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Escalus, prince of Verona.
heads of two houses, at variance with each CAPULET,
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.
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 misadventur'd piteous overthrows
Do, with their death, bury their parents' strife. The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love,
And the continuance of their parents' rage,
Is now the two hours' traffick of our stage;
a This prologue, after the first copy was published in 1597, received several alterations, both in respect of correctness and versification. In the folio it is omitted. The play was originally performed by the Right Hon. the Lord of Hunsdon his servants.
In the first of King James I. was made an act of parliament for some restraint or limitation of noblemen in the protection of players, or of players under their sanction.-STEEVENS.
Under the word Prologue, in the copy of 1599, is printed Chorus, which 1 suppose meant only that the prologue was to be spoken by the same person who personated the Chorus at the end of the first act.
The original prologue, in the quarto of 1597, stands thus :
“ Two household frends, alike in dignitie,
“ In faire Verona, where we lay our scene, * From civil broyles broke into enmitie,
" Whose civill warre makes civill handes uncleane. “ From forth the fatall loynes of these two foes
“A paire of starre-crost lovers tooke their life; “ Whose misadventures, piteous overthrowes,
“ (Through the continuing of their fathers' strife, “ And death-markt passage of their parents' rage,)
“ Is now the two howres traffique of our stage. “ The which if you with patient eares attend, “What here we want, wee'll studie to amend."- MALONE.
Scene I.-A publick Place.
Enter SAMPSON and GREGORY, armed with Swords
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, isto 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 shews 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: when I have fought with the men, I will be cruel with the maids; I will cut off their heads.
- we'll not carry coals.] i. e. Will not put up with insults. The origin of the phrase is this; that in every family, the scullions, the turnspits, the carriers of wood and coals, were esteemed the very lowest menials.-NARES.
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 A BRAM and BalTHAZAR. Sam. My naked weapon is out; quarrel, I will back thee.
Gre. How? turn thy back, and run ?
thumb at us,
Sam. Nay, as they dare. I will bite my thumb' at them; which is a disgrace to them, if they bear it. Abr. Do
Sam. No, sir, I do not bite my thumb at you, sir; but I bite my thumb, sir.
Gre. Do you quarrel, sir?
poor John.] i. e. Hake, dried and salted.
here comes two of the house of the Montagues.] It should be observed, that the partizans of the Montague family wore a token in their hats to distinguish them from their enemies, the Capulets. Hence, throughout this play, they are known at a distance. This circumstance is mentioned by Gascoigne, in a Devise for a Masque, written for Lord Montacute, 1575.-MALONE.
d bite my thumb-] This was an insult. The thumb in this action represented a fig, and the whole was equivalent to a fig for you, or the fico. The custom is generally regarded as of Spanish origin. This mode of quarrelling appears to have been common in our author's time.- Nares and MALONE.