« PreviousContinue »
And Romeo dead; and Juliet, dead before,
Prince. Search, seek, and know how this foul mur-
1 Watch. Here is a friar, and slaughtered Romeo's
With instruments upon them, fit to open
ROMEO AND JULIET.
Cap O Heavens !-O wife! look how our daughter bleeds!
This dagger hath mista’en,--for lo! his house
Enter MONTAGUE and others.
Prince. Come, Montague; for thou art early up, To see thy son and heir more early down.
Mon. Alas, my liege, my wife is dead to-night; Grief of my son's exile hath stopped her breath. What further woe conspires against mine age?
Prince. Look, and thou shalt see.
Mon. O thou untaught! what manners is in this, To press before thy father to a grave?
Prince. Seal up the mouth of outrage for a while, Till we can clear these ambiguities,
And know their spring, their head, their true descent;
Fri. I am the greatest, able to do least,
1 The words, "for lo! his house is empty on the back of Montague," are to be considered parenthetical. It appears that the dagger was an ciently worn behind the back.
2 After this line, the quarto of 1597 adds:
"And young Benvolio is deceased too."
Doth make against me, of this direful murder;
Prince. Then say at once what thou dost know in
Fri. I will be brief, for my short date of breath
ROMEO AND JULIET.
ROMEO AND JULIET.
And bade me stand aloof, and so I did.
And, by and by, my master drew on him;
But (as it seems) did violence on herself.
Prince. We still have known thee for a holy man.
Bal. I brought my master news of Juliet's death;
Let me peruse this face;
Prince. Give me the letter; I will look on it.-
Page. He came with flowers to strew his lady's
Prince. This letter doth make good the friar's words,
Came to this vault to die, and lie with Juliet.-
1 Mercutio and Paris. Mercutio is expressly called the prince's kinsman in Act iii. Sc. 4; and that Paris was also the prince's kinsman, may be inferred from the following passages :-Capulet, speaking of the count, in the fourth act, describes him as "a gentleman of princely parentage;" and after he is killed, Romeo says:
Cap. O brother Montague, give me thy hand.
ROMEO AND JULIET.
Cap. As rich shall Romeo by his lady lie; Poor sacrifices of our enmity!
Prince. A glooming' peace this morning with it
The sun for sorrow will not show his head.
Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things;
For never was a story of more woe,
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.3
1 The quarto of 1597 reads, “A gloomy peace.” To gloom is an ancient verb, used by. Spenser and other old writers.
2 This line has reference to the poem from which the fable is taken; in which the nurse is banished for concealing the marriage; Romeo's servant set at liberty, because he had only acted in obedience to his master's orders; the apothecary is hanged; while friar Laurence was permitted to retire to a hermitage near Verona, where he ended his life in penitence and tranquillity.
3 Shakspeare, in his revision of this play, has not effected the alteration by introducing any new incidents, but merely by adding to the length of the scenes.
THIS play is one of the most pleasing of our Author's performances. The scenes are busy and various, the incidents numerous and important, the catastrophe irresistibly affecting, and the process of the action carried on with such probability, at least with such congruity to popular opinions, as tragedy requires.
Here is one of the few attempts of Shakspeare to exhibit the conversation of gentlemen, to represent the airy sprightliness of juvenile elegance. Dryden mentions a tradition, which might easily reach his time, of a declaration made by Shakspeare, that he was obliged to kill Mercutio in the third Act, lest he should have been killed by him. Yet he thinks him no such formidable person, but that he might have lived through the play and died in his bed, without danger to the Poet. Dryden well knew, had he been in quest of truth, in a pointed sentence, that more regard is commonly had to the words than the thought, and that it is very seldom to be rigorously understood. Mercutio's wit, gayety, and courage, will always procure him friends that wish him a longer life; but his death is not precipitated; he has lived out the time allotted him in the construction of the play; nor do I doubt the ability of Shakspeare to have continued his existence, though some of his sallies are, perhaps, out of the reach of Dryden; whose genius was not very fertile of merriment, nor ductile to humor, but acute, argumentative, comprehensive, and sublime.
The nurse is one of the characters in which the Author delighted. He has, with great subtilty of distinction, drawn her at once loquacious and secret, obsequious and insolent, trusty and dishonest.
His comic scenes are happily wrought; but his pathetic strains are always polluted with some unexpected depravations.* His persons, however distressed, have a conceit left them in their misery, a miserable conceit. JOHNSON.
* A. W. Schlegel has answered this remark at length, in a detailed criticism upon this tragedy, published in the Horen, a journal conducted by Schiller in 1794-1795, and made accessible to the English reader in Ollier's Literary Miscellany, Part I. In his Lectures on Dramatic Literature (vol. ii. p. 135, Eng. translation) will be found some further sensible remarks upon the "conceits" here stigmatized. It should be remembered that playing on words was a very favorite species of wit combat with our ancestors. "With children, as well as nations of the most simple manners, a great inclination to playing on words is often displayed [they cannot therefore be both puerile and unnatural; if the first charge is founded, the second cannot be so]. In Homer we find several examples; the Books of Moses, the oldest written memorial of the primitive world, are, it is well known, full of them. On the other hand, poets of a very cultivated taste, or orators like Cicero, have delighted in them. Whoever, in Richard the Second, is disgusted with the affecting play of words of the aying John of Gaunt, on his own name, let him remember that the same thing occurs in the Ajax of Sophocles."