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Act 2, Scene 4


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Original Play
 
Modern Translation
 

 

Enter BENVOLIO and MERCUTIO
 
BENVOLIO and MERCUTIO enter.
 




 

MERCUTIO
Where the devil should this Romeo be?
Came he not home tonight?

MERCUTIO
Where the devil is Romeo? Did he come home last night?

 

BENVOLIO
Not to his father’s. I spoke with his man.

BENVOLIO
Not to his father’s house. I asked Romeo’s servant.

*
*
5
 

MERCUTIO
Why, that same pale hard-hearted wench, that Rosaline,
Torments him so, that he will sure run mad.

MERCUTIO
Rosaline, that pale-skinned, hard-hearted wench, torments him so much that he’s going to go insane.




 

BENVOLIO
Tybalt, the kinsman to old Capulet,
Hath sent a letter to his father’s house.

BENVOLIO
Tybalt, old Capulet’s kinsman, has sent a letter to Romeo’s father’s house.

 

MERCUTIO
A challenge, on my life.

MERCUTIO
I bet it’s a challenge.

 

BENVOLIO
Romeo will answer it.

BENVOLIO
Romeo will answer it.

*
10
 

MERCUTIO
Any man that can write may answer a letter.

MERCUTIO
Any man who can write is able to answer a letter.

 

BENVOLIO
Nay, he will answer the letter’s master, how he dares, being dared.

BENVOLIO
No, Romeo will respond to the letter writer and accept the challenge.

*
*
*
15
 

MERCUTIO
Alas, poor Romeo! He is already dead, stabbed with a white wench’s black eye, shot through the ear with a love song, the very pin of his heart cleft with the blind bow-boy’s butt shaft. And is he a man to encounter Tybalt?

MERCUTIO
Poor Romeo! He is already dead: stabbed by the black eye of a fair-skinned girl, cut through the ear by a love song. The very core of his heart has been split by blind Cupid’s arrow. Is he really man enough to fight Tybalt?

 

BENVOLIO
Why, what is Tybalt?

BENVOLIO
Why, what’s up with Tybalt?

*
*
*
*
20
 

MERCUTIO
More than Prince of Cats. Oh, he’s the courageous captain of compliments. He fights as you sing prick-song, keeps time, distance, and proportion. He rests his minim rests—one, two, and the third in your bosom. The very butcher of a silk button, a duelist, a duelist, a gentleman of the very first house of the first and second cause. Ah, the immortal passado, the punto reverso, the hai!

MERCUTIO
He’s more than just the Prince of Cats. He does everything according to convention. He fights like you sing printed music, carefully keeping the correct time, distance, and rhythm. He rests when it is proper to rest: one, two, and the third in your heart. He’s a master duelist who can hit any of his opponent’s buttons that he chooses. He’s a gentleman who learned at the finest fencing school, and he’s skilled at identifying insults and slights to his honor so that he’s “forced” to fight. He knows the passado—the forward thrust—the punto reverso—the backhand thrust—and the hai—the thrust for the heart.

*
25
 

BENVOLIO
The what?

BENVOLIO
He knows what?

*
*
*
*
*
30
 

MERCUTIO
The pox on such antic, lisping, affecting fantasmines, these new tuners of accents! “By Jesu, a very good blade! A very tall man! A very good whore!” Why, is not this a lamentable thing, grandsire, that we should be thus afflicted with these strange flies, these fashion-mongers, these “pardon me’s,” who stand so much on the new form, that they cannot sit at ease on the old bench? Oh, their bones, their bones!

MERCUTIO
A curse on these wild, pompous fellows who are always spouting exotic foreign phrases. These fellows, who say things like: “By Jesus, this is a very good blade! A very brave man! A very good whore.” Isn’t it a sad thing, good man, that we are forced to interact with these foreign flies, these fashionmongers, these fellows who say “pardon me” and care so deeply about good manners that they can’t relax on a bench without groaning, “Oh, my aching bones!”

 

Enter ROMEO
 

ROMEO enters.
 

 

BENVOLIO
Here comes Romeo, here comes Romeo.

BENVOLIO
Here comes Romeo, here comes Romeo.

*
35
*
*
*
*
40
 

MERCUTIO
Without his roe, like a dried herring. O flesh, flesh, how art thou fishified! Now is he for the numbers that Petrarch flowed in. Laura to his lady was but a kitchen-wench— marry, she had a better love to berhyme her—Dido a dowdy, Cleopatra a gypsy, Helen and Hero hildings and harlots, Thisbe a grey eye or so, but not to the purpose.— Signior Romeo, bonjour! There’s a French salutation to your French slop. You gave us the counterfeit fairly last night.

MERCUTIO
He looks skinny as a dried herring without its eggs. O flesh, flesh, you’ve turned pale as a fish. Now he’s just like Petrarch’s hopeless love poetry. In Romeo’s opinion, compared to his own lady love: Petrarch’s Laura was like a kitchen slave (though Laura clearly had a lover who was better at making rhymes); Dido was drab and dull; Cleopatra was a gypsy girl; Helen and Hero were food-for-nothing harlots; Thisbe might have had beautiful eyes, but that doesn’t matter. (to ROMEO) Signor Romeo, bonjour. There’s a French greeting to match the loose high-fashion French pants you’re wearing. You tricked us good last night.

 

ROMEO
Good morrow to you both. What counterfeit did I give you?

ROMEO
Good morning to you both. What do you mean I tricked you?

*
45
 

MERCUTIO
The slip, sir, the slip. Can you not conceive?

MERCUTIO
You gave us the slip, sir, the slip. Do you understand me now?

 

ROMEO
Pardon, good Mercutio, my business was great, and in such a case as mine a man may strain courtesy.

ROMEO
I’m sorry, good Mercutio. My business was so important that I must be forgiven for stretching good manners and courtesy.

 

MERCUTIO
That’s as much as to say, such a case as yours constrains a man to bow in the hams.

MERCUTIO
So what you’re saying is that your “business” forced you to flex your legs.

*
50
 

ROMEO
Meaning “to curtsy”?

ROMEO
Meaning make a curtsy?

 

MERCUTIO
Thou hast most kindly hit it.

MERCUTIO
Now you’ve “hit it.”

 

ROMEO
A most courteous exposition.

ROMEO
What a courteous explanation.

 

MERCUTIO
Nay, I am the very pink of courtesy.

MERCUTIO
Indeed, I am the very “pink” of courtesy.

 

ROMEO
Pink for flower.

ROMEO
As in pink flower

*
55
 

MERCUTIO
Right.

MERCUTIO
Right.

 

ROMEO
Why, then is my pump well flowered.

ROMEO
Well, then my pump is covered in flowers.

 

MERCUTIO
Sure wit, follow me this jest now till thou hast worn out thy pump, that when the single sole of it is worn, the jest may remain, after the wearing solely singular.

MERCUTIO
Ah, witty Romeo, now you’ve taken this joke so far that it’s worn out your pump. With the sole of your pump now worn away, the joke is all that remains.

*
60
 

ROMEO
O single-soled jest, solely singular for the singleness.

ROMEO
This jest has such a thin sole, and is unique only because of its lameness.

 

MERCUTIO
Come between us, good Benvolio. My wits faints.

MERCUTIO
Please break up this war of words, Benvolio. My wits can’t keep up.

 

ROMEO
Switch and spurs, switch and spurs, or I’ll cry a match.

ROMEO
Continue, continue, or I’ll proclaim victory.

*
*
*
65
 

MERCUTIO
Nay, if our wits run the wild-goose chase, I am done, for thou hast more of the wild-goose in one of thy wits than, I am sure, I have in my whole five. Was I with you there for the goose?

MERCUTIO
No, if our witticisms go on a wild-goose chase, I’m done for. You have more wild goose in one of your jokes than I have in five of mine. Was I  even close to you in our goose chase?




 

ROMEO
Thou wast never with me for anything when thou wast not there for the goose.

ROMEO
You would not have been with me for anything if you weren’t there for the goose.

 

MERCUTIO
I will bite thee by the ear for that jest.

MERCUTIO
I’ll bite you on the ear for that joke.

 

ROMEO
Nay, good goose, bite not.

ROMEO
No, good goose, don’t bite me.

*
70
 

MERCUTIO
Thy wit is a very bitter sweeting. It is a most sharp sauce.

MERCUTIO
Your wit is a bitter apple, a spicy sauce.

 

ROMEO
And is it not well served into a sweet goose?

ROMEO
Isn’t that the perfect sauce for a sweet goose?

 

MERCUTIO
Oh, here’s a wit of cheveril, that stretches from an inch narrow to an ell broad!

MERCUTIO
Oh, that joke is made of leather so thin it has been stretched from an inch wide to a full fat yard.

*
*
75
 

ROMEO
I stretch it out for that word “broad,” which, added to the goose, proves thee far and wide a broad goose.

ROMEO
I stretched it for that word “fat.” Add that to the goose, and it makes you a fat goose.

*
*
*
*
*
80
 

MERCUTIO
Why, is not this better now than groaning for love? Now art thou sociable. Now art thou Romeo. Now art thou what thou art—by art as well as by nature, for this driveling love is like a great natural that runs lolling up and down to hide his bauble in a hole.

MERCUTIO
Now, isn’t this jesting better than groaning about love? Now you’re being sociable. Now you’re Romeo. Now you are what you truly are, both naturally and through education. In contrast, this love of yours made you like some fool who runs all over the place looking for a hole in which to hide his precious trinket.

 

BENVOLIO
Stop there, stop there.

BENVOLIO
Stop there, stop there.

 

MERCUTIO
Thou desirest me to stop in my tale against the hair.

MERCUTIO
You’re asking me to stop my tale before it’s finished.




 

BENVOLIO
Thou wouldst else have made thy tale large.

BENVOLIO
Continuing on would have made your tale too long.

*
*
85
 

MERCUTIO
Oh, thou art deceived. I would have made it short, for I was come to the whole depth of my tale, and meant, indeed, to occupy the argument no longer.

MERCUTIO
You’re wrong there. I would have made it short. I had come to the full depth of my tale, and intended to say nothing more about it.

 

Enter NURSE and her man PETER
 
The NURSE enters with her servant, PETER.
 

 

ROMEO
Here’s goodly gear.

ROMEO
Now here’s something.

 

BENVOLIO
A sail, a sail!

BENVOLIO
A sail, a sail!

 

MERCUTIO
Two, two—a shirt and a smock.

MERCUTIO
No, two sails—a man in a shirt and a woman in a dress.

*
90
 

NURSE
Peter!

NURSE
Peter!

 

PETER
Anon!

PETER
In a moment.

 

NURSE
My fan, Peter.

NURSE
Give me my fan, Peter.

 

MERCUTIO
Good, Peter, to hide her face, for her fan’s the fairer face.

MERCUTIO
Good Peter, to hide her face, please give her the fan. Her fan is prettier than her face.

 

NURSE
God ye good morrow, gentlemen.

NURSE
Good morning, gentlemen.

*
95
 

MERCUTIO
God ye good e’en, fair gentlewoman.

MERCUTIO
Good afternoon, fair lady.

 

NURSE
Is it good e’en?

NURSE
Is it afternoon?

 

MERCUTIO
‘Tis no less, I tell you, for the bawdy hand of the dial is now upon the prick of noon.

MERCUTIO
It’s not any earlier, I tell you. The rough hand of the clock is now upon the prick of noon.

 

NURSE
Out upon you! What a man are you?

NURSE
Get out! What kind of man are you?

 

MERCUTIO
One, gentlewoman, that God hath made, himself to mar.

MERCUTIO
A man, good lady, whom God has made for himself to ruin.

*
100
 

NURSE
By my troth, it is well said. “For himself to mar,” quoth he? Gentlemen, can any of you tell me where I may find the young Romeo?

NURSE
I swear, that seems the truth. “For himself to ruin,” he says. Gentlemen, can any of you tell me where I can find young Romeo?

*
*
*
105
 

ROMEO
I can tell you, but young Romeo will be older when you have found him than he was when you sought him. I am the youngest of that name, for fault of a worse.

ROMEO
I can tell you, but young Romeo will be older when you have found him than he was when you began to look for him. I am the youngest man by that name, because there is none younger or worse.

 

NURSE
You say well.

NURSE
You speak well.

 

MERCUTIO
Yea, is the worst well? Very well took, i’ faith, wisely, wisely.

MERCUTIO
Is the worst well? Very well taken, in truth, very wise.

 

NURSE
If you be he, sir, I desire some confidence with you.

NURSE
If you’re Romeo, sir, I would like to have a private conversation with you.




 

BENVOLIO
She will indite him to some supper.

BENVOLIO
She will invite him to dinner.

*
110
 

MERCUTIO
A bawd, a bawd, a bawd! So ho!

MERCUTIO
A pimp! A pimp! A pimp! That’s it!

 

ROMEO
What hast thou found?

ROMEO
What have you discovered?

 

MERCUTIO
No hare, sir, unless a hare, sir, in a Lenten pie—that is, something stale and hoar ere it be spent.

MERCUTIO
Well, she can’t be a prostitute unless she’s so stale and old that she’s only tasted when nothing else is available.

*
*
115


 

(sings)
An old hare hoar,
And an old hare hoar,
Is very good meat in Lent.
But a hare that is hoar
Is too much for a score
When it hoars ere it be spent.

(speaks)

(sings)
Old rabbit meat
Old rabbit meat
Is good meat if you can’t get anything else,

But old moldy rabbit,
Is a waste of your coin
If it goes moldy before you can eat it

(speaking)

120
 

Romeo, will you come to your father’s? We’ll to dinner, thither.

Romeo, are you going to your father’s? We’re having lunch there. Let’s go.

 

ROMEO
I will follow you.

ROMEO
I’ll follow after you.

 

MERCUTIO
Farewell, ancient lady. Farewell, lady, lady, lady.

MERCUTIO
Farewell, old lady. Farewell, lady, lady, lady.

 

Exeunt MERCUTIO and BENVOLIO
 
BENVOLIO and MERCUTIO exit.
 

 

NURSE
I pray you, sir, what saucy merchant was this that was so full of his ropery?

NURSE
Please tell me, sir, who was that foulmouthed fellow with all his dirty jokes?

*
125
 

ROMEO
A gentleman, Nurse, that loves to hear himself talk, and will speak more in a minute than he will stand to in a month.

ROMEO
Nurse, he’s a gentleman who loves to hear himself talk. He says more in one minute than he will stand behind in a month.

*
*
*
*
130
 

NURSE
An he speak any thing against me, I’ll take him down, an he were lustier than he is, and twenty such Jacks. And if I cannot, I’ll find those that shall. Scurvy knave! I am none of his flirt-gills. I am none of his skains-mates. (to PETER) And thou must stand by, too, and suffer every knave to use me at his pleasure?

NURSE
If he says anything against me, I’ll teach him a lesson, even if he were tougher than he is—and twenty wise-asses like him. And if I couldn’t take him down myself, I’ll find someone who can. That rotten scoundrel! I’m not one of his flirty girls. I’m not one of his low-life scheming friends. (to PETER) And you just stand aside, letting every punk make fun of me for pleasure?

*
*
*
135
 

PETER
I saw no man use you at his pleasure. If I had, my weapon should quickly have been out, I warrant you. I dare draw as soon as another man if I see occasion in a good quarrel and the law on my side.

PETER
I didn’t see anybody use you for pleasure. If I had, I’d have quickly pulled out my weapon, I assure you. I draw my sword as quickly as any other man if I see a good fight brewing and the law is on my side.

*
*
*
*
140
*
*
*
*
145


 

NURSE
Now, afore God, I am so vexed that every part about me quivers. Scurvy knave! (to ROMEO) Pray you, sir, a word. And as I told you, my young lady bid me inquire you out. What she bade me say, I will keep to myself. But first let me tell ye, if ye should lead her into a fool’s paradise, as they say, it were a very gross kind of behavior, as they say. For the gentlewoman is young, and therefore, if you should deal double with her, truly it were an ill thing to be offered to any gentlewoman, and very weak dealing.

NURSE
Now, by God, I’m so pissed that I’m shaking. That jerk! (to ROMEO) Now, good sir, may I speak with you? My young mistress sent me to find you. What she told me to say, I will keep to myself. But first let me say: if you lead her into a fool’s paradise, as they say, it would be extremely indecent behavior, as they say. The girl is young. So if you should deceive her, it would be an awful thing to do to any woman and very poor manners.

 

ROMEO
Nurse, commend me to thy lady and mistress. I protest unto thee—

ROMEO
Nurse, speak well of me to your mistress. I pledge to you—

 

NURSE
Good heart, and i’ faith, I will tell her as much. Lord, Lord, she will be a joyful woman.

NURSE
Your heart is good, and I promise, I will tell her that. Lord, Lord, she will be a joyful woman.

*
150
 

ROMEO
What wilt thou tell her, Nurse? Thou dost not mark me.

ROMEO
What are you going to tell her, Nurse? You’re not understanding me.

 

NURSE
I will tell her, sir, that you do protest, which, as I take it, is a gentlemanlike offer.

NURSE
I will tell her, sir, that you protest to her, which I think is a gentlemanly offer.  (Editor’s note: The Nurse here is mistaking the word “protest” for the word “propose.”)

*
*
*
155
 

ROMEO
Bid her devise
Some means to come to shrift this afternoon.
And there she shall at Friar Lawrence’ cell
Be shrived and married. (gives her coins) Here is for thy pains.

ROMEO
Tell her to devise a way to come to confession this afternoon. And there, at Friar Lawrence’s cell, she can make confession and we will be married. (Holds out some money to the Nurse) Here is a reward for your efforts.

 

NURSE
No, truly, sir. Not a penny.

NURSE
No, truly, sir. I won’t take your money.

 

ROMEO
Go to. I say you shall.

ROMEO
Go on, I insist.




 

NURSE
(takes the money) This afternoon, sir? Well, she shall be there.

NURSE
(taking the money) This afternoon, sir? She will be there.

*
*
160
*
*
*
*
165
 

ROMEO
And stay, good Nurse. Behind the abbey wall
Within this hour my man shall be with thee
And bring thee cords made like a tackled stair,
Which to the high top-gallant of my joy
Must be my convoy in the secret night.
Farewell. Be trusty, and I’ll quit thy pains.
Farewell. Commend me to thy mistress.

ROMEO
Just a moment, good Nurse. In an hour, behind the abbey wall, one of my servants will meet you and give you a rope ladder. I’ll then use the ladder to secretly climb up to Juliet’s room tonight. Farewell. Be worthy of my trust, and I’ll repay your help. Farewell. Speak well of me to your mistress.

 

NURSE
Now God in heaven bless thee! Hark you, sir.

NURSE
May God in heaven bless you. Now listen, sir.

 

ROMEO
What sayst thou, my dear Nurse?

ROMEO
What, my dear Nurse?




 

NURSE
Is your man secret? Did you ne’er hear say,
“Two may keep counsel, putting one away”?

NURSE
Can your servant be trusted? Have you ever heard the saying, “Two men may keep a secret, but only if one is far away.”

*
170
 

ROMEO
Warrant thee, my man’s as true as steel.

ROMEO
I guarantee, my man is as trustworthy.

*
*
*
*
*
175
 

NURSE
Well, sir, my mistress is the sweetest lady.—Lord, Lord! when ’twas a little prating thing.—Oh, there is a nobleman in town, one Paris, that would fain lay knife aboard, but she, good soul, had as lief see a toad, a very toad, as see him. I anger her sometimes and tell her that Paris is the properer man. But, I’ll warrant you, when I say so, she looks as pale as any clout in the versal world. Doth not rosemary and Romeo begin both with a letter?

NURSE
Well, sir, my mistress is the sweetest lady. Lord, Lord, when she was a little baby—Oh, there is one nobleman in the city, Paris, who would gladly lay claim to her. But Juliet, good soul that she is, would rather be with a toad, a toad, than him. Sometimes I make her angry by telling her that Paris is better looking than you. I swear to you, when I say that she turns as white as any sheet in the entire world. Don’t “rosemary” and “Romeo” begin with the same letter?

*
180
 

ROMEO
Ay, Nurse, what of that? Both with an R.

ROMEO
Yes, Nurse, what about that? Both begin with an  “R.”

 

NURSE
Ah, mocker, that’s the dog’s name. R is for the—No, I know it begins with some other letter, and she hath the prettiest sententious of it, of you and rosemary, that it would do you good to hear it.

NURSE
Ah, you jokester—that’s the dog’s name. “R” is for the—no, I know that word begins with another letter. (Editor’s note: the nurse is thinking of the word “arse.”) She says such pretty things about you and rosemary that it would do you good to hear them.

*
185
 

ROMEO
Commend me to thy lady.

ROMEO
Speak well of me to your lady.

 

NURSE
Ay, a thousand times —Peter!

NURSE
Yes, a thousand times — Peter!

 

PETER
Anon!

PETER
I’m ready.

 

NURSE
Before and apace.

NURSE
Go ahead of me, and quickly.

 

Exeunt
 
All exit.
 

 

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