In this death-filled setting, the movement from love at first sight to the lovers’ final union in death seems almost inevitable. And yet, this play set in an extraordinary world has become the quintessential story of young love. In part because of its exquisite language, it is easy to respond as if it were about all young lovers.
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About the Author
Barbara A. Mowat is Director of Research emerita at the Folger Shakespeare Library, Consulting Editor of Shakespeare Quarterly, and author of The Dramaturgy of Shakespeare’s Romances and of essays on Shakespeare’s plays and their editing.
Paul Werstine is Professor of English at the Graduate School and at King’s University College at Western University. He is a general editor of the New Variorum Shakespeare and author of Early Modern Playhouse Manuscripts and the Editing of Shakespeare and of many papers and articles on the printing and editing of Shakespeare’s plays.
Date of Death:2018
Place of Birth:Stratford-upon-Avon, United Kingdom
Place of Death:Stratford-upon-Avon, United Kingdom
Read an Excerpt
Romeo and Juliet
By WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 1993 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
SCENE I. Verona. A public place.
Enter SAMPSON and GREGORY, of the house of Capulet, with swords and bucklers.
SAM. Gregory, on my word, we'll not carry coals.
GRE. No, for then we should be colliers.
SAM. I mean, an we be in choler, we'll draw
GRE. Ay, while you live, draw your neck out o' the collar.
SAM. I strike quickly, being moved.
GRE. But thou art not quickly moved to strike.
SAM. A dog of the house of Montague moves me.
GRE. To move is to stir, and to be valiant is to stand: therefore, if thou art moved, thou runn'st away.
SAM. A dog of that house shall move me to stand: I will take the wall of any man or maid of Montague's.
GRE. That shows thee a weak slave; for the weakest goes to the wall.
SAM. 'Tis true; and therefore women, being the weaker vessels, are ever thrust to the wall: therefore I will push Montague's men from the wall and thrust his maids to the wall.
GRE. The quarrel is between our masters and us their men.
SAM. 'Tis all one, I will show myself a tyrant: when I have fought with the men, I will be civil with the maids; I will cut off their heads.
GRE. The heads of the maids?
SAM. Ay, the heads of the maids, or their maidenheads; take it in what sense thou wilt.
GRE. They must take it in sense that feel it.
SAM. Me they shall feel while I am able to stand: and 'tis known I am a pretty piece of flesh.
GRE. 'Tis well thou art not fish; if thou hadst, thou hadst been poor John. Draw thy tool; here comes two of the house of Montagues.
Enter ABRAHAM and BALTHASAR.
SAM. My naked weapon is out: quarrel; I will back thee.
GRE. How! turn thy back and run?
SAM. Fear me not.
GRE. No, marry: I fear thee!
SAM. Let us take the law of our sides; let them begin.
GRE. I will frown as I pass by, and let them take it as they list.
SAM. Nay, as they dare. I will bite my thumb at them; which is a disgrace to them, if they bear it.
ABR. Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?
SAM. I do bite my thumb, sir.
ABR. Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?
SAM. [Aside to GRE.] IS the law of our side, if I say ay?
SAM. No, sir, I do not bite my thumb at you, sir; but I bite my thumb, sir.
GRE. Do you quarrel, sir?
ABR. Quarrel, sir! no, sir.
SAM. But if you do, sir, I am for you: I serve as good a man as you.
ABR. No better.
SAM. Well, sir.
GRE. [Aside to SAM.] Say 'better': here comes one of my master's kinsmen.
SAM. Yes, better, sir.
ABR. You lie.
SAM. Draw, if you be men. Gregory, remember thy swashing blow.
[They fight. [Beating down their weapons.
BEN. Part, fools! Put up your swords; you know not what you do.
TYB. What, art thou drawn among these heartless hinds? Turn thee, Benvolio, look upon thy death.
BEN. I do but keep the peace: put up thy sword, Or manage it to part these men with me.
TYB. What, drawn, and talk of peace! I hate the word, As I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee: Have at thee, coward!
[They fight. Enter several of both houses, who join the fray; then enter Citizens and Peace-officers, with clubs.
FIRST OFF. Clubs, bills, and partisans! strike! beat them down! Down with the Capulets! down with the Montagues!
Enter old CAPULET in his gown, and LADY CAPULET.
CAP. What noise is this? Give me my long sword, ho!
LA. CAP. A crutch, a crutch! why call you for a sword?
CAP. My sword, I say! Old Montague is come, And flourishes his blade in spite of me.
Enter old MONTAGUE and LADY MONTAGUE.
MON. Thou villain Capulet!—Hold me not, let me go.
LA. MON. Thou shalt not stir one foot to seek a foe.
Enter PRINCE ESCALUS, with his train.
PRIN. Rebellious subjects, enemies to peace,
Profaners of this neighbour-stained steel,—
Will they not hear? What, ho! you men, you beasts,
That quench the fire of your pernicious rage
With purple fountains issuing from your veins,
On pain of torture, from those bloody hands
Throw your mistemper'd weapons to the ground,
And hear the sentence of your moved prince.
Three civil brawls, bred of an airy word,
By thee, old Capulet, and Montague,
Have thrice disturb'd the quiet of our streets,
And made Verona's ancient citizens
Cast by their grave beseeming ornaments,
To wield old partisans, in hands as old,
Cankere'd with peace, to part your canker'd hate:
If ever you disturb our streets again,
Your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace.
For this time, all the rest depart away:
You, Capulet, shall go along with me;
And, Montague, come you this afternoon,
To know our farther pleasure in this case,
To old Free-town, our common judgement-place.
Once more, on pain of death, all men depart.
[Exeunt all but MONTAGUE, LADY MONTAGUE, and BENVOLIO.
MON. Who set this ancient quarrel new abroach? Speak, nephew, were you by when it began?
BEN. Here were the servants of your adversary
And yours close fighting ere I did approach:
I drew to part them: in the instant came
The fiery Tybalt, with his sword prepared;
Which, as he breathed defiance to my ears,
He swung about his head, and cut the winds,
Who, nothing hurt withal, hiss'd him in scorn:
While we were interchanging thrusts and blows,
Came more and more, and fought on part and part,
Till the Prince came, who parted either part.
LA. MON. O, where is Romeo? saw you him to-day? Right glad I am he was not at this fray.
BEN. Madam, an hour before the worshipp'd sun
Peer'd forth the golden window of the east,
A troubled mind drave me to walk abroad;
Where, underneath the grove of sycamore
That westward rooteth from the city's side,
So early walking did I see your son:
Towards him I made; but he was ware of me,
And stole into the covert of the wood:
I, measuring his affections by my own,
Which then most sought where most might not be found,
Being one too many by my weary self,
Pursued my humour, not pursuing his,
And gladly shunn'd who gladly fled from me.
MON. Many a morning hath he there been seen,
With tears augmenting the fresh morning's dew,
Adding to clouds more clouds with his deep sighs:
But all so soon as the all-cheering sun
Should in the farthest east begin to draw
The shady curtains from Aurora's bed,
Away from light steals home my heavy son,
And private in his chamber pens himself,
Shuts up his windows, locks fair daylight out,
And makes himself an artificial night:
Black and portentous must this humour prove,
Unless good counsel may the cause remove.
BEN. My noble uncle, do you know the cause?
MON. I neither know it nor can learn of him.
BEN. Have you importuned him by any means?
MON. Both by myself and many other friends:
But he, his own affections' counsellor,
Is to himself—I will not say how true—
But to himself so secret and so close,
So far from sounding and discovery,
As is the bud bit with an envious worm,
Ere he can spread his sweet leaves to the air,
Or dedicate his beauty to the sun.
Could we but learn from whence his sorrows grow;
We would as willingly give cure as know.
BEN. See, where he comes: so please you step aside; I'll know his grievance, or be much denied.
MON. I would thou wert so happy by thy stay, To hear true shrift. Come, madam, let's away.
[Exeunt MONTAGUE and LADY.
BEN. Good morrow; cousin.
ROM. IS the day so young?
BEN. But new struck nine.
ROM. Ay me! sad hours seem long. Was that my father that went hence so fast?
BEN. It was. What sadness lengthens Romeo's hours?
ROM. Not having that which, having, makes them short. BEN. In love?
BEN. Of love?
ROM. Out of her favour, where I am in love.
BEN. Alas, that love, so gentle in his view, Should be so tyrannous and rough in proof!
ROM. Alas, that love, whose view is muffled still,
Should without eyes see pathways to his will!
Where shall we dine? O me! What fray was here?
Yet tell me not, for I have heard it all.
Here's much to do with hate, but more with love:
Why, then, O brawling love! O loving hate!
O any thing, of nothing first create!
O heavy lightness! serious vanity!
Mis-shapen chaos of well-seeming forms!
Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health!
Still-waking sleep, that is not what it is!
This love feel I, that feel no love in this.
Dost thou not laugh?
BEN. NO, COZ, I rather weep.
ROM. Good heart, at what?
BEN. At thy good heart's oppression.
ROM. Why, such is love's transgression.
Griefs of mine own lie heavy in my breast;
Which thou wilt propagate, to have it prest
With more of thine: this love that thou hast shown
Doth add more grief to too much of mine own.
Love is a smoke raised with the fume of sighs;
Being purged, a fire sparkling in lovers' eyes;
Being vex'd, a sea nourish'd with lovers' tears:
What is it else? a madness most discreet,
A choking gall and a preserving sweet.
Farewell, my coz.
BEN. Soft! I will go along: An if you leave me so, you do me wrong.
ROM. Tut, I have lost myself; I am not here; This is not Romeo, he's some other where.
BEN. Tell me in sadness, who is that you love?
ROM. What, shall I groan and tell thee?
BEN. Groan! why, no; But sadly tell me who.
ROM. Bid a sick man in sadness make his will:
Ah, word ill urged to one that is so ill!
In sadness, cousin, I do love a woman.
BEN. I aim'd so near when I supposed you loved.
ROM. A right good mark-man! And she's fair I love.
BEN. A right fair mark, fair coz, is soonest hit.
ROM. Well, in that hit you miss: she'll not be hit
With Cupid's arrow; she hath Dian's wit,
And in strong proof of chastity well arm'd,
From love's weak childish bow she lives unharm'd.
She will not stay the siege of loving terms,
Nor bide the encounter of assailing eyes,
Nor ope her lap to saint-seducing gold:
O, she is rich in beauty, only poor
That, when she dies, with beauty dies her store.
BEN. Then she hath sworn that she will still live chaste?
ROM. She hath, and in that sparing makes huge waste;
For beauty, starved with her severity,
Cuts beauty off from all posterity.
She is too fair, too wise, wisely too fair,
To merit bliss by making me despair:
She hath forsworn to love; and in that vow
Do I live dead, that live to tell it now.
BEN. Be ruled by me, forget to think of her.
ROM. O, teach me how I should forget to think.
BEN. By giving liberty unto thine eyes; Examine other beauties.
ROM. 'Tis the way
To call hers, exquisite, in question more:
These happy masks that kiss fair ladies' brows,
Being black, put us in mind they hide the fair;
He that is strucken blind cannot forget
The precious treasure of his eyesight lost:
Show me a mistress that is passing fair,
What doth her beauty serve but as a note
Where I may read who pass'd that passing fair?
Farewell: thou canst not teach me to forget.
BEN. I'll pay that doctrine, or else die in debt.
SCENE II. A street
Enter CAPULET, PARIS, and Servant.
CAP. But Montague is bound as well as I,
In penalty alike; and 'tis not hard, I think,
For men so old as we to keep the peace.
PAR. Of honourable reckoning are you both;
And pity 'tis you lived at odds so long.
But now, my lord, what say you to my suit?
CAP. But saying o'er what I have said before:
My child is yet a stranger in the world;
She hath not seen the change of fourteen years:
Let two more summers wither in their pride
Ere we may think her ripe to be a bride.
PAR. Younger than she are happy mothers made.
CAP. And too soon marr'd are those so early made.
The earth hath swallow'd all my hopes but she,
She is the hopeful lady of my earth:
But woo her, gentle Paris, get her heart;
My will to her consent is but a part;
An she agree, within her scope of choice
Lies my consent and fair according voice.
This night I hold an old accustom'd feast,
Whereto I have invited many a guest,
Such as I love; and you among the store,
One more, most welcome, makes my number more.
At my poor house look to behold this night
Earth-treading stars that make dark heaven light:
Such comfort as do lusty young men feel
When well-apparell'd April on the heel
Of limping winter treads, even such delight
Among fresh female buds shall you this night
Inherit at my house; hear all, all see,
And like her most whose merit most shall be:
Which on more view, of many mine being one
May stand in number, though in reckoning none.
Come, go with me. [To Servant] Go, sirrah, trudge about
Through fair Verona; find those persons out
Whose names are written there, and to them say,
My house and welcome on their pleasure stay.
[Exeunt CAPULET and PARIS.
SERV. Find them out whose names are written here! It is written that the shoemaker should meddle with his yard and the tailor with his last, the fisher with his pencil and the painter with his nets; but I am sent to find those persons whose names are here writ, and can never find what names the writing person hath here writ. I must to the learned. In good time.
Enter BENVOLIO and ROMEO.
BEN. Tut, man, one fire burns out another's burning.
One pain is lessen'd by another's anguish;
Turn giddy, and be holp by backward turning;
One desperate grief cures with another's languish:
Take thou some new infection to thy eye,
And the rank poison of the old will die.
ROM. Your plantain-leaf is excellent for that.
BEN. For what, I pray thee?
ROM. For your broken shin.
BEN. Why, Romeo, art thou mad?
ROM. Not mad, but bound more than a madman is;
Shut up in prison, kept without my food,
Whipt and tormented and— God-den, good fellow.
SERV. God gi' god-den. I pray, sir, can you read?
ROM. Ay, mine own fortune in my misery.
SERV. Perhaps you have learned it without book: but, I pray, can you read any thing you see?
ROM. Ay, if I know the letters and the language.
SERV Ye say honestly: rest you merry!
ROM. Stay, fellow; I can read.
'Signior Martino and his wife and daughters; County Anselme and his beauteous sisters; the lady widow of Vitruvio; Signior Placentio and his lovely nieces; Mercutio and his brother Valentine; mine uncle Capulet, his wife, and daughters; my fair niece Rosaline; Livia; Signior Valentio and his cousin Tybalt; Lucio and the lively Helena.'
A fair assembly: whither should they come?
ROM. Whither? to supper?
SERV. TO our house.
ROM. Whose house?
SERV. My master's.
ROM. Indeed, I should have ask'd you that before.
SERV. Now I'll tell you without asking: my master is the great rich Capulet; and if you be not of the house of Montagues, I pray, come and crush a cup of wine. Rest you merry!
BEN. At this same ancient feast of Capulet's
Sups the fair Rosaline whom thou so lovest,
With all the admired beauties of Verona:
Go thither, and with unattainted eye
Compare her face with some that I shall show,
And I will make thee think thy swan a crow
ROM. When the devout religion of mine eye
Maintains such falsehood, then turn tears to fires;
And these, who, often drown'd, could never die,
Transparent heretics, be burnt for liars!
One fairer than my love! the all-seeing sun
Ne'er saw her match since first the world begun.
BEN. Tut, you saw her fair, none else being by,
Herself poised with herself in either eye:
But in that crystal scales let there be weighed
Your lady's love against some other maid,
That I will show you shining at this feast,
And she shall scant show well that now seems best.
ROM. I'll go along, no such sight to be shown,
But to rejoice in splendour of mine own.
SCENE III. A room in Capulet's house.
Enter LADY CAPULET and NURSE.
LA. CAP. Nurse, where's my daughter? call her forth to me.
NURSE. NOW, by my maidenhead at twelve year old,
I bade her come. What, lamb! what, lady-bird!
God forbid!—Where's this girl? What, Juliet!
Excerpted from Romeo and Juliet by WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE. Copyright © 1993 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of ContentsRomeo and Juliet - William Shakespeare - Edited by J. A. Bryant, Jr. Samuel Johnson: From The Plays of William Shakespeare
Samuel Taylor Coleridge: From The Lectures of 1811-1812, Lecture VII
H. B. Charlton: From Shakespearian Tragedy
Michael Goldman: 'Romeo and Juliet': The Meaning of Theatrical Experience
Susan Snyder: Beyond Comedy: 'Romeo and Juliet'
Sylvan Barnet: 'Romeo and Juliet' on the Stage and Screen
NEWLY ADDED ESSAYS:
Marianne Novy: Violence, Love, and Gender in 'Romeo and Juliet'
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