網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

That he should hither come as this dire night,
To help to take her from her borrow'd grave,
Being the time the potion's force should cease.
But he which bore my letter, Friar John,
Was staid by accident; and yesternight
Return'd my letter back: Then all alone,
At the prefixed hour of her waking,
Came I to take her from her kindred's vault;
Meaning to keep her closely at my cell,
Till I conveniently could send to Romeo:
But, when I came (some minute ere the time
Of her awakening), here untimely lay
The noble Paris, and true Romeo, dead.
She wakes; and I entreated her come forth,
And bear this work of heaven with patience:
But then a noise did scare me from the tomb;
And she, too desperate, would not go with me,
But (as it seems) did violence on herself.
All this I know: and to the marriage
Her nurse is privy: And, if aught in this
Miscarried by my fault, let my old life
Be sacrific'd, some hour before his time,
Unto the rigour of severest law.

Prince. We still have known thee for a holy man.-
Where's Romeo's man? what can he say in this?
Bal. I brought my master news of Juliet's death;
And then in post he came from Mantua.
To this same place, to this same monument.
This letter he early bid me give his father;
And threaten'd me with death, going in the vault,
If I departed not, and left him there.

Prince. Give me the letter, I will look on it.Where is the county's page, that rais'd the watch? Sirrah, what made your master in this place? Page. He came with flowers to strew his lady's grave;

And bid me stand aloof, and so I did:

Anon, comes one with light to ope the tomb;
And, by and by, my master drew on him;
And then I ran away to call the watch.

Prince. This letter doth make good the friar's words,

Their course of love, the tidings of her death:
And here he writes-that he did buy a poison
Of a poor 'pothecary, and therewithal

Came to this vault to die, and lie with Juliet.-
Where be these enemies? Capulet! Montague!-
See, what a scourge is laid upon your hate,
That heaven finds means to kill your joys with love!
And I, for winking at your discords too,
Have lost a brace of kinsmen 22:-all are punish'd.

Cap. O, brother Montague, give me thy hand:
This is my daughter's jointure, for no more
Can I demand.

Mon.

But I can give thee more:
For I will raise her statue in pure gold;
That, while Verona by that name is known,

There shall no figure at such rate be set,
As that of true and faithful Juliet.

Cap, As rich shall Romeo by his lady lie;
Poor sacrifices of our enmity!

Prince. A glooming 23 peace this morning with it brings;

The sun for sorrow will not show his head:

22 Mercutio and Paris. Mercutio is expressly called the Prince's kinsman in Act iii. Sc. 4; and that Paris was also the Prince's kinsman, may be inferred from the following passages. Capulet, speaking of the count in the fourth act, describes him as a gentleman of princely parentage;' and after he is killed, Romeo says:

Let me peruse this face;

Mercutio's kinsman, noble county Paris.'

[ocr errors]

23 The quarto of 1597 reads, A gloomy peace.' To gloom is an ancient vérb, used by Spenser and other old writers.

Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things;
Some shall be pardon'd, and some punished **:
For never was a story of more woe,
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo 25.

[Exeunt.

24 This line has reference to the poem from which the fable is taken; in which the Nurse is banished for concealing the marriage; Romeo's servant set at liberty, because he had only acted in obedience to his master's orders; the Apothecary is hanged; while Friar Laurence was permitted to retire to a hermitage near Verona, where he ended his life in penitence and tranquillity.

25 Shakspeare in his revision of this play has not effected the alteration by introducing any new incidents, but merely by adding to the length of the scenes. The piece appears to have been always a very popular one. Marston, in his Satires, 1598, says:

Luscus, what's play'd to-day? faith, now I know;

I set thy lips abroach, from whence doth flow

Nought but pure Juliet and Romeo.'

The concluding lines may have been formed on the last couplet of the old poem :

[ocr errors]

among the monuments that in Verona been,

There is no monument more worthy of the sight
Than is the tombe of Juliet and Romeus her knight.'

[ocr errors]

THIS play is one of the most pleasing of our author's performances. The scenes are busy and various, the incidents numerous and important, the catastrophe irresistibly affecting, and the process of the action carried on with such probability, at least with such congruity to popular opinions, as tragedy requires.

Here is one of the few attempts of Shakspeare to exhibit the conversation of gentlemen, to represent the airy sprightliness of juvenile elegance. Dryden mentions a tradition, which might easily reach his time, of a declaration made by Shakspeare, that he was obliged to kill Mercutio in the third Act, lest he should have been killed by him. Yet he thinks him no such formidable person, but that he might have lived through the play, and died in his bed, without danger to the poet. Dryden well knew, had he been in quest of truth, in a pointed sentence, that more regard is commonly had to the words than the thought, and that it is very seldom to be rigorously understood. Mercutio's wit, gaiety, and courage, will always procure him friends that wish him a longer life; but his death is not precipitated, he has lived out the time allotted him in the construction of the play; nor do I doubt the ability of Shakspeare to have continued his existence, though some of his sallies are perhaps out of the reach of Dryden; whose genius was not very fertile of merriment, nor ductile to humour, but acute, argumentative, comprehensive, and sublime.

The Nurse is one of the characters in which the author delighted: he has with great subtility of distinction, drawn her at once loquacious and secret, obsequious and insolent, trusty and dishonest.

His comick scenes are happily wrought, but his pathetick strains are always polluted with some unexpected depravations*.

* A. W. Schlegel has answered this remark at length, and, as I think, satisfactorily, in a detailed criticism upon this tragedy, published in the Horen, a journal conducted by Schiller in 1794-1795, and made accessible to the English reader in Ollier's Literary Miscellany, Part I. In his Lectures on Dramatic Literature (vol. ii. p. 135, Eng. translation), will be found some further sensible remarks upon the 'conceits' here stigmatized. It should be remembered that playing on words was a very favourite species of wit combat with our ancestors. • With children, as well as nations of the most simple manners, a great inclination to playing on words is often displayed; [they can

VOL. X.

P

His persons, however distressed, have a conceit left them in their misery, a miserable conceit +. JOHNSON.

not therefore be both puerile and unnatural: If the first charge is founded, the second cannot be so.] In Homer we find several examples; the Books of Moses, the oldest written memorial of the primitive world, are, it is well known, full of them. On the other hand, poets of a very cultivated taste, or orators like Cicero, have delighted in them. Whoever, in Richard the Second, is disgusted with the affecting play of words of the dying John of Gaunt on his own name, let him remember that the same thing occurs in the Ajax of Sophocles.' S. W. S.

+ This quotation is also found in the Preface to Dryden's Fables: Just John Littlewit, in Bartholomew Fair, who had a conceit (as he tells you) left him in his misery; a miserable conceit.' STEEVENS.

« 上一頁繼續 »