The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet (Dowden)/Prologue

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Enter Chorus.

Chor. Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes 5
A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life;
Whose misadventured piteous overthrows
Do[C 2] with their death bury their parents' strife.
The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love,
And the continuance of their parents' rage, 10
Which, but their children's end, nought could remove,
Is now the two hours' traffic[E 2] of our stage;
The which if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.
[Exit.[C 3]

Critical notes

  1. 1–14 Prologue, omitted Ff.
  2. 8. Do] Rowe, Doth Q.
  3. 14. Exit] Capell, omitted Q.

Explanatory notes

  1. Prologue] This prologue, probably spoken by the actor who appears as Chorus at the opening of Act II., is written in the form of the Shakespearian sonnet; so a sonnet (appreaching nearer to the Italian form) serves as prologue to Heywood's The Faire Maide of the Exchange, printed 1607; a sonnet (Shakespearian) is prologue to his A Woman Killed with Kindness, 1607. Here the note of fate is struck in lines 5, 6.
  2. 12. two hours' traffic] Compare Henry VIII. Prologue, 12, 13: "May see away their shilling Richly in two short hours." The simple material apparatus of the Elizabethan stage tended to accelerate the performance.