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Rom. Good morrow to you both. What counterfeit did I give you ?
Mer. The slip, sir, the slip. Can you not conceive?
Rom. Pardon, good Mercutio, my business was great; and, in such a case as mine, a man may strain courtesy.
Mer. That's as much as to say—such a case as yours constrains a man to bow in the hams.
Rom. Meaning—to courtesy,
Mer. Well said. Follow me this jest now, till thou hast worn out thy pump; that, when the single sole of it is worn, the jest may remain, after the wearing, solely singular.
Rom. O single-soled ” jest, solely singular for the singleness.
Mer. Come between us, good Benvolio; my wits fail.
Rom. Switch and spurs, switch and spurs; or I'll cry a match.
Mer. Nay, if thy wits run the wild-goose chase, I have done ; for thou hast more of the wild-goose in one of thy wits, than, I am sure, I have in my whole five. Was I with
there for the goose ? Rom. Thou wast never with me for any thing, when thou wast not there for the
goose. Mer. I will bite thee by the ear for that jest. Rom. Nay, good goose, bite not.
i Here is a vein of wit too thin to be easily found. The fundamental idea is, that Romeo wore pinked pumps; that is, punched with holes in figures. It was the custom to wear ribands in the shoes, formed in the shape of roses or other flowers.
2 Single-soled means simple, silly." He is a good sengyll soule, and can do no harm; est doli nescius non simplex.”—Horman's Vulgaria.
3 One kind of horse-race, which resembled the flight of wild-geese, was formerly known by this name.--Two horses were started together, and whichever rider could get the lead, the other rider was obliged to follow him wherever he chose to go.
Mer. Thy wit is a very bitter sweeting ;' it is a most sharp sauce.
Rom. And is it not well served in to a sweet goose ?
Mer. O, here's a wit of cheverel, that stretches from an inch narrow to an ell broad !
Rom. I stretch it out for that word—broad ; which, added to the goose, proves thee, far and wide, a broad goose.
Mer. Why, is not this better now than groaning for love ? Now art thou sociable, now art thou Romeo; now art thou what thou art, by art as well as by nature; for this drivelling love is like a great natural, that runs lolling up and down to hide his baw ble in a hole.
Ben. Stop there, stop there.
tale against the hair.3
Ben. Thou wouldst else have made thy tale large.
Mer. 0, thou art deceived; I would have made it short ; for I was come to the whole depth of my tale ; and meant, indeed, to occupy the argument no longer.
Rom. Here's goodly gear!
Enter Nurse and PETER.
Mer. A sail, a sail, a sail !
Mer. 'Pr’ythee, do, good Peter, to hide her face; for her fan's the fairer of the two.
Nurse. God ye good morrow, gentlemen.
i The allusion is to an apple of that name. 2 Soft, stretching leather; kid leather.
3 This phrase, which is of French extraction, à contre poil, occurs again in Troilus and Cressida :-“ Merry against the hair.”
4 The business of Peter carrying the nurse's fan, seems ridiculous to modern manners; but it was formerly the practice.
5 i. e. “God give you a good even. The first of these contractions is common in our old dramas.
Nurse. Is it good den?
Mer. 'Tis no less, I tell you ; for the bawdy hand of the dial is now upon the prick of noon.
Nurse. Out upon you ! what a man are you?
Rom. One, gentlewoman, that God hath made himself to mar.
Nurse. By my troth, it is well said.—For himself to mar, quoth 'a ?—Gentlemen, can any of you tell me where I may find the young Romeo ?
Rom. I can tell you; but young Romeo will be older when you have found him, than he was when you sought him. I am the youngest of that name, for 'fault of a worse.
Nurse. You say well.
Mer. Yea, is the worst well? Very well took, i' faith ; wisely, wisely.
Nurse. If you be he, sir, I desire some confidence
Ben. She will indite him to some supper.
Mer. No hare, sir; unless a hare, sir, in a lenten pie, that is something stale and hoar ere it be spent.
An old hare hoar,
And an old hare hoar,
But a hare that is hoar,
Is too much for a score,
When it hoars ere it be spent.Romeo, will you come to your father's ? We'll to dinner thither.
Rom. I will follow you.
, lady, lady, lady. [Exeunt Mercutio and Benvolio.
1 Hoar or hoary is often used for mouldy, as things grow white from moulding. These lines seem to have been part of an old song. In the quarto, 1597, we have this stage direction : “ He walks by them [i. e. the nurse and Peter), and sings.”
2 The burden of an old song. See Twelfth Night, Act ii. Sc. 3.
Nurse. Marry, farewell !—I pray you, sir, what saucy merchant was this, that was so full of his ropery ? 1
Rom. A gentleman, nurse, that loves to hear himself talk; and will speak more in a minute, than he will stand to in a month.
Nurse. An 'a speak any thing against me, I'll take him down an 'a were lustier than he is, and twenty such Jacks; and if I cannot, I'll find those that shall. Scurvy knave! I am none of his flirt-gills; I am none of his skains-mates. And thou must stand by too, and suffer every knave to use me at his pleasure ?
Pet. I saw no man use you at his pleasure ; if I had, my weapon should quickly have been out, I warrant you. I dare draw as soon as another man, if I see occasion in a good quarrel, and the law on my side.
Nurse. Now, afore God, I am so vexed, that every part about me quivers. Scurvy knave !—'Pray you, sir, a word; and, as I told you, my young lady bade me inquire you out; what she bade me say, I will keep to myself; but first let me tell
ye should lead her into a fuol's paradise, as they say, it were a very gross kind of behavior, as they say ; for the gentlewoman is young; and, therefore, if you should deal double with her, truly, it were an ill thing to be offered to any gentlewoman, and very weak dealing.
Rom. Nurse, commend me to thy lady and mistress. I protest unto thee,
Nurse. Good heart! and i' faith, I will tell her as much. Lord, Lord, she will be a joyful woman.
Rom. What wilt thou tell her, nurse ? thou dost not mark me.
Nurse. I will tell her, sir,—that you do protest ; which, as I take it, is a gentlemanlike offer.
Rom. Bid her devise some means to come to shrift This afternoon;
1 Ropery was anciently used in the same sense as roguery is now.
By skäins-mates the old lady probably means swaggering companions. A skain, or skein, was an Irish knife or dagger, a weapon suitable to the purpose of ruffling fellows.
And there she shall, at friar Laurence' cell,
Nurse. No, truly, sir; not a penny.
sir. Rom. What say'st thou, my dear nurse? Nurse. Is your man secret? Did you ne'er hear
sayTwo may keep counsel, putting one away?
Rom. I warrant thee; my man's as true as steel.
Nurse. Well, sir; my mistress is the sweetest lady,—Lord, Lord!—when 'twas a little prating thing, 0,—there's a nobleman in town, one Paris, that would fain lay knife aboard; but she, good soul, had as lieve see a toad, a very toad, as see him. I anger her sometimes, and tell her that Paris is the properer man; but, I'll warrant you, when I say so, she looks as pale as any clout in the varsal world. Doth not rosemary and Romeo begin both with a letter ? ?
Rom. Ay, nurse; what of that? both with an R.
Nurse. Ah, mocker! that's the dog's name. Ꭱ is for the dog. No; I know it begins with some other
1 i. e. like stairs of rope in the tackle of a ship. A stair, for a flight of stairs, is still the language of Scotland, and was once common to both kingdoms.
2 The nurse is represented as a prating, silly creature; she says that she will tell Romeo a good joke about his mistress, and asks him whether rosemary and Romeo do not both begin with a letter: he says yes, an R. She, who, we must suppose, ould not read, thought he mocked her, and says, No, sure I know better, R is the dog's name; yours begins with some other letter. This is natural enough, and in character. Ben Jonson, in his English Grammar, says, “R is the dog's letter, and hirreth in the sound.”