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narrative of Peregrino, we first meet with the families of Montague and Capulet in connexion with the story, which he relates to have occurred in Verona. The real or supposititious archer expresses doubts of the historical truth of the event, since he had read in some ancient chronicles that the Capelletti and Montecchi had always been of the same party.*
In 1554, Bandello published at Lucca a novel on the same subject, which, like Da Porto, he says was related to him by one Peregrino. This was followed at a brief interval by another, in French, by Pierre Boisteau, founded on the narratives of Luigi da Porto and Bandello, but differing from them in many particulars. From the translation of Boisteau, the English versions of the tale-namely, the poem called “The Tragical Historye of Romeus and Juliet,” (1562,) by Arthur Brooke, and the novel found in Paynter's “Palace of Pleasure," under the title of “The goodly hystory of the true and constant love betweene Rhomeo and Julietta”—were both derived;+ and to these, more especially the poem, Shakespeare was certainly indebted, not for the story,—which seems to have been popular long before he adapted it for representation,—but for the names of his chief characters, and many of the incidents, and even expressions of his tragedy.
The first edition of “ Romeo and Juliet” was printed by John Danter, in the year 1597, with the title of “ An excellent conceited tragedie of Romeo and Juliet. As it hath been often (with great applause) plaid publiquely, by the right honourable the L. of Hunsdon his Seruants."
The second edition was printed by Thomas Creede, for Cuthbert Burby, in 1599, and is entitled “ The most excellent and lamentable Tragedie of Romeo and Juliet ; Newly corrected, augmented, and amended : As it hath been sundry times publiquely acted, by the right Honourable the Lord Chamberlaine his Seruants."
The two remaining editions, published before the folio collection of 1623, are a quarto printed in 1609, and another without date, both by the same publisher, John Smethwicke.
The first two of these editions are extremely rare and valuable; and there is every reason to conclude that the numerous corrections and amplifications in that of 1599 are exclusively Shakespeare's own, since the former evince the judgment and tact of the master, and the latter comprise some of the finest passages in the play. But a correct copy of the text can only be obtained by a collation of both these editions, as the first is free from certain typographical errors which disfigure and obscure the second, and vice versa. The subsequent copies are all founded on the quarto, 1599, and contain but few deviations from its text.
As Shakespeare was only thirty-three years of age when this play was first published, it must obviously rank among his early productions. But the date of publication is no criterion to determine the period when it was written, or when it was first performed. The words on the titlepage of the first edition, “ As it hath been often (with great applause) plaid publiquely, by the right honourable the L. of Hunsdon his Seruants," Malone considers proof that the play was first acted in 1596, because Henry, Lord Hunsdon, who held the office of Lord Chamberlain, died in that year, and his son George, Lord Hunsdon, only succeeded to the office in April, 1597. He is of opinion that the actors would only have designated themselves“ Lord Hunsdon's servants” during the interval of these dates, because they would have been called “ The Lord Chamberlain's servants” at a time when the office was really held by their noble patron. This argument, Mr. Knight remarks, is no doubt decisive as to the play being performed before George, Lord Hunsdon ; but it is not in any degree decisive as to the play not having been performed without the advantage of this nobleman's patronage. Chalmers assigns its composition to the spring of 1592; and Drake places it a year later. The belief in its production at an earlier period than that ascribed by Malone, is strengthened by the indications
This accords with a passage in Dante (Purgatorio, c. vi.), where the poet, reproaching • Alberto Tedesco," the German emperor Albert, for his treatment of Italy, exclaims:
“Vieni a veder Montecchi e Capelletti,
Monaldi e Fillippeschi, uom senza cura!
Color già tristi e costor con sospetti." Which Cary renders :
“Come, see the Capulets and Montagues,
The Fillippeschi and Monaldi, man
+ The story must have been eminently popular all over Europe from an early period. It forms the subject of a Spanish play by Lopez de Vega, entitled “Los Castelvies y Monteses," and another by Don Francisco de Roxas, under the name of “Los Vandos de Verona." In Italy, so early as 1578, it had been adapted to the stage by Luigi Groto, under the title of "Hadriana;" and Arthur Brooke, in the preface to the poem above mentioned, speaks of having seen the same argument lately set forth on stage with more commendation than I can looke for (being there much better set forth then I have or can dooe):" an allusion most probably to some representation of it abroad, for the rude condition of our drama at the time, renders it unlikely that he should refer to any play of the kind performed in this country.
of matured reading and reflection which are displayed in the augmented edition of 1599, as compared with that of 1597. There is also a scrap of internal evidence which, as proof of an earlier authorship than 1596, is well entitled to consideration. The Nurse, describing Juliet's being weaned, says,—"On Lammas-eve at night shall she be fourteen; that shall she ; marry, I remember it well
. 'Tis since the earthquake now eleven years." Tyrwhitt was th first to suggest the probable reference of this passage to an earthquake which occurred in 1580, and of which Holinshed has given a striking and minute account:—“On the sixt of Aprill (1580), being wednesdaie in Easter weeke about six of the clocke toward euening, a sudden earthquake happening in London, and almost generallie throughout all England, caused such an amazednesse among the people as was wonderfull for the time, and caused them to make their earnest praiers to almightie God. The great clocke bell in the palace at Westminster strake of it selfe against the hammer with the shaking of the earth, as diverse other clocks and bels in the steeples of the citie of London and elswhere did the like. The gentlemen of the Temple being then at supper, ran from the tables, and out of their hall with their kniues in their hands. The people assembled at the plaie houses in the fields, were so amazed that doubting the ruine of the galleries, they made hast to be gone. A peece of the temple church fell down, some stones fell from saint Paules church in London: and at Christs church neere to Newgate market, in the sermon while, a stone fell from the top of the same church.” Such an event would form a memorable epoch to the class which constituted the staple of a playhouse auditory in the sixteenth century; and if an allusion to it was calculated to awaken interest and fix attention, the anachronism, or the impropriety of its association with an historical incident of some centuries preceding, would hardly have deterred any playwright of that age from turning it to account. On the theory that the Nurse's observation really applied to the earthquake of 1580, we may ascribe the date of this play's composition to the year 1591; and, unfortunately, in the absence of everything in the shape of a history of our poet's writings, we can trust only to inferences and conjectures of this description to make even an approximate guess as to the period of its production.
* * * *
ABRAM, servant to MONTAGUE.
ESCALUs, Prince of VERONA.
servants to CAPULET.
LADY MONTAGUE, wife to MONTAGUE.
Citizens of VERONA; several men and women,
Relations to both Houses; Maskers, Guards,
SCENE, during the greater part of the Play, in VERONA ; once, in the fifth Act, at Mantua.
(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 misadventurd piteous overthrows
Doth, 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 remove,
Is now the two hours' traffick of our stage ; The which if you with patient ears attend, What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.
a This prologue appeared in its present form, in the first complete edition of " Romeo and Juliet," the quarto of 1599: it is omitted in the folio. In the incomplete sketch of the play, published in 1597, it stands as under ;
“ Two houshold frends alike in dignitie,
(In faire Verona, where we lay our Scene)
From forth the fatall loynes of these two foes,
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 moved.
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.
GRE. The quarrel is between our masters, and us their men.
Sam. 'Tis all one, I will show myself a tyrant:
GRE. To move, is—to stir; and to be valiant,
(*) First folio, if. • We'll not carry coals.) We will not submit to indignities. A favourite expression with the authors of Shakespeare's era, and
which probably originated, as Gifford suggests, in the fact that the meanest and most forlorn dependents of a great household were those employed in the servile drudgery of carrying coals.
when I have fought with the men, I will be cruel
Enter Benvolio, at a distance,
GRE. Say—better ; here comes one of my maiden-heads; take it in what sense thou wilt.
[Aside to SAMPSON, GRE. They must take it int sense, that feel it.
Sam. Yes, better, sir. * Sam. Me they shall feel, while I am able to
ABR. You lie. stand: and, 'tis known, I am a pretty piece of
SAM. Draw, if you be men.-Gregory, rememflesh. GRE. 'Tis well, thou art not fish; if thou hadst,
ber thy swashingt blow."
Ben. Part, fools ; put up your swords ; you thou hadst been poor John. Draw thy tool ; here comes of the house of the Montagues. (1)
know not what you do. [Beats down their swords.
Enter ABRAM and another Servant of
Tyb. What, art thou drawn among these heart
less hinds ? Turn thee, Benvolio, look upon thy death. Ben. I do but keep the peace; put up thy
sword, Or manage
it to part these men with me.
Enter several Followers of both Houses, who join
the fray; then enter Citizens, with clubs.
Sam. My naked weapon is out ; quarrel, I will back thee.
GRE. How? turn thy back, and run ?
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
thumb at us, sir ?
bite your thumb at us, sir? Sam. Is the law of our side, if I say—ay ?
[Aside to GREGORY. GRE. No.
Sam. No, sir, I do not bite my thumb at you, sir ;, but I bite my thumb, sir.
Gre. Do you quarrel, sir ?
you; I serve as good a man as you.
ABR. No better.
1 Crt. Clubs, bills, and partizans !' strike ! beat
them down! Down with the Capulets ! down with the Montagues!
Enter CAPULET, in his gown; and LADY CAPULET.
CAP. What noise is this ?–Give me my long
sword, ho! LA. CAP. A crutch, a crutch !-why call you
for a sword? CAP. My sword, I say !-Old Montague is come, And flourishes his blade in spite of me.
(*) First folio, and cut off. (t) First folio omits in.
a I will be cruel with the maids ;] The quarto of 1599, that of 1609, and the folio, 1623, which was printed from it, concur in reading civill. The correction appears in a quarto edition without date, published by John Smethwicke, “at his shop in Sainte Dunstanes Church, in Fleete Street, under the Dyall.” Smethwicke also published the quarto, 1609; and the undated edition, which contains several important corrections of previous typographical errors, was probably issued soon after.
6 Poor John.] The fish called hake, an inferior sort of cod, when dried and salted, was probably the staple fare of servants and the indigent during Lent; and this sorry dish is perpetually ridiculed by the old writers as “poor John.”
c I will bite my thumb at them ;] This contemptuous action, though obsolete in this country, is still in use both in France and Italy; but Mr. Knight is mistaken in supposing it identical with what is called giving the fico. Biting the thumb is performed by biting the thumb nail; or, as Cotgrave describes it, "by putting the thumbe naile into the mouth, and with jerke (from the
(*) First folio omits sir. (t) Old copies, except the undated quarto, wasking.
(1) First folio, draw. upper teeth) make it to knacke." The more offensive gesticulation of giving the fico was by thrusting out the thumb between the fore-fingers, or putting it in the mouth so as to swell out the cheek.
d Remember thy swashing blow.) To swash perhaps originally meant, as Baret in his “Alvearie," 1580, describes it, “to make a noise with swords against tergats;" but swashing blow here, as in Jonson's "Staple of News," Act V. Sc. 2, " ( do confess a swashing blow," means evidently a smashing, crushing blow.
e Enier several Followers, &c.] A modern direction. The old copies lave merely-"Enter three or four citizens with clubs of partysons,"
[ Clubs, bills, and partizans !-] Shakespeare, whose wont it is to assimilate the customs of all countries to those of his own, puts the ancient call to arms of the London 'prentices in the mouth of the Veronese citizen.