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succeeded by the rattling of keys and dishes, and cooks calling for dates and quinces in the 'pastry.'


Thus Shakespeare at once heightened the tragic antagonism of Romeo and Juliet's world and the lyric fervour of passion which sweeps them athwart it. The entire weight of the tragic effect is thrown upon the clashing dissonance of the human elements. In this earliest of the tragedies, alone among them all, there is no guilt, no deliberate contriving of harm. Far from suggesting a moral, Shakespeare seems to contemplate with a kind of fatalist awe the mixture of elements from which so profound a convulsion He eliminates every pretext for regarding the catastrophe as a retribution upon the lovers. Their love violates no moral law: it springs imperiously from their youth, and Shakespeare has here significantly gone beyond his source and endowed his Juliet with the single-souled girlhood of fourteen; neither of them dreams of any illicit union, and their marriage runs counter only to the unnatural feud between their houses. The chief agent in their tragic doom is the one wise and actively benign character in the play. The imposing figure of Friar Laurence, so clearly congenial to the poet, has tempted some critics, like Gervinus and Kreyssig, to regard him as a chorus, and to read Shakespeare's judgment upon the lovers in his weighty utterance :These violent delights have violent ends

And in their triumph die, like fire and powder,
Which as they kiss consume.

horrors of the vault, she drinks lest her resolution should give way

Dreading that weakness might or
foolish cowardise

Hinder the execution of the purposed
(11. 2397-8.)
Shakespeare finely makes the

sudden vision of Romeo in the vault, and Tybalt vengefully seeking him out, drown all consideration but the longing to join him there.


1 In the Italian versions she is eighteen, in Brooke sixteen. 2 D

The love of Romeo and Juliet is in short condemned by its unmeasured intensity. 'Shakespeare on his eagle flight above all the heights and depths of human being and feeling, assuredly did not overlook these romantic abysses of the supreme passion.'1 But we have to do not with the Olympian Shakespeare of The Tempest, but with a Shakespeare who, if we may trust the Sonnets, was not 'flying above' but plunging strenuously through the heights and depths of human feeling, and to this Shakespeare the matter was hardly so clear. He can never, it is true, have

shared the modern Romantic's scorn for the world that lies outside love. He who almost from the outset grasped so profoundly the meaning of national life and the potency of law, could never have complete sympathy for lyric emotion, however entrancing, which defies them. But that he saw an ethical problem in the case is plain from the pathos which gathers, under his handling, about the lyric rebel to law, Richard II. That History presents suggestive analogies to our Tragedy. But Romeo and Juliet's passion, sovran and uncontrolled as it is, has a bearing upon public interests quite other than that of Richard's lyric self-love. His measureless caprice disorganises a great and ordered State; their passion breaks like a purifying flame upon one rotten with disease. For the lovers themselves the price of that purification is death; but our pity for them is blended with wonder and even envy. Juliet's glorious womanhood is the creation of her love; Romeo, a weaker nature, retains more infirmity,2 yet he too stands out in heroic stature

1 Kreyssig, Vorlesungen über Shakespeare, ii. 40.

2 Juliet's clear vision never leaves her. Cf. the waking in the vault. Brooke's Juliet is at first much amazed to see in tomb so great a light

She wist not if she saw a dream or
sprite that walked by night.
(Il. 2707-8.)
Shakespeare's Juliet instantly
addresses the friar :-

O comfortable friar! where is my lord?
I do remember well where I should be,
And there I am.
(v. 3. 148.)

against the suitor par convenance, Paris, and the quondam wooer of Rosalinde. It is easy to dwell upon his despair at banishment, his fatal errors of judgment, as when he fails to suspect life in Juliet's still warm and rosy form.1 But to suppose that he is unmanned by his love of Juliet contradicts the whole tenour of Shakespeare's implicit teaching. Passion for a Cressida or a Cleopatra saps the nerve of Troilus and Antony; but nowhere does Shakespeare represent a man as made less manly by absolute soul-service of a true woman rather, this was a condition of that 'marriage of true minds' to which, in his loftiest sonnet, he refused to admit impediments.'

1 Cf. Bulthaupt, Dramaturgie des Schauspiels, ii. 189 f.

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Enter Chorus.

Chor. 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 misadventured 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


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.

Prologue. Omitted in Ff. In the Qq (except Q1) the speaker of the Prologue is described as


'Chorus,' the same person no doubt delivering the chorus' at the end of Act I.

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