Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

Fri. These violent delights have violent ends,
And in their triumph die; like fire and powder,
Which, as they kiss, consume: The sweetest honey
Is loathsome in his own deliciousness,
And in the taste confounds the appetite:
Therefore, love moderately; long love doth so;
Too swift arrives as tardy as too slow.

Enter Juliet.
Here comes the lady;–0, so light a foot
Will ne'er wear out the everlasting flint:
A lover may bestride the gossamers
That idle in the wanton summer air,
And yet not fall; so light is vanity.

Jul. Good even to my ghostly confessor.
Fri. Romeo shall thank thee, daughter, for us both.
Jul. As much to him, else are his thanks too much.

Rom. Ah, Juliet, if the measure of thy joy
Be heap'd like mine, and that thy skill be more
To blazon it, then sweeten with thy breath
This neighbour air, and let rich music's tongue
Unfold the imagin'd happiness that both
Receive in either by this dear encounter.

Jul. Conceit, more rich in matter than in words,
Brags of his substance, not of ornament:
They are but beggars that can count their worth ;
But my true love is grown to such excess,
I cannot sum up half my sum of wealth.

Fri. Come, come, with me, and we will make short work;
For, by your leaves, you shall not stay alone,
Till holy church incorporate two in one.

[Exeunt.

ILLUSTRATIONS OF ACT II.

1 SCENE I.-—“When king Cophet ua lov'd the beggar-maid." The ballad of King Cophetua and the Beggar-maid' was amongst the most popular of old English ballads, allusions to which were familiar to Shakspere's audience. Upon the authority of learned Master “Moth” in ‘Love's Labour 's Lost,' it was an ancient ballad in Shakspere's day :

Armado. Is there not a ballad, boy, of the King and the Beggar?

Moth. The world was very guilty of such a ballad some three ages since ; but, I think, now 't is not to be found, or, if it were, it would neither serve for the writing nor the tune.

Arm. I will have that subject newly writ o'er.” We have two versions of this ballad :—the one publisbed in ‘A Collection of Old Ballads, quoted by Grey, in 1751; the other in Percy's • Reliques. Both of these compositions appear as if they had been “newly writ o’er” not long before, or perhaps after, Shakspere's time: we subjoin a stanza of each :

FROM PERCY'S · RELIQUES.
“ I read that once in Africa

A princely wight did reign,
Who had to name Cophetua,

As poets they did feign :
From nature's laws he did decline,
For sure he was not of my mind,
He cared not for womankind,

But did them all disdain.
But mark, what happen'd on a day,
As he out of his window lay,
He saw a beggar all in grey,

The which did cause him pain.
The blinded boy, that shoots so trim,

From heaven down did hie,
He drew a dart, and shot at him

In place where he did lie."

FROM A COLLECTION OF OLD BALLADS.
“ A king once reign'd beyond the seas,

As we in ancient stories find,
Whom no fair face could ever please,

He cared not for womankind.
He despis'd the sweetest beauty,

And the greatest fortune too:
At length he married to a beggar ;

See what Cupid's dart can do.
The blind boy, that shoots so trim,
Did to his closet-window steal,
And made him soon his power feel.
He that never car'd for women,

But did females ever hate,
At length was smitten, wounded, swooned,

For a beggar at his gate."

? Scene I.-" I'll to my truckle-bed.The original quarto has, “I'll to my trundle-bed.” It appears somewhat strange that Mercutio should speak of sleeping in a truckle bed, or a trundle-bed, both which words explain the sort of bed—a running-bed. The furniture of a sleepingchamber in Shakspere's time consisted of a standing-bed and a truckle-bed. “ There's his chamber, his house, his castle, his standing-bed, and truckle-bed," says mine host of the Garter, in “The Merry Wives of Windsor.' The standingbed was for the master; the truckle-bed, which ran under it, for the servant. It may seem strange, therefore, that Mercutio should talk of sleeping in the bed of his page; but the next words will solve the difficulty:

“ This field-bed is too cold for me to sleep.” The field-bed, in this case, was the ground; but the field-bed, properly so called, was the travelling-bed; the lit de champ, called, in old English, the “trussyngbedde.” The bed next beyond the luxury of the trussyng-bed was the trucklebed ; and therefore Shakspere naturally takes that in preference to the standing

bed.

3 SCENE II.—Well, do not swear,&c. Coleridge has a beautiful remark on this passage, and on the whole of the scene, which we extract :-“With love, pure love, there is always an anxiety for the safety of the object, a disinterestedness, by which it is distinguished from the counterfeits of its name. Compare this scene with Act III., Scene 1, of “The Tempest.' I do not know a more wonderful instance of Shakspere’s mastery in playing a distinctly rememberable variety on the same remembered air, than in the transporting love confessions of Romeo and Juliet, and Ferdinand and Miranda. There seems more passion in the one, and more dignity in the other; yet you feel that the sweet girlish lingering and busy movement of Juliet, and the calmer and more maidenly fondness of Miranda, might easily pass into each other."

4 Scene II.

« 0, for a falconer's voice,

To lure this tassel-gentle back again!" The falconer's voice was the voice which the hawk was constrained by long habit to obey. Gervase Markham, in his · Country Contentments,' has picturesquely described the process of training hawks to this obedience, “ by watching and keeping them from sleep, by a continual carrying them upon your fist, and by a most familiar stroking and playing with them, with the wing of a dead fowl, or such like, and by often gazing and looking them in the face, with a loving and gentle countenance.” A hawk so “manned" was brought to the lure “by easy degrees, and at last was taught to know the voice and lure so perfectly, that either upon the sound of the one, or sight of the other, she will presently come in, and be most obedient.” There is a peculiar propriety in Juliet calling Romeo her tassel-gentle; for this species was amongst the most beautiful and elegant of hawks, and was especially appropriated to the use of a prince. Our poet always uses the images which have been derived from his own experience with exquisite propriety. In “The Merry Wives of Windsor,' Falstaff's page is the eyas-musket, the smallest unfledged bawk. Othello fears that Desdemona is haggard-that is, the wild hawk which “checks at every feather.” The sport with a tassel-gentle is spiritedly described by Massinger:

“ Then, for an evening flight, A tiercel gentle, which I call, my masters, As he were sent a messenger to the moon,

In such a place flies, as he seems to say,
See me, or see me not! the partridge sprung,
He makes his stoop; but, wanting breath, is forc'd
To cancelier; then, with such speed as if
He carried lightning in his wings, he strikes
The trembling bird, who even in death appears
Proud to be made his quarry."

5 Scene III." The earth, that 's nature's mother, is her tomb." Milton, in the second book of Paradise Lost,' has the same idea :

“ The womb of nature, and, perhaps, her grave.” The editors of Milton have given a parallel passage in Lucretius :

“Omniparens, eadem rerum commune sepulchrum.” We would ask, did Shakspere and Milton go to the same common source ? Farmer has not solved this question in his · Essay on the Learning of Shakspere.'

Scene III.

Both our remedies

Within thy help and holy physic lies.“ This,” says Monck Mason, “is one of the passages in which the author has sacrificed grammar to rhyme." Mr. Monck Mason's observation is made in the same spirit in which he calls Romeo’s impassioned language “quaint jargon.” Before Shakspere was accused of sacrificing grammar, it ought to have been shown that his idiom was essentially different from that of his predecessors and his cotemporaries. Dr. Percy, who brought to the elucidation of our old authors the knowledge of an antiquary and the feeling of a poet, has observed that “in very old English the third person plural of the present tense endeth in eth as well as the singular, and often familiarly in es ;” and it has been further explained by Mr. Tollet, that “the third person plural of the Anglo-Saxon present tense endeth in eth, and of the Dano-Saxon in es." Malone, we think, has rightly stated the principle upon which such idioms, which appear false concords to us, should be corrected,– that is, “ to substitute the modern idiom in all places except where either the metre or rhyme renders it impossible.” But to those who can feel the value of a slight sprinkling of our antique phraseology it is pleasant to drop upon the instances in which correction is impossible. We would not part with the exquisite bit of false concord, as we must now term it, in the last word of the four following lines, for all that Shakspere's grammar-correctors have ever written :

“ Hark! hark! the lark at heaven's gate sings,

And Phæbus 'gins arise,
His steeds to water at those springs

On chalic'd flowers that lies."

7 SCENE IV.-“ A duellist, a duellist.George Wither, in his obsequies upon the death of Prince Henry, thus introduces Britannia lamenting :--

“Alas! who now shall grace my tournaments,

Or honour me with deeds of chivalrie ?" The tournaments and the chivalrie were then, however, but “an insubstantial pageant faded.” Men had learnt to revenge their private wrongs, without the paraphernalia of heralds and warders. In the old chivalrous times they might suppress any outbreak of hatred or passion, and cherish their malice against each other until it could be legally gratified ; so that, according to the phrase of Richard Cæur-deLion in his ordinance for permitting tournaments, “ the peace of our land be not broken, nor justice hindered, nor damage done to our forests.” The private contest of two knights was a violation of the laws of chivalry. Chaucer has a remarkable exemplification of this in his “Knight's Tale,' where the duke, coming to the plain, saw Arcite and Palamon fighting like two bulls :

“ This duke his courser with his spurrés smote,

And at a start he was betwixt them two,
And pulled out a sword and cried,--Ho!
No more, up pain of losing of your head ;
By mighty Mars, he shall anon be dead
That smiteth any stroke that I may seen!
But telleth me what mistere men ye been,
That be so hardy for to fighten here
Withouten any judge or other officer,

As though it were in listés really?” (royally). That duels were frequent in England in the reign of Elizabeth, we might collect, if there were no other evidence, from Shakspere alone. The matter had been reduced to a science. Tybalt is the “ courageous captain of compliments,”—a perfect master of punctilio, one who kills his adversary by rule—“one, two, and the third in your bosom.” The gentleman of the “ first and second cause" is a gentleman who will quarrel upon the very slightest offences. The degrees in quarrelling were called the causes; and these have been most happily ridiculed by Shakspere in ' As You Like It:Jaques. But for the seventh cause; how did you find the quarrel on the seventh cause ?

Touchstone. Upon a lie seven times removed ; as thus, sir. I did dislike the cut of a certain courtier's beard; he sent me word, if I said his beard was not cut well, he was in the mind it was: this is called the Retort courteous. If I sent him word again, it was not well cut, he would send me word he cut it to please himself: this is called the Quip modest. If, again, it was not well cut, he disabled my judgment: this is called the Reply churlish. If, again, it was not well cut, he would answer, I spake not true: this is called the Reproof valiant. If, again, it was not well cut, he would say, I lie : this is called the Countercheck quarrelsome; and so to the Lie circumstantial and the Lie direct."

When Touchstone adds, “ O sir! we quarrel in print by the book," he alludes to the works of Saviolo and Caranza, who laid down laws for the duello. The wit of Shakspere is the best commentary upon the philosophy of Montaigne : “ Inquire why that man hazards his life and honour upon the fortune of his rapier and dagger; let him acquaint you with the occasion of the quarrel, he cannot do it without blushing, 't is so idle and frivolous.”—“Essays,' book iii., ch. 10.) But philosophy and wit were equally unavailing to put down the quarrelsome spirit of the times : Henry IV. of France in vain declared all duellists guilty of lese-majesté, and punishable with death; and James I. of England as vainly denounced them in the Star-Chamber.

The practice of duelling went on with us till the civil wars came to merge private quarrels in public ones. Burton, in his “Anatomy of Melancholy,' has a bitter satire against the nobility, when he says they are “like our modern Frenchmen, that had rather lose a pound of blood in a single combat, than a drop of sweat in any honest labour.

8 Scene IV.-What counterfeit did I give you ?

The slip, sir, the slip.A counterfeit piece of money and a slip were syuonymous; and in many old dramas we have the same play upon words as here. In Robert Greene's 'Thieves falling out the word “slip” is defined as in a dictionary: “And therefore he went and

« VorigeDoorgaan »