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OF ACT I V.
SCENE I.—“ In thy best robes, uncover'd, on the bier." In the adaptation of Bandello's tale, in Painter's · Palace of Pleasure,' we have “ They will judge you to be dead, and, according to the custom of our city, you shall be carried to the churchyard hard by our church.” The Italian mode of interment is given in the poem of ‘Romeus and Juliet:
“ Another use there is, that whosoever dyes,
Borne to their church with open face upon the beere he lyes
In wonted weede attyrde, not wrapt in winding-sheet." Painter has no description of this custom ; but Shakspere saw how beautifully it accorded with the conduct of his story, and he therefore emphatically repeats it in the directions of the friar, after Juliet's supposed death :
Dry up your tears, and stick your rosemary
In all her best array bear her to church.” Ancient customs survive when they are built upon the unaltering parts of national character, and have connexion with unalterable local circumstances. Juliet was carried to her tomb as the maids and the matrons of Italy are still carried. Rogers has most accurately described such a scene :
“ But now by fits
2 Scene II._" Sirrah, yo hire me twenty cunning cooks." The “cunning cook,” in the time of Shakspere, was, as he is at present, a great personage. According to an entry in the books of the Stationers' Company for 1560, the preacher was paid six shillings and two pence for his labour, the minstrel twelve shillings, and the cook fifteen shillings. The relative scale of estimation for theology, poetry, and gastronomy has not been much altered during two centuries, either in the city generally, or in the Company which represents the city's literature. Ben Jonson has described a master-cook in his gorgeous style :
“A master-cook! why, he is the man of men.
For a professor; he designs, he draws,
Old Capulet, in his exuberant spirits at his daughter's approaching marriage, calls for “ twenty" of these artists. The critics think this too large a number. Ritson says, with wonderful simplicity, “ Either Capulet had altered his mind strangely, or our author forgot what he had just made him tell us.” This is, in. deed, to understand a poet with admirable exactness. The passage is entirely in keeping with Shakspere's habit of bitting off a character almost hy a word. Capulet is evidently a man of ostentation; but his ostentation, as is most generally the case, is covered with a thin veil of affected indifference. In the first act he says to his guests,
“ We have a trifling foolish banquet toward." In the third act, when he settles the day of Paris' marriage, he just hints
“ We'll keep no great ado-a friend or two." But Shakspere knew that these indications of the “pride which apes humility" were not inconsistent with the “ twenty cooks,” the regret that
" We shall be much unfurnish'd for this time,"
and the solicitude expressed in
“ Look to the bak'd meats, good Angelica.”
Steevens turns up his nose aristocratically at Shakspere, for imputing “to an Italian nobleman and his lady all the petty solicitudes of a private house, concerning a provincial entertainment;" and he adds, very grandly, “To such a bustle our author might have been witness at home; but the like anxieties could not well have occured in the family of Capulet.” Steevens had not well read the history of society, either in Italy or in England, to have fallen into the mistake of believing that the great were exempt from such“ anxieties.” The baron's lady overlooked the baron's kitchen from her private chamber; and the still-room and the spicery not unfrequently occupied a large portion of her attention.
3 SCENE III.-" As in a vault."
It has been conjectured that the charnel-house under the church at Stratford, which contains a vast collection of human bones, suggested to Shakspere this description of " the ancient receptacle” of the Capulets.
4 Scene IV._“ Enter Servants, with spits, logs, and baskets." Vicellio has given us the costume of the menial servants and porters of Italy, which we here copy.
5 SCENE V.-“ Musicians, 0, musicians.” Juliet is held to be dead. Capulet's joys are buried with his child. The musicians that came to accompany her to church remain in the hall. The scene which follows between Peter and the musicians has generally been considered illplaced. Even Coleridge says, “ As the audience know that Juliet is not dead, this scene is, perhaps, excusable." Rightly understood, it appears to us that the scene requires no apology. It was the custom of our ancient theatre to introduce, in the irregular pauses of a play that stood in the place of a division into acts, some short diversion, such as it song, a dance, or the extempore buffoonery of a clown. At this point of 'Romeo and Juliet' there is a natural pause in the action, and at this point such an interlude would, probably, have been presented whether Shakspere had written one or not. The stage-direction in the second quarto puts this matter, as it appears to us, beyond a doubt. That direction says, 6 Enter Will Kempe," and the dialogue immediately begins between Peter and the musicians. Will Kempe was the Liston of his day; and was as great a popular favourite as Tarleton had been before him. It was wise, therefore, in Shakspere, to find some business for Will Kempe, that should not be entirely out of harmony with the great business of his play. This scene of the musicians is very short, and, regarded as a necessary part of the routine of the ancient stage, is excellently managed. Nothing can be more naturally exhibited than the indifference of hirelings, without attachment, to a family scene of grief. Peter and the musicians bandy jokes; and, although the musicians think Peter a “ pestilent knave," perhaps for his inopportune sallies, they are ready enough to look after their own gratification, even amidst the sorrow which they see around them. A wedding or a burial is the same to them. “Come, we'll in here-tarry for the mourners, and stay dinner.” So Shakspere read the course of the world—and it is not much changed. The quotation beginning
“When griping grief the heart doth wound”is from a short poem in “ The Paradise of Daintie Deuises,' by Richard Edwards, master of the children of the chapel to Queen Elizabeth. This was set as a fourpart song, by Adrian Batten, organist of St. Paul's in the reign of Charles I., and is thus printed, but without any name, in Hawkins's · History of Music,' vol. v. The question of Peter, “ Why, silver sound? why, music with her silver sound ?" is happily enough explained by Percy : “ This ridicule is not so much levelled at the song itself (which, for the time it was written, is not inelegant) as at those forced and unnatural explanations often given by us painful editors and expositors of ancient authors."--("Reliques,' vol. i.) Had Shakspere a presentiment of what he was to receive at the hands of his own commentators ?
SCENE I.--Mantua. A Street.
News from Verona !-How now, Balthasar ?
Bal. Then she is well, and nothing can be ill.
a (A) eye. This word has been retained by the modern editors. But it is not difficult to see the growth of that philosophical spirit in Shakspere which suggested the substitution of the word “ truth," which opens to the mind a deep volume of metaphysical inquiry.
(A), How fares my Juliet ?