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ROMEO AND JULIET.
ACT I. SCENE I.
A publick Place.
Enter SAMPSON and GREGORY, armed with Swords and Bucklers.
SAM. Gregory, o'my word, we'll not carry coals.2
we'll not carry coals.] Dr. Warburton very justly observes, that this was a phrase formerly in use to signify the bearing injuries; but, as he has given no instances in support of his declaration, I thought it necessary to subjoin the following. So, Skelton:
You, I say, Julian,
Again, Nash, in his Have with you to Saffron Walden, 1595, says: "We will bear no coles, I warrant you."
Again, in Marston's Antonio and Mellida, 2nd part, 1602: "He has had wrong, and if I were he, I would bear no coles." Again, in Law Tricks, or, Who would have thought it? a comedy, by John Day, 1608: "I'll carry coals an you will, no horns." Again, in May-Day, a comedy, by Chapman, 1610: "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.” And again, in the same play: "Now my ancient being a man of an un-coal-carrying spirit," &c. Again, in Ben Jonson's Every Man out of his Humour: "Here comes one that will carry coals; ergo, will hold my dog." And, lastly, in the poet's own King Henry V: "At Calais they stole a fireshovel; I knew by that piece of service the men would carry coals." Again, in The Malcontent, 1604: "Great slaves fear better than love, born naturally for a coal-basket." STEEVENS.
SAM. I mean, an we be in choler, we'll draw. GRE. Ay, while you live, draw your 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. GRE. To move, is-to stir; and to be valiant, is
This phrase continued to be in use down to the middle of the last century. In a little satirical piece of Sir John Birkenhead, intitled, "Two centuries [of Books] of St. Paul's Churchyard," &c. published after the death of King Charles I. No. 22, p. 50, is inserted, "Fire, fire! a small manual, dedicated to Sir Arthur Haselridge; in which it is plainly proved by a whole chauldron of scripture, that John Lillburn will not carry coals." By Dr. Gouge. PERCY.
Notwithstanding this accumulation of passages in which the phrase itself occurs, the original of it is still left unexplored: "If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink: for thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head," &c. Proverbs xxv. 22;-or as cited in the Epistle to the Romans, xii. 20. HENLEY.
The English version of the Bible (exclusive of its nobler use) has proved of infinite service to literary antiquaries; but on the present occasion, I fear, it will do us little good. Collier was a very ancient term of abuse. "Hang him, foul Collier!" says Sir Toby Belch, speaking of the Devil, in the fourth Act of Twelfth-Night. Any person, therefore, who would bear to be called a colli r, was said to coals.
It afterwards became descriptive of any one who would endure a gibe or flout. So, in Churchyard's Farewell to the World, 1598:
"He made him laugh, that lookt as he would sweare; "He carried coales, that could abide no gest."
The phrase should seem to mean originally, We'll not submit to servile offices; and thence secondarily, we'll not endure injuries. It has been suggested, that it may mean, "we'll not bear resentment burning like a coal of fire in our bosoms, without breaking out into some outrage," with allusion to the proverbial sentence, that smothered anger is a coal of fire in the bosom: But the word carry seems adverse to such an interpretation.
-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 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.5
cruel with the maids;] The first folio reads-civil with the maids. JOHNSON.
So does the quarto 1599; but the word is written ciuill. It was manifestly an error of the press. The first copy furnishes no help, the passage there standing thus: "Ile play the tyrant; Ile first begin with the maids, and off with their heads:" but the true reading is found in the undated quarto. MALONE.
poor John.] is hake, dried, and salted. MALOne.
—here comes two of the house of the Montagues.] The
Enter ABRAM and BALTHASAR.
SAM. My naked weapon is out; quarrel, I will back thee.
GRE. How? turn thy back, and run?
SAM. Fear me not.
GRE. No, marry: I fear thee!
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."
word two, which was inadvertently omitted by the compositor in the quarto 1599, and of course in the subsequent impressions, I have restored from the first quarto of 1597, from which, in almost every page, former editors have drawn many valuable emendations in this play. The disregard of concord is in cha
It should be observed, that the partizans 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. This circumstance is mentioned by Gascoigne, in a Devise of a Masque, written for the Right Honourable Viscount Mountacute, 1575:
"And for a further proofe, he shewed in hys hat
"Thys_token which the Mountacutes did beare alwaies,
They covet to be knowne from Capels, where they pass, "For ancient grutch whych long ago 'tweene these two houses was.” MALONE.
I will bite my thumb at them; which is a disgrace to them, if they bear it.] So it signifies in Randolph's Muses Looking-Glass, Act III. sc. iii. p. 45:
"Orgylus. To bite his thumb at me.
"Argus. Why should not a man bite his thumb?
"Orgylus. At me? were I scorn'd to see men bite their
"Rapiers and daggers," &c. GREY.
ABR. Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?
ABR. Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?
SAM. Is the law on our side, if I say-ay?
SAM. No, sir, I do not bite my thumb at you, sir; but I bite my thumb, sir.
GRE. Do you quarrel, sir?
ABR. Quarrel, sir? no, sir.
SAM. If you do, sir, I am for you; I serve as good a man as you.
ABR. No better.
Dr. Lodge, in a pamphlet called Wits Miserie &c. 1596, has this passage: " Behold next I see Contempt marching forth, giving mee the fico with his thombe in his mouth." In a translation from Stephens's Apology for Herodotus, in 1607, p. 142, I meet with these words: "It is said of the Italians, if they once bite their fingers' ends in a threatning manner, God knows, if they set upon their enemie face to face, it is because they cannot assail him behind his backe." Perhaps Ben Jonson ridicules this scene of Romeo and Juliet, in his New Inn:
"Huff. How, spill it?
Tip. I reck not, but I spill it." STEEVENS.
This mode of quarrelling appears to have been common in our author's time. What swearing is there, (says Decker, describing the various groupes that daily frequented the walks of St. Paul's Church,) what shouldering, what justling, what jeering, what byting of thumbs, to beget quarrels !" THE DEAD TERM, 1608. MALONE.