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Line 236. And, in strong proof &c.] As this play was written in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, I cannot help regarding these speeches of Romeo as an oblique compliment to her majesty, who was not liable to be displeased at hearing her chastity praised after she was suspected to have lost it, or her beauty commended in the 67th year of her age, though she never possessed any when she was young. Her declaration that she would continue unmarried, increases the probability of the present supposition. STEEVENS.
Line 242. with beauty dies her store.] She is rich, says he, in beauty, and only poor in being subject to the lot of humanity, that her store, or riches, can be destroyed by death, who shall, by the same blow, put an end to beauty. JOHNSON. Line 249. wisely too fair, &c.] There is in her too much sanctimonious wisdom united with beauty, which induces her to continue chaste with the hopes of attaining heavenly bliss. MALONE
ACT I. SCENE II.
Line 298. Inherit at my house ;] To inherit, in the language of Shakspeare's age, is to possess. MALONE.
Line 323. Your plantain leaf is excellent for that,] Tackius tells us, that a toad, before she engages with a spider, will fortify herself with some of this plant; and that, if she comes off wounded, she cures herself afterwards with it. Dr. GREY.
Line 358. crush a cup of wine.] This cant expression seems to have been once common among low people. I have met with it often in the old plays. STEEVENS.
let there be weigh'd
Your lady's love against some other maid-] Your lady's love is the love you bear to your lady, which in our language is commonly used for the lady herself.
Line 399. 437.
ACT I. SCENE III.
-to my teen-] To my sorrow.
-it stinted,] i. e. it stopped, it forbore from
Line 487. That in gold clasps locks in the golden story ;] The golden story is perhaps the golden legend, a book in the dark ages of popery much read, and doubtless often exquisitely embellished, but of which Canus, one of the popish doctors, proclaims the author to have been homo ferrei oris, plumbei cordis.
The poet may mean nothing more than to say, that those books are most esteemed by the world, where valuable contents are embellished by as valuable binding. STEEVENS
ACT I. SCENE IV.
Mercutio,] Shakspeare appears to have formed this character on the following slight hint in the original story: 66 -another gentleman called Mercutio, which was a courtlike gentleman, very wel beloved of all men, and by reason of his pleasant and curteous behavior was in al companies wel intertained." Painter's Palace of Pleasure, Tom. II. p. 221. STEEVENS.
Line 512. like a crow-keeper;] The word crow-keeper is explained in King Lear. JOHNSON.
Line 516. We'll measure them a measure,] i. e. a dance.
517. Give me a torch,] The character which Romeo declares his resolution to assume, will be best explained by a passage in Westward Hoe, by Decker and Webster, 1607: * He is just like a torch-bearer to maskers; he wears good cloaths, and is ranked in good company, but he doth nothing." A torch-bearer seems to have been a constant appendage on every troop of masks. STEEVENS. Line 541. doth quote deformities?] To quote is to obSTEEVENS.
Line 548. Tickle the senseless rushes with their heels;] It has been already observed, that it was anciently the custom to strew rooms with rushes, before carpets were in use. STEEVENS.
Line 552. Tut! dun's the mouse, the constable's own word:] Dun is the mouse, I know not why, seems to have meant, Peace; be still! and hence it is said to be "the constable's own word;" who may be supposed to be employed in apprehending an offender, and afraid of alarming him by any noise.
Line 556. -we burn day-light, ho.] To burn day-light is a proverbial expression, used when candles, &c. are lighted in the day-time. STEEVENS.
Line 573. O, then, I see, Queen Mab hath been with you. She is the fairies' midwife;] The fairies' midwife does not mean the midwife to the fairies, but that she was the person among the fairies, whose department it was to deliver the fancies of sleeping men of their dreams, those children of an idle brain. STEEVENS. Line 576. of little atomies-] Atomy is no more than an obsolete substitute for atom. STEEVENS.
with sweet-meats] i. e. kissing-comfits. These artificial aids to perfume the breath are mentioned by Falstaff, in the last Act of The Merry Wives of Windsor.
Line 605. -Spanish blades,] A sword is called a toledo, from the excellence of the Toletan steel. JOHNSON.
Line 611. And bakes the elf-locks &c.] This was a common superstition; and seems to have had its rise from the horrid disease called the Plica Polonica. WARBURTON. Line 613. when maids &c.] So, in Drayton's Nimphidia: "And Mab, his merry queen, by night "Bestrides young folks that lie upright, "(In elder times the mare that hight) "Which plagues them out of measure.” STEEVENS. Line 637. Direct my sail!] Guide the sequel of the advenJOHNSON.
ACT I. SCENE V.
Line 640. – -he shift a trencher! &c.] Trenchers were still used by persons of good fashion in our author's time. In the Houshold Book of the Earls of Northumberland, compiled at the beginning of the same century, it appears that they were common to the tables of the first nobility. PERCY.
court-cupboard,] A court-cupboard was not strictly what we now call a side-board, but a recess fitted up with shelves to contain plate, &c. for the use of the table. It was afterwards called a buffet, and continued to be used to the time of Pope. MALONE.
Two of these court-cupboards are still in Stationers' Hall.
Line 647. save me a piece of marchpane ;] Marchpane was a confection made of pistacho-nuts, almonds, and sugar, &c. and in high esteem in Shakspeare's time. GREY. Line 671. A hall! a hall!] This explanation occurs frequently in the old comedies, and signifies make room. STEEVENS. Line 675. good cousin Capulet ;] This cousin Capulet is uncle in the paper of invitation; but as Capulet is described as old, cousin is probably the right word in both places. I know not how Capulet and his lady might agree, their ages were very disproportionate; he has been past masking for thirty years, and her age, as she tells Juliet, is but eight-and-twenty. JOHNSON. Line 739. -to scath you ;] i. e. to do you an injury. STEEVENS. 741. -You are a princox; go:] A princox is a corcomb, a conceited person. STEEVENS. Line 768. [Kissing her.] Our poet here, without doubt, copied from the mode of his own time; and kissing a lady in a public assembly, we may conclude, was not thought indecorous. In King Henry VIII, he in like manner makes Lord Sands kiss Anne Boleyn, next to whom he sits at the supper given by Cardinal Wolsey. MALONE.
Line 788. We have a trifling foolish banquet towards.] Towards is ready, at hand. STEEVENS.
Enter CHORUS.] The use of this chorus is not easily discovered; it conduces nothing to the progress of the play, but relates what is already known, or what the next scene will show and relates it without adding the improvement of any moral sentiment. JOHNSON.
ACT II. SCENE I.
Line 16. Young Adam Cupid,] Alluding to the famous archer, Adam Bell. GREY. Line 17. When king Cophetua &c.] Alluding to an old ballad preserved in the first volume of Dr. Percy's Reliques of ancient English Poetry. STEEVENS. Line 21. By her high forehead,] It has already been observed
that a high forehead was in Shakspeare's time thought eminently beautiful.
MALONE. Line 35. —the humorous night:] I suppose Shakspeare means humid, the moist dewy night. STEEVENS.
ACT II. SCENE II.
Line 46. He jests at scars,] That is, Mercutio jests, whom he overheard. JOHNSON. Line 53. Be not her maid,] Be not a votary to the moon, to Diana. JOHNSON. Line 71. 0, that I were a glove upon that hand,] This passage appears to have been ridiculed by Shirley in The School of Com pliments, a comedy, 1637:
"O that I were a flea upon that lip," &c. STEEVENS. Line 89. Thou art thyself though, not a Montague.] Juliet is simply endeavouring to account for Romeo's being amiable and excellent, though he is a Montague. And to prove this, she asserts that he merely bears that name, but has none of the qualities of that house. MALONE.
-no let to me.] i, e. no stop or hinderance. MAL. 134. And, but thou love me, let them find me here :] “But thou love me," here means, unless thou love me,
Line 136. Than death prorogued,] i. e. delayed, deferred to a more distant period. MALONE.
Line 234. To lure this tassel-gentle back again!] It appears from the old books on this subject that certain hawks were considered as appropriated to certain ranks. The tercel-gentle was. appropriated to the prince; and thence, we may suppose, was chosen by Juliet as an appellation for her beloved Romeo.
ACT II. SCENE III.
Line 275. And flecked darkness—] Flecked is spotted, dappled, streaked, or variegated.
Line 281. The earth, that's nature's mother, is her tomb;]
Lucretius. "The womb of nature, and perhaps her grave." Milton., STEEVENS.