Romeo and Juliet:  A Glossary 

Part 1:  Prologue to Act 1, Scene 3

Note: line numbers may differ slightly in different editions.


Chorus:  Many Elizabethan dramatists used a chorus as a sort of narrator for a play.

(Line 4)  Civil blood makes civil hands unclean:  Citizens dirty their hands by their violence against fellow citizens; as in "civil war."

(Line 6)  Star crossed lovers:  Lovers born under an unlucky star; hence destined to destruction.  Watch for references to destiny, fate, and the stars throughout the play.  Many Elizabethans beleived heavenlly bodies could influence the lives of men.

(Line 12)  two hours traffic of our stage:  Some scholars beleive that Shakespeare's plays may have been acted at a very rapid pace.

Act I Scene i

(Line 1)  carry coals:  put up with insults.  A coal hauler was considered the dirtiest and lowest of professions in Shakespeare's day.

(Line 2)  colliers:  Coal carriers were considered shiftless liars or cheats

(Line 3)  choler:  anger

(Line 4)  collar:  here refers to a hangman's noose

(Line 15)  take the wall:  position farthest from street, an act of discourtesy.  In Shakespeare's time drainage ditches often ran down the center of the streets, the person who took to the wall wouldn't be splashed with this muck.

(Line 45)  take the law of our sides: one who instigates a fight is considered at fault.

(Line 49)  bite my thumb at them:  an insulting gesture

(Line 83)  A crutch, A crutch:  Lady Capulet mocks Lord Capulet's age saying a crutch will do him more good than a sword

(Line 128)  sycamore:  holds signifigance as a symbol of unhappy lovers

(Line 132)  covert:  secret or hidden

(Line 135)  Aurora's bed:  Romeo has stayed out until dawn, Aurora is the goddess of the dawn

(Line 151)  importuned:  asked (repeatedly)

(Line 153)  his own affections' counsellor:  Romeo keeps his feelings to himself

(Line 191)  transgression:  crime
(Line 193)  propagate:  increase

(Line 193)  pressed:  burdened

(Line 209)  ill urged:  poorly advised

(Line 215)  Dian wit:  Diana was the goddess of chastity


Act I Scene ii

(Line 1)  bound:  obliged

(Line 13)  marred:  An old proverb says,"The maid that soon married is soon marred is.

(Line 17, Capulet)  My will to her consent is but a part:  Capulet will agree to marriage if Juliet does.  (He later shows this is a lie)

(Line 29, Capulet)  fennel:  this herb is beleived to inspire passion

(Line 34, Capulet)  sirrah:  term of address to a servant or one of inferior rank

(Line 48, Benvolio)  holp:  helped (some editions use the word "helped")

(Line 51, Benvolio)  rank:  corrupt, stagnant

(Line 52, Romeo)  plantain leaf:  medicinal leaf used for stopping blood flow

(Line 65, Servingman)  rest you merry:  good-bye, similar to "see you later"

(Line 86, Servingman)  crush a cup of wine:  share drink, drink a cup of wine

(Line  90, Benvolio)  unattainted eye:  impartially

Act 1, Scene iii

(Line 6, Lady Capulet)  give leave awhile:  give us some privacy

(Line 10, Lady Capulet)  of a pretty age:  of age to speak about marriage

(Line 14, Nurse)  Lammas-tide:  August first, the feast of the first fruits and the hottest season of the year

(Line 32, Nurse)  techy:  irritable or peevish

(Line 33-4, Nurse)  "Shake," quoth the dovehouse. 'twas no need, I trow, To bid me trudge:  when the quake hit the dovehouse began to shake, as if telling the Nurse to get a move on.

(Line 36, Nurse)  high-lone:  all alone

(Line 38, Nurse)  broke her brow:  cut her forehead

(Line 43, Nurse)  by my holidame:  originally a "holidam," a holy relic on which an oath is taken.

(Line 48, Nurse)  stinted:  stopped

(Line 76, Nurse)  man of wax:  a perfect man, as though sculpted from wax

(Line 79-94, Lady Capulet)  here she compares Paris to a book and Juliet to a fish; in that day fish skins were used to cover books.

Forward to Part 2:  Act 1, Scene 4 to Act 2, Scene 2
Forward to Part 3:  Act 2, Scene 3 to Act 3, Scene 5
Forward to Part 4:  Act 4, Scene 1 to Act 5, Scene 3

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