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Mer. Thy wit is a very bitter sweeting; it is a most sharp sauce.
Rom. And is it not well served in to a sweet goose ? Mer. O, here's a wit of cheverel, that stretches from an inch narrow to an ell broad!
Rom. I stretch it out for that word-broad; which, added to the goose, proves thee, far and wide, a broad goose.
Mer. Why, is not this better now than groaning for love? Now art thou sociable, now art thou Romeo; now art thou what thou art, by art as well as by nature; for this drivelling love is like a great natural, that runs lolling up and down to hide his bawble in a hole. Ben. Stop there, stop there.
Mer. Thou desirest me to stop in my tale against the hair.3
Ben. Thou wouldst else have made thy tale large. Mer. O, thou art deceived; I would have made it short; for I was come to the whole depth of my tale; and meant, indeed, to occupy the argument no longer. Rom. Here's goodly gear!
Enter Nurse and PETER.
Mer. A sail, a sail, a sail!
Ben. Two, two; a shirt, and a smock.
Nurse. My fan, Peter.*
Mer. 'Pr'ythee, do, good Peter, to hide her face; for her fan's the fairer of the two.
Nurse. God ye good morrow, gentlemen.
1 The allusion is to an apple of that name.
2 Soft, stretching leather; kid leather.
3 This phrase, which is of French extraction, à contre poil, occurs again
in Troilus and Cressida :-" Merry against the hair.”
4 The business of Peter carrying the nurse's fan, seems ridiculous to modern manners; but it was formerly the practice.
5 i. e. "God give you a good even." The first of these contractions is common in our old dramas.
Nurse. Is it good den?
Mer. 'Tis no less, I tell you; for the bawdy hand of the dial is now upon the prick of noon.
Nurse. Out upon you! what a man are you?
Rom. One, gentlewoman, that God hath made himself to mar.
Nurse. By my troth, it is well said.-For himself to mar, quoth 'a?-Gentlemen, can any of you tell me where I may find the young Romeo?
Rom. I can tell you; but young Romeo will be older when you have found him, than he was when you sought him. I am the youngest of that name, for 'fault of a worse.
Nurse. You say well.
Mer. Yea, is the worst well? Very well took, i'faith; wisely, wisely.
Nurse. If you be he, sir, I desire some confidence with you.
Ben. She will indite him to some supper.
Mer. A bawd, a bawd, a bawd!
Rom. What hast thou found?
Mer. No hare, sir; unless a hare, sir, in a lenten pie, that is something stale and hoar ere it be spent.
An old hare hoar,1
And an old hare hoar,
Romeo, will you come to your father's? We'll to dinner
Rom. I will follow you.
Mer. Farewell, ancient lady; farewell, lady, lady, [Exeunt MERCUTIO and BENVOLIO.
1 Hoar or hoary is often used for mouldy, as things grow white from moulding. These lines seem to have been part of an old song. In the quarto, 1597, we have this stage direction: "He walks by them [i. e. the nurse and Peter], and sings."
2 The burden of an old song.
See Twelfth Night, Act ii. Sc. 3.
Nurse. Marry, farewell!-I pray you, sir, what saucy merchant was this, that was so full of his ropery?1
Rom. A gentleman, nurse, that loves to hear himself talk; and will speak more in a minute, than he will stand to in a month.
Nurse. An 'a speak any thing against me, I'll take him down an 'a were lustier than he is, and twenty such Jacks; and if I cannot, I'll find those that shall. Scurvy knave! I am none of his flirt-gills; I am none of his skains-mates.2-And thou must stand by too, and suffer every knave to use me at his pleasure?
Pet. I saw no man use you at his pleasure; if I had, my weapon should quickly have been out, I warrant you. I dare draw as soon as another man, if I see occasion in a good quarrel, and the law on my side.
Nurse. Now, afore God, I am so vexed, that every part about me quivers. Scurvy knave!-'Pray you, sir, a word; and, as I told you, my young lady bade me inquire you out; what she bade me say, I will keep to myself; but first let me tell ye, if ye should lead her into a fool's paradise, as they say, it were a very gross kind of behavior, as they say; for the gentlewoman is young; and, therefore, if you should deal double with her, truly, it were an ill thing to be offered to any gentlewoman, and very weak dealing.
Rom. Nurse, commend me to thy lady and mistress. I protest unto thee,
Nurse. Good heart! and i'faith, I will tell her as much. Lord, Lord, she will be a joyful woman.
Rom. What wilt thou tell her, nurse? thou dost not mark me.
Nurse. I will tell her, sir,-that you do protest; which, as I take it, is a gentlemanlike offer.
Rom. Bid her devise some means to come to shrift This afternoon;
1 Ropery was anciently used in the same sense as roguery is now. 2 By skains-mates the old lady probably means swaggering companions A skain, or skein, was an Irish knife or dagger, a weapon suitable to the purpose of ruffling fellows.
And there she shall, at friar Laurence' cell,
Rom. Go to; I say you shall.
Nurse. This afternoon, sir? well, she shall be there. Rom. And stay, good nurse, behind the abbey wall:
Within this hour my man shall be with thee;
And bring thee cords made like a tackled stair,'
Nurse. Now God in heaven bless thee!-Hark you, sir.
Rom. What say'st thou, my dear nurse?
Nurse. Is your man secret? Did you ne'er hear
Two may keep counsel, putting one away?
Rom. I warrant thee; my man's as true as steel. Nurse. Well, sir; my mistress is the sweetest lady,-Lord, Lord!-when 'twas a little prating thing,— O,—there's a nobleman in town, one Paris, that would fain lay knife aboard; but she, good soul, had as lieve. see a toad, a very toad, as see him. I anger her sometimes, and tell her that Paris is the properer man; but, I'll warrant you, when I say so, she looks as pale as any clout in the varsal world. Doth not rosemary and Romeo begin both with a letter? 2
Rom. Ay, nurse; what of that? both with an R. Nurse. Ah, mocker! that's the dog's name. for the dog. No; I know it begins with some other
1 i. e. like stairs of rope in the tackle of a ship. A stair, for a flight of stairs, is still the language of Scotland, and was once common to both kingdoms.
2 The nurse is represented as a prating, silly creature; she says that she will tell Romeo a good joke about his mistress, and asks him whether rosemary and Romeo do not both begin with a letter: he says yes, an R. She, who, we must suppose, could not read, thought he mocked her, and says, No, sure I know better, R is the dog's name; yours begins with some other letter. This is natural enough, and in character. Ben Jonson, in his English Grammar, says "R is the dog's letter, and hirreth in the sound."
letter; and she hath the prettiest sententious of it, of you and rosemary, that it would do you good to hear it. Rom. Commend me to thy lady.
Nurse. Ay, a thousand times.-Peter!
Nurse. Peter, take my fan, and go before.
SCENE V. Capulet's Garden.
Jul. The clock struck nine, when I did send the
In half an hour she promised to return.
Perchance, she cannot meet him: that's not so.—
Of this day's journey; and from nine till twelve.
My words would bandy her to my sweet love,
But old folks, many feign as they were dead;
1 The speech is thus continued in the quarto, 1597:
And run more swift than hasty powder fired
The greatest part of this scene is likewise added since that edition. Shakspeare, however, seems to have thought one of the ideas comprised in the foregoing quotation, from the earliest quarto, too valuable to be lost. He has, therefore, inserted it in Romeo's first speech to the apothecary, in Act v. :
"As violently as hasty powder fired
Doth hurry from the fatal cannon's womb."