Shakespeare Romeo and Juliet - Friar Laurence proposes the potion plan to Juliet (2023)

Romeo and Juliet

Please see the bottom of this page for detailed explanatory notes and related resources.

ACT IV SCENE IFriar Laurence's cell.
FRIAR LAURENCEOn Thursday, sir? the time is very short.
PARISMy father Capulet will have it so;
And I am nothing slow to slack his haste.
FRIAR LAURENCEYou say you do not know the lady's mind:
Uneven is the course, I like it not.
PARISImmoderately she weeps for Tybalt's death,
And therefore have I little talk'd of love;
For Venus smiles not in a house of tears.
Now, sir, her father counts it dangerous
That she doth give her sorrow so much sway,10
And in his wisdom hastes our marriage,
To stop the inundation of her tears;
Which, too much minded by herself alone,
May be put from her by society:
Now do you know the reason of this haste.
FRIAR LAURENCE[Aside] I would I knew not why it should be slow'd.
Look, sir, here comes the lady towards my cell.
[Enter JULIET]
PARISHappily met, my lady and my wife!
JULIETThat may be, sir, when I may be a wife.
PARISThat may be must be, love, on Thursday next.20
JULIETWhat must be shall be.
FRIAR LAURENCEThat's a certain text.
PARISCome you to make confession to this father?
JULIETTo answer that, I should confess to you.
PARISDo not deny to him that you love me.
JULIETI will confess to you that I love him.
PARISSo will ye, I am sure, that you love me.
JULIETIf I do so, it will be of more price,
Being spoke behind your back, than to your face.
PARISPoor soul, thy face is much abused with tears.
JULIETThe tears have got small victory by that;30
For it was bad enough before their spite.
PARISThou wrong'st it, more than tears, with that report.
JULIETThat is no slander, sir, which is a truth;
And what I spake, I spake it to my face.
PARISThy face is mine, and thou hast slander'd it.
JULIETIt may be so, for it is not mine own.
Are you at leisure, holy father, now;
Or shall I come to you at evening mass?
FRIAR LAURENCEMy leisure serves me, pensive daughter, now.
My lord, we must entreat the time alone.40
PARISGod shield I should disturb devotion!
Juliet, on Thursday early will I rouse ye:
Till then, adieu; and keep this holy kiss.
JULIETO shut the door! and when thou hast done so,
Come weep with me; past hope, past cure, past help!
FRIAR LAURENCEAh, Juliet, I already know thy grief;
It strains me past the compass of my wits:
I hear thou must, and nothing may prorogue it,
On Thursday next be married to this county.
JULIETTell me not, friar, that thou hear'st of this,50
Unless thou tell me how I may prevent it:
If, in thy wisdom, thou canst give no help,
Do thou but call my resolution wise,
And with this knife I'll help it presently.
God join'd my heart and Romeo's, thou our hands;
And ere this hand, by thee to Romeo seal'd,
Shall be the label to another deed,
Or my true heart with treacherous revolt
Turn to another, this shall slay them both:
Therefore, out of thy long-experienced time,60
Give me some present counsel, or, behold,
'Twixt my extremes and me this bloody knife
Shall play the umpire, arbitrating that
Which the commission of thy years and art
Could to no issue of true honour bring.
Be not so long to speak; I long to die,
If what thou speak'st speak not of remedy.
FRIAR LAURENCEHold, daughter: I do spy a kind of hope,
Which craves as desperate an execution.
As that is desperate which we would prevent.70
If, rather than to marry County Paris,
Thou hast the strength of will to slay thyself,
Then is it likely thou wilt undertake
A thing like death to chide away this shame,
That copest with death himself to scape from it:
And, if thou darest, I'll give thee remedy.
JULIETO, bid me leap, rather than marry Paris,
From off the battlements of yonder tower;
Or walk in thievish ways; or bid me lurk
Where serpents are; chain me with roaring bears;80
Or shut me nightly in a charnel-house,
O'er-cover'd quite with dead men's rattling bones,
With reeky shanks and yellow chapless skulls;
Or bid me go into a new-made grave
And hide me with a dead man in his shroud;
Things that, to hear them told, have made me tremble;
And I will do it without fear or doubt,
To live an unstain'd wife to my sweet love.
FRIAR LAURENCEHold, then; go home, be merry, give consent
To marry Paris: Wednesday is to-morrow:90
To-morrow night look that thou lie alone;

Let not thy nurse lie with thee in thy chamber:

Take thou this vial, being then in bed,
And this distilled liquor drink thou off;
When presently through all thy veins shall run
A cold and drowsy humour, for no pulse
Shall keep his native progress, but surcease:
No warmth, no breath, shall testify thou livest;
The roses in thy lips and cheeks shall fade
To paly ashes, thy eyes' windows fall,100
Like death, when he shuts up the day of life;
Each part, deprived of supple government,
Shall, stiff and stark and cold, appear like death:
And in this borrow'd 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 rouse thee from thy bed, there art thou dead:
Then, as the manner of our country is,
In thy best robes uncover'd on the bier110
Thou shalt be borne to that same ancient vault
Where all the kindred of the Capulets lie.
In the mean time, against thou shalt awake,
Shall Romeo by my letters know our drift,
And hither shall he come: and he and I
Will watch thy waking, and that very night
Shall Romeo bear thee hence to Mantua.
And this shall free thee from this present shame;
If no inconstant toy, nor womanish fear,
Abate thy valour in the acting it.120
JULIETGive me, give me! O, tell not me of fear!
FRIAR LAURENCEHold; get you gone, be strong and prosperous
In this resolve: I'll send a friar with speed
To Mantua, with my letters to thy lord.
JULIETLove give me strength! and strength shall help afford.
Farewell, dear father!

Next: Romeo and Juliet, Act 4, Scene 2


Explanatory Notes for Act 4, Scene 1

From Romeo and Juliet. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan.

3. And I ... haste, and I am in nothing dilatory so as to hinder his haste in concluding the marriage.

4. the lady's mind, how Juliet is inclined as to the marriage.

5. Uneven is the course, this way of proceeding is far from regular, is not one that can be commended as the proper one. The Friar, having married Romeo and Juliet, is of course bound to put all possible objections in the way of a marriage with Paris.

7. little ... love, said little to her about my passionate love.

8. house, household; probably, from the mention of Venus, there is also an allusion to the term as used in astrology of that sign of the Zodiac in which a planet happens to be at a particular time. So Massinger, The City Madam, ii. 1. 59, "Venus in the west angle, the house of marriage"; and again, 79, 84, 5, "Venus ... in cazimi of the sun, in her joy, and free from the malevolent beams of infortunes"; Jonson, The Alchemist, i. 1, "to Mercury ... His house of life being Libra."

9, 10. counts it ... sway, is afraid that if her grief is allowed to hold such complete possession of her, is not diverted by some event of importance, it may lead to a disastrous result, i.e. either by her going out of her mind or by her doing herself some personal mischief.

13. too much ... alone, wholly occupying her thoughts so long as she is left by herself; tears in the line above implies 'grief,' to which word minded is more applicable.

14. May be ... society, may be removed by her taking part in social distractions.

16. I would ... slow'd, I only wish I did not know too good reason why matters should be delayed.

19. That may be ... wife, it will be time enough to say that when I am a (i.e. your) wife, if ever I am to be so.

20. That may be ... next, what you talk of as a possibility will be a certainty by Thursday next.

23. To answer that, by answering that, if I were to answer that; the infinitive used indefinitely.

25. I will ... him, if I cannot admit to him that I love you, at all events I may admit to you that I love him (which I dare say will do just as well).

28. spoke. On the curtailed forms of past participles, see Abb. § 343.

29. abused, ill-treated, i.e. disfigured.

32. than tears, sc. do.

34. to my face. With a play on the phrase in the sense of openly, not behind the back.

36. It may ... own, it may be that I have slandered it, for it belongs to another (of course Romeo), and what I might have said of it without injury to any one so long as it belonged to myself, becomes now injurious.

38. at evening mass. Shakespeare has been supposed to make a mistake here, mass being said only in the morning when the priest is fasting; but Simpson has shown (New Shakespeare Transactions, 1875) that the practice of saying mass in the afternoon was continued at certain places even after it had been expressly forbidden by Pius the Fifth, and that, at the Cathedral of Verona, strangely enough, so late as 1824 the prohibition of evening mass was disregarded.

40. we must ... alone, we must ask you to leave us in private for the present; an elliptical expression for 'entreat of you to give us the time alone,' i.e. to ourselves.

41. God shield, heaven forbid! i.e. I would not on any account disturb, etc.; cp. A. W. i. 3. 174, "God shield you mean it not!"; M. M. iii. 1. 141, "Heaven shield my mother play'd my father fair!"

42. rouse ye, come early to your chamber to take you to church.

46. thy grief, your cause of grief, your trouble.

47. It strains ... wits, it is so great that it paralyses my wits to find a remedy.

48. prorogue, delay, postpone; see note on ii. 2. 78.

53. Do thou but ... wise, all I ask is that you should sanction with your approval my determination to kill myself.

54. this knife. Dyce quotes Gilford's note on Jonson's The Staple of News, ii. 1, "Daggers, or, as they were more commonly called, knives, were worn at all times, by every woman in England — whether they were so in Italy, Shakspeare, I believe, never enquired, and I cannot tell": help it, prevent my marriage with Paris.

57. the label, the attestation; the seals to ancient documents were attached to them by slips of parchment or 'labels'; cp. T. N. i. 5. 265, "it shall be inventoried, and every particle and utensil labelled to my will," i.e. attached by labels as seals were.

59. both, sc. heart and hand.

60. out of ... time, out of the accumulated experience of a long life-time; out of indicates the heap from which the particular piece of advice is to be taken.

62. extremes, extremity of suffering: bloody, cruel, ready to shed blood; not yet stained with blood but which will be so stained by my deed; a somewhat similar prolepsis occurs in K. J. iv. 2. 210, "To break with in the bloody house of life," i.e. the house of life which will by the action be made bloody.

63. Shall play the umpire, shall decide between me and my miseries, decide whether they are to continue to torture me, or whether I am to overcome them by putting an end to myself.

63-5. arbitrating ... bring, determining that matter which the authority of your years and knowledge was unable to bring to any honourable issue; deciding that question to which you with all the warrant of long years and wide experience were unable to give a satisfactory answer, not the question whether she is to live or die, but whether it is possible for her to live with honour.

66. to speak, in speaking: I long, with a play on long in so long to speak.

67. If what ... remedy, if what you suggest is not of the nature of a remedy.

69. Which craves ... execution, to carry out which demands action as desperate.

71. If. ie. if, as you say you have.

74. to chide ... shame, literally to scare away this disgrace by reproachful words, i.e. to get rid of, escape, this disgrace.

75. That cop'st with death, you who are ready to encounter death; the original sense of 'to cope' is 'to bargain with,' then 'to vie with.'

78. yonder. The reading of the first quarto, the remaining copies giving any, which some editors prefer as being more forcible.

79. thievish ways, ways in which I am likely to meet with thieves, robbers.

81. charnel-house, house of the dead, sepulchre; from O. F. carnel, carnal, Lat. caro, flesh.

82. O'er-cover'd, strewed all over: rattling, sc. in the wind.

83. reeky shanks, legs steaming with putrefaction: chapless, with their jaws no longer adhering to the rest of the skull, those jaws being attached only by a cartilage which has been eaten away by worms.

85. shroud, the garment in which it is customary to wrap the corpse; closely allied with shred, i.e. a strip, a piece torn orcut off.

86. Things ... tremble, which are things that have made me shudder merely to hear them spoken about.

91. look that ... alone, take care to sleep alone.

92. Let not ... chamber, it being customary for attendants to sleep in the same chamber; see note on ii. 1. 39.

93. being then in bed, as soon as you have got into bed.

96. A cold ... humour, a feeling of coldness and drowsiness.

96, 7. for no pulse ... surcease, for the pulse throughout your body shall no longer beat with its usual activity, but shall stop; his, its, see Abb. § 228; surcease is from F. sursis, the p. p. of surseoir, to pause, intermit, and has nothing to do with our cease, though Shakespeare always uses the verb surcease as a synonym of that word, and the substantive probably as = cessation (to be) in Macb. i.7.4.

100. paly, palish; the termination -y having a modifying force: thy eyes' windows, your eyelids; 'window' being used by Shakespeare in regard to eyes rather as that which shuts out the light rather than that which admits it; so Cymb ii. 2. 22, "would under-peep her lids, To see the enclosed lights, now canopied Under these windows."

101. the day of life, that which gives light to life.

102. deprived ... government, deprived of that control which renders it supple, pliant; supple really belongs to the effect not to the cause.

103. stark, rigid.

105. forty. Maginn would read fifty. "Juliet," he remarks, "retires to bed on Tuesday night at a somewhat early hour. Her mother says, after she departs, ''Tis now near night.' Say it is eleven o'clock; forty-two hours from that hour bring us to five o'clock in the evening of Thursday; and yet we find the time of her awakening fixed in profound darkness, and not long before the dawn. We should allow at least ten hours more, and read 'two and fifty hours,' which would fix her awakening at three o'clock in the morning, a time which has been marked in a former scene as the approach of day. In iv. 4. 4, Capulet says, ''tis three o'clock.' Immediately after he says 'Good faith, 'tis day.' This observation may appear superfluously minute, but those who take the pains of reading the play critically will find that it is dated throughout with a most exact attention to hours. We can time almost every event." Shakespeare no doubt followed the story of Rhomeo and Julietta as told in Painter's Palace of Pleasure, vol. iii. p. 109, Jacob's edn., where the words are "and you [shall] abide in such extasie the space of 40 hours at the least."

108. there art thou dead, there they will find you, to all appearance, dead.

109-12. Then as the manner ... lie. This custom of carrying the dead to the grave "uncover'd on the bier" is described in Brooke's Romeus and Juliet, and still prevails in Italy. Knight quotes from Roger's Italy, "And lying on her funeral couch Like one asleep, her eyelids closed, her hands Folded together on her modest breast As 'twere her nightly posture, through the crowd She came at last — and richly, gaily clad, As for a birthday feast."

113. against ... awake, in anticipation of your awaking.

114. our drift, our purpose; literally that which is driven, and so the course.

116. watch your waking, watch for the moment of your waking.

119. inconstant toy, freak of caprice; cp. Oth. iii. 4. 156, "Pray heaven it be state-matters, as you think, And no conception nor no jealous toy Concerning you." Malone points out that the phrase in the text is from the poem, Romeus and Juliet.

121. tell not me of, do not talk to me about fear, do not imagine that fear will make me shrink.

122. get you gone, see note on iv. 4. 30.

125. help, a remedy for my misery.


How to cite the explanatory notes:

Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan, 1916. Shakespeare Online. 20 Feb. 2010. (date when you accessed the information) < >.


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