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moment set on fire and consumed. Whatever is most intoxicating in the odor of a southern spring, languishing in the song of the nightingale, or voluptuous in the first opening of the rose, is to be found in this poem. But, even more rapidly than the earliest blossoms of youth and beauty decay, it hurries on from the first timidly-bold declaration of love and modest return, to the most unlimited passion, to an irrevocable union; then, amidst alternating storms of rapture and despair, to the death of the two lovers, who still appear enviable, as their love survives them, and as by their death they have obtained a triumph over every separating power. The sweetest and the bitterest, love and hatred, festivity and dark forebodings, tender embraces and sepulchres, the fulness of life and self-annihilation, are all here brought close to each other; and all these contrasts are so blended, in the harmonious and wonderful work, into a unity of impression, that the echo, which the whole leaves behind in the mind, resembles a single but endless sigh.
"The excellent dramatic arrangement, the signification of each character in its place, the judicious selection of all the circumstances, even the most minute," have been pointed out by Schlegel in a dissertation referred to in a note at the end of the play; in which he remarks, that "there can be nothing more diffuse, more wearisome, than the rhyming history, which Shakspeare's genius, 'like richest alchymy,' has changed to beauty and to worthiness." Nothing but the delight of seeing into this wonderful metamorphosis, can compensate for the laborious task of reading through more than three thousand six and seven-footed iambics, which, in respect of every thing that amuses, affects, and enraptures us in this play, are as a mere blank leaf.-Here all interest is entirely smothered under the coarse, heavy pretensions of an elaborate exposition. How much was to be cleared away, before life could be breathed into the shapeless mass! In many parts, what is here given, bears the same relation to what Shakspeare has made out of it, which any common description of a thing bears to the thing itself. Thus, out of the following hint
"A courtier, that eche-where was highly had in pryce,
For he was courteous of his speche and pleasant of devise:
Such was emonge the bashfull maydes Mercutio to beholde;"
and the addition that the said Mercutio from his swathing-bands constartly had cold hands, has arisen a splendid character decked out with the utmost profusion of wit. Not to mention a number of nicer deviations from the original, we find also some important incidents; for instance, the meeting and the combat between Paris and Romeo at Juliet's grave.-Shakspeare knew how to transform by enchantment, letters into spirit, a workman's daub into a poetical masterpiece.
"Lessing declared Romeo and Juliet to be the only tragedy, that he knew, which Love himself had assisted to compose. I know not (says Schlegel) how to end more gracefully than with these simple words, wherein so much lies:-One may call this poem a harmonious miracle, whose component parts that heavenly power alone could so melttogether. It is at the same time enchantingly sweet and sorrowful, pure and glowing, gentle and impetuous, full of elegiac softness, and tragically overpowering."
Two households, both alike in dignity,
A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life;
Do, with their death, bury their parents' strife.
The which if you with patient ears attend,
ESCALUS, Prince of Verona.
PARIS, a young Nobleman, Kinsman to the Prince.
CAPULET, } Heads of Two Houses, at variance with each other
An old Man, Uncle to Capulet.
ROMEO, Son to Montague.
MERCUTIO, Kinsman to the Prince, and Friend to Romeo.
TYBALT, Nephew to Lady Capulet.
FRIAR LAURENCE, a Franciscan.
FRIAR JOHN, of the same Order.
BALTHAZAR, Servant to Romeo.
Citizens of Verona; several Men and Women, Relations to both Houses; Maskers, Guards, Watchmen, and Attendants.
SCENE, during the greater part of the Play, in Verona; once, in the Fifth Act, at Mantua.
ROMEO AND JULIET.
SCENE I. A public Place.
Enter SAMPSON and GREGORY, armed with swords and bucklers.
Sampson. GREGORY, o'my word, we'll not carry
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 of 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 to it. Therefore, if thou art moved, thou run'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. True; and therefore women, being the weaker
1 To carry coals is to put up with insults, to submit to any degradation. Anciently, in great families, the scullions, turnspits, and carriers of wood and coals, were esteeemed the very lowest of menials, the drudges of all the rest. Such attendants upon the royal household, in progresses, were called the black-guard; and hence the origin of that term.
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 cruel 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 the Montagues.2
Enter ABRAM and BALTHAZAR.
Sam. My naked weapon is out; quarrel, I will back
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.
1 Poor John is hake, dried and salted.
2 It should be observed that the partisans of the Montague family wore a token in their hats, in order to distinguish them from their enemies, the Capulets. Hence, throughout this play, they are known at a distance.
3 This mode of insult, in order to begin a quarrel, seems to have been common in Shakspeare's time. It is not unusual with the Italians at the present day. The manner in which this contemptuous action was performed, is thus described by Cotgrave, in a passage which has escaped the industry of all the commentators :-" Faire la nique: to mocke by nodding or lifting up of the chinne; or more properly, to threaten or defie, by putting the thumbe naile into the mouth, and with a jerke (from the upper teeth) make it to knacke."