Gary Taylor, John Jowett, Terri Bourus, and Gabriel Egan (eds), The New Oxford Shakespeare: Modern Critical Edition

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Sc. 102.3

Enter Benvolio and Mercutio

mercutio Where the devil should this Romeo be? Came he not home Editor’s Note2tonight?


benvolio Not to his father's. I spoke with his man.

Editor’s Note4

mercutio Why, that same pale hard-hearted wench, that Rosaline,

5Torments him so that he will sure run mad.


benvolio Tybalt, the kinsman to old Capulet,

7Hath sent a letter to his father's house.

Editor’s Note8

mercutio A challenge, on my life.

benvolio Romeo will answer it.


mercutio Any man that can write may answer a letter.


benvolio Nay, he will answer the letter's master, how he dares, being 11dared.


mercutio Alas, poor Romeo, he is already dead, stabbed with a white Editor’s Note13wench's black eye, run through the ear with a love song, the very pin pg 1030Editor’s Note14of his heart cleft with the blind bow-boy's butt-shaft; and is he a man 15to encounter Tybalt?


benvolio Why, what is Tybalt?

Editor’s Note17

mercutio More than Prince of Cats. O, he's the courageous captain Editor’s Note18of compliments. He fights as you sing prick-song: keeps time, distance Editor’s Note19and proportion. He rests his minim rests: one, two, and the third in Editor’s Note20your bosom; the very butcher of a silk button. A duellist, a duellist, a Editor’s Note Link 21gentleman of the very first house of the first and second cause. Ah, the Editor’s Note22immortal passado, the punto reverso, the hai.


benvolio The what?

Editor’s Note24

mercutio The pox of such antic, lisping, affecting phantasims, these Editor’s Note25new tuners of accent. 'By Jesu, a very good blade, a very tall man, a very Editor’s Note26good whore.' Why is not this a lamentable thing, grandsire, that we Editor’s Note27should be thus afflicted with these strange flies, these fashion-mongers, Editor’s Note28these 'pardon-me's', who stand so much on the new form that they Editor’s Note29cannot sit at ease on the old bench? O, their bones, their bones!

Editor’s NoteEnter Romeo

benvolio Here comes Romeo, here comes Romeo!

Editor’s Note31

mercutio Without his roe, like a dried herring. O flesh, flesh, how Editor’s Note32art thou fishified! Now is he for the numbers that Petrarch flowed in. Editor’s Note33Laura to his lady was a kitchen wench—marry, she had a better love Editor’s Note34to berhyme her—Dido a dowdy, Cleopatra a gypsy, Helen and Hero pg 1031Editor’s Note35hildings and harlots, Thisbe a grey eye or so; but not to the purpose. Editor’s Note36Signor Romeo, bonjour. There's a French salutation to your French 37slop. You gave us the counterfeit fairly last night.


romeo Good morrow to you both. What counterfeit did I give you?

Editor’s Note39

mercutio The slip sir, the slip! Can you not conceive?

Editor’s Note40

romeo Pardon, good Mercutio; my business was great, and in such a 41case as mine a man may strain courtesy.

Editor’s Note42

mercutio That's as much as to say such a case as yours constrains a 43man to bow in the hams.


romeo Meaning to curtsy.

Editor’s Note45

mercutio Thou hast most kindly hit it.


romeo A most courteous exposition.

Editor’s Note47

mercutio Nay, I am the very pink of courtesy.

Editor’s Note48

romeo Pink for flower.


mercutio Right.

Editor’s Note50

romeo Why, then is my pump well flowered.


mercutio Sure wit, follow me this jest now till thou hast worn out Editor’s Note52thy pump, that when the single sole of it is worn, the jest may remain Editor’s Note53after the wearing, solely singular.

Editor’s Note Link 54

romeo O single-soled jest, solely singular for the singleness.

Editor’s Note55

mercutio Come between us, good Benvolio. My wits faints.

Editor’s Note56

romeo Switch and spurs, switch and spurs, or I'll cry a match.

Editor’s Note57

mercutio Nay, if our wits run the wild-goose-chase, I am done, for Editor’s Note58thou hast more of the wild goose in one of thy wits than I am sure I have Editor’s Note59in my whole five. Was I with you there for the goose?


romeo Thou wast never with me for anything when thou wast not Editor’s Note61there for the goose.

Editor’s Note62

mercutio I will bite thee by the ear for that jest.

Editor’s Note63

romeo Nay, good goose, bite not.

Editor’s Note64

mercutio Thy wit is very bitter sweeting, it is a most sharp sauce.


romeo And is it not then well served into a sweet goose?

pg 1032 Editor’s Note66

mercutio O, here's a wit of cheverel, that stretches from an inch Editor’s Note67narrow to an ell broad.


romeo I stretch it out for that word 'broad', which, added to the goose, Editor’s Note69proves thee far and wide a broad goose.


mercutio Why is not this better now than groaning for love? Now Editor’s Note71art thou sociable, now art thou Romeo, now art thou what thou art Editor’s Note72by art as well as by nature, for this drivelling love is like a great natural Editor’s Note73that runs lolling up and down to hide his bauble in a hole.

Editor’s Note74

benvolio Stop there, stop there.

Editor’s Note75

mercutio Thou desirest me to stop in my tale against the hair.


benvolio Thou wouldst else have made thy tale large.

Editor’s Note77

mercutio O, thou art deceived, I would have made it short, for I was Editor’s Note78come to the whole depth of my tale, and meant indeed to occupy the Editor’s Note79argument no longer.

Editor’s Note80

romeo Here's goodly gear.

Enter Nurse and Peter, her man

Editor’s Note81A sail, a sail!

Editor’s Note82

mercutio Two, two—a shirt and a smock.


nurse Peter.

Editor’s Note84

peter Anon.


nurse My fan, Peter.


mercutio Good Peter, to hide her face, for her fan's the fairer face.


nurse God ye good morrow, gentlemen.

Editor’s Note Link 88

mercutio God ye good e'en, fair gentlewoman.

Editor’s Note89

nurse Is it good e'en?

Editor’s Note90

mercutio 'Tis no less, I tell ye, for the bawdy hand of the dial is now Editor’s Note91upon the prick of noon.

Editor’s Note92

nurse Out upon you, what a man are you?

Editor’s Note93

romeo One, gentlewoman, that God hath made for himself to mar.


nurse By my troth, it is well said. 'For himself to mar', quoth a? Editor’s Note95Gentlemen, can any of you tell me where I may find the young Romeo?


romeo I can tell you, but young Romeo will be older when you have pg 103397found him than he was when you sought him. I am the youngest of Editor’s Note98that name, for fault of a worse.


nurse You say well.


mercutio Yea, is the worst well? Very well took, i'faith, wisely, wisely.

Editor’s Note101

nurse [to Romeo] If you be he, sir, I desire some confidence with you.

Editor’s Note102

benvolio She will endite him to some supper.

Editor’s Note103

mercutio A bawd, a bawd, a bawd. So ho!

Editor’s Note104

romeo What hast thou found?

Editor’s Note105

mercutio No hare sir, unless a hare, sir, in a Lenten pie, that is Editor’s Note106something stale and hoar ere it be spent.

Editor’s Note[Sings]

107     An old hare hoar

108     And an old hare hoar

109          Is very good meat in Lent.

110     But a hare that is hoar

Editor’s Note111     Is too much for a score

112          When it hoars ere it be spent.

113Romeo, will you come to your father's? We'll to dinner thither.


romeo I will follow you.

Editor’s Note115

mercutio Farewell, ancient lady. Farewell, lady, lady, lady.

Exeunt [Mercutio and Benvolio]
Editor’s Note116

nurse I pray you, sir, what saucy merchant was this that was so full Editor’s Note117of his ropery?


romeo A gentleman, Nurse, that loves to hear himself talk, and will Editor’s Note119speak more in a minute than he will stand to in a month.

Editor’s Note120

nurse An a speak anything against me, I'll take him down an a were Editor’s Note121lustier than he is, and twenty such jacks; an if I cannot, I'll find those Editor’s Note122that shall. Scurvy knave! I am none of his flirt-jills, I am none of his Editor’s Note Link 123skeans-mates. [To Peter] And thou must stand by, too, and suffer every Editor’s Note124knave to use me at his pleasure.

Editor’s Note125

peter I saw no man use you at his pleasure. If I had, my weapon should 126quickly have been out. I warrant you, I dare draw as soon as another 127man, 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. 129Scurvy knave! [To Romeo] Pray you, sir, a word; and, as I told you, my pg 1034130young lady bid me enquire you out. What she bid me say I will keep Editor’s Note131to myself, but first let me tell ye, if ye should lead her in a fool's 132paradise, as they say, it were a very gross kind of behaviour, as they say, Editor’s Note133for the gentlewoman is young; and therefore if you should deal double 134with her, truly it were an ill thing to be offered to any gentlewoman, and Editor’s Note135very weak dealing.

Editor’s Note136

romeo Nurse, commend me to thy lady and mistress. I protest unto 137thee—


nurse Good heart, and i'faith I will tell her as much. Lord, Lord, she 139will be a joyful woman.


romeo 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 142gentlemanlike offer.


romeo Bid her devise

144Some means to come to shrift this afternoon,

145And there she shall at Friar Laurence' cell

Editor’s Note146Be shrived and married. [Offering money] Here is for thy pains.


nurse No, truly, sir, not a penny.


romeo Go to, I say you shall.


nurse [taking money] This afternoon, sir. Well, she shall be there.


romeo And stay, good Nurse, behind the abbey wall.

151Within this hour my man shall be with thee

Editor’s Note152And bring thee cords made like a tackled stair,

Editor’s Note153Which to the high topgallant of my joy

Editor’s Note154Must be my convoy in the secret night.

Editor’s Note155Farewell. Be trusty, and I'll quit thy pains.

156Farewell. Commend me to thy mistress.

Link 157

nurse Now God in heaven bless thee! Hark you sir.


romeo What sayst thou, my dear Nurse?


nurse Is your man secret? Did you ne'er hear say,

Editor’s Note160'Two may keep counsel, putting one away'?

Editor’s Note161

romeo I warrant thee my man's as true as steel.


nurse Well, sir, my mistress is the sweetest lady.

163Lord, Lord, when 'twas a little prating thing—

164O, there is a nobleman in town, one Paris,

Editor’s Note165That would fain lay knife aboard; but she, good soul,

Editor’s Note166Had as lief see a toad, a very toad,

167As see him. I anger her sometimes,

Editor’s Note168And tell her that Paris is the properer man;

169But I'll warrant you, when I say so she looks

Editor’s Note170As pale as any clout in the versal world.

pg 1035Editor’s Note171Doth not rosemary and Romeo begin

Editor’s Note172Both with a letter?

Editor’s Note173

romeo Ay, Nurse, what of that? Both with an 'R'.

Editor’s Note174

nurse Ah, mocker—that's the dog's name. 'R' is for the—no, I know it Editor’s Note175begins with some other letter, and she hath the prettiest sententious 176of it, of you and rosemary, that it would do you good to hear it.


romeo Commend me to thy lady.


nurse Ay, a thousand times. Peter!


peter Anon.

Editor’s Note180

nurse Before, and apace.

Exeunt [Romeo at one door, Nurse and Peter at another]

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
10.2 tonight last night
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10.4 pale (physically descriptive, but also 'spiritless')
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10.8 answer it i.e. take up the challenge (but Mercutio perversely understands 'write a reply to it')
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10.13 pin (in the centre of an archery target)
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10.14–15 the blind bow-boy i.e. Cupid
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10.14 butt-shaft heavy, blunt-headed arrow for practising archery (appropriate to a boy)
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10.17 Prince of Cats (who was called Tybalt in medieval stories of Reynard the Fox)
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10.17–18 captain of compliments master of the formalities of duelling
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10.18 prick-song music sung from a written or printed text (as opposed to extempore or remembered music)
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10.18 distance musical intervals between notes; set space to be kept between combatants
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10.19 proportion harmony, correct value and pitch of notes; balance, symmetry
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10.19–20 one … bosom Mercutio may act out or mime these movements.
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10.20 minim rests short musical rests (hence the brief strategic pauses in a duel)
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10.20 the … button (alluding to the boast of an Italian fencing master in London that he could 'hit any Englishman with a thrust upon any button')
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10.21 first … cause best school of instruction in taking up quarrels as duels. The first and second cause glances at the codified etiquette of aristocratic quarrelling.
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10.22 immortal forever excellent (quibbling on mortal, 'fatal')
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10.22 passado lunging sword thrust
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10.22 punto reverso back-handed thrust
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10.22 hai thrust that hits its target (in Italian, 'you have it')
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10.24 antic grotesque
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10.24 affecting affected
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10.24 phantasims those full of fantastical thoughts. The word is itself a coinage estrangement.
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10.25 new tuners of accent adapters of novel forms of language; innovator in the phrasing and ornamentation of music—hence 'speakers of newfangled reflections of voice' (which Mercutio presently goes on to imitate)
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10.25–6 By … whore (satirizing the language of aristocratic banter)
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10.25 tall valiant
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10.26–31 Why … bones (addressing Benvolio as if they were old men criticizing the young)
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10.27 strange newfangled (perhaps also 'foreign', as applied to the fashions themselves)
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10.27 flies ( as gaudy, ephemeral insects such as dragonflies or butterflies; parasites)
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10.28 pardon-me (probably in the sense of declining to do something)
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10.28 stand insist (quibbling on the opposite of sit)
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10.28 form fashion (with a quibble on bench)
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10.29 bones (susceptible to aches on the old bench; perhaps alluding to the bone disease, syphilis)
Editor’s Note
10.29.1 Enter Romeo Some productions delay Romeo's entrance until after Mercutio's speech.
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10.31 dried herring (common image of emaciated appearance; here alluding to removal of roe in drying the fish)
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10.31 roe The first syllable of Romeo; also 'sperm (of a fish)'. Mockingly suggesting that Romeo is emaciated not through unrequited love, but by losing his semen in sexual intercourse.
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10.32 fishified turned to a herring; become pale and bloodless; changed through sexual intercourse
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10.32 numbers verses
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10.32 Petrarch (whose sonnets addressed to Laura were a model of their kind)
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10.33 to compared with
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10.33 marry i.e. to be sure
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10.34 Dido a dowdy Playing on the sound of words; similarly ll. 34–5. Dido Queen of Carthage tragically fell in love with Aeneas; her story is related in book 4 of Virgil's Aeneid.
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10.34 Cleopatra (Queen of Egypt and lover of Julius Caesar and Mark Antony)
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10.34 gypsy (because Gypsies were supposed to have come from Egypt)
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10.34 Helen (whose abduction by Paris initiated the Trojan War, the subject of Homer's Iliad)
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10.34 Hero The contemporary poem Hero and Leander, begun by Christopher Marlowe, recounts her love affair.
Editor’s Note
10.35 hildings good-for-nothings
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10.35 grey blue
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10.35 Thisbe (loved by Pyramus in classical legend; their story is told by Ovid in book 4 of Metamorphoses)
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10.35–6 to the purpose worth mentioning
Editor’s Note
10.36 French slop loose-fitting breeches
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10.39 slip (punning on the senses 'counterfeit coin' and 'stealing off')
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10.40 business (with a quibbling sense 'sexual intercourse')
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10.42 case (quibbling on 'vagina')
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10.42 strain courtesy act with less than usual courtesy. Mercutio takes as 'constrain a curtsy'; the word curtsy ('bow obeisance') was undistinguished from courtesy.
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10.42–3 such … hams (with innuendo that a case such as Romeo has entered constrains (with a pun on con 'cunt') a man to bend his buttocks)
Editor’s Note
10.45 kindly exactly
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10.45 hit it got the joke (also, quibblingly, 'attained the sexual target')
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10.47 pink proverbial; dianthus (the flower)
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10.48 Pink for flower (establishing sense of pink and suggesting a further meaning, 'vulva')
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10.50 then … flowered Because either Romeo's pump (footwear) is pink or it is pinked ('decoratively perforated'). Quibbles on pump as 'penis' and flower as 'vulva'.
Editor’s Note
10.52 single i.e. thin
Editor’s Note
10.53–4 solely singular utterly unique (punning on single sole in l. 59)
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10.54 single-soled i.e. thin, poor
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10.54 singleness simplicity, silliness
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10.55 Come … faints (imagining the exchange of wit as a duel)
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10.56 Switch and spurs i.e. urge your horse to full gallop, don't tire
Editor’s Note
10.56 Switch The original spelling Swits may indicate a pun on wits.
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10.56–7 cry a match claim victory in the contest
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10.57 wild-goose-chase (a cross-country horse-race in which the leader chose the course and the rest had to follow)
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10.58 wild goose craziness, unpredictability; folly
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10.59 with even with
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10.59 for the goose i.e. on account of my joke about 'goose'
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10.61 for the goose i.e. in order to copulate with women
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10.62 bite … ear (usually indicates an affectionate nibbling)
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10.63 good goose, bite not (proverbial; an ironic cry for mercy)
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10.64–5 Thy … sauce (alluding to Romeo's supposed submissiveness but actual success in calling Mercutio a 'goose' in yet another way)
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10.64 sweeting sweet apple
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10.66–7 of … broad i.e. that makes a little go a long way
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10.66 cheverel stretchable kid leather
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10.67 an ell forty-five inches
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10.69 far and wide (wordplay on broad)
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10.69 broad goose gross idiot
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10.71 thou art by art quibbling on the verb and the noun ('by skill')
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10.72 natural idiot
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10.73 lolling with the tongue or bauble hanging out
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10.73 bauble fool's stick grotesquely carved at one end, or with an inflated bladder attached. The suggestion of 'penis' is reinforced by hole
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10.74 Stop there say no more. Mercutio takes it as 'stay in that position'.
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10.75, 89, 91 tale (quibbling on tail, 'penis')
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10.75–6 against the hair against the grain, unnaturally (quibbling on hair as 'pubic hair')
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10.77 was come to had arrived at (quibbling on 'had reached orgasm at')
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10.78 occupy (a word particularly marked in its sexual sense and so often avoided in other usages)
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10.79 argument subject
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10.80 goodly gear fine stuff (spoken ironically of Mercutio's witticisms, or of Peter and the Nurse's entrance)
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10.80 goodly gear Some productions have Peter enter before this line, so 'goodly gear' applies only to the Nurse.
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10.81 A sail (sailor's cry when another ship is seen; here a reaction to the Nurse's arrival and perhaps her style of dress)
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10.82 a shirt and a smock i.e. a man and a woman
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10.84 Anon (here indicating immediate attention)
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10.88 God ye good morrow The greeting is characteristic of citizens. In his reply, Mercutio affects the manner of a lower class; fair gentlewoman is ironic.
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10.89 e'en afternoon
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10.90 bawdy licentious; bawd-like
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10.90 hand clock-hand (punning on 'woman's hand')
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10.90 dial clock-face; vulva (to which the hand is bawd)
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10.91 prick dot, point; penis
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10.92 Out upon you (expressing indignation)
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10.92 What what sort of
Editor’s Note
10.93–4 that … mar Combines proverbial 'to make or mar' and 'he is a man of God's making', so alluding to doctrinal debates on free will and sinfulness in a world created by God. The syntax is ambiguous: '… in order that he may mar himself', or '… only to be marred by himself'.
Editor’s Note
10.95–6 can … Romeo (authorially inconsistent with 6.132–3)
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10.98 for … worse in the absence of anyone worse. Romeo means '… a younger'; the alteration may quibble on fault as 'offence'.
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10.101 confidence (misapplied for conference)
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10.102 endite (deliberately substituted for invite, to mock the Nurse's confidence)
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10.103 So ho (the cry of a hunter who has spotted the quarry)
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10.104 found spotted; discovered the nature of
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10.105 hare (suggestive of a promiscuous woman)
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10.105 hare … Lenten pie i.e. flesh illicitly eaten in Lent by disguising it in a supposedly meatless pie. If the Nurse is promiscuous she disguises the fact by a plain and unappetizing appearance.
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10.106 something … spent As a Lenten luxury, the surreptitious hare pie is made to last as long as possible.
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10.106 something somewhat
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10.106 stale (quibbling on the noun, 'prostitute')
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10.106 hoar mouldy (quibbling on whore)
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10.106 spent eaten up; no longer of use for sex
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10.106.1 Sings The first quarto directs Mercutio to 'walk by them' to sing, he may also dance, strut, or some other humorous gait or gestures.
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10.111 for a score to be worth adding to the bill; for fornicating with
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10.115–6 lady, lady, lady (deriding the Nurse with the refrain of a ballad)
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10.115 lady, lady, lady perhaps singing
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10.116 saucy insolent
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10.116 merchant fellow (in opposition to gentleman)
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10.117 ropery lewd jesting
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10.119 stand to abide by (quibbling on 'have an erect penis')
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10.120 take him down humble him (with an unwitting quibble on 'end his erection')
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10.121 lustier livelier, merrier (also, 'more lustful')
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10.121 jacks scoundrels
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10.122 flirt-jills loose women (wordplay on jacks and jills)
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10.123 skeans-mates knife-wielding female rogues (skeans referring to the dagger used by the Irish and Scots, and perhaps alluding to its being worn with a gown-like plaid)
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10.124 use … pleasure Peter picks up the unintended sexual sense.
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10.125 weapon (quibbling on 'penis')
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10.131–2 lead … paradise (proverbial)
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10.133 double with duplicity (also 'strongly, excessively', anticipating weak)
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10.135 weak i.e. morally weak (with an unintended paradox with deal double)
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10.136 commend me give my best regards
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10.136 protest swear (but the Nurse understands 'declare my love (for Juliet)')
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10.146 Here … pains often played humorously, with the nurse feigning reluctance to accept Romeo's money
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10.152 tackled stair rope ladder
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10.153 high topgallant (literally, the highest platform on a mast, from which the topgallant sail was handled)
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10.154 convoy means of conveyance
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10.155 quit reward
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10.160 Two … away i.e. two people can keep a secret only if one gets rid of the other (proverbial)
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10.161 as true as steel (proverbial)
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10.165 lay knife aboard make his claim. Alludes to the practice of marking one's place at table by leaving one's personal knife there. With a sexual innuendo.
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10.166 lief just as willingly
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10.168 properer more handsome, better
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10.170 clout piece of cloth
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10.170 versal universal (colloquial)
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10.171 rosemary (a token of remembrance between lovers, and also of the dead)
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10.172 a the same
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10.173 R (perhaps spoken to sound like a growl, 'aargh')
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10.174 the dog's name (because 'R' sounds like a dog's growl)
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10.174 for the— The suppressed word must be 'arse'.
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10.175 sententious (blunder for sentences, 'sayings')
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10.180 Before, and apace go in front, hurry up
Editor’s Note
10.180 Before, and apace possibly handing her fan to Peter
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