q 3.
The editors of the Cambridge Shakespeare observe: "As usual there are a number of changes, some accidental, some deliberate, but all generally for the worse, excepting the changes in punctuation and in the stage-directions. The punctuation, as a rule, is more correct, and the stage-directions are more complete, in the Folio."
The second Quarto—1599—first gives the play in full; it is our best authority for the text; but the corrections of the later Quartos and of the Folio are valuable aids towards ascertaining the text, while in not a few passages Q 1 lends assistance which cannot elsewhere be found.
In the present edition the readings of Q and of F which differ from the editor's text are recorded, except a few obvious misprints and such others as seem wholly unimportant. Not many references are made to Q 3, because in general its various readings passed into the text of F, which was derived from that Quarto. For my references to Q 5 (which are few) I have trusted to the Cambridge Shakespeare and to Furness.
Q 1 differs so considerably, and in so many minute details, from the received text, that the variations cannot be rightly exhibited in notes; it must be read in its entirety, and happily it is easily accessible in the facsimile by Praetorius, in Mommsen's reprint, in the Cambridge Shakespeare, in Furness, and (with most advantage for the student) in the New Shakspere Society's reprint of Parallel Texts of the First Two Quartos, admirably edited by Mr. Daniel. Such readings as have been adopted from Q 1 into the text of modern editors have a special claim to attention; these I have, with few exceptions, recorded, and have added in notes and in Appendix I. several lines and passages differing from the received text in a way which can hardly be accounted for by errors of the printer or reporter. In these, or in some of these, we probably find work of Shakespeare discarded in his revision of the play.
The relation of Q 1 to the later text has been the subject of much discussion. I cannot state the results of my own study better than by quoting from Mr. Daniel's Introduction to the Parallel Texts: "A hasty and separate perusal of Q 1 may leave the reader with the impression that it represents an earlier play than that given in the subsequent editions; read line for line with Q 2 its true character soon becomes apparent. It is an edition made up partly from copies of portions of the original play, partly from recollection and from notes taken during the performance. Q 2 gives us for the first time a substantially true representation of the original play. Still Q 1 is of great value, as it affords the means of correcting many errors which had crept into the 'copy' from which Q 2 was printed, and also, in its more perfect portions, affords conclusive evidence that that 'copy' underwent revision, received some slight augmentations, and, in some few places, must have been entirely rewritten." As evidence of the last statement I may refer my reader to Appendix I., to which the following may here be added; in III. ii. 57–60 Juliet, in our received text, speaks:
O break, my heart! poor bankrupt, break at once!
To prison, eyes, ne'er look on liberty!
Vile earth, to earth resign, end motion here,
And thou and Romeo press one heavy bier!
These are evidently new lines written to replace those of Q 1, which run thus:
Ah Romeo, Romeo, what disaster hap
Hath severd thee from thy true Juliet?
Ah why should Heaven so much conspire with Woe,
Or Fate envie our happie Marriage,
So soone to sunder us by timelesse Death?
Shall we conjecture that Shakespeare felt that the sense of fatality, though proper to Romeo, was less characteristic of the strong-willed Juliet?
Q 1, then, is an imperfect representation, piratically issued, of the same play which is given fully and, in the main, aright in Q 2; but before Q 2 appeared Shakespeare had revised the play, and had rewritten a few passages. The theory of Mr. Grant White that traces of another hand than Shakespeare's may be detected in the earlier version of the play is, I think, sufficiently refuted by Mr. T. A. Spalding in his paper "On the First Quarto of Romeo and Juliet: Is there any evidence of a Second Hand in it?" printed in Transactions of the New Shakspere Society, 1877–79.
An interesting peculiarity of Q 1 is found in the stage directions; they were evidently noted down by a spectator in the theatre, perhaps by the shorthand writer who probably supplied much of the manuscript. They give us pleasant glimpses of the stage-business during the original presentation of Romeo and Juliet. In the opening scene a stage-direction serves as a substitute for the bustling dialogue, which in the clash of swords and clubs may have reached the reporter's ears too imperfectly to be reported: "They draw, to them enters Tybalt, they fight, to them the Prince, old Mountague, and his wife, old Capulet and his wife, and other Citizens and part them." Later we have the departing guests whispering excuses to Capulet—"they whisper in his eare"; Mercutio insulting the Nurse's dignity—"he walkes by them, and sings"; the Nurse rebuking her too passive protector—"she turnes to Peter her man"; Juliet entering "somewhat fast" and embracing Romeo; Tybalt thrusting Mercutio under Romeo's arm; the Nurse "wringing her hands, with the ladder of cordes in her lap"; Romeo offering to stab himself, and the Nurse snatching the dagger away; Capulet calling Paris again, as he offers to go in, in order that he may make the "desperate tender" of Juliet's love; Juliet kneeling to her father, and again looking after the departing Nurse, before she breaks forth with the words, "Ancient damnation, O most cursed fiend"; the mourners for Juliet all crying out at once, and wringing their hands; Countie Paris and his Page bearing flowers and sweet water to Juliet's tomb; Friar Laurence, at the entrance to the tomb, stooping and looking on the blood and weapons.
The date at which Romeo and Juliet was written cannot be certainly determined. The title-page of Q 1 describes the tragedy as having been often played publicly by the Lord of Hunsdon's servants. Malone ascertained that two Lords Hunsdon, Henry, the father, and George, his son, filled the office of Lord Chamberlain of the Household to Queen Elizabeth. Henry, the father, died July 22, 1596; on his death, Shakespeare's company came under the protection of his son, who was appointed Lord Chamberlain on April 17, 1597. Before July 22, 1596, and after April 1597 the actors would be styled the Lord Chamberlain's servants (as they are on the title-page of Q 2); in the interval they were the Lord Hunsdon's servants; and hence we may infer that it was during this interval that the presentations spoken of on the title-page of Q 1 took place.
An allusion to the play by John Weever has been supposed to carry back the date to 1595 Weever's Epigrammes was published in 1599, when the author was twenty-three years old; he tells us that most of the epigrams were written when he was only twenty; he attained that age in 1596, and to suppose that his reference to Romeo and Juliet is of a date earlier than that year is a gratuitous assumption. An allusion in Marston's Scourge of Villanie—
I set thy lips abroach, from whence doth flow
Naught but pure Juliet and Romeo—
testifies to the popularity of the play, and possibly by the mention of "Curtain plaudities" points to the Curtain theatre as the place of representation; but the Scourge of Villanie is later in date than the first Quarto of Romeo and Juliet. Some lines in The Wisdom of Doctor Dodipoll which imitate (or seem to imitate) words of Juliet, and some resemblances between Romeo and Juliet and Wily Beguiled, when dates are scrutinised (see Daniel's edition of Romeo and Juliet, New Sh. Soc. p. xxxv), prove equally fallacious in helping us to fix a date.
Turning to the play itself, we find mention of "the first and second cause" (II. iv.), which has been regarded, on no sufficient grounds, as suggested by Vincentio Saviolo his Practise (1594 and 1595). Mr. Fleay has noticed that the reference may be to "The Book of Honor and Arms, wherein is discussed the causes of quarrel," etc. (Stationers' Register, December 13, 1589). There are undoubtedly reminiscences in Romeo and Juliet of Marlowe's plays. The lines
But soft! what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun!
seem to echo Marlowe's lines in The Jew of Malta, II. i. 41, 42:
But stay, what star shines yonder in the east?
The loadstar of my life, if Abigail.
Juliet's age is reduced by Shakespeare from the sixteen years of his original (the Romeus and Juliet of Brooke) to fourteen. "Death lies on her," exclaims Capulet (IV. v.),
like an untimely frost
Upon the sweetest flower of all the field.
At the close of Act I. of The Jew of Malta Don Mathias describes the Jew's daughter, now entered into a convent:
A fair young maid, scarce fourteen years of age,
The sweetest flower in Cytherea's field,
Cropt from the pleasures of the fruitful earth.
Still more striking is the resemblance between the opening lines of Juliet's soliloquy (III. ii.), "Gallop apace, you fiery footed steeds," etc., and lines in Marlowe's Edward II. IV. iii.:
Gallop apace, bright Phœbus, through the sky,
And dusky night, in rusty iron car,
Between you both shorten the time, etc.
Shakespeare was much influenced by Marlowe in some early plays; but Romeo and Juliet is not written in discipleship to Marlowe, and it must be remembered that in plays as late as As You Like It and Troilus and Cressida reminiscences of Marlowe are found.
These echoes from Marlowe have a certain bearing on the supposed imitation of lines of Romeo and Juliet, V. iii., by Daniel in his Complaint of Rosamond (1592). The most striking of these resemblances is that of Daniel's verses—
And nought-respecting death (the last of paines)
Plac'd his pale colours (th' ensigne of his might)
Upon his new-got spoil before his right—
Thou art not conquer'd; beauty's ensign yet
Is crimson in thy lips and in thy cheeks,
And death's pale flag is not advanced there.
Daniel was charged—not altogether unfairly—with the infirmity of plagiarism. But Shakespeare was certainly a reader of some of Daniel's poetry; and if he derived suggestions from Marlowe, why may he not have taken a hint from Daniel, and vindicated his conveyance by a triumphant ennoblement of Daniel's imagery and expression?
Far too much insistence, in my opinion, has been laid on the Nurse's reference (I. iii.) to the earthquake—"'Tis since the earthquake now eleven years." An allusion may not improbably have been intended to the earthquake of 1580 felt in England. But the humour of the allusion may lie in the fact that the Nurse, who insists on the accuracy of her recollection—"Nay, I do bear a brain,"—is really astray in her chronology. Juliet is now on the point of being fourteen years of age; yet eleven years previously—at three years old—she was only about to be weaned, and had barely learnt to "run and waddle," with a risk of breaking her brow. The Nurse again asseverates that "since that time it is eleven years"; but this making the most of a jest seems slender evidence on behalf of the theory that the play was produced in the year 1591.
There is no decisive evidence to prove that the tragedy was written long before its presentation in 1596, when, probably, its popularity called forth a ballad (entry in Stationers' Register, August 5) on the subject of Romeo and Juliet. Yet most readers, I think, have felt that it is a play of Shakespeare's early years of authorship; the lyrical character of the play, though partly accounted for by the love-theme, the abundance of rhyme, not only in couplets, but alternate, and arranged in sextet and sonnet form, the pleasure of the writer in forced conceits, and play upon words, sometimes even in serious passages, point to an early date. When his judgment had matured Shakespeare could not have written so very ill as he sometimes does in Romeo and Juliet, but a writer of genius could at an early age, when inspired by the passion of his theme, have written as admirably as he does even in the noblest passages of the fifth Act. That he was conscious of having already attained comparative mastery in his art may be inferred from his independence of Marlowe, and the implied criticism of the style of Kyd in the exclamatory lamentations over Juliet supposed dead. I can hardly doubt that Mr. Spalding is right in stating that the line
O love, O life, not life but love in death,
O child, O child, my soul and not my child,
are parodies on Hieronimo's words in The Spanish Tragedy:
O eyes! no eyes, but fountains fraught with tears;
O life! no life, but lively forms in death;
O world! no world, but mass of public wrongs.
Yet there is something inartificial in introducing such irony of literary criticism into the body of the play; and Shakespeare took a better method in his "tedious brief scene" of very tragical mirth in A Midsummer Night's Dream, and again in Æneas' tale to Dido (where he reproduces rather than parodies an earlier style), which the player recites before Hamlet. On the whole, we might place Romeo and Juliet, on grounds of internal evidence, near The Rape of Lucrece; portions may be earlier in date; certain passages of the revised version are certainly later; but I think that 1595 may serve as an approximation to a central date, and cannot be very far astray.
The basis, as Malone puts it, upon which Shakespeare built his play is the Romeus and Juliet of Arthur Brooke or Broke, of which I have given an analysis in Appendix II. Brooke's poem, which is a free rehandling in verse of Pierre Boisteau's French version of a novel by Bandello, was first published in 1562. Painter's prose rendering in the Palace of Pleasure of Boisteau's story appeared some years later. From this last Shakespeare derived, if anything, certainly very little; but how carefully he followed Brooke will appear from my analysis, and more fully from Mr. Daniel's valuable Introduction to the New Shakspere Society's reprint of Brooke's poem and Painter's prose. That Shakespeare agrees with Brooke where the latter differs from Painter was decisively established by Malone: "1. In the poem the Prince of Verona is called Escalus; so also in the play. In Painter's translation from Boisteau he is named Signor Escala, and sometimes Lord Bartholomew of Escala. 2. In Painter's novel the family of Romeo are called the Montesches in the poem and in the play the Montagues. 3. The messenger employed by Friar Lawrence to carry a letter to Romeo is in Painter's translation called Anselme; in the poem and in the play Friar John is employed in this business. 4. The circumstance of Capulet's writing down the names of the guests whom he invites to supper is found in the poem and in the play, but is not mentioned by Painter, nor is it found in the original Italian novel. 5. The residence of the Capulets in the original and in Painter is called Villa Franca; in the poem and in the play Freetown. 6. Several passages of Romeo and Juliet appear to have been formed on hints furnished by the poem, of which no traces are found either in Painter's novel, or in Boisteau, or the original."
Brooke's poem has been unjustly depreciated; yet it contains no poetry of a high order. If Romeo and Juliet owed to Shakespeare, as Mr. Grant White has said, only its dramatic form and poetic decoration, we might still add with the critic—This is to say that "the earth owes to the sun only its verdure and flowers, the air only its perfume and its balm, the heavens only their azure and their glow." But in fact Shakespeare departs from Brooke, as Mr. White proceeds to point out, in several important particulars. He accelerates the action, reducing the time from months to days, and thus adds impetuosity to the torrent of passion. He creates from a mere passing hint of Brooke the brilliant and gallant Mercutio. In Brooke's poem Mercutio appears but once for a moment, as a courtier in the ballroom of Capulet; he is "courteous of his speech" and "pleasant of device"; bold among the bashful maids as a lion among lambs; and nature has given him the gift of hands that are colder than frozen mountain ice. But he does not serve, as with Shakespeare, by his vivid intellectuality to set off the imaginative passion of Romeo; he is not at once the irrepressible mocker and the chivalrous protector; nor does he die, still jesting and still gallant, before the tragedy darkens to its close. Shakespeare, again, it is who introduces Tybalt at the old accustomed feast of Capulet, and thus, incarnating in an individual the rage of faction, brings hatred face to face with love. The character of the Nurse is found in Brooke, but Shakespeare admirably develops its humorous side. He reduces the age of Juliet from sixteen to fourteen, the age of Marlowe's Abigail, so heightening the miracle of love, which transforms her from a child to a heroic woman. He deepens her solitude by depriving Lady Capulet of a mother's tenderness, and showing her as a somewhat unsympathetic woman of the world. And he brings the lord-lover Paris, "a man of wax," to the churchyard, with his flowers and perfumed water, to die, and to illustrate the gentleness, the resolution, and the magnanimity of Romeo.
The Romeo and Juliet legend has a long history, and it is not necessary here to trace it in detail. Almost at the moment when Shakespeare was writing his tragedy the Italian Girolamo de la Corte published his History of Verona (1594–96), and there recorded as matter of historical fact the story of the star-crossed lovers. He assigns the events to the year 1303, when Verona was ruled by Bartolomeo de la Scala. But imaginary history seems to have grown out of legend, and modern criticism has disenchanted the "Sepolcro di Giulietta e Romeo" at Verona. One of the incidents of the story—the escape from enforced marriage by the use of a sleeping potion—is as old as Xenophon of Ephesus, whose romance of the loves of Anthia and Abrocomas was first printed from the only existing manuscript in 1726. A tale of much more recent date, that among the novelle of Massuccio of Salerno (1476), which narrates the loves of Mariotto Mignanelli and Giannozza Saraceni of Siena, has a sufficient number of points of resemblance to Romeo and Juliet to warrant our placing it in the genealogy of the drama. The lovers are secretly married by a Friar; Mariotto quarrels with a citizen of note, strikes him a fatal blow with a stick, is exiled, and flies from Siena to Alexandria. The father of Giannozza urges her to marriage with a suitor of his choice; she resolves to feign herself dead, and the Friar provides the sleeping potion; she is buried in the church of St. Augustine; is delivered from the tomb by the Friar, and sails for Alexandria disguised as a monk. The messenger whom she had despatched with letters to her husband is captured by pirates; Mariotto hears of her death; in the garb of a pilgrim visits her tomb, which he attempts to open; is seized, condemned, and beheaded. Giannozza returns from Alexandria to Siena, and in a convent the broken-hearted wife dies.
Some fifty years after the publication of Massuccio's tale Luigi Da Porto wrote his Istoria novellamente ritrovata di due nobili Amanti, and here the scene is Verona, and the lovers are named Romeo and Giulietta. Da Porto's novel was published posthumously at Venice without date, about the year 1530. It is substantially the story familiar to us, but there are variations in detail, and certain personages of the drama are wanting. Romeo masks not as a pilgrim but as a nymph; the lovers touch hands and whisper their passion in the torch-dance; the wooing and winning are not swiftly accomplished; the sentence of banishment is not pronounced until after some happy bridal days and nights have followed the secret marriage; the nurse has not yet appeared in the story; for Paris we have here the Count of Lodrone; Juliet awakens from her drugged sleep in the tomb before the poison has quite overcrowed the spirit of her husband, and a dialogue ensues, the motive of which has been idealised and exalted in the opera of Gounod. This form of the tragic scene was unknown to Shakespeare, who could have conveyed into it the beauty and dignity of passion; when Otway, and subsequently Garrick, with Otway as his guide, varied from the Shakespearian close, they struck false notes and fell into the phrases of convention and pseudo-pathos.
Adrian Sevin's French transformation of the story of Romeo and Juliet into the story of Halquadrich and Burglipha (1542) has little interest, and does not take a place in the direct line of the development of the tale from Da Porto to Shakespeare. Nor does there appear to be, except through a certain influence exercised on Bandello, any real connection between Shakespeare's tragedy and the poem in ottava rima published at Venice in 1553, possibly the work of Gherardo Bolderi assuming the name of Clitia or Clizia. It will be found in Torri's volume already mentioned. Mr. Daniel points out certain variations from Da Porto, of which the most interesting is that here for the first time Tebaldo's death is supposed by Lady Capulet to be the cause of Juliet's grief. An attempt was made by J. C. Walker, in his Historical Memoir on Italian Tragedy, 1799 (pp. 49–64), to show that Shakespeare had utilised to some extent as a source the Hadriana, a tragedy of the year 1578, by the blind poet Luigi Groto. The loves of Latino and Hadriana are unquestionably derived in part from the loves of Da Porto's Romeo and Giulietta; but Mr. Daniel, who gives a complete analysis of the play, is right in saying that the resemblances between La Hadriana and Shakespeare's tragedy are rather to be sought in special passages than in the general conduct of the two plays. Following Walker and Lloyd, and adding to their enumeration, he notices the song of the nightingale when the lovers part, the description of the effects of the opiate, the consolation offered to the father on the supposed death of his daughter, and other seeming points of contact; yet, although Groto was known in England in Shakespeare's time, Mr. Daniel's conclusion is expressed in the words: "Notwithstanding these resemblances, I find it difficult to believe that Shakespeare could have made use of Groto's play"—a conclusion with which I am in entire agreement.
Bandello's novel, of which Boisteau's is a translation, stands of course in the direct line of the ancestry of Romeo and Juliet. It appeared among his novelle published at Lucca in 1554. Referring the reader to Mr. Daniel's more detailed account of the points in common between Bandello and Shakespeare, I may quote what I have elsewhere written: "Bandello dwells on Romeo's amorous fancy for a hard-hearted mistress—Shakespeare's Rosaline—to which Da Porto only alludes. An elder friend—Shakespeare's Benvolio—advises the enamoured youth to 'examine other beauties,' and to subdue his passion. Romeo enters Capulet's mansion disguised, but no longer as a nymph. The Count of Lodrone is now first known as Paris. The ladder of ropes is now first mentioned. The sleeping potion is taken by Juliet, not in presence of her chamber-maid and aunt, but in solitude. Friar Lorenzo's messenger to Mantua fails to deliver the letter because he is detained in a house suspected of being stricken with plague. In particular we owe to Bandello the figure of the nurse, not Shakespeare's humorous creation, but a friendly old woman, who very willingly plays her part of go-between for the lovers. One more development and all the materials of Shakespeare's play are in full formation. From Bandello's mention of one Spolentino of Mantua, from whom Romeo procures the poison, Pierre Boisteau creates the episode of the Apothecary, and it is also to this French refashioner of the story that we must trace the Shakespearian close; with him, Juliet does not wake from her sleep until Romeo has ceased to breathe; and she dies, as in our tragedy, not in a paroxysm of grief, but by her own hand, armed with her husband's dagger."
The Quartos and Folios do not divide Romeo and Juliet into acts and scenes. Mr. Daniel suggests that Act III. should end with scene iv., making Act IV. begin with the parting of the lovers. "The interposition," he writes, "of the short scene iv. alone, between the arrangement made at the Friar's Cell for the meeting of the lovers and the scene in which they part, does not give a sufficiently marked interval for the occurrence of all the events which are supposed to have passed in the interim: moreover the addition of scene v. to Act III. has the disadvantage of making that act inordinately long. Capell made the division I here suggest; but his example does not appear to have been followed by any subsequent editor." The suggestion seems to me well worthy of consideration, and I may call attention to the fact that in Q 1 the first of those ornamental dividing marks which appear on several of the later pages occurs at this point. The same ornamental division occurs in the scene of the lovers' parting at the entrance of Juliet's mother, and, I think, it was intended that there should here be a change of scene. It appears again at the close of our present Act III., at the close of IV. i., the close of IV. ii., the close of IV. iii., the close of IV. iv., the close of V. i., the close of V. ii., in V. iii. immediately before the entrance of the Friar, and again immediately after Juliet's death. The use of the mark is evidently not accidental or careless.
The dramatic time is carefully noted throughout the play, but presents one inexplicable difficulty. The action opens early on Sunday morning; after the street fray when Romeo and Benvolio meet, it has but "new struck nine." The afternoon has come when Romeo reads the list of Capulet's invited guests; at night the "old accustomed feast" is held, and Romeo after the feast hears Juliet's confession of love at the window. Early on Monday morning Romeo visits Friar Laurence; at noon he jests with Mercutio, and informs Juliet through the Nurse that the marriage shall be celebrated that afternoon. The lovers are married; the encounter with Tybalt, "that an hour hath been my cousin," follows. The sentence of banishment is pronounced; but it is arranged that the new husband and wife shall spend their bridal night together. At dawn on Tuesday morning Romeo parts from Juliet. Capulet on the preceding night had fixed the marriage with Paris for Thursday; he now rages and threatens Juliet; she visits the Friar, who gives her the sleeping potion; she returns, seems to acquiesce in her parents' wishes, and the hasty Capulet resolves that she shall be taken at her word, and married to Paris to-morrow (Wednesday) morning. At some hour of the night of Tuesday Juliet drinks the potion. Old Capulet bustles during the night in preparations for the wedding—"the curfew-bell hath rung, 'tis three o'clock." On Wednesday morning Juliet is found in seeming death; the Friar arrives at the hour prefixed for marriage; all is turned from a wedding to a funeral; Juliet is laid in the tomb of her ancestors. At a later hour of what seems to be the same day (Wednesday), Balthasar informs Romeo of his wife's death; Romeo obtains the poison, sets out for Verona, at night enters the monument by torch-light, and dies beside his beloved. Friar Laurence "at the prefixed hour of her waking" arrives to take Juliet from the vault; she stabs herself and dies; the Prince, called from his morning's rest, enters, and on Thursday at an early hour the action closes.
The rapidity of the whole conduct of the action is surprising; yet, up to the night on which Juliet swallows the Friar's potion, there can be no question as to the dating of days and hours. At this point Shakespeare creates a difficulty that seems to be insuperable. He had probably noticed in Painter's version of the tale a statement of the Friar that the opiate effects of the drug were to continue for "the space of forty hours at the least." As if to be more precise Shakespeare names the period as "two and forty hours." From what time of the night of Tuesday will forty-two succeeding hours bring us to a very early morning hour (the month is July) of either Thursday or Friday? The period is too short to suit Friday morning, too long for Thursday. We should not trouble ourselves about what might be explained as a mere stage-illusion of time, if Shakespeare had required such a stage-illusion, or if he had not dated the events throughout with more exactness than the stage requires. In Painter the Friar directs Juliet to drink the potion "the night before your marriage or in the morning before day"; in Brooke, "on thy marriage day before the sun do clear the sky." Can Shakespeare at one time have intended that Juliet's soliloquy should represent the passions of a whole night, and that she should not swallow the opiate until a short time before the Nurse came to rouse her in order that she should prepare for the marriage ceremony? And was she to return to consciousness in the first glimmering of a July dawn, as soon after midnight as that might be, on the morning of Friday? The theory is in many ways unsatisfactory, but the mere passage of hours during a soliloquy need not present a difficulty to the student of Shakespeare. In Cymbeline it is midnight when Imogen is seized by sleep; Iachimo comes from the trunk, soliloquises, and the clock strikes three. Yet it can hardly be supposed that Shakespeare ever intended that Juliet should conjure up the vision of the slaughtered Tybalt in the full light of morning. Perhaps the simplest explanation of the difficulty is to admit that it was never meant to be explained; forty-two hours gave an air of precision and verisimilitude to the Friar's arrangement; it sufficed to cover two periods of night preceding two Italian summer dawns; and the dramatist knew that spectators in the theatre do not regulate their imagination by a chronometer.
Unlike the play of Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet has little of imaginative mystery. The chief subject of difference among its critics concerns what we may call the ethics of the play. "By Friar Laurence," writes Gervinus, "who, as it were, represents the part of the chorus in this tragedy, the leading idea of the piece is expressed in all fulness, an idea that runs throughout the whole, that excess in any enjoyment, however pure in itself, transforms its sweet into bitterness, that devotion to any single feeling, however noble, bespeaks its ascendency; that this ascendency moves the man and woman out of their natural spheres; that love can only be a companion in life, and cannot fill out the life and business of the man especially; that in the full power of its first rising, it is a paroxysm of happiness, which, according to its nature, cannot continue in equal strength; that, as the poet says in an image, it is a flower that,
'Being smelt, with that part cheers each part;
Being tasted, slays all senses with the heart.'"
And the critic pursues his well-meant moralisings in the same spirit.
Much nearer the mark was Goethe in his arrangement of Romeo and Juliet for the Weimar theatre, 1811: "Before Juliet revives," in Goethe's recast, "the Friar confesses that all his cunning wisdom was in vain; that if he had opposed, instead of aiding the lovers, things could not have come to a worse end. After Juliet has stabbed herself Friar Laurence acknowledges the folly that often attends the wisdom of the wise, that to attempt to do good is often more dangerous than to undertake to do evil. Happy those whose love is pure, because both love and hatred lead but to the grave."
That is to say, the amiable critic of life as seen from the cloister does not understand life or hate or love; he is not the chorus of the tragedy, but an actor whose wisdom is of a kind which may easily lead himself and others astray. Garrick was not an eminent moralist, but there is more of truth in the Prince's rhymed tag, with which Garrick's version of the tragedy concludes, than can be found in the ponderous moralities of Gervinus:
Well may you mourn my Lords, (now wise too late)
These tragic issues of your mutual hate:
From private feuds, what dire misfortunes flow;
Whate'er the cause, the sure effect is Woe.
The tragic issues are the results not of love, but of love growing on the hatred of the houses. Shakespeare has set forth this in the opening scene, half humorous yet wholly tragic. He reiterates his statement of the fact at the close. Romeo and Juliet die as sacrifices to appease the insane fury, out of which their lives had risen and in which they had no individual part; therefore shall their statues be raised, and in "pure gold":
Mon. There shall no figure at such rate be set
As that of true and faithful Juliet.
Cap. As rich shall Romeo by his lady lie;
Poor sacrifices of our enmity!
And thus the dead lovers have become immortal victors.
Shakespeare did not intend to represent more than a fragment of human life in the tragedy. He did not aim at a criticism of the whole of human character; he cared to show us his hero and his heroine only as lovers, and as exemplary in the perfection of their love; faithful even unto death; choosing, with a final election of the heart, love at all costs. Here is no view of the whole of life; we are shown merely what befell a young pair of lovers during four days long ago in Verona. But Shakespeare felt, and we all feel, that if such love as theirs can be taken up into a complete character, modified and controlled by the other noble qualities which go to form a large and generous nature, the world will be the better for such pure and sacred passion. Such, it appears to me, are the ethics of the play.
And the personages by whom the lovers are encircled are so conceived as to become the critics of ideal love from their several points of view, honouring and exalting it by the inadequacy of their criticism. To old Capulet, in his mood, it seems that the passions of the heart are to be determined by parental authority. To Lady Capulet marriage is an affair of worldly convenience. To the Nurse it is the satisfaction of a pleasurable instinct. Mercutio, a gallant friend, is too brilliant in his intellectuality to be capable of a passion in which the heart shows that it is superior to the brain; he mocks at love, not because he really scorns it, but because he is remote from it, and cherishes before all else his free-lance liberty. The Friar views human passion from the quietudes of the cloister, or from amid the morning dew of the fields; but botany is not the science of human life. Even Romeo's earlier self, with his amorous melancholy, becomes the critic of his later self, when a true and final election has been made, and when love has become the risen sun of his day. As for Juliet, her words—
My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite,
may serve for an inscription beneath that statue of pure gold of which Shakespeare was the artist.
It may interest some readers to have before them the dialogue, in the eighteenth-century taste, of Romeo and Juliet in the tomb, as it reached our ancestors,—somewhat modish ancestors perhaps,—and drew forth their tears, in the version of Garrick.
|Rom.||Soft she breathes, and stirs! [Juliet wakes.|
|Jul.||Where am I? defend me powers!|
|Rom.||She speaks, she lives: and we shall still be bless'd|
My kind propitious stars o'er pay me now
For all my sorrows past—rise, rise, my Juliet,
And from this cave of death, this house of horror,
Quick let me snatch thee to thy Romeo's arms,
There breathe a vital spirit in thy lips,
And call thee back to life and love. [Takes her hand.
|Jul.||Bless me! how cold it is! who's there!|
'Tis thy Romeo, Juliet; rais'd from despair
To joys unutt'rable! quit, quit this place,
And let us fly together— [Brings her from the tomb.
|Jul.||Why do you force me so—I'll ne'er consent—|
My strength may fail me, but my will's unmov'd,—
I'll not wed Paris,—Romeo is my husband—
|Rom.||Her senses are unsettled—Heav'n restore 'em!|
Romeo is thy husband; I am that Romeo,
Nor all the opposing pow'rs of earth or man,
Shall break our bonds, or tear thee from my heart.
|Jul.||I know that voice—Its magic sweetness wakes|
My tranced soul—I now remember well
Each circumstance—Oh my lord, my husband— [Going to embrace him.
Dost thou avoid me, Romeo? let me touch
Thy hand, and taste the cordial of thy lips
You fright me—speak—Oh let me hear some voice
Besides my own in this drear vault of death,
Or I shall faint—support me—
|Rom.||Oh I cannot,|
I have no strength, but want thy feeble aid.
|Jul.||Poison! what means my lord; thy trembling voice!|
Pale lips! and swimming eyes! death's in thy face!
|Rom.||It is indeed—I struggle with him now—|
The transports that I felt to hear thee speak,
And see thy op'ning eyes, stopt for a moment
His impetuous course, and all my mind
Was happiness and thee; but now the poison
Rushes thro' my veins—I've not time to tell—
Fate brought me to this place—to take a last,
Last farewel of my love, and with thee die.
|Jul.||Die? was the Friar false!|
|Rom.||I know not that—|
I thought thee dead: distracted at the sight,
(Fatal speed) drank poison, kiss'd thy cold lips,
And found within thy arms a precious grave—
But in that moment—Oh—
|Jul.||And did I wake for this!|
|Rom.||My powers are blasted,|
'Twixt death and love I'm torn—I am distracted!
But death's strongest—and must I leave thee Juliet!
Oh cruel cursed fate! in sight of heav'n—
|Jul.||Thou rav'st—lean on my breast—|
|Rom.||Fathers have flinty hearts, no tears can melt 'em.|
Nature pleads in vain—Children must be wretched—
|Jul.||Oh my breaking heart—|
|Rom.||She is my wife—our hearts are twin'd together—|
Capulet forbear—Paris, loose your hold—
Pull not our heart-strings thus—they crack—they break—
Oh Juliet! Juliet![Dies.
|Jul.||Stay, stay for me, Romeo—|
A moment stay; fate marries us in death,
And we are one—no pow'r shall part us. [Faints on Romeo's body.
It is wonderful what a good situation and a great actor can do upon the stage, even with words such as these. Perhaps all of us who are capable of tears would have moistened kerchiefs in presence of the dying woes of Mr. Garrick, or Mr. Barry and Mrs. Cibber.
I have come upon some illustrations of the text, in my recent reading, too late for embodiment in my notes; a few of these may be here set down.
I. i. 79: Give me my long sword. Compare Sharpham, The Fleire: "the gentleman that wore the long Sword, now weares the short Hanger."
I. ii. 25: Earth-treading stars. Adopted by Sharpham, Cupid's Whirligig (opening scene): "the Court, where so many Earth-treading starres adornes the Skye of State."
I. v. 69: He bears him, like a portly gentleman. So Middleton, Your Five Gallants, IV. viii.: "That one so fortunate amongst us five Shall bear himself more portly."
I. v. 122: the sport is at the best. Compare Chapman, The Gentleman Usher (Pearson's reprint, i. 260): "Our hunting sport is at the best."
II. i. 10: Ay me. This is the "sigh" of line 8, as "love" and "dove" are the rhyme. Compare Sharpham, The Fleire: "Pis. ay me! Nan. Faith my Lord you'll nere win a woman by sighing."
II. i. 38: et cetera. So used for an unbecoming omitted word by William Haughton in Englishmen for my Money.
II. iv. 109: Here's goodly gear! So Chapman, An humerous dayes mirth (Pearson's reprint, i. 76): "But here is goodly geare."
II. v. 42: body, etc. Compare Middleton (ed. Bullen), vol. i. 27, and iii. 98.
III. i. 8: operation of the second cup. So Sharpham, The Fleire: "the operation of the pot makes him not able to stand."
III. iii. 57: Hang up philosophy! Was this proverbial? Compare W. Haughton, Englishmen for my Money (near opening of play): "Hang up Philosophy, Ile none of it."
III. v. 9: Night's candles are burnt out. So Haughton, Englishmen, etc.:
Night's Candles burne obscure, and the pale Moone
Favouring our drift, lyes buried in a Cloud.
IV. iv. 11: mouse-hunt. Add, in support of Dyce's explanation, Haughton, Englishmen, etc. (spoken of an amorous old man): "Here's an old Ferret Pole-cat."
IV. v. 97: ah, put up, put up. So Chapman, The Gentleman Usher (Pearson's reprint, i. 355): "Unworthie Lord, put up," i.e. cease.
The references to other plays of Shakespeare than Romeo and Juliet are to act, scene, line, as found in the Globe Shakespeare.
I have had a great advantage in preparing this edition of Romeo and Juliet in having been preceded by Mr. Daniel, the most conscientious and scholarly of editors. I have to thank him for an unpublished note on I. iii. 33. Professor Littledale communicated to me some valuable suggestions. Dr. Furnivall called my attention to the passage of Masson's Milton quoted on p. 82. But my chief debt is to my friend Mr. W. J. Craig, who, out of the great store of illustrations of Shakespeare which during many years he has accumulated, generously furnished me with a wealth of quotations which I have utilised as far as my space permitted. Whatever value this edition may possess is in large measure due to his learning and his kindness.
- This interesting parallel has been pointed out to me by Mr. W. J. Craig.
- The points in common between Juliet's Nurse and the Nurse in Dido Queen of Carthage by Marlowe and Nash seem to me of little importance. Shakespeare found his Nurse in Brooke's poem.
- The case is greatly strengthened by a comparison of Lucrece with Daniel's Rosamond. There can here be no doubt that Shakespeare was the debtor. See the article, "Shakespeare's Lucrece," by Ewig, in Anglia xxii., Neue Folge Band x., Viertes Heft, pp. 436–448.
- If anyone should care to see a catalogue of earthquakes compiled by a contemporary of Shakespeare, he will find one in the Indice to Discorsi del S. Allesandro Sardo (Venice, 1586), which volume includes a treatise "Del Terremoto."
- Gervinus notices, beside the sonnet-form in Romeo and Juliet, something corresponding to the epithalamium (Juliet's soliloquy) and to the dawn-song.
- In his address "To the Reader" Brooke mentions that he had seen "the same argument lately set foorth on stage," with more commendation than he can look for.
- In the play it is the name of the "common judgment-place" of the Prince.—E. D.
- See Alessandro Torri's Giulietta e Romeo (Pisa, 1821), the Baron de Guenifey's Histoire de Roméo Montecchi et de Juliette Cappelletti (Paris, 1836), Mr. Daniel's Introduction to the New Sh. Society's reprints of Brooke and Painter, and my article on "Romeo and Juliet" in Transcripts and Studies.
- It was at once translated into English by Mr. Rooke (1727). My acquaintance with the Ephesiaca is derived from the French version of 1736; the portion which has some resemblance to the story of Juliet will be found in pp. 124–139. In the anonymous play, How a Man may choose a Good Wife from a Bad (1602), which is founded on a novel (Decade III., Novella v.) of Cinthio's Hecatommithi, the incidents of an opiate given for poison to a young wife by her faithless husband, her burial, and revival in the coffin, are turned to comic uses. It is perhaps worth noting that here, as in Romeo and Juliet, the sale of poisons is spoken of as illegal:
some covetous slave for coyne,
Will sell it him, though it be held by law,
To be no better than flat fellony.
- The reader will find both the Italian text and an English translation in The Original Story of Romeo and Juliet, by G. Pace-Sanfelice, 1868. Mr. Rolfe has reproduced Brydges' rare translation, with the addition of omitted passages: Juliet and Romeo, Boston, 1895. For short accounts, see Daniel or my article already mentioned.
- It is needless here to give any account of Otway's strange appropriation and transformation of Shakespeare's play in his Caius Marius.
- Transcripts and Studies, pp. 389–390. To the study from which I quote I may refer the reader for an account of Lope de Vega's Castelvines y Monteses and of Los Bandos de Verona, by Francisco de Rojas y Zorrilla (both of which may be read in privately printed translations by Mr. F. W. Cosens). The strange conjunction of Shakespeare's lovers with Dante's Ugolino in the Romeo et Juliette of Ducis is also noticed in the same study.
- See, together with Daniel's "Time-Analysis of the Plots of Shakespeare's Plays" (New Sh. Society's Transactions, 1879), the notes on p. 202 and p. 219 of Mr. Rolfe's edition of Romeo and Juliet.
- The commonplace moralisings and the vigorous Protestant feeling expressed by Brooke in his address "To the Reader," prefixed to Romeus and Juliet, did not influence Shakespeare; and they do not enter into Brooke's poem, where the hero and heroine are not represented as "thralling themselves to unhonest desire," and the "superstitious frier" appears as an amiable old student of natural science.
- Furness, Romeo and Juliet, p. 445.