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ESCALUS, Prince of Verona.
Heads of Two Houses at variance with each
Servants to Capulet.
LADY MONTAGUE, Wife to Montaguě.
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.
ROMEO AND JULIET.
SCENE I. A public Place.
Swords and Bucklers.
Gre. No, for then we should be colliers.
neck out of the collar.
Sam. I strike quickly, being moved. Gre. But thou art not quickly moved to strike. Sam. A dog of the house of Montague moves me. * 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 esteemed 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. Thus in May Day, a Comedy by Geo. 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.' Again, in the same play :— Now my ancient being of an un-coal-carrying spirit,' &c. And in Ben Jopson's Every Man in his Humour :- Here comes one that will carry coals ; ergo will bold my dog. Again in King Henry V. Act iii. Sc. 2:- At Calais they stole a fireshovel; I knew by that piece of service the men would carry coals.'
Gre. To move, is—to stir; and to be valiant, is —to stand to it: therefore, if thou art mov'd, thou
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
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 :.
2 Poor John is hake, dried and salted.
3 The disregard of concord is in character. 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. Gascoigne adverts to this circumstance in a Masque written for Viscount Montacute, in 1575:-
* And for a further proofe, he shewed in hys hat
Enter ABRAM and BALTHASAR. 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 thumb* at them; which is a disgrace to them, if they bear it. Abr. Do
thumb at us, sir ?
thumb at us, sir? Sam. Is the law on our side, if I say-ay? 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 ? 4 This mode of insult, in order to begin a quarrel, seems to have been common in Shakspeare's time. Decker, in his Dead Term, 1608, describing the various groups that daily frequented St. Paul's Church, says, 'What swearing is there, what sbouldering, 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 contemptaous 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.' So in Randolph's Muses' Looking Glass :
Dogs and pistols!
Wear l a sword
Abr. Quarrel, sir? no, sir.
do, sir, I am for you: I serve as good a man as you.
Abr. No better.
Enter Benvolio, at a distance.
Sam. Yes, better, sir.
Sam. Draw, if you be men.—Gregory, remember thy swashing 6 blow.
[They fight. Ben. Part, fools; put up your swords; you know not what you do. [Beats down their Swords.
Enter Tybalt. 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. Tyb. What, drawn, and talk of peace? I hate
the word, As I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee: Have at thee, coward.
[They fight. Enter several Partisans of both Houses, who join the
Fray; then enter Citizens, with Clubs. 1 Cit. Clubs?, bills, and partizans! strike! beat
them down! Down with the Capulets ! down with the Montagués !
Gregory is a servant of the Capulets: he must therefore mean Tybalt, who enters immediately after Benvolio.
6 i. e. swaggering or dashing. 7 See vol. iii. p. 201, note 4.