Philip Weller caricature
Philip and Weller hugging

Welcome to my web site, now under development for more than twenty years.   
-- Philip Weller, November 13, 1941 - February 1, 2021
Dr. Weller, an Eastern Washington University professor of English and Shakespearean scholar for more than 50 years.

Romeo and Juliet: Act 1, Scene 4

Mercutio, Romeo and BenvolioMASKERS: party guests who, for intrigue and excitement, wear masks.
          with five or six other MASKERS; TORCH-

1. this speech: i.e., a written speech.
2. Or shall we on without apology?: or shall we just go in and dance without any explanation?
  1   What, shall this speech be spoke for our excuse?
  2   Or shall we on without apology?

3. The date is out of such prolixity: such long-winded preliminaries are out of fashion. 4-5. Cupid...Tartar's painted bow of lath:   
6. crow-keeper: scarecrow.
  3   The date is out of such prolixity:
  4   We'll have no Cupid hoodwink'd with a scarf,
  5   Bearing a Tartar's painted bow of lath,
  6   Scaring the ladies like a crow-keeper;
7. without-book: memorized.
  7   Nor no without-book prologue, faintly spoke
  8   After the prompter, for our entrance;
  9   But let them measure us by what they will;
10. measure them a measure: i.e., dance a dance.
 10   We'll measure them a measure, and be gone.

11. Give me a torch: As a torch-bearer, Romeo wouldn't dance. 12. Being but heavy: being nothing but melancholy (because of his unrequited love for Rosaline).
 11   Give me a torch: I am not for this ambling;
 12   Being but heavy, I will bear the light.

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

 14   Not I, believe me. You have dancing shoes
18. common bound:
 15   With nimble soles: I have a soul of lead
 16   So stakes me to the ground I cannot move.

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

19. sore enpierced: deeply pierced. his shaft: Cupid's arrow.
20-21. and so bound, / I cannot bound a pitch above dull woe: and so bound down that I cannot leap to any height above dull woe.
 19   I am too sore enpierced with his shaft
 20   To soar with his light feathers, and so bound,
 21   I cannot bound a pitch above dull woe:
 22   Under love's heavy burden do I sink.

23. And to sink in it, should you burden love: if you sink in love, you will be a burden on love. This is a sex joke.
 23   And, to sink in it, should you burden love—
 24   Too great oppression for a tender thing.

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

 27   If love be rough with you, be rough with love;
28. Prick love for pricking: This is another sex joke.
29. case: mask.
30. A visor for a visor: i.e., a mask for a face as ugly as a mask. 31. quote: note.
32. Here are the beetle brows: Mercutio has a mask with beetle brows. Mercutio's mask34. betake him to his legs: begin dancing.

35. wantons: pleasure-seekers.
36. senseless: without feeling. rushes: Rushes were used to cover floors.  37. I am proverb'd with a grandsire phrase:
 28   Prick love for pricking, and you beat love down.
 29   Give me a case to put my visage in,
 30   A visor for a visor! what care I
 31   What curious eye doth quote deformities?
 32   Here are the beetle brows shall blush for me.

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

 35   A torch for me: let wantons light of heart
 36   Tickle the senseless rushes with their heels,
 37   For I am proverb'd with a grandsire phrase;
 38   I'll be a candle-holder, and look on.
39. The game ... done:
 39   The game was ne'er so fair, and I am done.

40-43. Tut ... Up to the ears: i.e., Come with us, and you'll get free of all this "love" bullcrap in which you are stuck up to the ears.
43. burn daylight: waste time.
 40   Tut, dun's the mouse, the constable's own word:
 41   If thou art Dun, we'll draw thee from the mire
 42   Of this sir-reverence love, wherein thou stick'st
 43   Up to the ears. Come, we burn daylight, ho!

44. Nay, that's not so: Romeo makes a little joke by taking the word "daylight" literally; it's not daylight, so they can't be burning daylight.
 44   Nay, that's not so.

 44                            I mean, sir, in delay
 45   We waste our lights in vain, like lamps by day.
46-47. Take our good meaning ... wits: i.e., take what I said in the way I meant it, and quit twisting my words around.
 46   Take our good meaning, for our judgment sits
 47   Five times in that ere once in our five wits.

48. mask: party where people were masks.
49. wit: wisdom.
 48   And we mean well in going to this mask;
 49   But 'tis no wit to go.

 49                               Why, may one ask?

 50   I dream'd a dream to-night.

 50                                     And so did I.

 51   Well, what was yours?

 51                               That dreamers often lie.

Queen Mab53. Queen Mab:
54. midwife: She assists in the birth of men's dreams.
55. agate-stone: agate. Agates were often carved with tiny figures and set into rings.
 52   In bed asleep, while they do dream things true.

 53   O, then, I see Queen Mab hath been with you.
 54   She is the fairies' midwife, and she comes
 55   In shape no bigger than an agate-stone
 56   On the fore-finger of an alderman,
57. atomies: tiny creatures.
 57   Drawn with a team of little atomies
 58   Athwart men's noses as they lie asleep.
 59   Her chariot is an empty hazel-nut
60. Nutshell Coachjoiner squirrel or old grub:

62. spinners': spiders'.

64. traces: reins.
65. collars: horse collars.
66. whip of cricket's bone, the lash of film:
 60   Made by the joiner squirrel or old grub,
 61   Time out o' mind the fairies' coachmakers.
 62   Her wagon-spokes made of long spinners' legs,
 63   The cover of the wings of grasshoppers,
 64   The traces of the smallest spider's web,
 65   The collars of the moonshine's watery beams,
 66   Her whip of cricket's bone, the lash of film,
 67   Her wagoner a small grey-coated gnat,
68-69. round  . . .  maid: In folklore an idle person, especially an unmarried girl ("a maid"), grew invisible worms in her blood.
70. state: pomp, magnificence.
 68   Not so big as a round little worm
 69   Prick'd from the lazy finger of a maid.
 70   And in this state she gallops night by night
 71   Through lovers' brains, and then they dream of love;
72. on: of. cur'sies: curtsies, bows, kneelings, which will earn the courtiers a return of courtesies, such as purses of gold. straight: immediately.
 72   O'er courtiers' knees, that dream on cur'sies straight,
 73   O'er lawyers' fingers, who straight dream on fees,
 74   O'er ladies' lips, who straight on kisses dream,
 75   Which oft the angry Mab with blisters plagues,
76. sweetmeats: candied fruit which sweetens the breath.
 76   Because their breaths with sweetmeats tainted are.
77-78. she gallops o'er a courtier's nose, / And then dreams he of smelling out a suit:
 77   Sometime she gallops o'er a courtier's nose,
 78   And then dreams he of smelling out a suit;
79. tithe-pig: pig given in payment for a tithe.
 79   And sometime comes she with a tithe-pig's tail
 80   Tickling a parson's nose as a' lies asleep,
Tithe pig tail81. benefice: a lucrative church appointment.

84. breaches, ambuscadoes, Spanish blades:
85. healths five-fathom deep: fantastically deep cups of liquor. anon: immediately afterwards. 86. Drums in his ear, at which he starts: the sound of drums (leading soldiers into a charge), at which he is startled.
 81   Then he dreams of another benefice:
 82   Sometime she driveth o'er a soldier's neck,
 83   And then dreams he of cutting foreign throats,
 84   Of breaches, ambuscadoes, Spanish blades,
 85   Of healths five-fathom deep; and then anon
 86   Drums in his ear, at which he starts and wakes,
 87   And being thus frighted swears a prayer or two
 88   And sleeps again. This is that very Mab
89. plats: twists, braids.
90-91. And bakes . . . bodes:  90. elflocks: locks of hair that look as if they have been tangled by elves.
 89   That plats the manes of horses in the night,
 90   And bakes the elflocks in foul sluttish hairs,
 91   Which once untangled, much misfortune bodes:
 92   This is the hag, when maids lie on their backs,
93. learns: teaches. bear: (1) bear the weight of a man; (2) bear children.  94. women of good carriage: (1) women with proper deportment; (2) women who support a lover's weight; (3) women who become pregnant and carry children.
 93   That presses them and learns them first to bear,
 94   Making them women of good carriage.
 95   This is she—

 95                Peace, peace, Mercutio, peace!
 96   Thou talk'st of nothing.

 96                                    True, I talk of dreams,
 97   Which are the children of an idle brain,
98. vain fantasy: idle imagination.
 98   Begot of nothing but vain fantasy,
 99   Which is as thin of substance as the air
100   And more inconstant than the wind, who woos
101   Even now the frozen bosom of the north,
102. anger'd: i.e., by lack of success with the cold north. The wind is imagined as a would-be lover, who woos first one woman, then another.
102   And, being anger'd, puffs away from thence,
103   Turning his face to the dew-dropping south.

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

106-111. I fear . . . untimely death: i.e., I'm afraid that at this party the stars will bring down some terrible fate that will end my miserable life.
108. date: appointed time.
109. expire the term: terminate the duration.
106   I fear, too early: for my mind misgives
107   Some consequence yet hanging in the stars
108   Shall bitterly begin his fearful date
109   With this night's revels and expire the term
110   Of a despised life closed in my breast
111. untimely: premature. 112. He: God? Cupid?
111   By some vile forfeit of untimely death.
112   But He, that hath the steerage of my course,
113. lusty: robust, hearty.
113   Direct my sail! On, lusty gentlemen!

114   Strike, drum.

          They march about the stage
          [and stand to one side as the
           next scene begins]