Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

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32-33 ‘Which, on more view of many, mine, being one/ May stand in number, though in reckoning none.’ – Capulet is being modest about his daughter’s charms: when Paris sees her, he will ‘number’ her among the fair, but in his ‘reckoning’ (judgement) of her will discount her. There is also a pun here on ‘to reckon’ meaning ‘to count’: traditionally ‘one’ was not a number, and so could not be ‘reckoned’.

40 ‘yard’ – a measuring ruler, such as a tailor would use to measure cloth; ‘last’ – a piece of wood or metal shaped like a foot and used by a shoemaker to make shoes. The Servant applies the tools wrongly to all the different trades; Shakespeare, incidentally, is parodying a passage in John Lyly’s Euphues, An Anatomy of Wit (1578) which begins: ‘The shoemaker must not go aboue his latchet’. The idea of these characters ‘meddling’ with their yards, lasts and pencils is also an example of the play’s fairly constant sexual innuendo.

47 ‘holp’ – ‘helped’. Benvolio is suggesting that Romeo’s giddiness in love might be cured by spinning the other way.

52 ‘For your broken shin.’ – A deliberate non sequitur. Romeo follows Benvolio’s list of remedies for love with a patently absurd one: a plantain leaf (usually called a dock leaf in this context nowadays). His implied meaning is that it may be easy enough to find medicine for a cut on one’s leg: curing a heart is not so easily done. Ironically, Romeo’s heart is cured of Rosaline almost immediately when he sees Juliet.

53 ‘art thou mad?’ – responding to his friend’s non sequitur, but also with a glance at the idea that melancholy can lead to madness.

62 ‘rest you merry.’ – The Servant misunderstands Romeo to mean that he does not know ‘letters’ or ‘language’.

63 ‘He reads the letter’ – The guest list seems amusingly weighted towards young and attractive females – and includes Rosaline.

81 ‘I pray come crush a cup of wine.’ – The Servant has certainly not been authorised by Capulet to invite anyone he meets in the street. To ‘crush’ could mean ‘to drink’ in this period.

88 ‘Compare her face with some that I will show’ – Note again the parallel developing between Paris and Romeo.

92 ‘And these, who often drown’d, could never die’ – ‘these’ refers to Romeo’s eyes (the actor would probably have made a gesture), which have frequently been ‘drown’d’ in tears.

93 ‘Transparent heretics, be burnt for liars.’ – A reference to the Renaissance practice of burning heretics – ‘Transparent’ suggesting both the openness of their revolt from truth and also the fact that light can pass through the eye ball.

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William Shakespeare
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