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ESCALUS, Prince of Verona.
LADY MONTAGUE, Wife to Montague.
Citizens of Verona; male and female 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.
Chorus. Two households, both alike in dignity, In fair Verona where we lay our scene, From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean. From forth the fatal loins of these two foes A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life ; Whose misadventur’d piteous overthrows Do, with their death, bury their parents' strife. The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love, And the continuance of their parents' rage, Which, but their children's end, nought could re
move, Is now the two hours' traffic of our stage; The which if you with patient ears attend, . What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.
1 This Prologue is in all the quartos, though with considerable variations in that of 1597. It was omitted in the folio, for reasons unknown. The old copies represent it as spoken by Chorus ; which means, no doubt, that it fell to the same performer as the Chorus at the end of Act i.
H. VOL. X.
SCENE I. A public Place.
Enter SAMPSON and GREGORY, armed with Swords
and Bucklers. Sam. GREGORY, o’my word, we'll not carry coals."
Gre. No, for then we should be colliers.
Gre. Ay, while you live, draw your neck out o'the collar.
Sam. I strike quickly, being moy'd...
Gre. To move is to stir, and to be valiant is to stand; therefore, if thou art mov'd, thou runn'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 vessels, are ever thrust to the wall :-therefore I will push Montague's men from the wall, and thrust his maids to the wall.
1 To carry coals is to put up with insults. Anciently, in great families, the scullions, turnspits, and carriers of wood and coals were esteemed the very lowest of menials. Such attendants upon the royal household, in progresses, were called the black-guard ; and bence the origin of that term. Thus in May Day, a Comedy by Chapman, 1608 : “You must swear by no man's beard but your own; for that may breed a quarrel : above all things, you must carry no coals." And in Ben Jonson's Every Man in his Humour : “ Here comes one that will carry coals ; ergo will hold my dog." See King Henry V., Act iii. sc. 2, note 7.
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 muidenheads ; 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.
Enter ABRAM and BALTHAZAR. Sam. My naked weapon is out: quarrel, I will back thee.
Gre. How ! turn thy back, and run ?
Sam. Fear me not.
Sam. Let us take the law of our sides ; let them begin.
Gre. I will frown as 1 pass by, and let them take it as they list.
? Such is the reading of the undated quarto; all the other old copies have civil instead of cruel.
H. 3 Poor John is hake, dried and salted.
4 It should be observed that the partisans of the Montague family wore a token in their bats in order to distinguish them from their enemies the Capulets. Hence throughout this play they are known at a distance. Gascoigne adverts to this in a Masque written for Viscount Montacute, in 1575 : “ And for a further proofe, he shewed in hys hat
Thys token, which the Montacutes did beare always, for that They covet to be knowne from Capels."
Sam. Nay, as they dare. I will bite my thumb at them ; which is a disgrace to them, if they bear it."
Abr. Do you bite your thumb at us, sir ?
Sam. No, sir, I do not bite my thumb at you, sir; but I bite my thumb, sir.
Gre. Do you quarrel, sir ?
Sam. If you do, sir, I am for you: I serve as good a man as you.
Abr. No better.
Enter BENVOLIO, at a distance. Gre. Say, better : here comes one of my master's kinsmen.
Sam. Yes, better, sir.
Sam. Draw, if you be men. — Gregory, remember thy swashing blow.
5 This was a common mode of insult, in order to begin a quarrel. Dekker, in his Dead Term, 1608, describing the various groups that daily frequented St. Paul's, says, “What swearing is there, what shouldering, what justling, what jeering, what byting of thumbs, to beget quarrels !" And Lodge, in his Wits Miserie, 1596 : “ Behold, next I see Contempt marching forth, giving me the fico with his thumbe in his mouthe.” The mode in which this contemptuous action was performed is thus described by Coigrave: “ Faire la nique: to mocke by nodding or lifting up of the chinne; or, more properly, to threaten or defie, by putting the thumhe naile into the mouth, and with a jerke (from the upper teeth) make it to knacke."
6 Gregory is a servant of the Capulets : he must therefore mean Tybalt, who enters immediately after Benvolio.
? All the old copies except the undated quarto have washing