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Of a poor 'pothecary, and therewithal Came to this vault to die, and lie with Juliet. Where be these enemies? Capulet! Montague !— See, what a scourge is laid upon your hate, That Heaven finds means to kill your joys with love! And I, for winking at your discords too, Have lost a brace of kinsmen:-all are punish'd. CAP. O, brother Montague, give me thy hand. This is my daughter's jointure, for no more Can I demand. Mox. But I can give thee more: For I will raise her statue in pure gold; That whiles Verona by that name is known, There shall no figure at that rate be set, As that of true and faithful Juliet. CAP. As rich shall Romeo by his lady lie; Poor sacrifices of our enmity! PRINCE. A glooming peace this morning with it brings; The sun for sorrow will not shew his head: Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things; Some shall be pardon'd, and some punished": For never was a story of more woe Than this of Juliet and her Romeo. [Ea'eunt.
WERONA, the city of Italy where, next to Rome, the antiquary most luxuriates;–where, blended with the remains of theatres, and amphitheatres, and triumphal arches, are the palaces of the factious nobles, and the tombs of the despotic princes of the Gothic ages;–Verona, so rich in the associations of real history, has even a greater charm for those who would live in the poetry of the past:“Are these the distant turrets of Werona 2 And shall I sup where Juliet at the masque Saw her lov’d Montague, and now sleeps by him 2" So felt our tender and graceful poet, Rogers. He adds, in a note, “The old palace of the Cappelletti, with its uncouth balcony and irregular windows, is still standing in a lane near the market-place; and what Englishman can behold it with indifference When we enter Werona, we forget ourselves, and are almost inclined to say with Dante, “‘Wieni a veder Montecchi, e Cappelletti.”
To carry coals was to submit to servile offices. Gifford has a note upon a passage in Ben Jonson's ‘Every Man out of his Humour, where Puntarvolo, wanting his dog held, exclaims, “Here comes one that will carry coals,” in which note he clearly enough shows the origin of the reproach of carrying coals:– “In all great houses, but particularly in the royal residences, there were a number of mean and dirty dependants, whose office it was to attend the wood-yard, sculleries, &c. Of these (for in the lowest deep there was a lower still) the most forlorn wretches seem to have been selected to carry coals to the kitchens, halls, &c. To this smutty regiment, who attended the progresses, and rode in the carts with the pots and kettles, which, with every other article of furniture,
were then moved from palace to palace, the people, in derision, gave the name of black guards, a term since become sufficiently familiar, and never properly explained.” In the passage here quoted from Ben Jonson, we find the primary meaning of the expression—that of being fit for servile offices; but in a subsequent passage of the same play we also have the secondary meaning—that of tamely submitting to an affront. Puntarvolo, having lost his dog, insults Shift, who he supposes has taken it; upon which another character exclaims, “Take heed, Sir Puntarvolo, what you do, he'll bear no coals, I can tell you.” Gifford has given a quotation in illustration of this meaning (which is the sense in which Shakspere here uses it,) worth all the long list of similar passages in the Shaksperian commentators:–“It remayneth now that I take notice of Jaspar's arryvall, and of those letters with which the queen was exceedingly well satisfied: saying that you were too like some body in the world, to whom she is afrayde you are a little kin, to be content to carry coales at any Frenchman's hand.”—Secretary Cecyll to Sir Henry Neville, March 2, 1559.
* SceNE I.-" Here comes of the house of the Montagues.”
How are the Montagues known from the Capulets? naturally occurs to us. They wore badges, which, in all countries, have been the outward manifestations of party spirit. Gascoigne, in ‘a device of a masque,' written in 1575, has,
“And for a further proof he shewed in hys hat
* ScENE I.—“I will bite my thumb at them.” There can be little doubt, we apprehend, that
this mode of insult was originally peculiar to ‘Worthies,' after describing a swaggerer as one Italy, and was perhaps a mitigated form of that endeavours to make that side to swagger,
the greater insult of making the fig, or fico, that is, thrusting out the thumb in a peculiar manner between the fingers. Douce has bestowed much laborious investigation upon this difficult, and somewhat worthless subject. The commentators have not distinctly alluded to what appears to us the identity of biting the thumb and the fico; but a passage in Lodge's ‘Wit's Miserie” clearly shows that the customs were one and the same:– “Behold I see contempt marching forth, giving mee the fico with his thumbe in his mouth.” The practice of biting the thumb was naturalized amongst us in Shakspere's time; and the lazy and licentious groups that frequented “Paul's" are thus described by Dekker, in 1608:—“What swearing is there, what shouldering, what justling, what jeering, what biting of thumbs to beget quarrels.”
* ScKSE. I.-" Gregory, remember thy swashing blow.”
Sampson and Gregory are described as armed with swords and bucklers. The swashing blow is a blow upon the buckler; the blow accompanied with a noise; and thus a swasher came
to be synonymous with a quarrelsome fellow, a
braggart. In “Henry V., Bardolph, Pistol, and Nym are called by the boy three “swashers.” Holinshed has—“a man may see how many bloody quarrels a brawling swash-buckler may pick out of a bottle of hay;” and Fuller, in his
When Shakspere has to deal with descriptions
of natural scenery, he almost invariably local
izes himself with the utmost distinctness. He never mistakes the sycamore groves of the south for the birch woods of the north. In such cases he was not required to employ familiar and
or weigh down, whereon he engages, tells us that a swash-buckler is so called from swashing, or making a noise on bucklers.
* Scene I.-‘Clubs, bills, and partisans.”
The cry of “clubs" is as thoroughly of English origin as the “bite my thumb" is of Italian. Scott has made the cry familiar to us in “The Fortunes of Nigel;" and when the citizens of Verona here raise it, we involuntarily think of the old watchmaker's hatch-door in Fleet-street, and Jin Win and Tunstall darting off for the affray. “The great long club,” as described by Stow, on the necks of the London apprentices, was as characteristic as the flat cap of the same quarrelsome body, in the days of Elizabeth and James. The use by Shakspere of home phrases, in the mouths of foreign characters, was a part of his art. It is the same thing as rendering Sancho's Spanish proverbs into the correspond. ing English proverbs instead of literally translating them. The cry of clubs by the citizens of Verona expressed an idea of popular movement, which could not have been conveyed half so emphatically in a foreign phrase. We have given a group of ancient bills and partisans, viz., a very early form of bill, from a specimen preserved in the Town Hall of Canterbury; bills of the times of Henry VI, VII., and VIII.; —and partisans of the times of Edward IV., Henry VII., and James I.
conventional images, for the sake of presenting an idea more distinctly to his audience than a rigid adherence to the laws of costume (we employ the word in its larger sense of manners) would have allowed. The grove of sycamore, “That westward rooteth from this city's side,”
takes us at once to a scene entirely different from one presented by Shakspere's own experi
” Scene II.-“Such comfort, as do lusty young men feel,” &c. Dr. Johnson would read yeomen, and make Capulet compare the delight of Paris “among fresh female buds" to the joy of the farmer on the return of spring. But the spirit of Italian poetry was upon Shakspere when he wrote these lines; and he thought not of the lusty yeoman in his fields, “While the plow-man near at hand Whistles o'er the furrow'd land,” but of such gay groups as Boccaccio has painted, who “Sat down in the high grass, and in the shade
Of many a tree sun proof.” Shakspere has, indeed, explained his own idea of “well-apparelled April" in that beautiful sonnet beginning
“From you have I been absent in the spring,
When proud-pied April, dress'd in all his trim,
Hath put a spirit of youth in everything.” Douce has well observed, that, in this passage of “Romeo and Juliet, Shakspere might “have had in view the decorations which accompany the above month in some of the manuscript and printed calendars, where the young folks are represented as sitting together on the grass;
The earthquake that was within the recollection of Shakspere's audience happened in the year 1580. The principle of dating from an earthquake, or from any other remarkable phenomenon, is a very obvious one. We have an example as old as the days of the prophet Amos:– “The words of Amos, who was among the herdmen of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel, two years before the earthquake.” Tyrwhitt says, “But how comes the Nurse to talk of an earthquake upon this occasion? There is no such circumstance, I believe, mentioned in any of the novels from which Shakspere may be supposed to have drawn his story.” But it appears to us by no means improbable that Shakspere might have been acquainted with some description of the great earthquake which happened at Verona in 1848, when
Petrarch was sojourning in that city; and that, with something like historical propriety, therefore, he made the Nurse date from that event, while at the same time the supposed allusion to the earthquake in England of 1580 would be relished by his audience.
* ScENE III.-" Read o'er the volume of young Paris' face.”
This passage furnishes a very remarkable example of the correctness of the principle laid down in Mr. Whiter's very able tract—"An Attempt to explain and illustrate various Passages of Shakspere, on a new Principle of Criticism, derived from Mr. Locke's Doctrine of the Association of Ideas.” Mr. Whiter's most ingenious theory would lose much in being presented in any other than his own words. We may just mention that his leading doctrine, as applied to Shakspere, is, that the exceeding warmth of his imagination often supplied him, by the power of association, with words, and with ideas, suggested to the mind by a principle of union unperceived by himself, and independent of the subject to which they are applied. We readily agree with Mr. Whiter that “this propensity in the mind to associate subjects so remote in their meaning, and so heterogeneous in their nature, must, of necessity, sometimes deceive the ardour of the writer into whimsical or ridiculous combinations. As the reader, however, is not blinded by this fascinating principle, which, while it creates the association, conceals likewise its effects, he is instantly impressed with the quaintness or the absurdity of the imagery, and is inclined to charge the writer with the intention of a foolish quibble, or an impertinent allusion.” It is in this spirit of a cold and literal criticism, here so well described, that Mr. Monck Mason pronounces upon the passage before us—“This ridiculous speech is full of abstruse quibbles.” But the principle of association, as explained by Mr. Whiter, at once reconciles us to the quibbles. The “volume” of young Paris' face suggests the “beauty's pen” which hath “writ” there. Then, the obscurities of the fair “volume” are written in the “margin of his eyes,” as comments of ancient books are always printed in the margin. Lastly, this “book of love” lacks “a cover”—the “golden story” must be locked in with “golden clasps.” The ingenious management of the vein of imagery is at least as remarkable as its “abstruse quibbles." |