Romeo and Juliet: Act 1, Scene 4


Enter ROMEO, MERCUTIO, BENVOLIO, with five or six Maskers, Torch-bearers,
and others.

ROMEO: What, shall this speech be spoke for our excuse?
Or shall we on without apology?

BENVOLIO: The date is out of such prolixity:
We'll have no Cupid hoodwink'd with a scarf,
Bearing a Tartar's painted bow of lath,
Scaring the ladies like a crow-keeper;
Nor no without-book prologue, faintly spoke
After the prompter, for our entrance:
But let them measure us by what they will;
We'll measure them a measure, and be gone.        [10]

ROMEO: Give me a torch: I am not for this ambling;
Being but heavy, I will bear the light.

MERCUTIO: Nay, gentle Romeo, we must have you dance.

ROMEO: 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.

MERCUTIO: You are a lover; borrow Cupid's wings,
And soar with them above a common bound.

ROMEO: I am too sore enpierced with his shaft
To soar with his light feathers, and so bound,        [20]
I cannot bound a pitch above dull woe:
Under love's heavy burden do I sink.

MERCUTIO: And, to sink in it, should you burden love;
Too great oppression for a tender thing.

ROMEO: Is love a tender thing? it is too rough,
Too rude, too boisterous, and it pricks like thorn.

MERCUTIO: 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:
A visor for a visor! what care I        [30]
What curious eye doth quote deformities?
Here are the beetle brows shall blush for me.

BENVOLIO: Come, knock and enter; and no sooner in,
But every man betake him to his legs.

ROMEO: A torch for me: let wantons light of heart
Tickle the senseless rushes with their heels,
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.

MERCUTIO: Tut, dun's the mouse, the constable's own word:        [40]
If thou art dun, we'll draw thee from the mire
Of this sir-reverence love, wherein thou stick'st
Up to the ears. Come, we burn daylight, ho!

ROMEO: Nay, that's not so.

MERCUTIO:             I mean, sir, in delay
We waste our lights in vain, like lamps by day.
Take our good meaning, for our judgment sits
Five times in that ere once in our five wits.

ROMEO: And we mean well in going to this mask;
But 'tis no wit to go.

MERCUTIO:               Why, may one ask?

ROMEO: I dream'd a dream to-night.        [50]

MERCUTIO:                  And so did I.

ROMEO: Well, what was yours?

MERCUTIO:              That dreamers often lie.

ROMEO: In bed asleep, while they do dream things true.

MERCUTIO: O, then, I see Queen Mab hath been with you.
She is the fairies' midwife, and she comes
In shape no bigger than an agate-stone
On the fore-finger of an alderman,
Drawn with a team of little atomies
Athwart men's noses as they lie asleep;
Her waggon-spokes made of long spinners' legs,
The cover of the wings of grasshoppers,        [60]
The traces of the smallest spider's web,
The collars of the moonshine's watery beams,
Her whip of cricket's bone, the lash of film,
Her waggoner a small grey-coated gnat,
Not so big as a round little worm
Prick'd from the lazy finger of a maid;
Her chariot is an empty hazel-nut
Made by the joiner squirrel or old grub,
Time out o' mind the fairies' coachmakers.
And in this state she gallops night by night        [70]
Through lovers' brains, and then they dream of love;
O'er courtiers' knees, that dream on court'sies straight,
O'er lawyers' fingers, who straight dream on fees,
O'er ladies ' lips, who straight on kisses dream,
Which oft the angry Mab with blisters plagues,
Because their breaths with sweetmeats tainted are:
Sometime she gallops o'er a courtier's nose,
And then dreams he of smelling out a suit;
And sometime comes she with a tithe-pig's tail
Tickling a parson's nose as a' lies asleep,        [80]
Then dreams, he of another benefice:
Sometime she driveth o'er a soldier's neck,
And then dreams he of cutting foreign throats,
Of breaches, ambuscadoes, Spanish blades,
Of healths five-fathom deep; and then anon
Drums in his ear, at which he starts and wakes,
And being thus frighted, swears a prayer or two
And sleeps again. This is that very Mab
That plats the manes of horses in the night,
And bakes the elflocks in foul sluttish hairs,        [90]
Which once untangled much misfortune bodes:
This is the hag, when maids lie on their backs,
That presses them and learns them first to bear,
Making them women of good carriage:
This is she--

ROMEO:         Peace, peace, Mercutio, peace!
Thou talk'st of nothing.

MERCUTIO:                True, I talk of dreams,
Which are the children of an idle brain,
Begot of nothing but vain fantasy,
Which is as thin of substance as the air        [100]
And more inconstant than the wind, who wooes
Even now the frozen bosom of the north,
And, being anger'd, puffs away from thence,
Turning his face to the dew-dropping south.

BENVOLIO: This wind, you talk of, blows us from ourselves;
Supper is done, and we shall come too late.

ROMEO: I fear, too early: for my mind misgives
Some consequence yet hanging in the stars
Shall bitterly begin his fearful date
With this night's revels and expire the term        [110]
Of a despised life closed in my breast
By some vile forfeit of untimely death.
But He, that hath the steerage of my course,
Direct my sail! On, lusty gentlemen.

BENVOLIO: Strike, drum.

[Exeunt.]


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This page last updated April 24, 1997. Enquiries to Michael Best, mbest1@uvic.ca.