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MER. Nay, gentle Romeo, we must have you
dance. ROM.Not I, believe me: you have dancing shoes, With nimble soles : I have a soul of lead, So stakes me to the ground, I cannot move. · MER. You are a lover ;? borrow Cupid's wings, And soar with them above a common bound. • ROM. I am too sore enpierced with his shaft, To soar with his light feathers; and so bound, I cannot bound a pitch above dull woe:3 Under love's heavy burden do I sink.
MER. And, to sink in it, should you burden love;4
« Before whom, unintreated, I am come,
“ Who, with his torch is enter'd.” Before the invention of chandeliers, all rooms of state were illuminated by flambeaux which attendants held upright in their hands. This custom is mentioned by Froissart, and other writers who had the merit of describing every thing they saw. See a wooden cut in Vol. IX. p. 359. . To hold a torch, however, was anciently no degrading office. Queen Elizabeth's Gentlemen Pensioners attended her to Cambridge, and held torches while a play was acted before her in the Chapel of King's College, on a Sunday evening.
At an entertainment also, given by Louis XIV. in 1664, no less than 200 valets-de-pied were thus employed. STEEVENS.
King Henry VIII. when he went masked to Wolsey's palace, (now Whitehall,) had sixteen torch-bearers. See Vol. XV. p. 55.
MALONE. ? Mer. You are a lover; &c.] The twelve following lines are not to be found in the first edition. POPE. 3- so bound,
I cannot bound &c.] Let Milton's example, on this occasion, keep Shakspeare in countenance:
- in contempt
STEEVENS. should you burden love;] i. e. by sinking in it, you
Too great oppression for a tender thing.
ROM. Is love a tender thing ? it is too rough, Too rude, too boist'rous; and it pricks like thorn. MER. If love be rough with you, be rough with
love; Prick love for pricking, and you beat love down.Give me a case to put my visage in:
. [Putting on a Mask. A visor for a visor !—what care I, What curious eye doth quote deformities ?5 Here are the beetle-brows, shall blush for me. · Ben. Come, knock, and enter; and no sooner in, But every man betake him to his legs. ROM. A torch for me: let wantons, light of
heart, Tickle the senseless rushes with their heels ;7
should, or would, burden love. Mr. Heath, on whose suggestion a note of interrogation has been placed at the end of this line in the late editions, entirely misunderstood the passage. Had he attended to the first two lines of Mercutio's next speech, he would have seen what kind of burdens he was thinking of. See also the concluding lines of Mercutio's long speech in p. 60.
MALONE. o d oth quote deformities ?] To quote is to observe. So, in Hamlet :
“ I am sorry, that with better heed and judgment
“ I had not quoted him.” See note on this passage, and Vol. IV. p. 217, n. 8.
STEEVENS. o l et wantons, light of heart, &c.] Middleton has borrowed this thought in his play of Blurt Master-Constable, 1602:
“— bid him, whose heart no sorrow feels,
“ I have too much lead at mine." STEEVENS. 7 Tickle the senseless rushes with their heels ;] It has been already observed, that it was anciently the custom to strew rooms with rushes, before carpets were in use. See Vol. XI. p. 331, n. 8. So Hentzner, in his Itinerary, speaking of Queen Eliza
For I am proverb’d with a grandsire phrase, —. · I'll be a candle-holder, and look on, The game was ne'er so fair, and I am done.'
beth's presence-chamber at Greenwich, says: “ The floor, after the English fashion, was strewed with hay,” meaning rushes. So, in The Dumb Knight, 1633 :
" Thou dancest on my heart, lascivious queen,
“ Even as upon these rushes which thou treadest.” The stage was anciently strewn with rushes. So, in Decker's Gul's Hornbook, 1609: 66 -on the very rushes when the commedy is to daunce." STEEVENS.
Shakspeare, it has been observed, gives the manners and customs of his own time to all countries and all ages. It is certainly true; but let it always be remembered that his contemporaries offended against propriety in the same manner. Thus, Marlowe, in his Hero and Leander :
“ She, fearing on the rushes to be flung,
“ Striv'd with redoubled strength—" MALONE. 8 a grandsire phrase, &c.] The proverb which Romeo means, is contained in the line immediately following: To hold the candle, is a very common proverbial expression, for being an idle spectator. Among Ray's proverbial sentences, is this: “ A good candle-holder proves a good gamester.” STEEVENS..
The proverb to which Romeo refers, is rather that alluded to in the next line but one.
It appears from a passage in one of the small collections of Poetry, entitled Drolleries, of which I have lost the title, that “ Our sport is at the best,” or at the fairest, meant, we have had enough of it. Hence it is that Romeo says, “ I am done.”
Dun is the mouse, I know not why, seems to have meant, Peace; be still! and hence it is said to be “the constable's own word;” who may be supposed to be employed in apprehending an offender, and afraid of alarming him by any noise. So, in the comedy of Patient Grissel, 1603 : « What, Babulo! say you. Heere, master, say 1, and then this eye opens ; yet don is the mouse, LIE STILL. What Babulo! says Grissel. Anone, say I, and then this eye lookes up; yet doune I snug againe."
MALONE. 9 r'll be a candle-holder, and look on, • The game was ne'er so fair, and I am done.] An allusion to an old proverbial saying, which advises to give over when the game is at the fairest. Ritson,
MER. Tut! dun's the mouse, the constable's
own word:1. If thou art dun, we'll draw thee from the mire?
- and I am done.] This is equivalent to phrases in common use I am done for, it is 'over with me. Done is often used in a kindred sense by our author. Thus, in King Henry VI. Part III:
- my mourning weeds are done." Again, in The Rape of Lucrece:
66 as soon decay'd and done,
66 As is the morning's dew." STEEVENS.
Tut! dun's the mouse, the constable's own word :] This poor obscure stuff should have an explanation in mere charity. It is an answer to these two lines of Romeo:
“ For I am proverb’d with a grandsire phrase ;-and
“ The game was ne'er so fair, and I am done.” Mercutio, in his reply, answers the last line first. The thought of which, and of the preceding, is taken from gaming. I'll be a candle-holder (says Romeo) and look on. It is true, if I could play myself, I could never expect a fairer chance than in the company we are going to; but, alas ! I am done. I have nothing to play with : I have lost my heart already. Mercutio catches at the word done, and quibbles with it, as if Romeo had said, The ladies indeed are fair, but I am dun, i. e. of a dark complexion. And so replies, Tut! dun's the mouse ; a proverbial expression of the same import with the French, La nuit tous les chats sont gris: as much as to say, You need not fear, night will make all your complexions alike. And because Romeo had introduced his observations with
I am proverb’d with a grandsire phrase, Mercutio adds to his reply, the constable's own word: as much as to say, If you are for old proverbs, I'll fit you with one; 'tis the constable's own word; whose custom was, when he summoned his watch, and assigned them their several stations, to give them what the soldiers call, the word. But this night-guard being distinguished for their pacifick character, the constable, as an emblem of their harmless disposition, chose that domestick animal for his word, which, in time, might become proverbial. WARBURTON.
? If thou art dun, we'll draw thee from the mire-] A proverbial saying, used by Mr. Thomas Heywood, (Drue,) in his play, intitled The Dutchess of Suffolk, Act III:
" A rope for Bishop Bonner, Clunce run,
66 Call help, a rope, or we are all undone,
Of this(save reverence) love, wherein thou stick’st
Draw dun (a common name, as Mr. Douce observes, for a cart-horse) out of the mire, seems to have been a game. In an old collection of Satyres, Epigrams, &c. I find it enumerated among other pastimes :
“ At shove-groate, venter point, or crosse and pile,
“ Or at the drawing dun out of the myer.” Dun's the mouse is a proverbial phrase, which I have likewise met with frequently in the old comedies. So, in Every Woman in her Humour, 1609:
“ If my host say the word, the mouse shall be dun." It is also found among Ray's proverbial similes. Again, in The Two Merry Milkmaids, 1620:
« Why then 'tis done, and dun's the mouse, and undone all the courtiers.”
Of this cant expression I cannot determine the precise meaning. It is used again in Westward Hoe, by Decker and Webster, 1607, but apparently in a sense different from that which Dr. Warburton would affix to it. STEEVENS.
Dun out of the mire was the name of a tune, and to this sense Mercutio may allude when Romeo declines dancing. Taylor in
A Navy of Land Ships, says, “ Nimble-heeled mariners (like so many dancers ) capring in the pumpes and vanities of this sinfull world, sometimes a Morisca or Trenchmore of forty miles long, to the tune of dusty my deare, dirty come thou to me, Dun out of the mire, or I wayle in woe and plunge in paine: all these dances have no other musicke.” Holt WHITE..
These passages serve to prove that Dr. Warburton's explanation is ill founded, without tending to explain the real sense of the phrase, or showing why it should be the constable's own word. M. MASON.
“ The cat is grey,” a cant phrase, somewhat similar to “ Dun's the mouse,” occurs in King Lear. But the present application of Mercutio's words will, I fear, remain in hopeless obscurity.
STEEVENS. * Of this (save reverence) love,] [The folio_Or save your reverence &c.] The word or obscures the sentence; we should . read-O! for or love. Mercutio having called the affection with which Romeo was entangled by so disrespectful a word as mire, cries out: 0! save your reverence, love. Johnson.