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A rhyme I learn'd even now Of one I danc'd withal.
[One calls within, “Juliet." Nurse.
Anon, anon :Come, let 's away; the strangers all are gone. [Exeunt.
Now old desire doth in his death-bed lie,
gapes to be his heir;
With tender Juliet match'd, is now not fair. Now Romeo is belov’d, and loves again,
Alike bewitched by the charm of looks ; But to his foe suppos’d he must complain,
And she steal love's sweet bait from fearful hooks : Being held a foe, he may not have access
To breathe such vows as lovers use to swear;
To meet her new-beloved anywhere :
ILLUSTRATIONS OF ACT I.
VERONA, 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 Verona ?
And shall I sup where Juliet at the masque
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 Verona, we forget ourselves, and are almost inclined to say with Dante,
· Vieni à veder Montecchi, e Cappelletti.'”
1 Scene I. .-" Gregory, o' my word, we'll not carry coals."
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-yards, 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 Shaksperean 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 somebody 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.
2 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
Thys token which the Mountacutes did beare alwaies, for that
3 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 Italy, and was perhaps a mitigated form of 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 naturalised 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 !"
* SCENE 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 swashbuckler may pick out of a bottle of hay;" and Fuller, in his Worthies,' after describing a swaggerer as one that endeavours to make that side to swagger, or weigh down, whereon he engages, tells us that a swash-buckler is so called from swashing or making a noise on bucklers.
5 Scene I.—“ Clubs, bills, and partisans.” The of “ Clubs” is as thoroughly of English origin as the “ bite my thumb" is of Italian. “ 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 corresponding 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 Townhall 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.
SCENE I.-“ Underneath the grove of sycamore." When Shakspere has to deal with descriptions of natural scenery, he almost invariably localizes 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 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 experience. The sycamore is the oriental plane (little known in England, though sometimes found), spreading its broail branches—from which its name, platanusto supply the most delightful of shades under the sun of Syria or of Italy. Shakspere might have found the sycamore in Chaucer's exquisite tale of “The Flower and the Leaf,' where the hedge that
“ Closed in alle the
7 SCENE I.-—" O brawling love! O loving hate !" This antithetical combination of contraries originated in the Provençal poetry, and was assiduously cultivated by Petrarch. Shakspere, in this passage, may be distinctly traced to Chaucer's translation of 'The Romaunt of the Rose,' where we have love described as a hateful peace-a truth full of falsehood--a despairing hope -a void reason-a sick heal, &c.
8 SCENE I.-" These happy masks, that kiss fair ladies' brows,
Being black, put us in mind they hide the fair.” Steevens says that the masks here meant were those worn by female spectators of the play ; but it appears scarcely necessary so to limit the use of a lady's mask. In 'The Two Gentlemen of Verona' we have the “sun-expelling mask.” In ‘Love's Labour's Lost' the ladies wear masks in the first interview between the king and the princess :—“ Now fair befall your mask,” says Biron to Rosaline. We subjoin a representation of an Italian lady in her black mask. The figure (without the mask) is in Vicellio's - Habiti Antichi e Moderni.'
9 SCENE II.—“ This night I hold an old accustom'd feast.” In the poem of “Romeus and Juliet' the season of Capulet's feast is winter :
“ The wery winter nightes restore the Christmas games,
And now the season doth invite to banquet townish dames.
Sparth for no cost, the wonted use of banquets to begin.”
“And quench the fire, the room is grown too hot ;” but in every other instance the season is unquestionably summer. “ The day is hot,” says Benvolio. The Friar is up in his garden,
“ Now ere the sun advance his burning eye.” Juliet hears the nightingale sing from the pomegranate-tree. During the whole course of the poem the action appears to move under the “ vaulty heaven” of Italy, with a soft moon
“ That tips with silver all these fruit-tree tops,” and “day's pathway" made lustrous by
“ Titan's fiery wheels."