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If I profane, with my unworthy hand,
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss. How, to these, the first looks, words, and tones, ever yet addressed to her, to which she could respond with all her ripening heart, should she do otherwise than so respond, while resigning her “flower-soft” hand, in terms of perfect and encouraging sympathy:
Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
. This may well be the first occasion in the drama, on which the exquisitely sympathetic soul of Juliet speaks; since, we see, it is the first opportunity of utterance that her life has yet afforded it. Equally novel and decisive is the effect
upon Romeo's heart, of this response so sweetly flowing from "rich music's tongue;" and equally natural and inevitable his rejoinder
Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too? The answer is still “ an echo to the seat where Love is throned”
Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.
Rom. O then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do;
Júl. Saints do not move, though grant for prayer's sake.
Rom. Then move not, while my prayer's effect I take.-
Jul. Then have my lips the sin that they have took.
You kiss by the book. After making himself fully sensible of the boundless craving for refined and poetic sympathy which the dramatist has shown to exist in the soul both of his hero and his heroine, and to be peculiarly stimulated at that moment by the personal circumstances of each,
what reader does not intuitively perceive that an interview and a colloquy like this, with all their brevity, must of entire necessity decide the fate of either heart -in spite even of the cruel obstacle presented by the deadly hostility between their respective families ? Who does not anticipate Romeo's exclamation on learning Juliet's parentage
O dear account! my life is my toe's debtthat is, My foe is henceforth mistress of my life,—and the corresponding one of Juliet, still echoing every impulse towards her of Romeo's spirit
My only love sprung from my only hate !-
That I must love a loathed enemy! Yes—no matter for their “ households' rancour"-each can henceforth live but in the other, and separation must be death to both. What to them can be the fear of ordinary death, compared to the privation of that new existence of which they have just tasted the first delicious draught!
Truly and perfectly, though quaintly, are the reflections and anticipations of the thoughtful reader or auditor, at this stage of the drama, embodied in those lines (omitted in modern acting) which Shakespeare, as if to recall distinctly to his general audience the tenour of the story up to this point, has directed to be delivered by way of chorus at the conclusion of this first act:
Now old desire doth in his death-bed lie,
And young affection gapes to be his heir;
With tender Juliet match’d, is now not fair,
Alike bewitched by the charm of looks-
And she steal love's sweet bait from fearful hooks.
To breathe such vows as lovers use to swear;
To meet her new-beloved anywhere.
But passion lends them power, time means to meet,
Tempering extremities with extreme sweet. A fitting prologue this, to the exhibition of that stolen courtship which opens the following act, and of which we have just now been considering the sweet and fatal prelude.
4.-COURTSHIP OF ROMEO AND JULIET.
WHEN Romeo, in returning from the masquerade, has made his escape from his light-hearted companions, and leaped the wall of Capulet's garden with the exclamation
Can I go forward, while my heart is here !-we find his apostrophe to Juliet, whom he discovers at the balcony, to be at once an amplification and an exaltation of the terms in which he had expressed his admiration on first beholding her,—that poetry which is the natural language of passion in a spirit like his, taking a higher and purer charm from that surrounding vernal air and moonlight, the balmy solitude of which immediately succeeds, upon the scene, to the close, torch-lighted atmosphere of the crowded ballroom.
And in lieu of
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Juliet, on the other hand, yet unconscious of Romeo's presence in the garden below, simply breathes out the impulse of her heart towards the man of its choice, in spite of the attendant sense of the formidable bar opposed to their further intercourse :
O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo ?
Rom. Shall I hear more, or shall I speak at this ?
Jul. 'Tis but thy name, that is my enemy ;-
I take thee at thy word:
Henceforth I never will be Romeo. How beautifully natural is the instant checking of her heart's effusion which we find in Juliet at this totally unlooked-for interruption, like the nightingale startled in the prelude of her song
What man art thou, that, thus bescreen’d in night,
So stumblest on my counsel ? Equally beautiful, again, is the reluctance of Romeo to wound her ear with the name so inseparably associated with the discord between their families, and Juliet's instant recognition of him by the silvery voice:Rom.
By a name,
Jul. My ears have not yet drunk a hundred words
Rom. Neither, fair saint, if either thee dislike.
Again, how characteristic of the perfect singleness and generosity of feeling in the youthful heroine, is her instant transition to the sense of danger to Romeo from the enmity of her relatives, and her anxious dwelling upon this theme until he has thoroughly satisfied her that none of them are cognizant of his presence within their walls:
Jul. How cam'st thou hither, tell me, and wherefore?
Jul. If they do see thee, they will murder thee!
Rom. Alack! there lies more peril in thine eye,
Jul. I would not for the world they saw thee here!
Rom. I have night's cloak to hide me from their sight;
Jul. By whose direction found'st thou out this place ?
Rom. By Love's, who first did prompt me to enquire;
I would adventure for such merchandise ! Being now reassured, by these last sentences of Romeo, both as to his present safety, and as to his passion for herself, her honest enthusiastic heart impels her to keep her lover no longer in suspense, but repeat that avowal
, to himself which, be it well observed, she knows him to have already overheard her making, as she supposed, in the sole presence of the moonlight heaven. Again, it is “ as the new-abashed nightingale,” resuming her strain, pouring forth in security her fullest, richest notes, “through all the maze of sweetness running:"
Thou know'st, the mask of night is on my face;