V. Mean Conceits and Ribaldries:

                                      Pope's edition of Romeo and Juliet.



Shakespeare'sdistinct compositions; Act 4 Scene 5 of Romeo and Juliet; its textual condition; editorial alterations in detail; Pope's larger reaction to the play; the character of the Nurse; the Nurse and Juliet as a comic partnership; Shakespeare's humour or an interpolator's?; the propriety of the Friar.



Romeo and Juliet appears in the sixth volume[i] of Pope's edition, `Tragedies from Fable', though perhaps, even more than the plays discussed earlier, the categorisation of the play as a `tragedy' merely emphasises how sage Johnson was to claim that `Shakespeare's plays are not in the rigorous critical sense either tragedies or comedies, but compositions of a distinct kind: Shakespeare had united the powers of exciting laughter and sorrow not only in one mind, but in one composition. Almost all his plays are divided between serious and ludicrous characters, and, in the successive evolutions of the design, sometimes produce seriousness and sorrow, sometimes levity and laughter.'[ii] As we have seen, Pope was sometimes at pains to save Shakespeare's pathos from descending to the ridiculous. He seems to have been particularly suspicious of any writing which by its ineptitude suggested the art of bathos, the art of sinking in poetry, the unintentionally comic.

            Act 4 Scene 5 of Romeo and Juliet (the scene discussed in this chapter) is a single scene which apparently unites laughter and sorrow, the serious and the ludicrous. It might therefore be seen as the acid test for Pope's sense of the `Shakespearean'. It is a scene which presented Pope with textual problems at the verbal level. But here (as has been the case with every play considered) the crucial issue seem to have been the relation of parts to the imagined whole──the play as it existed in the imagined mind of the putative Shakespeare.

            The scene describes the events in the Capulet household on the day of Juliet's proposed wedding to Paris. Since she is already married to Romeo, the Friar has devised a plan which will prevent her from having to marry Paris, and which will enable her to elope with Romeo: she is to take a potion which will cause her to appear dead. The friar explains:


            And in this borrowed likeness of shrunk death

            Thou shalt continue two and forty hours,

            And then awake, as from a pleasant sleep.

            Now when the bridegroom in the morning comes

            To rowse thee from thy bed, there art thou dead ...


The scene describes the success of this part of the Friar's plan. It starts with the gentle comedy of the Nurse teasing the apparently sleeping bride-to-be, and then turns to grief as successive characters believe her to be dead. Eventually the Friar enters, and (slightly dishonestly) offers Christian consolation to the mourning household before Juliet is taken to the Capulets' ancestral tomb.

            The text of Romeo and Juliet takes two distinct forms: very different from all successive texts is the first quarto edition of 1597 (Q1). The text of the play after this, from Q2 (1599) to the 1623 Folio, differed little. Various theories have been put forward about these differences, and at the moment Q1 is generally considered a `bad quarto' - in this case a memorial reconstruction of the play as it was performed, cobbled together by a players or players, and published in a pirate edition.[iii] For large stretches of the play, an examination of Q1 next to Q2 or the 1623 Folio would convince the reader that the later texts were undoubtedly better, and indeed it seemed like this to Pope at first, as we can deduce from some of his early footnotes. In the first scene of the play for example, Pope comments `Much of this Scene is added since the first edition; but probably by Shakespeare, since we find it in that of the year 1599'.

            However as Pope continued to edit the play, his editorial acts reveal that he thought the 1599 (and hence the 1623 and later folio) text increasingly corrupt. It is the nature of this corruption which this chapter will consider: Pope's editorial decisions offer some interesting evidence which suggest that to view Q1 as consistently inferior to later texts, is to over-simplify a very complex problem.


                                                             * * *


            The first decision Pope made was to make a scene break between Lady Capulet's preceding instructions to the Nurse and the Nurse's arrival in Juliet's chamber. (A division which has persisted in most editions: the Arden, Penguin, and New Cambridge texts all retain it, for instance.)

            The opening speech of this extract is characteristic of the Nurse. Such peculiarities as the use of several epithets when one will do are typical of her, as are the interspersion of bawdy comments - even at such a juncture as this. In the first speech of the scene Pope's editing is conservative: he has carefully punctuated the Folio version of the text, making only one change to the words. He removed `she' from the end of the first line so that the meaning, presumably `fast [asleep] I warrant her' is still conveyed, but without this redundant word being present.

            A speech that approximates so closely to speech patterns is difficult to punctuate effectively without freezing it into a fixed scheme of exclamation, since it lives more happily on the tongue than it rests on the page. Pope directs the real or imagined audible voice with long dashes. These are particularly helpful in such lines as the second, where we can imagine the fluid and playful nature of the Nurse's speech all the more vividly, since the implied pause between divided phrases is better indicated here than by the more usual solution of stopping every phrase with an exclamation mark, a punctuation mark which today has inappropriate connotations of banal jokiness and volume:


  Nurse. Mistress, what mistress! Juliet----Fast I warrant her,

Why lamb----why lady----Fie you slug-a-bed----

Why love, I say----Madam, sweet-heart----why bride----

What, not a word!


            When the Nurse finally thinks Juliet dead she cries for help, and Lady Capulet enters. In the ensuing exchange Pope again tidied the punctuation, and again he removed a word, the second `looke' from the line marked 2. Thus `Looke, looke, oh heavie day' becomes `Look, oh heavy day,' and together with the preceding line Pope's edition reads


La. Cap. What is the matter?

Nurse. Look,----oh heavy day!


This is an example of Pope's having evened the verse into ten syllable units, though possibly the repetition of `look' was considered by him just as much reason for emending here: we cannot know whether Pope was offended by the redundancy in the sense or the deficiency in the metre.

            Pope's next editorial decision is more radical. He omitted the Folio's line (3) from his edition. One possible reason for this is that the line is too similar to its predecessor──it is nearly its mirror image. Pope might have taken into account the additional fact that the Q1 text here has Lady Capulet making a quite different reply to the nurse, or perhaps he considered that since the mother has already made an outcry at the sight of Juliet, this further exclamation had little extra to offer the reader.

            As is generally the case, Pope's sense of the whole appears to have been charged with his sense of the exceptional beauty of particular parts──sometimes very tiny parts. The lines marked 11 in parallel text 5.1 attracted his attention and are given commas, thus being - in Pope's opinion - shining examples of Shakespeare's art:


` Death lies on her, like an untimely frost

` Upon the sweetest flower of the field.


Even these shining lines needed reforming: how much does it tell against Pope that he cut the word `all' from the second line without any textual authority, so that in order to hear the line as decasyllabic one must pronounce the word `flower' as two distinct syllables? Pope was throughout his edition scrupulous about eliding within words in order to manage the rhythm of the verse. Pope also repunctuated the line so that a comma - and therefore a pause - occurs in the first line. The changes to this one line are a good example of Pope's careful adjustments to control the intonation and emphasis of the text.

            Immediately after these two lines Pope's edition includes a line (marked 1) from the Q1, which is not in the folios.


            Accursed time, unfortunate old man!


Capulet's speech now moves from an impatient to a grieving exclamation via the two beautiful lines that Pope distinguished. It may have been that Pope considered this line too good to lose, or maybe he thought that it formed a peculiarly fitting coda for this speech. Pope omitted the lines marked 4. It seems he considered the Nurse's exclamation one lamentable day too many and the mother's echo of the Nurse's earlier speech spurious and superfluous. Capulet's couplet also attracted Pope's censure. In his eyes perhaps these lines were a contradiction both of themselves and of the evident grief expressed by him elsewhere in this scene. This succession of twenty monosyllables may have put him in mind of his own reference - in the Essay on Criticism - to when `ten low Words oft creep in one dull Line.' Only here he saw twenty low words:


Death that has tane her hence to make me waile,

Ties up my tongue, and will not let me speak.


Pope's suspicions may also have been raised by the inherent contradiction of the lines: Death has made Capulet wail, but also will not let him speak, even though he is speaking, and will continue to do so.

            It is now that the Friar enters--his presence prompting still more speeches of grief. Pope here deviated from the Folio significantly in changing Capulet's explanation of the situation, excluding the overgrown version of the conceit as it appeared there. Pope omitted the latter half of the speech (5), thereby cutting this conceit back to its root:


O son, the night before your wedding-day

Hath death lain with thy wife: see* there she lies,

Flower as she was, deflower'd now* by him:

Death is my son-in-law.----          (My asterisks)


            The two asterisks indicate where Pope appears to have adjusted the scansion, however `see' is taken from Q1 and `now' from the later folios.

            The next editorial act offers some explanation for the evolution of Pope's text. He put a note referring to the Nurse's speech (6):


This speech of exclamations is not in the edition above cited [i.e., Q1]. Several other parts, unnecessary or tautology, are not to be found in the said editions; which occasions the variation in this from the common books [i.e., the Folios]


It is necessary to be careful in understanding this note. The Nurse's speech, he wrote, is not in Q1--but he then included it in his text. This indicated his thinking it Shakespeare's, rather than the `other parts, unnecessary or tautology' which he did not include in his text. As we shall see, Pope judged that this one speech was the last textual advantage that the Folio had over Q1 for the remainder of the extract under discussion.

            `Unnecessary' and `tautology' were probably words Pope had in mind when he rejected the Folio verses marked 7, which have some parallel with the Q1 text, and the quality of whose poetry is as questionable. Capulet's speech in the Folio, ends with what Pope may have thought a particularly inept couplet, `unnecessary' because it expresses what has already been expressed enough by Capulet himself (only rather better):


Dead art thou, alacke my Child is dead,

And with my Child, my joyes are buried.


Pope seems also to have found the Friar's subsequent words lacking in sense, both in the Folio and quarto texts. No amount of repunctuation can make good sense of


Peace ho for shame, confusions: Care lives not

In these confusions


and Q1's `O peace for shame, if not for charity' is little better, making sense──but not in this context. Pope's solution was to make a composite of the two texts. He adopted a variation of Q1 to start with


O peace for shame-----

Your daughter lives in peace and happiness,

And it is vain to wish it otherwise


continued with one and a half lines of the Folio


Heav'n and your self had part in this fair maid,

Now heav'n has all-----


and concluded with the four lines from the Q1 text. Eleven lines of conceit and homily in the Folio were entirely omitted. (These omitted lines are marked 8 in the text.)

            Pope also rejected the Folio's final speech, spoken by the Friar, which contains more aphoristic homily (10). He instead had his characters exit after a short meditation on the situation by Capulet. He did not include the line marked 9, which forms a doubtfully effective climax to Capulet's speech here, and indeed to this whole incident. In context it may have seemed to Pope to exemplify very well the art of sinking in poetry.

            If we are to pay attention to Pope's dictum expressed in An Essay on Criticism that


'Tis not a Lip or Eye we Beauty call,

But the joint Force and full Result of all


then we should consider the whole of the episode as he recreated it, and decide whether Pope applied this principle when editing Romeo and Juliet. Small scale changes, however apparently sensible, must be put into the context of the work as a whole.


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            After seeing the changes that Pope made, the question remains, what governing principles were at work in his decisions beyond demands of metre and sense? Some changes to this scene were local, and designed to adjust the versification or the pronunciation of single words. But how appropriate are Pope's large scale changes - his drastic shortening of the Friar's speech and the omission of others?

            The unpredictable nature of Pope's selection of passages for his approbatory commas has already been commented on. Romeo and Juliet, too, offers some surprising examples of what Pope considered Shakespeare's best, and therefore all the world's and all time's best, poetry. What might we think to be the first lines in the play which reach these heights -- the description of Rosalind? the Queen Mab Speech? In fact the first passage which Pope distinguished was a speech by the Nurse on Juliet's babyhood. The writing here is very different from anything that Pope himself produced. `Good sense' (or any kind of sense) was certainly not the principle determining factor which caused Pope to distinguish this writing:


`   Nurse. Even or odd, of all days in the year, come Lammas-

` eve at night shall she be fourteen. Susan and she (God rest all

` christian souls) were of an age. Well, Susan is with God, she

` was too good for me. But as I said, on Lammas-eve at night

` she shall be foureen, that she shall, marry, I remember it well.

` 'Tis since the earthquake now eleven years, and she was wean'd,

` I never shall forget it, of all the days in the year, upon that

` day; for I had then laid worm-wood to my dug, sitting in the

` sun under the dove-house wall, my lord and you were then at

` Mantua-----nay, I do bear a brain. But as I said, when it

` did taste the worm-wood on the nipple of my dug, and felt it

` bitter, pretty fool, to see it teachy, and fall out with the dug.

` Shake, quoth the dove-house-----'twas no need I trow to bid

` me trudge; and since that time it is eleven years, for then she

` could stand alone, nay, by th' rood she could have run, and

` wadled all about; for even the day before she broke her brow,

` and then my husband, (God be with his soul, a was a merry

` man,) took up the child; yea, quoth he, dost thou fall upon

` thy face? thou wilt fall backward when thou hast more wit,

` wilt thou not, Julé? and by my holy-dam, the pretty wretch

` left crying, and said, ay; To see now how a jest shall come

` about. I warrant, an I should live a thousand years, I never

` should forget it: Wilt thou not, Julé, quoth he? and pretty

` fool, it stinted, and said, ay.

  La. Cap. Enough of this, I pray thee hold thy peace.

   * Nurse. Yes, madam; yet I cannot chuse but laugh, to think

it should leave crying, and say, ay; and yet I warrant it had up-

on its brow a bump as big as a young cockrel's stone: a perilous

knock, and it cried bitterly. Yea, quoth my husband, fall'st

upon thy face? thou wilt fall backward when thou comest to age;

wilt thou not, Julé? it stinted, and said, ay.

   Jul. And stint thee too, I pray thee, nurse, say I.


                                                * This speech and tautology is not in the first edition.



Does this selection not show an identification with, and recognition of, the uniquely expansive, convoluted type of speech that the Nurse has? What is still more remarkable than the comma-ing of the first speech, is Pope's inclusion of the repeat of the last part of the speech several lines later. The footnote here tells us that Pope thought this tautology to be Shakespeare's, since he would have degraded or omitted it if he had thought it to be an addition by somebody else. The note indicates that he thought the Q1 text deficient of this humorous touch, since in the early parts of the play, it seems Pope believed the additions in the Folio text (relative to Q1) to be in the main Shakespeare's work. In some later passages, however, Pope thought the Folio's extra text to be actors' additions. As before, it is not conventional editorial rules that guided Pope, but instead his response is at all times based on a poetic scrutiny of the text, rather than an initial theory about textual authority.

            In this extract, Pope editing has accented the obstructive nature of the Nurse's speech. Lady Capulet is trying to put a stop to the Nurse's lengthy reminiscence, but the Nurse is not one to be stopped once she has started a good yarn -- a simple moment of comedy, clearly presented in Pope's edition because of his inclusion of the relevant text.

            Throughout the play, Pope seems especially sensitive to this role of the Nurse as providing a comic diversion from more serious matters. For example in Act 2 Scene 6 (Scene 5 in modern texts) he imports from Q1 a line in which she calls for Aqua Vitae as she returns from a meeting with Romeo. Juliet is anxious for news, and Pope enhances the comic effect of her idle chatter by making her call for drink before she will tell Juliet what she desperately wants to know. Interestingly, Richard Gibbons, the editor of the Arden Edition uses this very instance as evidence for the corruption of the Q1 text, attributing the double appearance of the line in Q1 (The Nurse calls for Aqua Vitae in the scene which this chapter is discussing) to `anticipation'. He concludes that this is a case of where


the Q1 version crudely damages the tone and mood of the earlier scene by confusing it with the later [...] the Nurse [becomes] a tippler


But Pope seems to have taken the Nurse's call for drink here as being characteristic, and has included it; in his edition, being a tippler is part of her character. Pope may also have taken into account that the line is `anticipated' (though in different places) in all the other editions of the play, not only Q1. It is even anticipated in the Arden edition (III,ii,88), where a footnote perceptively states `there is a hint of comedy in her prompt seizure of legitimate, `medicinal' excuses for strong drink.`

            Pope would have gleaned further data on the Nurse's character, role, or dramatic function from the scene in which she tells Juliet of the death of Tybalt. In another scene with a peculiar mixture of the pathetic with the comic, Shakespeare engineers a situation where the Nurse's generalised lamentation leads Juliet to think that it is Romeo who has been killed. Even at such a time as this, Shakespeare has his Nurse prattling and obstructing, while Juliet grieves mistakenly. (A reversal is of course to come). Pope also may have noticed some of the Nurse's recurrent phrases:


  Jul. Ay me, what news?

Why dost thou ring thy hands?

  Nurse. Ah welladay he's dead, he's dead, he's dead!

We are undone, lady, we are undone-----

Alack the day! he's gone, he's kill'd, he's dead.

  Jul. Can heaven be so envious?

  Nurse. Romeo can,

Though heav'n cannot. O Romeo! Romeo!

Who ever would have thought it, Romeo?

  Jul. What devil art thou, that dost torment me thus?

This torture should be roar'd in dismal hell.

Hath Romeo slain himself? say thou but ay;

And that bare vowel ay, shall poison more

Than the death darting eye of the cockatrice. *

  Nurse. I saw the wound, I saw it with mine eyes,

God save the mark, here on his manly breast.

A piteous coarse, a bloody piteous coarse;

Pale, pale as ashes, all bedawb'd in blood,

All in gore blood, I swooned at the sight.

  Jul. O break, my heart----poor bankrupt break at once!

To prison, eyes! ne'er look on liberty;

Vile earth to earth resign, end motion here,

And thou and Romeo press one heavy bier!

  Nurse. O Tybalt, Tybalt, the best friend I had:

O courteous Tybalt, honest gentleman,

That ever I should live to see thee dead.

  Jul. What storm is this that blows so contrary ...


             * The strange lines that follow here in the common books are not in the old edition.



The `strange lines' in the Folio which Pope refers to in his footnote are,


I am not I, if there be such an I.

Or those eyes shot, that makes thee answere I

If he be slaine say I, or if not, no.

Brief, sounds, determine of my weale or wo.


As with the scene discussed before, the Nurse's grief is palpably less eloquent than that of the noble Juliet with whom she is juxtaposed. Her lines seem variations on only a limited number of expressions, and blatant clichés - `A piteous coarse, a bloody piteous coarse; / Pale, pale as ashes, all bedawb'd in blood, / All in gore blood [...]' Here, too, Pope's editing has heightened the contrast between the speakers and hastened the dramatic movement: by removing `the strange lines' that he refers to, he ensures that Juliet's verse is not nonsensical here. The occurrence of extended punning, and a chiming couplet at this point may also have given Pope grounds for suspicion.

            And so it is with a vivid idea of the function of the Nurse in the play as a whole that Pope approaches the moment of Juliet's apparent death. Viewed in this light, her speech is recognisably comic in its incongruity with the pathetic movement of the scene. Her mistaken thought that Juliet is asleep, when we know she shall not be woken, allows us to savour her bawdy chattering; her call for Aqua Vitae then reminds us of her weakness in times of trouble; but most of all it is her words which give rise to comedy. Here the paucity of her imagination is more inspiringly conveyed than ever before. Throughout her speeches the word `day' can be interestingly traced. She starts with a stock exclamation, `O well-a-day that ever I was born`, replies to Lady Capulet's enquiry by saying `O lamentable day`, and announces when Capulet appears `She's dead, deceast, she's dead, alack the day!'. Bearing in mind the past differences that we have noted between the Nurse and Juliet, and assuming that Pope noticed them with the kind of intensity his editing suggests, we now have further evidence to help guess at an answer to the question, why did Pope omit line 3 from his edition? For Pope, it perhaps seemed worse than a repeat of an already tautological line; it was a detail which undermined the distinction in speech between the comic figure of the nurse and the pathetic figure of Lady Capulet.

            The Nurse's constant recourse to the word `day' reaches its most absurd in her speech marked 6:


  Nurse. Oh woe! oh woful, woful, woful day!

Most lamentable day! most woful day!

That ever, ever, I did yet behold,

Oh day! oh day! oh day! oh hateful day!

Never was seen so black a day as this:

Oh woful day! oh woful day!


In its deliberate blundering this speech has a close relation with a speech from A Midsummer Night's Dream. In the mechanicals' play this plainly-signalled comedy is to be found:


Pyr. O grim look'd night! O night with hue so black!

  O night, which ever art when day is not!

O night, O night, alack, alack, alack,

  I fear my Thisby's promise is forgot,

And thou, O wall, O sweet and lovely wall,

  That stands between her father's ground and mine,

Thou wall, O wall, O sweet and lovely wall,

  Shew me thy chink, to blink through with mine eyne ...


In preserving the Nurse's speech in his edition, does not Pope show the keenness of his recognition of, and pleasure in, Shakespeare's art? This is - in a sense - a `childish and uncouth' scene, in which the Nurse's nature is allowed to appeal for laughter even at the moment when a family is grieving for its dead daughter; but Pope has retained it. The material that he did cut from the Folio is quite different, and follows this speech; it is the verses of Paris and Capulet which he considers unworthy of Shakespeare. These seem to be a continuation of the Nurse's sentiment: clichéd, inarticulate──but without that comic twist which a great artist can create by counterfeiting truly `bad' writing (and which Pope of course knew well). Pope, with his well developed sense of actors and acting in his own period, might have imagined that this rhythmical grumbling was more likely the result of an interpolation, than the work of Shakespeare:


  Pa. Beguild, divorced, wronged, spighted, slaine

Most detestable death, by thee beguil'd,

By cruell, cruell, thee quite overthrowne,

O love, O life, not life, but love in death.

  Fat. Despis'd, distressed, hated, martir'd, kil'd,

Uncomfortable time, why cam'st thou now,

To murther, murther, our solemnitie?

O Child, O Child; my soule, and not my Child,

Dead art thou, alacke my Child is dead,

And with my Child, my joyes are buried.


Pope thought the verse here poor enough to warrant total exclusion; but his note, (that `other parts, unnecessary or tautology, are not to be found in the old editions`) points to an understanding of Shakespeare's art which encompasses `bad' verse when it is comically effective: the daring retention of the Nurse's speech combined with the omission of these `unnecessary' verses prevented for him the whole scene degenerating into incoherence, when even people who were meant to be deeply upset gibbered like hack tragedians playing to the gallery. The two lines which Pope comma-ed must have struck him as proper for a grieving parent,


Death lies on her, like an untimely frost

Upon the finest flower of the field


while the trash he has omitted would have made Capulet into a poetical jumble, uttering the world's best poetry at one minute, something like its worst the next. In Pope's mind, perhaps, the scouring away of the accretions of actors threw into sharp relief the nature of Shakespeare's original inspiration: the intentionally ridiculous language of the Nurse contrasts with the noble language of the parents.

            A different sort of sensitivity to Capulet's speech no doubt led to another of Pope's editorial decisions: his truncating of the conceit marked 5. Throughout this play Pope was especially sensitive to what he probably considered over-extended metaphors. Here Capulet says of his `dead' daughter:


O Sonne, the night before thy wedding day,

Hath death laine with thy wife: there she lies,

Flower as she was, deflowred by him

Death is my Sonne in law, death is my Heire.

My Daughter he hath wedded. I will die,

And leave him all life living, all is deaths.                                       (my italics)


Evidently Pope thought that what started as an apposite image, moved, in its complexity, into nonsense. Consequently he cut the portion of the speech which is italicised, which is tautological and difficult to make sense of. The last lines may have attracted his censure because they lapse into monosyllables, contain two `alls' and include a curiously weak phrase, `all life living.' Pope no doubt thought he could detect the hand of an interpolator here, and reasoned that such a `mean conceit' would be inappropriate in the mouth of a nobleman, that this is the sort of badly thought-out bungle we might expect the Nurse to commit in her confusion, and that the `clowns were speaking more than was set down for them'.

            The modern solution to the textual question here is to repunctuate as Capel first suggested:


            And leave him all; life, living, all is Death's.


We cannot know if Pope struck on and then rejected this repunctuation, which transforms the lines into a stronger play on words than that which is suggested by the Folio punctuation.

            Such consideration about the extent and propriety of a conceit no doubt influenced another important change that Pope made to this scene, his cut of eleven lines (marked 8) from the Friar's speech. In this instance it is easy to guess at what Pope thought alien to Shakespeare: excessive word-play, banal, aphoristic couplets, and low humour in the mouth of a Friar at a pathetic moment. In addition to these aesthetic considerations is the dramatic one that the Folio reading turns the Friar into an out-and-out liar, punning humorously as he deceives the family. By contrast, Pope's adoption of the Q1 reading present a more subtle situation, in which the Friar is turned at once into a man who is capable of consolation while uttering a half truth:


  Fri. Oh peace for shame-----

Your daughter lives in peace and happiness,

And it is vain to wish it otherwise.

Heav'n and your self had part in this fair maid,

Now heav'n has all-----


the line `your daughter lives in peace and happiness' (which, like the one that follows is not included in any modern text) is wonderfully equivocal; in one sense, of course, it is true, and in accord with the Friar's promise that Juliet would wake from her stupor `as from a pleasant sleep'. The truncated form of the speech as Pope gives it makes us imagine that this must be an uncomfortable time for the Friar, as well as for the family. If we accept the Folio reading, don't we accept a version of the play in which a glibness threatens to undermine any pathos?


For though some Nature bids us all lament,

Yet Natures teares are Reasons merriment.


There is some evidence in this speech that the poetic differences between Q1 and its successors do not all tell against Q1--unless, that is, we are forced to accept that the Folio and its family of texts embodies the `true' Shakespeare. In his introduction to the Arden edition Brian Gibbons noted that Q1 contains truncated versions of the Friar's speeches, but that `Shakespeare's Friar has a tendency to prolixity and tediousness' (my italics). He indeed does have this tendency in the Folio, and in modern editions, but not in Pope's. Pope would never have thought genuine `prolixity and tediousness' (as opposed to the Nurse's delightful evocation of it) likely attributes of the greatest of all poets.



                                                             * * *



            Samuel Johnson's concern about Romeo and Juliet as a whole was recorded in notes at the end of his edition. He quoted Dryden quoting Jonson and wrote, that `[Shakespeare's] persons, however distressed, have a conceit left them in their misery, a miserable conceit.' Coleridge described the scene as


a strong warning to minor dramatists not to introduce at one time many separate characters agitated by one and the same circumstance. It is difficult to understand what effect, whether that of pity or laughter, Sh. meant to produce;──the occasion and the characteristic speeches are so little in harmony! For example, what the Nurse says is excellently suited to the Nurse's character, but grotesquely unsuited to the occasion.[iv]



Similar complaints continued to be heard in subsequent editions. This complaint is still true of modern editions of the text, as a direct result of their acceptance of the authority of the Folio text, or its direct predecessors. Pope's editorial decisions demonstrate in nearly every scene of the play that both the folio and Q1 texts contain a mixture of the exulted, the dull, and the forcibly feeble - and that the Folio is as full of trash as the supposed `bad quarto'. This play provides the most striking evidence that Pope's Shakespeare was a writer who invented his own principles of decorum. Where Johnson was to describe Shakespeare as uniting `the powers of exciting laughter and sorrow not only in one mind, but in one composition', Pope's notion was of a writer who could combine the heights of comedy and the depths of pathos in one dramatic moment, who could present at once the eloquence and the dumbness of grief together with the absurdity of unremitting imbecility.

            At the same time, to the character of the interpolators as conceived by Pope, we can add a tendency to over-elaborate conceit and the purely mechanical presentation of emotional exclamation──regardless of the demands of the character or situation. For Pope, Shakespeare was a man who knew very well what he was doing, even though it had never been done before.


                                                 Notes for Chapter V



[i]. In the first 1725 printing.

[ii]. Johnson Preface, ed Smallwood (op. cit.) p. 9 [of facsimile].

[iii]. For a discussion of this the introduction to the Arden edition, p.x.

[iv]. see variorum edition (op. cit.) p. 248.