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Act 1, Scene 4


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Original Play
 
Modern Translation
 

 

Enter ROMEO, MERCUTIO, BENVOLIO, with five or six other MASKERS and TORCHBEARERS
 
ROMEO, MERCUTIO, and BENVOLIO enter wearing party masks. Five other men wearing party masks and carrying torches enter with them.
 




 

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

ROMEO
What excuse will we make? Or should we enter without apology?

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BENVOLIO
The date is out of such prolixity.
We’ll have no Cupid hoodwinked with a scarf,
Bearing a Tartar’s painted bow of lath,
Scaring the ladies like a crowkeeper,
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.

BENVOLIO
It’s no longer fashionable to talk that much. We’re not going to announce our entrance with some guy blindfolded, dressed up as Cupid, and carrying a toy bow in order to scare the ladies like some scarecrow. Nor will we introduce ourselves with a memorized speech. They can judge us however they want. We’ll dance a dance and then get out of there.




 

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

ROMEO
Give me a torch. I don’t feel like dancing. Since I’m sad, I might as well carry the light.

 

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

MERCUTIO
No, sweet Romeo, you have to dance.

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15
 

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.

ROMEO
Not me, believe me. You’ve got on dancing shoes with nimble soles. But my soul is made of lead that anchors me to the ground so heavily that I can’t move.




 

MERCUTIO
You are a lover. Borrow Cupid’s wings
And soar with them above a common bound.

MERCUTIO
You’re a lover. Borrow Cupid’s wings and use them to soar higher than the average man.

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ROMEO
I am too sore enpiercèd with his shaft
To soar with his light feathers, and so bound,
I cannot bound a pitch above dull woe.
Under love’s heavy burden do I sink.

ROMEO
I’ve been too strongly pierced by his arrow to soar. My wounded heart won’t let me escape my dull sadness. I am sinking under love’s heavy burden.




 

MERCUTIO
And to sink in it, should you burthen love—
Too great oppression for a tender thing.

MERCUTIO
If you sink in love, then you’re burdening it. You’re putting too much weight on such a tender thing.

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

ROMEO
Is love really so tender? To me it seems too rough, too rude, too unruly, and it pricks like a thorn.

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30


 

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
What curious eye doth cote deformities?
Here are the beetle brows shall blush for me.

MERCUTIO
If love is rough with you, be rough with love. Prick love when it pricks you, and you’ll beat love down. Give me a mask to put over my face. A mask to cover that mask I call my face. What do I care if someone sees my flaws? Let the dark eyebrows of this mask blush for me.




 

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

BENVOLIO
Come on, let’s knock and go inside. And once inside, let’s all start dancing.

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35




 

ROMEO
A torch for me. Let wantons light of heart
Tickle the senseless rushes with their heels.
For I am proverbed with a grandsire phrase,
I’ll be a candle holder, and look on.
The game was ne’er so fair, and I am done.

ROMEO
Give me a torch to carry. Let those with light hearts dance. There’s an old proverb that fits me perfectly. I’ll hold a torch and watch. The game looks like fun, but I’m done with it.

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40



 

MERCUTIO
Tut, dun’s the mouse, the constable’s own word.
If thou art dun, we’ll draw thee from the mire,
Or—save your reverence—love, wherein thou stick’st
Up to the ears. Come, we burn daylight, ho!

MERCUTIO
Come on, “dun” is the color of a timid mouse. You’re being as timid as a patrolman on night duty. If you’re a stick stuck in the mud, we’ll pull you out—pardon me for being rude— out of the love in which you’re stuck up to your ears. Come on, we’re wasting daylight.

 

ROMEO
Nay, that’s not so.

ROMEO
Uh, that’s wrong—it’s night.

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45


 

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

MERCUTIO
I mean, sir, that by delaying we’re wasting our torches, which is like wasting the sunshine during the day. Show your good judgment by taking what I say the way I mean it, which is five times more important than literally trusting your senses.




 

ROMEO
And we mean well in going to this mask,
But ’tis no wit to go.

ROMEO
We mean well by going to this party, but it’s not smart of us to go.

 

MERCUTIO
      Why, may one ask?

MERCUTIO
Why, may I ask?

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50
 

ROMEO
I dreamt a dream tonight.

ROMEO
I dreamed a dream last night.

 

MERCUTIO
               And so did I.

MERCUTIO
So did I.

 

ROMEO
Well, what was yours?

ROMEO
What was your dream?

 

MERCUTIO
               That dreamers often lie.

MERCUTIO
I dreamed that dreamers often lie.

 

ROMEO
In bed asleep while they do dream things true.

ROMEO
They lie in bed while dreaming about true things.

 

MERCUTIO
Oh, then, I see Queen Mab hath been with you.

MERCUTIO
Oh, then I see Queen Mab has visited you.

 

BENVOLIO
Queen Mab, what’s she

BENVOLIO
Queen Mab? Who’s she?

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95
 

MERCUTIO
She is the fairies’ midwife, and she comes
In shape no bigger than an agate stone
On the forefinger of an alderman,
Drawn with a team of little atomi
Over men’s noses as they lie asleep.
Her wagon spokes made of long spinners’ legs,
The cover of the wings of grasshoppers,
Her traces of the smallest spider’s web,
Her collars of the moonshine’s watery beams,
Her whip of cricket’s bone, the lash of film,
Her wagoner a small gray-coated gnat,
Not half so big as a round little worm
Pricked from the lazy finger of a maid.
Her chariot is an empty hazelnut
Made by the joiner squirrel or old grub,
Time out o’ mind the fairies’ coachmakers.
And in this state she gallops night by night
Through lovers’ brains, and then they dream of love;
On courtiers’ knees, that dream on curtsies 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 he lies asleep,
Then he dreams 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 plaits the manes of horses in the night
And bakes the elflocks in foul sluttish hairs,
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—

MERCUTIO
She’s the fairies’ midwife, and is no bigger than the stone on the ring of a city councilman. She rides her carriage, which is pulled by tiny little creatures, over men’s noses as they lie sleeping. The wheel spokes of her carriage are made of spiders’ legs, its cover is made of grasshopper wings, and its harnesses are made of the smallest spiderwebs. The horse collars are made from moonbeams, while her whip is a single cobweb attached to a cricket bone. Her wagon driver is a tiny gnat wearing a gray coat that is not even half as large as a little round worm that comes from the finger of a lazy young girl. (editor’s note: in folklore, unmarried girls who were lazy were thought to have worms in their blood.) Her carriage is an empty hazelnut, made by a squirrel and an old worm, which have been the fairies’ carriage-builders for countless years.  With this magnificent carriage she rides each night through the brains of lovers, who then dream about love. She rides across courtiers’ knees, who then dream about bowing and curtsying. She rides over lawyers’ fingers, who then dream about their fees. She rides over ladies’ lips, and they immediately dream of kisses. But Queen Mab often puts blisters on their lips because their breath smells of candy, which angers her. Sometimes she rides over a courtier’s nose, and he dreams of sniffing out a way to make some money. Sometimes she tickles a priest’s nose with the tail of pig given as a tithe to the church, and he dreams of getting a high-paid church position. Sometimes she drives over a soldier’s neck, and he dreams of cutting the throats of foreigners, of breaking through fortifications, of ambushes, of the finest-quality Spanish swords, and of huge mugs of alcohol before suddenly waking, frightened, by the sound of drums in his ears. Then he says a prayer or two and goes back to sleep. Mab is the one who tangles the hair of horses’ manes at night and then hardens the tangles in the foul, dirty hairs; tangles which, if you undo them, bring bad luck. Mab is the hag who gives dreams of sex to virgins and teaches them how to bear the weight of a lover and to bear a child. She’s the one—




 

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

ROMEO
Calm down, calm down! Mercutio, be calm. You’re talking about nothing.

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100
 

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
And more inconstant than the wind, who woos
Even now the frozen bosom of the north,
And, being angered, puffs away from thence,
Turning his face to the dew-dropping south.

MERCUTIO
True. I’m talking about dreams, which are produced by a brain that’s doing nothing. Dreams are born of no more than empty fantasy, which is as substanceless as air, and more unpredictable than the wind, which can blows on the frozen north and then suddenly get angry and blow south.

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

BENVOLIO
This wind you’re talking about is blowing us off course. Dinner is already over. We’re going to get there too late.

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110




 

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
Of a despisèd 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.

ROMEO
I fear we’re going to arrive too early. I have a feeling this party tonight is fated to set in motion some awful destiny that will result in my own untimely death. But whoever’s in charge of my fate can steer me where they want. Let’s go, my lusty friends!

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115
 

BENVOLIO
Strike, drum.

BENVOLIO
Strike the drum.

 

March about the stage and exeunt
 
They march around the stage and exit.
 

 

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