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6 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 melt together. 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,
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-crossed lovers take their life; Whose misadventured, piteous overthrows
Do, with their death, bury their parents' strife.
And the continuance of their parents' rage,
Is now the two hours' traffic of our stage;
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, Watchmen, and Attendants.
SCENE, during the greater part of the Play, in Verona; once, in
the Fifth Act, at Mantua.
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Enter SAMPSON and GREGORY, armed with swords
Sampson. 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 of the collar.
Sam. I strike quickly, being moved.
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.
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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.
Enter. ABRAM and BALTHAZAR.
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 my thumb3 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.”
ROMEO AND JULIET.
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.
be men.--Gregory, remember thy swashing 2 blow.
[They fight. Ben. Part, fools; put up your swords; you know not what you do.
[Beats down their swords.
Tyb What, art thou drawn among these heartless
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. Tyb. What, drawn, and talk of peace? I hate the
word, As I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee. Have at thee, coward.
I Gregory is a servant of the Capulets; he must therefore mean L'ybalt, who enters immediately after Benvolio. 2 i. e. swaggering or dashing.