Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

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197 ‘in sadness’ – means ‘seriously’ here, but Romeo takes his friend literally in his next line: ‘What, shall I groan and tell thee?’

200 ‘Bid a sick man in sadness make his will?’ – Romeo is still playing on the two meanings of ‘sadness’, although both make good sense in this line. He talks of himself as a ‘sick man’ as a result of love; one soon to die of the affliction. To reveal the one he loves would be tantamount to leaving everything to her – to making ‘his will’.

201 ‘A word ill-urged to one that is so ill.’ – It is not kind or courteous to urge a sick man to make his will, as it will remind him he is about to die.

205 ‘A right fair mark’ – Romeo has just revealed that his love is ‘fair’, and Benvolio playfully takes the work to mean ‘good’, as in an easy target, or ‘mark’, for an archer.

206 ‘Well in that hit you miss;’ – ‘hit’ here means ‘shot’. Romeo is saying that in his last quip (line 205), Benvolio missed the mark, as the woman he loves is not interested in him, or apparently in any man.

207 ‘Dian’s wit’ – ‘Diana’s mind’, Diana being the goddess of chastity.

210 ‘stay the siege’ – Romeo uses the imagery of an army investing a castle to give an idea of this woman’s resistance to love; ‘stay’ here means ‘endure’.

213-4 ‘O she is rich in beauty, only poor/ That when she dies, with beauty dies her store.’ – When this woman dies, her beauty will die with her, but also her ‘store’ – the inheritance she might have left her children. This is probably meant in the broadest sense – including her beauty and other qualities that would have been inherited by her offspring.

218 ‘posterity’ – Romeo is reiterating the point considered above. The woman’s ‘posterity’ refers to her imagined descendants.

219 ‘wisely too fair’ – This second ‘fair’ is meant in the sense of ‘just’. Romeo is suggesting, rather selfishly, that his love is too beautiful, wise and just to be wasting her life in a nunnery (‘merit bliss’ – i.e. live a holy life and go to heaven) and make him despair (line 220). It is not confirmed that Rosaline is thinking of a convent, but, given the context of Renaissance Italy, this would be the most likely reason for her vow of chastity.

226-7 ‘’Tis the way to call hers, exquisite, in question more.’ – By putting Rosaline’s beauty into question by comparing her with others will merely make her own ‘exquisite’ beauty seem even more admirable. In the next two lines, Romeo restates this basic idea with an extravagant metaphor: the other women Benvolio suggests he should look upon are compared to black visors of a masquerade that only serve to emphasise the beauty of a fair woman’s face by hiding it. He then says that he can no more forget Rosaline than a man struck blind can remember what it was like to see.

233 ‘note’ – ‘message’.

234 ‘pass’d’ – ‘surpassed’. The idea is that all the women Romeo sees are like a message reminding him of the one whose beauty surpasses theirs.

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William Shakespeare