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Tales From Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb

Part 5 out of 6

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could scarce be persuaded that her brother was living, and
Sebastian knew not how to account for the sister he supposed
drowned being found in the habit of a young man. But Viola
presently acknowledged that she was indeed Viola, and his sister,
under that disguise.

When all the errors were cleared up which the extreme likeness
between this brother and sister had occasioned, they laughed at
the Lady Olivia for the pleasant mistake she had made in falling
in love with a woman; and Olivia showed no dislike to her
exchange, when she found she had wedded the brother instead of
the sister.

The hopes of Orsino were forever at an end by this marriage of
Olivia, and with his hopes, all his fruitless love seemed to
vanish away, and all his thoughts were fixed on the event of his
favorite, young Cesario, being changed into a fair lady. He
viewed Viola with great attention, and he remembered how very
handsome he had always thought Cesario was, and he concluded she
would look very beautiful in a woman's attire; and then he
remembered how often she had said SHE LOVED HIM, which at the
time seemed only the dutiful expressions of a faithful page; but
now he guessed that something more was meant, for many of her
pretty sayings, which were like riddles to him, came now into his
mind, and he no sooner remembered all these things than he
resolved to make Viola his wife; and he said to her (he still
could not help calling her CESARIO and BOY):

"Boy, you have said to me a thousand times that you should never
love a woman like to me, and for the faithful service you have
done for me so much beneath your soft and tender breeding, and
since you have called me master so long, you shall now be your
master's mistress, and Orsino's true duchess."

Olivia, perceiving Orsino was making over that heart, which she
had so ungraciously rejected, to Viola, invited them to enter her
house and offered the assistance of the good priest who had
married her to Sebastian in the morning to perform the same
ceremony in the remaining part of the day for Orsino and Viola.
Thus the twin brother and sister were both wedded on the same
day, the storm and shipwreck which had separated them being the
means of bringing to pass their high and mighty fortunes., Viola
was the wife of Orsino, the Duke of Illyria, and Sebastian the
husband of the rich and noble countess, the Lady Olivia.


Timon, a lord of Athens, in the enjoyment of a princely fortune,
affected a humor of liberality which knew no limits. His almost
infinite wealth could not flow in so fast but he poured it out
faster upon all sorts and degrees of people. Not the poor only
tasted of his bounty, but great lords did not disdain to rank
themselves among his dependents and followers. His table was
resorted to by all the luxurious feasters, and his house was open
to all comers and goers at Athens. His large wealth combined with
his free and prodigal nature to subdue all hearts to his love;
men of all minds and dispositions tendered their services to Lord
Timon, from the glass-faced flatterer whose face reflects as in a
mirror the present humor of his patron, to the rough and
unbending cynic who, affecting a contempt of men's persons and an
indifference to worldly things, yet could not stand out against
the gracious manners and munificent soul of Lord Timon, but would
come (against his nature) to partake of his royal entertainments
and return most rich in his own estimation if he had received a
nod or a salutation from Timon.

If a poet had composed a work which wanted a recommendatory
introduction to the world, he had no more to do but to dedicate
it to Lord Timon, and the poem was sure of sale, besides a
present purse from the patron, and daily access to his house and
table. If a painter had a picture to dispose of he had only to
take it to Lord Timon and pretend to consult his taste as to the
merits of it; nothing more was wanting to persuade the liberal-
hearted lord to buy it. If a jeweler had a stone of price, or a
mercer rich, costly stuffs, which for their costliness lay upon
his hands, Lord Timon's house was a ready mart always open, where
they might get off their wares or their jewelry at any price, and
the good-natured lord would thank them into the bargain, as if
they had done him a piece of courtesy in letting him have the
refusal of such precious commodities. So that by this means his
house was thronged with superfluous purchases, of no use but to
swell uneasy and ostentatious pomp; and his person was still more
inconveniently beset with a crowd of these idle visitors, lying
poets, painters, sharking tradesmen, lords, ladies, needy
courtiers, and expectants, who continually filled his lobbies,
raining their fulsome flatteries in whispers in his ears,
sacrificing to him with adulation as to a God, making sacred the
very stirrup by which he mounted his horse, and seeming as though
they drank the free air but through his permission and bounty.

Some of these daily dependents were young men of birth who (their
means not answering to their extravagance) had been put in prison
by creditors and redeemed thence by Lord Timon; these young
prodigals thenceforward fastened upon his lordship, as if by
common sympathy he were necessarily endeared to all such
spendthrifts and loose livers, who, not being able to follow him
in his wealth, found it easier to copy him in prodigality and
copious spending of what was their own. One of these flesh-flies
was Ventidius, for whose debts, unjustly contracted, Timon but
lately had paid down the sum of five talents.

But among this confluence, this great flood of visitors, none
were more conspicuous than the makers of presents and givers of
gifts. It was fortunate for these men if Timon took a fancy to a
dog or a horse, or any piece of cheap furniture which was theirs.
The thing so praised, whatever it was, was sure to be sent the
next morning with the compliments of the giver for Lord Timon's
acceptance, and apologies for the unworthiness of the gift; and
this dog or horse, or whatever it might be, did not fail to
produce from Timon's bounty, who would not be outdone in gifts,
perhaps twenty dogs or horses, certainly presents of far richer
worth, as these pretended donors knew well enough, and that their
false presents were but the putting out of so much money at large
and speedy interest. In this way Lord Lucius had lately sent to
Timon a present of four milk-white horses, trapped in silver,
which this cunning lord had observed Timon upon some occasion to
commend; and another lord, Lucullus, had bestowed upon him in the
same pretended way of free gift a brace of greyhounds whose make
and fleetness Timon had been heard to admire; these presents the
easy-hearted lord accepted without suspicion of the dishonest
views of the presenters; and the givers of course were rewarded
with some rich return, a diamond or some jewel of twenty times
the value of their false and mercenary donation.

Sometimes these creatures would go to work in a more direct way,
and with gross and palpable artifice, which yet the credulous
Timon was too blind to see, would affect to admire and praise
something that Timon possessed, a bargain that he had bought, or
some late purchase, which was sure to draw from this yielding and
soft-hearted lord a gift of the thing commended, for no service
in the world done for it but the easy expense of a little cheap
and obvious flattery. In this way Timon but the other day had
given to one of these mean lords the bay courser which he himself
rode upon, because his lordship had been pleased to say that it
was a handsome beast and went well; and Timon knew that no man
ever justly praised what he did not wish to possess. For Lord
Timon weighed his friends' affection with his own, and so fond
was he of bestowing, that be could have dealt kingdoms to these
supposed friends and never have been weary.

Not that Timon's wealth all went to enrich these wicked
flatterers; he could do noble and praiseworthy actions; and when
a servant of his once loved the daughter of a rich Athenian, but
could not hope to obtain her by reason that in wealth and rank
the maid was so far above him, Lord Timon freely bestowed upon
his servant three Athenian talents, to make his fortune equal
with the dowry which the father of the young maid demanded of him
who should be her husband. But for the most part, knaves and
parasites had the command of his fortune, false friends whom he
did not know to be such, but, because they flocked around his
person, he thought they must needs love him; and because they
smiled and flattered him, he thought surely that his conduct was
approved by all the wise and good. And when be was feasting in
the midst of all these flatterers and mock friends, when they
were eating him up and draining his fortunes dry with large
draughts of richest wines drunk to his health and prosperity, be
could not perceive the difference of a friend from a flatterer,
but to his deluded eyes (made proud with the sight) it seemed a
precious comfort to have so many like brothers commanding one
another's fortunes (though it was his own fortune which paid all
the costs), and with joy they would run over at the spectacle of
such, as it appeared to him, truly festive and fraternal meeting.

But while he thus outwent the very heart of kindness, and poured
out his bounty, as if Plutus, the god of gold, had been but his
steward; while thus he proceeded without care or stop, so
senseless of expense that he would neither inquire how he could
maintain it nor cease his wild flow of riot--his riches, which
were not infinite, must needs melt away before a prodigality
which knew no limits. But who should tell him so? His flatterers?
They had an interest in shutting his eyes. In vain did his honest
steward Flavius try to represent to him his condition, laying his
accounts before him, begging of him, praying of him, with an
importunity that on any other occasion would have been unmannerly
in a servant, beseeching him with tears to look into the state of
his affairs. Timon would still put him off, and turn the
discourse to something else; for nothing is so deaf to
remonstrance as riches turned to poverty, nothing is so unwilling
to believe its situation, nothing so incredulous to its own true
state, and hard to give credit to a reverse. Often had this good
steward, this honest creature, when all the rooms of Timon's
great house had been choked up with riotous feeders at his
master's cost, when the floors have wept with drunken spilling of
wine, and every apartment has blazed with lights and resounded
with music and feasting, often had he retired by himself to some
solitary spot, and wept faster than the wine ran from the
wasteful casks within, to see the mad bounty of his lord, and to
think, when the means were gone which brought him praises from
all sorts of people, how quickly the breath would be gone of
which the praise was made; praises won in feasting would be lost
in fasting, and at one cloud of winter-showers these flies would

But now the time was come that Timon could shut his ears no
longer to the representations of this faithful steward. Money
must be had; and when he ordered Flavius to sell some of his land
for that purpose, Flavius informed him, what he had in vain
endeavored at several times before to make him listen to, that
most of his land was already sold or forfeited, and that all he
possessed at present was not enough to pay the one-half of what
he owed. Struck with wonder at this presentation, Timon hastily

"My lands extend from Athens to Lacedoemon."

"O my good lord," said Flavius, "the world is but a world, and
has bounds. Were it all yours to give in a breath, how quickly
were it gone!"

Timon consoled himself that no villainous bounty had yet come
from him, that if he had given his wealth away unwisely, it had
not been bestowed to feed his vices, but to cherish his friends;
and he bade the kind-hearted steward (who was weeping) to take
comfort in the assurance that his master could never lack means
while he had so many noble friends; and this infatuated lord
persuaded himself that he had nothing to do but to send and
borrow, to use every man's fortune (that had ever tasted his
bounty) in this extremity, as freely as his own. Then with a
cheerful look, as if confident of the trial, he severally
despatched messengers to Lord Lucius, to Lords Lucullus and
Sempronius, men upon whom he had lavished his gifts in past times
without measure or moderation; and to Ventidius, whom he had
lately released out of prison by paying his debts, and who, by
the death of his father, was now come into the possession of an
ample fortune and well enabled to requite Timon's courtesy; to
request of Ventidius the return of those five talents which he
had paid for him, and of each of those noble lords the loan
of fifty talents; nothing doubting that their gratitude would
supply his wants (if he needed it) to the amount of five hundred
times fifty talents.

Lucullus was the first applied to. This mean lord had been
dreaming overnight of a silver bason and cup, and when Timon's
servant was announced his sordid mind suggested to him that this
was surely a making out of his dream, and that Timon had sent him
such a present. But when he understood the truth of the matter,
and that Timon wanted money, the quality of his faint and
watery friendship showed itself, for with many protestations he
vowed to the servant that he had long foreseen the ruin of his
master's affairs, and many a time had he come to dinner to tell
him of it, and had come again to supper to try to persuade him to
spend less, but he would take no counsel nor warning by his
coming. And true it was that he had been a constant attender (as
he said) at Timon's feasts, as he had in greater things tasted
his bounty; but that he ever came with that intent, or gave good
counsel or reproof to Timon, was a base, unworthy lie, which he
suitably followed up with meanly offering the servant a bribe to
go home to his master and tell him that be had not found Lucullus
at home.

As little success had the messenger who was sent to Lord Lucius.
This lying lord, who was full of Timon's meat and enriched almost
to bursting with Timon's costly presents, when he found the wind
changed, and the fountain of so much bounty suddenly stopped, at
first could hardly believe it; but on its being confirmed he
affected great regret that he should not have it in his power to
serve Lord Timon, for, unfortunately (which was a base
falsehood), he had made a great purchase the day before, which
had quite disfurnished him of the means at present, the more
beast he, he called himself, to put it out of his power to serve
so good a friend; and he counted it one of his greatest
afflictions that his ability should fail him to pleasure such an
honorable gentleman.

Who can call any man friend that dips in the same dish with him?
Just of this metal is every flatterer. In the recollection of
everybody Timon had been a father to this Lucius, had kept up his
credit with his purse; Timon's money had gone to pay the wages of
his servants, to pay the hire of the laborers who had sweat to
build the fine houses which Lucius's pride had made necessary to
him. Yet---oh, the monster which man makes himself when he proves
ungrateful!--this Lucius now denied to Timon a sum which, in
respect of what Timon had bestowed on him, was less than
charitable men afford to beggars.

Sempronius, and every one of these mercenary lords to whom Timon
applied in their turn, returned the same evasive answer or direct
denial; even Ventidius, the redeemed and now rich Ventidius,
refused to assist him with the loan of those five talents which
Timon had not lent but generously given him in his distress.

Now was Timon as much avoided in his poverty as he had been
courted and resorted to in his riches. Now the same tongues which
had been loudest in his praises, extolling him as bountiful,
liberal, and open-handed, were not ashamed to censure that very
bounty as folly, that liberality as profuseness, though it had
shown itself folly in nothing so truly as in the selection of
such unworthy creatures as themselves for its objects. Now was
Timon's princely mansion forsaken and become a shunned and hated
place, a place for men to pass by, not a place, as formerly,
where every passenger must stop and taste of his wine and good
cheer; now, instead of being thronged with feasting and
tumultuous guests, it was beset with impatient and clamorous
creditors, usurers, extortioners, fierce and intolerable in their
demands, pleading bonds, interest, mortgages; iron-hearted men
that would take no denial nor putting off, that Timon's house was
now his jail, which he could not pass, nor go in nor out for
them; one demanding his due of fifty talents, another bringing in
a bill of five thousand crowns, which, if he would tell out his
blood by drops and pay them so, he had not enough in his body to
discharge, drop by drop.

In this desperate and irremediable state (as it seemed) of his
affairs, the eyes of all men were suddenly surprised at a new and
incredible luster which this setting sun put forth. Once more
Lord Timon proclaimed a feast, to which he invited his accustomed
guests--lords, ladies, all that was great or fashionable in
Athens. Lord Lucius and Lucullus came, Ventidius, Sempronius, and
the rest. Who more sorry now than these fawning wretches, when
they found (as they thought) that Lord Timon's poverty was all
pretense and had been only put on to make trial of their loves,
to think that they should not have seen through the artifice at
the time and have had the cheap credit of obliging his lordship?
Yet who more glad to find the fountain of that noble bounty which
they had thought dried up, still fresh and running? They came
dissembling, protesting, expressing deepest sorrow and shame,
that when his lordship sent to them they should have been so
unfortunate as to want the present means to oblige so honorable a
friend. But Timon begged them not to give such trifles a thought,
for he had altogether forgotten it. And these base, fawning
lords, though they had denied him money in his adversity, yet
could not refuse their presence at this new blaze of his
returning prosperity. For the swallow follows not summer more
willingly than men of these dispositions follow the good fortunes
of the great, nor more willingly leaves winter than these shrink
from the first appearance of a reverse. Such summer birds are
men. But now with music and state the banquet of smoking dishes
was served up; and when the guests had a little done admiring
whence the bankrupt Timon could find means to furnish so costly a
feast, some doubting whether the scene which they saw was real,
as scarce trusting their own eyes, at a signal given the dishes
were uncovered and Timon's drift appeared. Instead of those
varieties and far-fetched dainties which they expected, that
Timon's epicurean table in past times had so liberally presented,
now appeared under the covers of these dishes a preparation more
suitable to Timon's poverty--nothing but a little smoke and
lukewarm water, fit feast for this knot of mouth-friends, whose
professions were indeed smoke, and their hearts lukewarm and
slippery as the water with which Timon welcomed his astonished
guests, bidding them, "Uncover, dogs, and lap;" and, before they
could recover their surprise, sprinkling it in their faces, that
they might have enough, and throwing dishes and all after them,
who now ran huddling out, lords, ladies, with their caps snatched
up in haste, a splendid confusion, Timon pursuing them, still
calling them what they were, "smooth smiling parasites,
destroyers under the mask of courtesy, affable wolves, meek
bears, fools of fortune, feast-friends, time-flies." They,
crowding out to avoid him, left the house more willingly
than they had entered it; some losing their gowns and caps, and
some their jewels in the hurry, all glad to escape out of the
presence of such a mad lord, and from the ridicule of his mock

This was the last feast which ever Timon made, and in it he took
farewell of Athens and the society of men; for, after that, he
betook himself to the woods, turning his back upon the hated
city and upon all mankind, wishing the walls of that detestable
city might sink, and the houses fall upon their owners, wishing
all plagues which infest humanity--war, outrage, poverty,
diseases--might fasten upon its inhabitants, praying the just
gods to confound all Athenians, both young and old, high and low;
so wishing, he went to the woods, where he said he should find
the unkindest beast much kinder than mankind. He stripped himself
naked, that he might retain no fashion of a man, and dug a cave
to live in, and lived solitary in the manner of a beast, eating
the wild roots and drinking water, flying from the face of his
kind, and choosing rather to herd with wild beasts, as more
harmless and friendly than man.

What a change from Lord Timon the rich, Lord Timon the delight of
mankind, to Timon the naked, Timon the man-hater! Where were his
flatterers now? Where were his attendants and retinue? Would the
bleak air, that boisterous servitor, be his chamberlain, to put
his shirt on warm? Would those stiff trees that had outlived the
eagle turn young and airy pages to him, to skip on his errands
when he bade them? Would the cool brook, when it was iced with
winter, administer to him his warm broths and caudles when sick
of an overnight's surfeit? Or would the creatures that lived in
those wild woods come and lick his hand and flatter him?

Here on a day, when he was digging for roots, his poor
sustenance, his spade struck against something heavy, which
proved to be gold, a great heap which some miser had probably
buried in a time of alarm, thinking to have come again and taken
it from its prison, but died before the opportunity had arrived,
without making any man privy to the concealment; so it lay, doing
neither good nor harm, in the bowels of the earth, its mother, as
if it had never come thence, till the accidental striking of
Timon's spade against it once more brought it to light.

Here was a mass of treasure which, if Timon had retained his old
mind, was enough to have purchased him friends and flatterers
again; but Timon was sick of the false world and the sight of
gold was poisonous to his eyes; and he would have restored it to
the earth, but that, thinking of the infinite calamities which by
means of gold happen to mankind, how the lucre of it causes
robberies, oppression, injustice, briberies, violence, and
murder, among men, he had a pleasure in imagining (such a rooted
hatred did he bear to his species) that out of this heap, which
in digging he had discovered, might arise some mischief to plague
mankind. And some soldiers passing through the woods near to his
cave at that instant, which proved to be a part of the troops of
the Athenian captain Alcibiades, who, upon some disgust taken
against the senators of Athens (the Athenians were ever noted to
be a thankless and ungrateful people, giving disgust to their
generals and best friends), was marching at the head of the same
triumphant army which he had formerly headed in their defense, to
war against them. Timon, who liked their business well, bestowed
upon their captain the gold to pay his soldiers, requiring no
other service from him than that he should with his conquering
army lay Athens level with the ground, and burn, slay, kill all
her inhabitants; not sparing the old men for their white beards,
for (he said) they were usurers, nor the young children for their
seeming innocent smiles, for those (he said) would live, if they
grew up, to be traitors; but to steel his eyes and ears against
any sights or sounds that might awaken compassion; and not to let
the cries of virgins, babes, or mothers hinder him from making
one universal massacre of the city, but to confound them all in
his conquest; and when he had conquered, he prayed that the gods
would confound him also, the conqueror. So thoroughly did Timon
hate Athens, Athenians, and all mankind.

While he lived in this forlorn state, leading a life more brutal
than human, he was suddenly surprised one day with the appearance
of a man standing in an admiring posture at the door of his
cave. It was Flavius, the honest steward, whom love and zealous
affection to his master had led to seek him out at his wretched
dwelling and to offer his services; and the first sight of his
master, the once noble Timon, in that abject condition, naked as
he was born, living in the manner of a beast among beasts,
looking like his own sad ruins and a monument of decay, so
affected this good servant that he stood speechless, wrapped up
in horror and confounded. And when he found utterance at last to
his words, they were so choked with tears that Timon had much ado
to know him again, or to make out who it was that had come (so
contrary to the experience he had had of mankind) to offer him
service in extremity. And being in the form and shape of a man,
he suspected him for a traitor, and his tears for false; but the
good servant by so many tokens confirmed the truth of his
fidelity, and made it clear that nothing but love and zealous
duty to his once dear master had brought him there, that Timon
was forced to confess that the world contained one honest man;
yet, being in the shape and form of a man, be could not look upon
his man's face without abhorrence, or hear words uttered from his
man's lips without loathing; and this singly honest man was
forced to depart, because he was a man, and because, with a heart
more gentle and compassionate than is usual to man, he bore man's
detested form and outward feature.

But greater visitants than a poor steward were about to interrupt
the savage quiet of Timon's solitude. For now the day was come
when the ungrateful lords of Athens sorely repented the injustice
which they had done to the noble Timon. For Alcibiades, like an
incensed wild boar, was raging at the walls of their city, and
with his hot siege threatened to lay fair Athens in the dust. And
now the memory of Lord Timon's former prowess and military
conduct came fresh into their forgetful minds, for Timon had been
their general in past times, and a valiant and expert soldier,
who alone of all the Athenians was deemed able to cope with a
besieging army such as then threatened them, or to drive back the
furious approaches of Alcibiades.

A deputation of the senators was chosen in this emergency to wait
upon Timon. To him they come in their extremity, to whom, when he
was in extremity, they had shown but small regard; as if they
presumed upon his gratitude whom they had disobliged, and had
derived a claim to his courtesy from their own most discourteous
and unpiteous treatment.

Now they earnestly beseech him, implore him with tears, to return
and save that city from which their ingratitude had so lately
driven him; now they offer him riches, power, dignities,,
satisfaction for past injuries, and public honors, and the public
love; their persons, lives, and fortunes to be at his disposal,
if he will but come back and save them. But Timon the naked,
Timon the man-hater, was no longer Lord Timon, the lord of
bounty, the flower of valor, their defense in war, their ornament
in peace. If Alcibiades killed his countrymen, Timon cared not.
If he sacked fair Athens, and slew her old men and her infants,
Timon would rejoice. So he told them; and that there was not a
knife in the unruly camp which he did not prize above the
reverendest throat in Athens.

This was all the answer he vouchsafed to the weeping,
disappointed senators; only at parting he bade them commend him
to his countrymen, and tell them that to ease them of their
griefs and anxieties, and to prevent the consequences of fierce
Alcibiades's wrath, there was yet a way left, which he would
teach them, for he had yet so much affection left for his dear
countrymen as to be willing to do them a kindness before his
death. These words a little revived the senators, who hoped that
his kindness for their city was returning. Then Timon told them
that he had a tree, which grew near his cave, which he should
shortly have occasion to cut down, and he invited all his friends
in Athens, high or low , of whatsoever degree, who wished to shun
affliction, to come and take a taste of his tree before he cut it
down; meaning that they might come and hang themselves on it and
escape affliction that way.

And this was the last courtesy, of all his noble bounties, which
Timon showed to mankind, and this the last sight of him which his
countrymen had, for not many days after, a poor soldier, passing
by the sea-beach which was at a little distance from the woods
which Timon frequented, found a tomb on the verge of the sea,
with an inscription upon it purporting that it was the grave of
Timon the man-hater, who "While he lived, did hate all living
men, and, dying, wished a plague might consume all caitiffs

Whether he finished his life by violence, or whether mere
distaste of life and the loathing he had for mankind brought
Timon to his conclusion, was not clear, yet all men admired the
fitness of his epitaph and the consistency of his end, dying, as
he had lived, a hater of mankind. And some there were who fancied
a conceit in the very choice which he had made of the sea-beach
for his place of burial, where the vast sea might weep forever
upon his grave, as in contempt of the transient and shallow tears
of hypocritical and deceitful mankind.


The two chief families in Verona were the rich Capulets and the
Montagues. There had been an old quarrel between these families,
which was grown to such a height, and so deadly was the enmity
between them, that it extended to the remotest kindred, to the
followers and retainers of both sides, in so much that a servant
of the house of Montague could not meet a servant of the house of
Capulet, nor a Capulet encounter with a Montague by chance, but
fierce words and sometimes bloodshed ensued; and frequent were
the brawls from such accidental meetings, which disturbed the
happy quiet of Verona's streets.

Old Lord Capulet made a great supper, to which many fair ladies
and many noble guests were invited. All the admired beauties of
Verona were present, and all comers were made welcome if they
were not of the house of Montague. At this feast of Capulets,
Rosaline, beloved of Romeo, son to the old Lord Montague, was
present; and though it was dangerous for a Montague to be seen in
this assembly, yet Benvolio, a friend of Romeo, persuaded the
young lord to go to this assembly in the disguise of a mask, that
he might see his Rosaline, and, seeing her, compare her with some
choice beauties of Verona, who (he said) would make him think his
swan a crow. Romeo had small faith in Benvolio's words;
nevertheless, for the love of Rosaline, he was persuaded to go.
For Romeo was a sincere and passionate lover, and one that lost
his sleep for love and fled society to be alone, thinking on
Rosaline, who disdained him and never requited his love with the
least show of courtesy or affection; and Benvolio wished to cure
his friend of this love by showing him diversity of ladies and
company. To this feast of Capulets, then, young Romeo, with
Benvolio and their friend Mercutio, went masked. Old Capulet bid
them welcome and told them that ladies who had their toes
unplagued with corns would dance with them. And the old man was
light-hearted and merry, and said that he had worn a mask when he
was young and could have told a whispering tale in a fair lady's
ear. And they fell to dancing, and Romeo was suddenly struck with
the exceeding beauty of a lady who danced there, who seemed to
him to teach the torches to burn bright, and her beauty to show
by night like a rich jewel worn by a blackamoor; beauty too rich
for use, too dear for earth! like a snowy dove trooping with
crows (he said), so richly did her beauty and perfections shine
above the ladies her companions. While he uttered these praises
he was overheard by Tybalt, a nephew of Lord Capulet, who knew
him by his voice to be Romeo. And this Tybalt, being of a fiery
and passionate temper, could not endure that a Montague should
come under cover of a mask, to fleer and scorn (as he said) at
their solemnities. And he stormed and raged exceedingly, and
would have struck young Romeo dead. But his uncle, the old Lord
Capulet, would not suffer him to do any injury at that time, both
out of respect to his guests and because Romeo had borne himself
like a gentleman and all tongues in Verona bragged of him to be a
virtuous and well-governed youth. Tybalt, forced to be patient
against his will, restrained himself, but swore that this vile
Montague should at another time dearly pay for his intrusion.

The dancing being done, Romeo watched the place where the lady
stood; and under favor of his masking habit, which might seem to
excuse in part the liberty, he presumed in the gentlest manner to
take her by the hand, calling it a shrine, which if he profaned
by touching it, he was a blushing pilgrim and would kiss it for

"Good pilgrim," answered the lady, "your devotion shows by far
too mannerly and too courtly. Saints have hands which pilgrims
may touch but kiss not."

"Have not saints lips, and pilgrims, too?" said Romeo.

"Aye," said the lady, "lips which they must use in prayer."

"Oh, then, my dear saint," said Romeo, "hear my prayer, and grant
it, lest I despair."

In such like allusions and loving conceits they were engaged when
the lady was called away to her mother. And Romeo, inquiring who
her mother was, discovered that the lady whose peerless beauty he
was so much struck with was young Juliet, daughter and heir to
the Lord Capulet, the great enemy of the Montagues; and that he
had unknowingly engaged his heart to his foe. This troubled him,
but it could not dissuade him from loving. As little rest had
Juliet when she found that the gentle man that she had been
talking with was Romeo and a Montague, for she had been suddenly
smit with the same hasty and inconsiderate passion for Romeo
which he had conceived for her; and a prodigious birth of love it
seemed to her, that she must love her enemy and that her
affections should settle there, where family considerations
should induce her chiefly to hate.

It being midnight, Romeo with his companions departed; but they
soon missed him, for, unable to stay away from the house where he
had left his heart, he leaped the wall of an orchard which was at
the back of Juliet's house. Here he had not been long, ruminating
on his new love, when Juliet appeared above at a window, through
which her exceeding beauty seemed to break like the light of the
sun in the east; and the moon, which shone in the orchard with a
faint light, appeared to Romeo as if sick and pale with grief at
the superior luster of this new sun. And she leaning her cheek
upon her hand, he passionately wished himself a glove upon that
hand, that he might touch her cheek. She all this while thinking
herself alone, fetched a deep sigh, and exclaimed:

"Ah me!"

Romeo, enraptured to bear her speak, said, softly and unheard by
her, "Oh, speak again, bright angel, for such you appear, being
over my head, like a winged messenger from heaven whom mortals
fall back to gaze upon."

She, unconscious of being overheard, and full of the new passion
which that night's adventure had given birth to, called upon her
lover by name (whom she supposed absent). "O Romeo, Romeo!" said
she, "wherefore art thou Romeo? Deny thy father and refuse thy
name, for my sake; or if thou wilt not, be but my sworn love, and
I no longer will be a Capulet."

Romeo, having this encouragement, would fain have spoken, but he
was desirous of hearing more; and the lady continued her
passionate discourse with herself (as she thought), still chiding
Romeo for being Romeo and a Montague, and wishing him some other
name, or that he would put away that hated name, and for that
name which was no part of himself he should take all herself. At
this loving word Romeo could no longer refrain, but, taking up
the dialogue as if her words had been addressed to him
personally, and not merely in fancy, he bade her call him Love,
or by whatever other name she pleased, for he was no longer
Romeo, if that name was displeasing to her. Juliet, alarmed to
hear a man's voice in the garden, did not at first know who it
was that by favor of the night and darkness had thus stumbled
upon the discovery of her secret; but when he spoke again, though
her ears had not yet drunk a hundred words of that tongue's
uttering, yet so nice is a lover's hearing that she immediately
knew him to be young Romeo, and she expostulated with him on the
danger to which he had exposed himself by climbing the orchard
walls, for if any of her kinsmen should find him there it would
be death to him, being a Montague.

"Alack!" said Romeo, "there is more peril in your eye than in
twenty of their swords. Do you but look kind upon me, lady, and I
am proof against their enmity. Better my life should be ended by
their hate than that hated life should be prolonged to live
without your love."

"How came you into this place," said Juliet, "and by whose

"Love directed me," answered Romeo. "I am no pilot, yet 'wert
thou as far apart from me as that vast shore which is washed with
the farthest sea, I should venture for such merchandise."

A crimson blush came over Juliet's face, yet unseen by Romeo by
reason of the night, when she reflected upon the discovery which
she had made, yet not meaning to make it, of her love to Romeo.
She would fain have recalled her words, but that was impossible;
fain would she have stood upon form, and have kept her lover at a
distance, as the custom of discreet ladies is, to frown and be
perverse and give their suitors harsh denials at first; to stand
off, and affect a coyness or indifference where they most love,
that their lovers may not think them too lightly or too easily
won; for the difficulty of attainment increases the value of the
object. But there was no room in her case for denials, or
puttings off, or any of the customary arts of delay and
protracted courtship. Romeo had heard from her own tongue, when
she did not dream that he was near her, a confession of her love.
So with an honest frankness which the novelty of her situation
excused she confirmed the truth of what he had before heard, and,
addressing him by the name of FAIR MONTAGUE (love can sweeten a
sour name), she begged him not to impute her easy yielding to
levity or an unworthy mind, but that he must lay the fault of it
(if it were a fault) upon the accident of the night which had so
strangely discovered her thoughts. And she added, that though her
behavior to him might not be sufficiently prudent, measured by
the custom of her sex, yet that she would prove more true than
many whose prudence was dissembling, and their modesty artificial

Romeo was beginning to call the heavens to witness that nothing
was farther from his thoughts than to impute a shadow of dishonor
to such an honored lady, when she stopped him, begging him not to
swear; for although she joyed in him, yet she had no joy of that
night's contract--it was too rash, too unadvised, too sudden. But
he being urgent with her to exchange a vow of love with him that
night, she said that she already had given him hers before he
requested it, meaning, when he overheard her confession; but she
would retract what she then bestowed, for the pleasure of giving
it again, for her bounty was as infinite as the sea, and her love
as deep. From this loving conference she was called away by her
nurse, who slept with her and thought it time for her to be in
bed, for it was near to daybreak; but, hastily returning, she
said three or four words more to Romeo the purport of which was,
that if his love was indeed honorable, and his purpose marriage,
she would send a messenger to him to-morrow to appoint a time for
their marriage, when she would lay all her fortunes at his feet
and follow him as her lord through the world. While they were
settling this point Juliet was repeatedly called for by her
nurse, and went in and returned, and went and returned again, for
she seemed as jealous of Romeo going from her as a young girl of
her bird, which she will let hop a little from her hand and pluck
it back with a silken thread; and Romeo was as loath to part as
she, for the sweetest music to lovers is the sound of each
other's tongues at night. But at last they parted, wishing
mutually sweet sleep and rest for that night.

The day was breaking when they parted, and Romeo, who was too
full of thoughts of his mistress and that blessed meeting to
allow him to sleep, instead of going home, bent his course to a
monastery hard by, to find Friar Lawrence. The good friar was
already up at his devotions, but, seeing young Romeo abroad so
early, he conjectured rightly that he had not been abed that
night, but that some distemper of youthful affection had kept him
waking. He was right in imputing the cause of Romeo's wakefulness
to love, but he made a wrong guess at the object, for he thought
that his love for Rosaline had kept him waking. But when Romeo
revealed his new passion for Juliet, and requested the assistance
of the friar to marry them that day, the holy man lifted up his
eyes and hands in a sort of wonder at the sudden change in
Romeo's affections, for he had been privy to all Romeo's love for
Rosaline and his many complaints of her disdain; and he said that
young men's love lay not truly in their hearts, but in their
eyes. But Romeo replying that he himself had often chidden him
for doting on Rosaline, who could not love him again, whereas
Juliet both loved and was beloved by him, the friar assented in
some measure to his reasons; and thinking that a matrimonial
alliance between young Juliet and Romeo might happily be the
means of making up the long breach between the Capulets and the
Montagues, which no one more lamented than this good friar who
was a friend to both the families and had often interposed his
mediation to make up the quarrel without effect; partly moved by
policy, and partly by his fondness for young Romeo, to whom he
could deny nothing, the old man consented to join their hands in

Now was Romeo blessed indeed, and Juliet, who knew his intent
from a messenger which she had despatched according to promise,
did not fail to be early at the cell of Friar Lawrence, where
their hands were joined in holy marriage, the good friar praying
the heavens to smile upon that act, and in the union of this
young Montague and young Capulet, to bury the old strife and long
dissensions of their families.

The ceremony being over, Juliet hastened home, where she stayed,
impatient for the coming of night, at which time Romeo promised
to come and meet her in the orchard, where they had met the night
before; and the time between seemed as tedious to her as the
night before some great festival seems to an impatient child that
has got new finery which it may not put on till the morning.

That same day, about noon, Romeo's friends, Benvolio and
Mercutio, walking through the streets of Verona, were met by a
party of the Capulets with the impetuous Tybalt at their head.
This was the same angry Tybalt who would have fought with Romeo
at old Lord Capulet's feast. He, seeing Mercutio, accused him
bluntly of associating with Romeo, a Montague. Mercutio, who had
as much fire and youthful blood in him as Tybalt, replied to this
accusation with some sharpness; and in spite of all Benvolio
could say to moderate their wrath a quarrel was beginning when,
Romeo himself passing that way, the fierce Tybalt turned from
Mercutio to Romeo, and gave him the disgraceful appellation of
villain. Romeo wished to avoid a quarrel with Tybalt above all
men, because he was the kinsman of Juliet and much beloved by
her; besides, this young Montague had never thoroughly entered
into the family quarrel, being by nature wise and gentle, and the
name of a Capulet, which was his dear lady's name, was now rather
a charm to allay resentment than a watchword to excite fury. So
he tried to reason with Tybalt, whom he saluted mildly by the
name of GOOD CAPULET, as if he, though a Montague, had some
secret pleasure in uttering that name; but Tybalt, who hated all
Montagues as he hated hell, would hear no reason, but drew his
weapon; and Mercutio, who knew not of Romeo's secret motive for
desiring peace with Tybalt, but looked upon his present
forbearance as a sort of calm dishonorable submission, with many
disdainful words provoked Tybalt to the prosecution of his first
quarrel with him; and Tybalt and Mercutio fought, till Mercutio
fell, receiving his death's wound while Romeo and Benvolio were
vainly endeavoring to part the combatants. Mercutio being dead,
Romeo kept his temper no longer, but returned the scornful
appellation of villain which Tybalt had given him, and they
fought till Tybalt was slain by Romeo. This deadly broil falling
out in the midst of Verona at noonday, the news of it quickly
brought a crowd of citizens to the spot and among them the Lords
Capulet and Montague, with their wives; and soon after arrived
the prince himself, who, being related to Mercutio, whom Tybalt
had slain, and having had the peace of his government often
disturbed by these brawls of Montagues and Capulets, came
determined to put the law in strictest force against those who
should be found to be offenders. Benvolio, who had been
eye-witness to the fray, was commanded by the prince to relate
the origin of it; which he did, keeping as near the truth as he
could without injury to Romeo, softening and excusing the part
which his friends took in it. Lady Capulet, whose extreme grief
for the loss of her kinsman Tybalt made her keep no bounds in her
revenge, exhorted the prince to do strict justice upon his
murderer, and to,pay no attention to Benvolio's representation,
who, being Romeo's friend and a Montague, spoke partially. Thus
she pleaded against her new son-in-law, but she knew not yet that
he was her son-in-law and Juliet's husband. On the other hand was
to be seen Lady Montague pleading for her child's life, and
arguing with some justice that Romeo had done nothing worthy of
punishment in taking the life of Tybalt, which was already
forfeited to the law by his having slain Mercutio. The prince,
unmoved by the passionate exclamations of these women, on a
careful examination of the facts pronounced his sentence, and by
that sentence Romeo was banished from Verona.

Heavy news to young Juliet, who had been but a few hours a bride
and now by this decree seemed everlastingly divorced! When the
tidings reached her, she at first gave way to rage against Romeo,
who had slain her dear cousin. She called him a beautiful tyrant,
a fiend angelical, a ravenous dove, a lamb with a wolf's nature,
a serpent-heart hid with a flowering face, and other, like
contradictory names, which denoted the struggles in her mind
between her love and her resentment. But in the end love got the
mastery, and the tears which she shed for grief that Romeo had
slain her cousin turned to drops of joy that her husband lived
whom Tybalt would have slain. Then came fresh tears, and they
were altogether of grief for Romeo's banishment. That word was
more terrible to her than the death of many Tybalts.

Romeo, after the fray, had taken refuge in Friar Lawrence's cell,
where he was first made acquainted with the prince's sentence,
which seemed to him far more terrible than death. To him it
appeared there was no world out of Verona's walls, no living out
of the sight of Juliet. Heaven was there where Juliet lived, and
all beyond was purgatory, torture, hell. The good friar would
have applied the consolation of philosophy to his griefs; but
this frantic young man would hear of none, but like a madman he
tore his hair and threw himself all along upon the ground, as he
said, to take the measure of his grave. From this unseemly state
he was roused by a message from his dear lady which a little
revived him; and then the friar took the advantage to expostulate
with him on the unmanly weakness which he had shown. He had slain
Tybalt, but would he also slay himself, slay his dear lady, who
lived but in his life? The noble form of man, he said, was but a
shape of wax when it wanted the courage which should keep it
firm. The law had been lenient to him that instead of death,
which he had incurred, had pronounced by the prince's mouth only
banishment. He had slain Tybalt, but Tybalt would have slain
him-there was a sort of happiness in that. Juliet was alive and
(beyond all hope) had become his dear wife; therein he was most
happy. All these blessings, as the friar made them out to be, did
Romeo put from him like a sullen misbehaved wench. And the friar
bade him beware, for such as despaired (he said) died miserable.
Then when Romeo was a little calmed he counseled him that he
should go that night and secretly take his leave of Juliet, and
thence proceed straightway to Mantua, at which place he should
sojourn till the friar found fit occasion to publish his
marriage, which might be a joyful means of reconciling their
families; and then he did not doubt but the prince would be moved
to pardon him, and he would return with twenty times more joy
than he went forth with grief. Romeo was convinced by these wise
counsels of the friar, and took his leave to go and seek his
lady, proposing to stay with her that night, and by daybreak
pursue his journey alone to Mantua; to which place the good friar
promised to send him letters from time to time, acquainting him
with the state of affairs at home.

That night Romeo passed with his dear wife, gaining secret
admission to her chamber from the orchard in which he had heard
her confession of love the night before. That had been a night of
unmixed joy and rapture; but the pleasures of this night and the
delight which these lovers took in each other's society were
sadly allayed with the prospect of parting and the fatal
adventures of the past day. The unwelcome daybreak seemed to come
too soon, and when Juliet heard the morning song of the lark she
would have persuaded herself that it was the nightingale, which
sings by night; but it was too truly the lark which sang, and a
discordant and unpleasing note it seemed to her; and the streaks
of day in the east too certainly pointed out that it was time for
these lovers to part. Romeo took his leave of his dear wife with
a heavy heart, promising to write to her from Mantua every hour
in the day; and when he had descended from her chamber window, as
he stood below her on the ground, in that sad foreboding state of
mind in which she was, he appeared to her eyes as one dead in the
bottom of a tomb. Romeo's mind misgave him in like manner. But
now he was forced hastily to depart, for it was death for him to
be found within the walls of Verona after daybreak.

This was but the beginning of the tragedy of this pair of star-
crossed lovers. Romeo had not been gone many days before the old
Lord Capulet proposed a match for Juliet. The husband he had
chosen for her, not dreaming that she was married already, was
Count Paris, a gallant, young, and noble gentleman, no unworthy
suitor to the young Juliet if she had never seen Romeo.

The terrified Juliet was in a sad perplexity at her father's
offer. She pleaded her youth unsuitable to marriage, the recent
death of Tybalt, which had left her spirits too weak to meet a
husband with any face of joy, and how indecorous it would show
for the family of the Capulets to be celebrating a nuptial feast
when his funeral solemnities were hardly over. She pleaded every
reason against the match but the true one, namely, that she was
married already. But Lord Capulet was deaf to all her excuses,
and in a peremptory manner ordered her to get ready, for by the
following Thursday she should be married to Paris. And having
found her a husband, rich, young, and noble, such as the proudest
maid in Verona might joyfully accept, he could not bear that out
of an affected coyness, as he construed her denial, she should
oppose obstacles to her own good fortune.

In this extremity Juliet applied to the friendly friar, always a
counselor in distress, and he asking her if she had resolution to
undertake a desperate remedy, and she answering that she would go
into the grave alive rather than marry Paris, her own dear
husband living, he directed her to go home, and appear merry, and
give her consent to marry Paris, according to her father's
desire, and on the next night, which was the night before the
marriage, to drink off the contents of a vial which he then gave
her, the effect of which would be that for two-and-forty hours
after drinking it she should appear cold and lifeless, and when
the bridegroom came to fetch her in the morning he would find her
to appearance dead; that then she would be borne, as the manner
in that country was, uncovered on a bier, to be buried in the
family vault; that if she could put off womanish fear, and
consent to this terrible trial, in forty-two hours after
swallowing the liquid (such was its certain operation) she would
be sure to awake, as from a dream; and before she should awake he
would let her husband know their drift, and he should come in the
night and bear her thence to Mantua. Love, and the dread of
marrying Paris, gave young Juliet strength to undertake this
horrible adventure; and she took the vial of the friar, promising
to observe his directions.

Going from the monastery, she met the young Count Paris, and,
modestly dissembling, promised to become his bride. This was
joyful news to the Lord Capulet and his wife. It seemed to put
youth into the old man; and Juliet, who had displeased him
exceedingly by her refusal of the count, was his darling again,
now she promised to be obedient. All things in the house were in
a bustle against the approaching nuptials. No cost was spared to
prepare such festival rejoicings as Verona had never before

On the Wednesday night Juliet drank off the potion. She had many
misgivings lest the friar, to avoid the blame which might be
imputed to him for marrying her to Romeo, had given her poison;
but then he was always known for a holy man. Then lest she should
awake before the time that Romeo was to come for her; whether the
terror of the place, a vault full of dead Capulets' bones, and
where Tybalt, all bloody, lay festering in his shroud, would not
be enough to drive her distracted. Again she thought of all the
stories she had heard of spirits haunting the places where their
bodies were bestowed. But then her love for Romeo and her
aversion for Paris returned, and she desperately swallowed the
draught and became insensible.

When young Paris came early in the morning with music to awaken
his bride, instead of a living Juliet her chamber presented the
dreary spectacle of a lifeless corse. What death to his hopes!
What confusion then reigned through the whole house! Poor Paris
lamenting his bride, whom most detestable death had beguiled him
of, had divorced from him even before their hands were joined.
But still more piteous it was to hear the mournings of the old
Lord and Lady Capulet, who having but this one, one poor loving
child to rejoice and solace in, cruel death had snatched her from
their sight, just as these careful parents were on the point of
seeing her advanced (as they thought) by a promising and
advantageous match. Now all things that were ordained for the
festival were turned from their properties to do the office of a
black funeral. The wedding cheer served for a sad burial feast,
the bridal hymns were changed for sullen dirges, the sprightly
instruments to melancholy.bells, and the flowers that should have
been strewed in the bride's path now served but to strew her
corse. Now, instead of a priest to marry her, a priest was needed
to bury her, and she was borne to church indeed, not to augment
the cheerful hopes of the living, but to swell the dreary numbers
of the dead.

Bad news, which always travels faster than good, now brought the
dismal story of his Juliet's death to Romeo, at Mantua, before
the messenger could arrive who was sent from Friar Lawrence to
apprise him that these were mock funerals only, and but the
shadow and representation of death, and that his dear lady lay in
the tomb but for a short while, expecting when Romeo would come
to release her from that dreary mansion. Just before, Romeo had
been unusually joyful and light-hearted. He had dreamed in the
night that he was dead (a strange dream, that gave a dead man
leave to think) and that his lady came and found him dead, and
breathed such life with kisses in his lips that he revived and
was an emperor! And now that a messenger came from Verona, he
thought surely it was to confirm some good news which his dreams
had presaged. But when the contrary to this flattering vision
appeared, and that it was his lady who was dead in truth, whom he
could not revive by any kisses, he ordered horses to be got
ready, for he determined that night to visit Verona and to see
his lady in her tomb. And as mischief is swift to enter into the
thoughts of desperate men, he called to mind a poor apothecary,
whose shop in Mantua he had lately passed, and from the beggarly
appearance of the man, who seemed famished, and the wretched show
in his show of empty boxes ranged on dirty shelves, and other
tokens of extreme wretchedness, he had said at the time (perhaps
having some misgivings that his own disastrous life might haply
meet with a conclusion so desperate):

"If a man were to need poison, which by the law of Mantua it is
death to sell, here lives a poor wretch who would sell it him."

These words of his now came into his mind and he sought out the
apothecary, who after some pretended scruples, Romeo offering him
gold, which his poverty could not resist, sold him a poison
which, if he swallowed, he told him, if he had the strength of
twenty men, would quickly despatch him.

With this poison he set out for Verona, to have a sight of his
dear lady in her tomb, meaning, when he had satisfied his sight,
to swallow the poison and be buried by her side. He reached
Verona at midnight, and found the churchyard in the midst of
which was situated the ancient tomb of the Capulets. He had
provided a light, and a spade, and wrenching-iron, and was
proceeding to break open the monument when he was interrupted by
a voice, which by the name of VILE MONTAGUE bade him desist from
his unlawful business. It was the young Count Paris, who had come
to the tomb of Juliet at that unseasonable time of night to strew
flowers and to weep over the grave of her that should have been
his bride. He knew not what an interest Romeo had in the dead,
but, knowing him to be a Montague and (as he supposed) a sworn
foe to all the Capulets, he judged that he was come by night to
do some villainous shame to the dead bodies; therefore in an
angry tone he bade him desist; and as a criminal, condemned by
the laws of Verona to die if he were found within the walls of
the city, he would have apprehended him. Romeo urged Paris to
leave him, and warned him by the fate of Tybalt, who lay buried
there, not to provoke his anger or draw down another sin upon his
head by forcing him to kill him. But the count in scorn refused
his warning, and laid hands on him as a felon, which, Romeo
resisting, they fought, and Paris fell. When Romeo, by the help
of a light, came to see who it was that he had slain, that it was
Paris, who (he learned in his way from Mantua) should have
married Juliet, he took the dead youth by the hand, as one whom
misfortune had made a companion, and said that he would bury him
in a triumphal grave, meaning in Juliet's grave, which he now
opened. And there lay his lady, as one whom death had no power
upon to change a feature or complexion, in her matchless beauty;
or as if death were amorous, and the lean, abhorred monster kept
her there for his delight; for she lay yet fresh and blooming, as
she had fallen to sleep when she swallowed that benumbing potion;
and near her lay Tybalt in his bloody shroud, whom Romeo seeing,
begged pardon of his lifeless corse, and for Juliet's sake called
him COUSIN, and said that he was about to do him a favor by
putting his enemy to death. Here Romeo took his last leave of his
lady's lips, kissing them; and here he shook the burden of his
cross stars from his weary body, swallowing that poison which the
apothecary had sold him, whose operation was fatal and real, not
like that dissembling potion which Juliet had swallowed, the
effect of which was now nearly expiring, and she about to awake
to complain that Romeo had not kept his time, or that he had come
too soon.

For now the hour was arrived at which the friar had promised that
she should awake; and he, having learned that his letters which
he had sent to Mantua, by some unlucky detention of the
messenger, had never reached Romeo, came himself, provided with a
pickax and lantern, to deliver the lady from her confinement; but
he was surprised to find a light already burning in the Capulets'
monument, and to see swords and blood near it, and Romeo and
Paris lying breathless by the monument,

Before he could entertain a conjecture, to imagine how these
fatal accidents had fallen out, Juliet awoke out of her trance,
and, seeing the friar near her, she remembered the place where
she was, and the occasion of her being there, and asked for
Romeo, but the friar, hearing a noise, bade her come out of that
place of death and of unnatural sleep, for a greater power than
they could contradict had thwarted their intents; and, being
frightened by the noise of people coming, he fled. But when
Juliet saw the cup closed in her true love's hands, she guessed
that poison had been the cause of his end, and she would have
swallowed the dregs if any had been left, and she kissed his
still warm lips to try if any poison yet did hang upon them; then
hearing a nearer noise of people coming, she quickly unsheathed a
dagger which she wore, and, stabbing herself, died by her true
Romeo's side.

The watch by this time had come up to the place. A page belonging
to Count Paris, who had witnessed the fight between his master
and Romeo, had given the alarm, which had spread among the
citizens, who went up and down the streets of Verona confusedly
exclaiming, "A Paris! a Romeo! a Juliet!" as the rumor had
imperfectly reached them, till the uproar brought Lord Montague
and Lord Capulet out of their beds, with the prince, to inquire
into the causes of the disturbance. The friar had been
apprehended by some of the watch, coming from the churchyard,
trembling, sighing, and weeping in a suspicious manner. A great
multitude being assembled at the Capulets' monument, the friar
was demanded by the prince to deliver what he knew of these
strange and disastrous accidents.

And there, in the presence of the old Lords Montague and Capulet,
he faithfully related the story of their children's fatal love,
the part he took in promoting their marriage, in the hope in that
union to end the long quarrels between their families; how Romeo,
there dead, was husband to Juliet, and Juliet, there dead, was
Romeo's faithful wife; how, before he could find a fit
opportunity to divulge their marriage, another match was
projected for Juliet, who, to avoid the crime of a second
marriage, swallowed the sleeping-draught (as he advised), and all
thought her dead; how meantime he wrote to Romeo to come and take
her thence when the force of the potion should cease, and by what
unfortunate miscarriage of the messenger the letters never
reached Romeo. Further than this the friar could not follow the
story, nor knew more than that, coming himself to deliver Juliet
from that place of death, he found the Count Paris and Romeo
slain. The remainder of the transactions was supplied by the
narration of the page who had seen Paris and Romeo fight, and by
the servant who came with Romeo from Verona, to whom this
faithful lover had given letters to be delivered to his father in
the event of his death, which made good the friar's words,
confessing his marriage with Juliet, imploring the forgiveness of
his parents, acknowledging the buying of the poison of the poor
apothecary and his intent in coming to the monument to die and
lie with Juliet. All these circumstances agreed together to clear
the friar from any hand he could be supposed to have in these
complicated slaughters, further than as the unintended
consequences of his own well-meant, yet too artificial and subtle

And the prince, turning to these old lords, Montague and Capulet,
rebuked them for their brutal and irrational enmities, and showed
them what a scourge Heaven had laid upon such offenses, that it
had found means even through the love of their children to punish
their unnatural hate. And these old rivals, no longer enemies,
agreed to bury their long strife in their children's graves; and
Lord Capulet requested Lord Montague to give him his hand,
calling him by the name of brother, as if in acknowledgment of
the union of their families by the marriage of the young Capulet
and Montague; and saying that Lord Montague's hand (in token of
reconcilement) was all he demanded for his daughter's jointure.
But Lord Montague said he would give him more, for he would raise
her a statue of pure gold that, while Verona kept its name, no
figure should be so esteemed for its richness and workmanship as
that of the true and faithful Juliet. And Lord Capulet in return
said that he would raise another statue to Romeo. So did these
poor old lords, when it was too late, strive to outgo each other
in mutual courtesies; while so deadly had been their rage and
enmity in past times that nothing but the fearful overthrow of
their children (poor sacrifices to their quarrels and
dissensions) could remove the rooted hates and jealousies of the
noble families.


Gertrude, Queen of Denmark, becoming a widow by the sudden death
of King Hamlet, in less than two months after his death married
his brother Claudius, which was noted by all people at the tim
for a strange act of indiscretion, or unfeelingness, or worse;
for this Claudius did no way resemble her late husband in the
qualities of his person or his mind, but was as contemptible in
outward appearance as he was base and unworthy in disposition;
and suspicions did not fail to arise in the minds of some that he
had privately made away with his brother, the late king, with the
view of marrying his widow and ascending the throne of Denmark,
to the exclusion of young Hamlet, the son of the buried king and
lawful successor to the throne.

But upon no one did this unadvised action of the queen make such
impression as upon this young prince, who loved and venerated the
memory of his dead father almost to idolatry, and, being of a
nice sense of honor and a most exquisite practiser of propriety
himself, did sorely take to heart this unworthy conduct of his
mother Gertrude; in so much that, between grief for his father's
death and shame for his mother's marriage, this young prince was
overclouded with a deep melancholy, and lost all his mirth and
all his good looks; all his customary pleasure in books forsook
him, his princely exercises and sports, proper to his youth, were
no longer acceptable; he grew weary of the world, which seemed to
him an unweeded garden, where all the wholesome flowers were
choked up and nothing but weeds could thrive. Not that the
prospect of exclusion from the throne, his lawful inheritance,
weighed so much upon his spirits, though that to a young and
high-minded prince was a bitter wound and a sore indignity; but
what so galled him and took away all his cheerful spirits was
that his mother had shown herself so forgetful to his father's
memory, and such a father! who had been to her so loving and so
gentle a husband! and then she always appeared as loving and
obedient a wife to him, and would hang upon him as if her
affection grew to him. And now within two months, or, as it
seemed to young Hamlet, less than two months, she had married
again, married his uncle, her dear husband's brother, in itself a
highly improper and unlawful marriage, from the nearness of
relationship, but made much more so by the indecent haste with
which it was concluded and the unkingly character of the man whom
she had chosen to be the partner of her throne and bed. This it
was which more than the loss of ten kingdoms dashed the spirits
and brought a cloud over the mind of this honorable young prince.

In vain was all that his mother Gertrude or the king could do to
contrive to divert him; he still appeared in court in a suit of
deep black, as mourning for the king his father's death, which
mode of dress he had never laid aside, not even in compliment to
his mother upon the day she was married, nor could he be brought
to join in any of the festivities or rejoicings of that (as
appeared to him) disgraceful day.

What mostly troubled him was an uncertainty about the manner of
his father's death. It was given out by Claudius that a serpent
had stung him; but young Hamlet had shrewd suspicions that
Claudius himself was the serpent; in plain English, that he had
murdered him for his crown, and that the serpent who stung his
father did now sit on the throne.

How far he was right in this conjecture and what he ought to
think of his mother, how far she was privy to this murder and
whether by her consent or knowledge, or without, it came to pass,
were the doubts which continually harassed and distracted him.

A rumor had reached the ear of young Hamlet that an apparition,
exactly resembling the dead king his father, had been seen by the
soldiers upon watch, on the platform before the palace at
midnight, for two or three nights successively. The figure came
constantly clad in the same suit of armor, from head to foot,
which the dead king was known to have worn. And they who saw it
(Hamlet's bosom friend Horatio was one) agreed in their testimony
as to the time and manner of its appearance that it came just as
the clock struck twelve; that it looked pale, with a face more of
sorrow than of anger; that its beard was grisly, and the color a
SABLE SILVERED, as they had seen it in his lifetime; that it
made no answer when they spoke to it; yet once they thought it
lifted up its head and addressed itself to motion, as if it were
about to speak; but in that moment the morning cock crew and it
shrank in haste away, and vanished out of their sight.

The young prince, strangely amazed at their relation, which was
too consistent and agreeing with itself to disbelieve, concluded
that it was his father's ghost which they had seen, and
determined to take his watch with the soldiers that night, that
he might have a chance of seeing it; for he reasoned with himself
that such an appearance did not come for nothing, but that the
ghost had something to impart, and though it had been silent
hitherto, yet it would speak to him. And he waited with
impatience for the coming of night.

When night came he took his stand with Horatio, and Marcellus,
one of the guard, upon the platform, where this apparition was
accustomed to walk; and it being a cold night, and the air
unusually raw and nipping, Hamlet and Horatio and their companion
fell into some talk about the coldness of the night, which was
suddenly broken off by Horatio announcing that the ghost was

At the sight of his father's spirit Hamlet was struck with a
sudden surprise and fear.' He at first called upon the angels and
heavenly ministers to defend them, for he knew not whether it
were a good spirit or bad, whether it came for good or evil; but
he gradually assumed more courage; and his father (as it seemed
to him) looked upon him so piteously, and as it were desiring to
have conversation with him, and did in all respects appear so
like himself as he was when he lived, that Hamlet could not help
addressing him. He called him by his name, "Hamlet, King,
Father!" and conjured him that he would tell the reason why he
had left his grave, where they had seen him quietly bestowed, to
come again and visit the earth and the moonlight; and besought
him that he would let them know if there was anything which they
could do to give peace to his spirit. And the ghost beckoned to
Hamlet, that he should go with him to some more removed place
where they might be alone; and Horatio and Marcellus would have
dissuaded the young prince from following it, for they feared
lest it should be some evil spirit who would tempt him to the
neighboring sea or to the top of some dreadful cliff, and there
put on some horrible shape which might deprive the prince of his
reason. But their counsels and entreaties could not alter
Hamlet's determination, who cared too little about life to fear
the losing of it; and as to his soul, he said, what could the
spirit do to that, being a thing immortal as itself? And he felt
as hardy as a lion, and, bursting from them, who did all they
could to hold him, he followed whithersoever the spirit led him.

And when they were alone together, the spirit broke silence and
told him that he was the ghost of Hamlet, his father, who had
been cruelly murdered, and he told the manner of it; that it was
done by his own brother Claudius, Hamlet's uncle, as Hamlet had
already but too much suspected, for the hope of succeeding to his
bed and crown. That as he was sleeping in his garden, his custom
always in the afternoon, his treasonous brother stole upon him in
his sleep and poured the juice of poisonous henbane into his
ears, which has such an antipathy to the life of man that, swift
as quicksilver, it courses through all the veins of the body,
baking up the blood and spreading a crust-like leprosy all over
the skin. Thus sleeping, by a brother's hand he was cut off at
once from his crown, his queen, and his life; and he adjured
Hamlet, if he did ever his dear father love, that he would
revenge his foul murder. And the ghost lamented to his son that
his mother should so fall off from virtue as to prove false to
the wedded love of her first husband and to marry his murderer;
but he cautioned Hamlet, howsoever he proceeded in his revenge
against his wicked uncle, by no means to act any violence against
the person of his mother, but to leave her to Heaven, and to the
stings and thorns of conscience. And Hamlet promised to observe
the ghost's direction in all things, and the ghost vanished.

And when Hamlet was left alone he took up a solemn resolution
that all he had in his memory, all that he had ever learned by
books or observation, should be instantly forgotten by him, and
nothing live in his brain but the memory of what the ghost had
told him and enjoined him to do. And Hamlet related the
particulars of the conversation which had passed to none but his
dear friend Horatio; and he enjoined both to him and Marcellus
the strictest secrecy as to what they had seen that night.

The terror which the sight of the ghost had left upon the senses
of Hamlet, he being weak and dispirited before, almost unhinged
his mind and drove him beside his reason. And he, fearing that it
would continue to have this effect, which might subject him to
observation and set his uncle upon his guard, if he suspected
that he was meditating anything against him, or that Hamlet
really knew more of his father's death than he professed, took up
a strange resolution, from that time to counterfeit as if he were
really and truly mad; thinking that he would be less an object of
suspicion when his uncle should believe him incapable of any
serious project, and that his real perturbation of mind would be
best covered and pass concealed under a disguise of pretended

From this time Hamlet affected a certain wildness and strangeness
in his apparel, his speech, and behavior, and did so excellently
counterfeit the madman that the king and queen were both
deceived, and not thinking his grief for his father's death a
sufficient cause to produce such a distemper, for they knew not
of the appearance of the ghost, they concluded that his malady
was love and they thought they had found out the object.

Before Hamlet fell into the melancholy way which has been
related he had dearly loved a fair maid called Ophelia, the
daughter of Polonius, the king's chief counselor in affairs of
state. He had sent her letters and rings, and made many tenders
of his affection to her, and importuned her with love in
honorable fashion; and she had given belief to his vows and
importunities. But the melancholy which he fell into latterly
had made him neglect her, and from the time he conceived the
project of counterfeiting madness he affected to treat her with
unkindness and a sort of rudeness; but she, good lady, rather
than reproach him with being false to her, persuaded herself that
it was nothing but the disease in his mind, and no settled
unkindness, which had made him less observant of her than
formerly; and she compared the faculties of his once noble mind
and excellent understanding, impaired as they were with the deep
melancholy that oppressed him, to sweet bells which in themselves
are capable of most exquisite music, but when jangled out of
tune, or rudely handled, produce only a harsh and unpleasing

Though the rough business which Hamlet had in hand, the revenging
of his father's death upon his murderer, did not suit with the
playful state of courtship, or admit of the society of so idle a
passion as love now seemed to him, yet it could not hinder but
that soft thoughts of his Ophelia would come between, and in one
of these moments, when he thought that his treatment of this
gentle lady had been unreasonably harsh, he wrote her a letter
full of wild starts of passion, and in extravagant terms, such as
agreed with his supposed madness, but mixed with some gentle
touches of affection, which could not but show to this honored
lady that a deep love for her yet lay at the bottom of his heart.
He bade her to doubt the stars were fire, and to doubt that the
sun did move, to doubt truth to be a liar, but never to doubt
that he loved; with more of such extravagant phrases. This letter
Ophelia dutifully showed to her father, and the old man thought
himself bound to communicate it to the king and queen, who from
that time supposed that the true cause of Hamlet's madness was
love. And the queen wished that the good beauties of Ophelia
might be the happy cause of his wildness, for so she hoped that
her virtues might happily restore him to his accustomed way
again, to both their honors.

But Hamlet's malady lay deeper than she supposed, or than could
be so cured. His father's ghost, which he had seen, still haunted
his imagination, and the sacred injunction to revenge his murder
gave him no rest till it was accomplished. Every hour of delay
seemed to him a sin and a violation of his father's commands. Yet
how to compass the death of the king, surrounded as he constantly
was with his guards, was no easy matter. Or if it had been, the
presence of the queen, Hamlet's mother, who was generally with
the king, was a restraint upon his purpose, which he could not
break through. Besides, the very circumstance that the usurper
was his mother's husband, filled him with some remorse and still
blunted the edge of his purpose. The mere act of putting a
fellow-creature to death was in itself odious and terrible to a
disposition naturally so gentle as Hamlet's was. His very
melancholy, and the dejection of spirits he had so long been ill,
produced an irresoluteness and wavering of purpose which kept him
from proceeding to extremities. Moreover, he could not help
having some scruples upon his mind, whether the spirit which he
had seen was indeed his father, or whether it might not be the
devil, who he had heard has power to take any form he pleases,
and who might have assumed his father's shape only to take
advantage of his weakness and his melancholy, to drive him to the
doing of so desperate an act as murder. And he determined that he
would have more certain grounds to go upon than a vision, or
apparition, which might be a delusion.

While he was in this irresolute mind there came to the court
certain players, in whom Hamlet formerly used to take delight,
and particularly to hear one of them speak a tragical speech,
describing the death of old Priam, King of Troy, with the grief
of Hecuba his queen. Hamlet welcomed his old friends, the
players, and remembering how that speech had formerly given him
pleasure, requested the player to repeat it; which he did in so
lively a manner, setting forth the cruel murder of the feeble old
king, with the destruction of his people and city by fire, and
the mad grief of the old queen, running barefoot up and down the
palace, with a poor clout upon that head where a crown had been,
and with nothing but a blanket upon her loins, snatched up in
haste, where she had worn a royal robe; that not only it drew
tears from all that stood by, who thought they saw the real
scene, so lively was it represented, but even the player himself
delivered it with a broken voice and real tears. This put Hamlet
upon thinking, if that player could so work himself up to passion
by a mere fictitious speech, to weep for one that he had never
seen, for Hecuba, that had been dead so many hundred years, how
dull was he, who having a real motive and cue for passion, a real
king and a dear father murdered, was yet so little moved that his
revenge all this while had seemed to have slept in dull and muddy
forgetfulness! and while he meditated on actors and acting, and
the powerful effects which a good play, represented to the life,
has upon the spectator, he remembered the instance of some
murderer, who, seeing a murder on the stage, was by the mere
force of the scene and resemblance of circumstances so affected
that on the spot he confessed the crime which he had committed.
And he determined that these players should play something like
the murder of his father before his uncle, and he would watch
narrowly what effect it might have upon him, and from his looks
he would be able to gather with more certainty if he were the
murderer or not. To this effect he ordered a play to be prepared,
to the representation of which he invited the king and queen.

The story of the play was of a murder done in Vienna upon a duke.
The duke's name was Gonzago, his wife's Baptista. The play showed
how one Lucianus, a near relation to the duke, poisoned him in
his garden for his estate, and how the murderer in a short time
after got the love of Gonzago's wife.

At the representation of this play, the king, who did not know
the trap which was laid for him, was present, with his queen and
the whole court; Hamlet sitting attentively near him to observe
his looks. The play began with a conversation between Gonzago and
his wife, in which the lady made many protestations of love, and
of never marrying a second husband if she should outlive Gonzago,
wishing she might be accursed if she ever took a second husband,
and adding that no woman did so but those wicked women who kill
their first husbands. Hamlet observed the king his uncle change
color at this expression, and that it was as bad as wormwood both
to him and to the queen. But when Lucianus, according to the
story, came to poison Gonzago sleeping in the garden, the strong
resemblance which it bore to his own wicked act upon the late
king, his brother, whom he had poisoned in his garden, so struck
upon the conscience of this usurper that he was unable to sit out
the rest of the play, but on a sudden calling for lights to his
chamber, and affecting or partly feeling a sudden sickness, he
abruptly left the theater. The king being departed, the play was
given over. Now Hamlet had seen enough to be satisfied that the
words of the ghost were true and no illusion; and in a fit of
gaiety, like that which comes over a man who suddenly has some
great doubt or scruple resolved, he swore to Horatio that he
would take the ghost's word for a thousand pounds. But before he
could make up his resolution as to what measures of revenge he
should take, now he was certainly informed that his uncle was his
father's murderer, he was sent for by the queen his mother, to a
private conference in her closet.

It was by desire of the king that the queen sent for Hamlet,
that she might signify to her son how much his late behavior
had displeased them both, and the king, wishing to know all that
passed at that conference, and thinking that the too partial
report of a mother might let slip some part of Hamlet's words,
which it might much import the king to know, Polonius, the old
counselor of state, was ordered to plant himself behind the
hangings in the queen's closet, where he might, unseen, hear all
that passed. This artifice was particularly adapted to the
disposition of Polonius, who was a man grown old in crooked
maxims and policies of state, and delighted to get at the
knowledge of matters in an indirect and cunning way.

Hamlet being come to his mother, she began to tax him in the
roundest way with his actions and behavior, and she told him that
he had given great offense to HIS FATHER, meaning the king, his
uncle, whom, because he had married her, she called Hamlet's
father. Hamlet, sorely indignant that she should give so dear and
honored a name as father seemed to him to a wretch who was
indeed no better than the murderer of his true father, with some
sharpness replied:

"Mother, YOU have much offended MY FATHER."

The queen said that was but an idle answer.

"As good as the question deserved," said Hamlet.

The queen asked him if he had forgotten who it was he was
speaking to.

"Alas!" replied Hamlet, "I wish I could forget. You are the
queen, your husband's brother's wife; and you are my mother. I
wish you were not what you are."

"Nay, then," said the queen, "if you show me so little respect, I
will set those to you that can speak," and was going to send the
king or Polonius to him.

But Hamlet would not let her go, now he had her alone, till he
had tried if his words could not bring her to some sense of her
wicked life; and, taking her by the wrist, he held her fast, and
made her sit down. She, affrighted at his earnest manner, and
fearful lest in his lunacy he should do her a mischief, cried
out; and a voice was heard from behind the hangings, "Help, help'
the queen!" which Hamlet hearing, and verily thinking that it was
the king himself there concealed, he drew his sword and stabbed
at the place where the voice came from, as he would have stabbed
a rat that ran there, till, the voice ceasing, he concluded the
person to be dead. But when he dragged forth the body it was not
the king, but Polonius, the old, officious counselor, that had
planted himself as a spy behind the hangings.

"Oh, me!" exclaimed the queen, "what a rash and bloody deed have
you done!"

"A bloody deed, mother," replied Hamlet, "but not so bad as
yours, who killed a king, and married his brother."

Hamlet had gone too far to leave off here. He was now in the
humor to speak plainly to his mother, and he pursued it. And
though the faults of parents are to be tenderly treated by their
children, yet in the case of great crimes the son may have leave
to speak even to his own mother with some harshness, so as that
harshness is meant for her good and to turn her from her wicked
ways, and not done for the purpose of upbraiding. And now this
virtuous prince did in moving terms represent to the queen the
heinousness of her offense in being so forgetful of the dead
king, his father, as in so short a space of time to marry with
his brother and reputed murderer. Such an act as, after the vows
which she had sworn to her first husband, was enough to make all
vows of women suspected and all virtue to be accounted hypocrisy,
wedding contracts to be less than gamesters' oaths, and religion
to be a mockery and a mere form of words. He said she had done
such a deed that the heavens blushed at it, and the earth was
sick of her because of it. And he showed her two pictures, the
one of the late king, her first husband, and the other of the
present king, her second husband, and he bade her mark the
difference; what a grace was on the brow of his father, how like
a god he looked! the curls of Apollo, the forehead of Jupiter,
the eye of Mars, and a posture like to Mercury newly alighted on
some heaven-kissing hill! this man, he said, HAD BEEN her
husband. And then be showed her whom she had got in his stead;
how like a blight or a mildew he looked, for so he had blasted
his wholesome brother. And the queen was sore ashamed that he
should so turn her eyes inward upon her soul, which she now saw
so black and deformed. And he asked her how she could continue to
live with this man, and be a wife to him, who had murdered her
first husband and got the crown by as false means as a thief--and
just as he spoke the ghost of his father, such as he was in his
lifetime and such as he had lately seen it, entered the room, and
Hamlet, in great terror, asked what it would have; and the ghost
said that it came to remind him of the revenge he had promised,
which Hamlet seemed to have forgot; and the ghost bade him speak
to his mother, for the grief and terror she was in would else
kill her. It then vanished, and was seen by none but Hamlet,
neither could he by pointing to where it stood, or by any
description, make his mother perceive it, who was terribly
frightened all this while to hear him conversing, as it seemed to
her, with nothing; and she imputed it to the disorder of his
mind. But Hamlet begged her not to flatter her wicked soul in
such a manner as to think that it was his madness, and not her
own offenses, which had brought his father's spirit again on the
earth. And he bade her feel his pulse, how temperately it beat,
not like a madman's. And he begged of her, with tears, to confess
herself to Heaven for what was past, and for the future to
avoid the company of the king and be no more as a wife to him;
and when she should show herself a mother to him, by respecting
his father's memory, he would ask a blessing of her as a son. And
she promising to observe his directions, the conference ended.

And now Hamlet was at leisure to consider who it was that in his
unfortunate rashness he had killed; and when he came to see that
it was Polonius, the father of the Lady Ophelia whom he so dearly
loved, he drew apart the dead body, and, his spirits being now a
little quieter, he wept for what he had done.

The unfortunate death of Polonius gave the king a pretense for
sending Hamlet out of the kingdom. He would willingly have put
him to death, fearing him as dangerous; but he dreaded the
people, who loved Hamlet, and the queen, who, with all her
faults, doted upon the prince, her son. So this subtle king,
under pretense of providing for Hamlet's safety, that he might
not be called to account for Polonius's death, caused him to be
conveyed on board a ship bound for England, under the care of two
courtiers, by whom he despatched letters to the English court,
which in that time was in subjection and paid tribute to Denmark,
requiring, for special reasons there pretended, that Hamlet
should be put to death as soon as he landed on English ground.
Hamlet, suspecting some treachery, in the nighttime secretly got
at the letters, and, skilfully erasing his own name, he in the
stead of it put in the names of those two courtiers, who had the
charge of him, to be put to death; then sealing up the letters,
he put them into their place again. Soon after the ship was
attacked by pirates, and a sea-fight commenced, in the course of
which Hamlet, desirous to show his valor, with sword in hand
singly boarded the enemy's vessel; while his own ship, in a
cowardly manner, bore away; and leaving him to his fate, the two
courtiers made the best of their way to England, charged with
those letters the sense of which Hamlet had altered to their own
deserved destruction.

The pirates who had the prince in their power showed themselves
gentle enemies, and, knowing whom they had got prisoner, in the
hope that the prince might do them a good turn at court in
recompense for any favor they might show him, they set Hamlet on
shore at the nearest port in Denmark. From that place Hamlet
wrote to the king, acquainting him with the strange chance which
had brought him back to his own country and saying that on the
next day he should present himself before his Majesty. When he
got home a sad spectacle offered itself the first thing to his

This was the funeral of the young and beautiful Ophelia, his once
dear mistress. The wits of this young lady had begun to turn ever
since her poor father's death. That he should die a violent
death, and by the hands of the prince whom she loved, so affected
this tender young maid that in a little time she grew perfectly
distracted, and would go about giving flowers away to the ladies
of the court, and saying that they were for her father's burial,
singing songs about love and about death, and sometimes such as
had no meaning at all, as if she had no memory of what happened
to her. There was a willow which grew slanting over a brook, and
reflected its leaves on the stream. To this brook she came one
day when she was unwatched, with garlands she had been making,
mixed up of daisies and nettles, flowers and weeds together, and
clambering up to bang her garland upon the boughs of the willow,
a bough broke and precipitated this fair young maid, garland, and
all that she had gathered, into the water, where her clothes bore
her up for a while, during which she chanted scraps of old tunes,
like one insensible to her own distress, or as if she were a
creature natural to that element; but long it was not before her
garments, heavy with the wet, pulled her in from her melodious
singing to a muddy and miserable death. It was the funeral of
this fair maid which her brother Laertes was celebrating, the
king and queen and whole court being present, when Hamlet
arrived. He knew not what all this show imported, but stood on
one side, not inclining to interrupt the ceremony. He saw the
flowers strewed upon her grave, as the custom was in maiden
burials, which the queen herself threw in; and as she threw them
she said:

"Sweets to the sweet! I thought to have decked thy bride bed,
sweet maid, not to have strewed thy grave. Thou shouldst have
been my Hamlet's wife."

And he heard her brother wish that violets might spring from her
grave; and he saw him leap into the grave all frantic with grief,
and bid the attendants pile mountains of earth upon him, that he
might be buried with her. And Hamlet's love for this fair maid
came back to him, and he could not bear that a brother should
show so much transport of grief, for he thought that he loved
Ophelia better than forty thousand brothers. Then discovering
himself, he leaped into the grave where Laertes was, all as
frantic or more frantic than he, and Laertes, knowing him to be
Hamlet, who had been the cause of his father's and his sister's
death, grappled him by the throat as an enemy, till the
attendants parted them; and Hamlet, after the funeral, excused
his hasty act in throwing himself into the grave as if to brave
Laertes; but he said he could not bear that any one should seem
to outgo him in grief for the death of the fair Ophelia. And for
the time these two noble youths seemed reconciled.

But out of the grief and anger of Laertes for the death of his
father and Ophelia the king, Hamlet's wicked uncle, contrived
destruction for Hamlet. He set on Laertes, under cover of peace
and reconciliation, to challenge Hamlet to a friendly trial of
skill at fencing, which Hamlet accepting, a day was appointed to
try the match. At this match all the court was present, and
Laertes, by direction of the king, prepared a poisoned weapon.
Upon this match great wagers were laid by the courtiers, as both
Hamlet and Laertes were known to excel at this sword play; and
Hamlet, taking up the foils, chose one, not at all suspecting the
treachery of Laertes, or being careful to examine Laertes's
weapon, who, instead of a foil or blunted sword, which the laws
of fencing require, made use of one with a point, and poisoned.
At first Laertes did but play with Hamlet, and suffered him to
gain some advantages, which the dissembling king magnified and
extolled beyond measure, drinking to Hamlet's success and
wagering rich bets upon the issue. But after a few pauses
Laertes, growing warm, made a deadly thrust at Hamlet with his
poisoned weapon, and gave him a mortal blow. Hamlet, incensed,
but not knowing,the whole of the treachery, in the scuffle
exchanged his own innocent weapon for Laertes's deadly one, and
with a thrust of Laertes's own sword repaid Laertes home, who was
thus justly caught in his own treachery. In this instant the
queen shrieked out that she was poisoned. She had inadvertently
drunk out of a bowl which the king had prepared for Hamlet, in
case that, being warm in fencing, he should call for drink; into
this the treacherous king had infused a deadly poison, to make
sure of Hamlet, if Laertes had failed. He had forgotten to warn
the queen of the bowl, which she drank of, and immediately died,
exclaiming with her last breath that she was poisoned. Hamlet,
suspecting some treachery, ordered the doors to be shut while he
sought it out. Laertes told him to seek no farther, for he was
the traitor; and feeling his life go away with the wound which
Hamlet had given him, he made confession of the treachery he had
used and how he had fallen a victim to it: and he told Hamlet of
the envenomed point, and said that Hamlet had not half an hour to
live, for no medicine could cure him; and begging forgiveness of
Hamlet, he died, with his last words accusing the king of being
the contriver of the mischief. When Hamlet saw his end draw near,
there being yet some venom left upon the sword, he suddenly
turned upon his false uncle and thrust the point of it to his
heart, fulfilling the promise which he had made to his father's
spirit, whose injunction was now accomplished and his foul murder
revenged upon the murderer. Then Hamlet, feeling his breath fail
and life departing, turned to his dear friend Horatio, who had
been spectator of this fatal tragedy; and with his dying breath
requested him that he would live to tell his story to the world
(for Horatio had made a motion as if he would slay himself to
accompany the prince in death), and Horatio promised that he
would make a true report as one that was privy to all the
circumstances. And, thus satisfied, the noble heart of Hamlet
cracked; and Horatio and the bystanders with many tears commended
the spirit of this sweet prince to the guardianship of angels.
For Hamlet was a loving and a gentle prince and greatly beloved
for his many noble and princelike qualities; and if he had lived,
would no doubt have proved a most royal and complete king to


Brabantio, the rich senator of Venice, had a fair daughter, the
gentle Desdemona. She was sought to by divers suitors, both on
account of her many virtuous qualities and for her rich
expectations. But among the suitors of her own clime and
complexion she saw none whom she could affect, for this noble
lady, who regarded the mind more than the features of men, with a
singularity rather to be admired than imitated had chosen for the
object of her affections a Moor, a black, whom her father loved
and often invited to his house.

Neither is Desdemona to be altogether condemned for the
unsuitableness of the person whom she selected for her lover.
Bating that Othello was black, the noble Moor wanted nothing
which might recommend him to the affections of the greatest lady.
He was a soldier, and a brave one; and by his conduct in bloody
wars against the Turks had risen to the rank of general in the
Venetian service, and was esteemed and trusted by the state.

He had been a traveler, and Desdemona (as is the manner of
ladies) loved to hear him tell the story of his adventures, which
he would run through from his earliest recollection; the battles,
sieges, and encounters which he had passed through; the perils he
had been exposed to by land and by water; his hair-breadth
escapes, when he had entered a breach or marched up to the mouth
of a cannon; and how he had been taken prisoner by the insolent
enemy, and sold to slavery; how he demeaned himself in that
state, and how he escaped: all these accounts, added to the
narration of the strange things he had seen in foreign countries,
the vast wilderness and romantic caverns, the quarries, the rocks
and mountains whose heads are in the clouds; of the savage
nations, the cannibals who are man-eaters, and a race of people
in Africa whose heads do grow beneath their shoulders. These
travelers' stories would so enchain the attention of Desdemona
that if she were called off at any time by household affairs she
would despatch with all haste that business, and return, and with
a greedy ear devour Othello's discourse. And once he took
advantage of a pliant hour and drew from her a prayer that he
would tell her the whole story of his life at large, of which she
had heard so much, but only by parts. To which he consented, and
beguiled her of many a tear when he spoke of some distressful
stroke which his youth had suffered.

His story being done, she gave him for his pains a world of
sighs. She swore a pretty oath that it was all passing strange,
and pitiful, wondrous pitiful. She wished (she said) she had not
heard it, yet she wished that Heaven had made her such a man; and
then she thanked him, and told him, if he had a friend who loved
her, he had only to teach him how to tell his story and that
would woo her. Upon this hint, delivered not with more frankness
than modesty, accompanied with certain bewitching prettiness and
blushes, which Othello could not but understand, he spoke more
openly of his love, and in this golden opportunity gained the
consent of the generous Lady Desdemona privately to marry him.

Neither Othello's color nor his fortune was such that it could be
hoped Brabantio would accept him for a son-in-law. He had left
his daughter free; but he did expect that, as the manner of noble
Venetian ladies was, she would choose erelong a husband of
senatorial rank or expectations; but in this he was deceived.
Desdemona loved the Moor, though he was black, and devoted her
heart and fortunes to his valiant parts and qualities. So was her
heart subdued to an implicit devotion to the man she had selected
for a husband that his very color, which to all but this
discerning lady would have proved an insurmountable objection,
was by her esteemed above all the white skins and clear
complexions of the young Venetian nobility, her suitors.

Their marriage, which, though privately carried, could not long
be kept a secret, came to the ears of the old man, Brabantio, who
appeared in a solemn council of the senate as an accuser of the
Moor Othello, who by spells and witchcraft (he maintained) had
seduced the affections of the fair Desdemona to marry him,
without the consent of her father, and against the obligations of

At this juncture of time it happened that the state of Venice had
immediate need of the services of Othello, news having arrived
that the Turks with mighty preparation had fitted out a fleet,
which was bending its course to the island of Cyprus, with intent
to regain that strong post from the Venetians, who then held it;
in this emergency the state turned its eyes upon Othello, who
alone was deemed adequate to conduct the defense of Cyprus
against the Turks. So that Othello, now summoned before the
senate, stood in their presence at once as a candidate for a
great state employment and as a culprit charged with offenses
which by the laws of Venice were made capital.

The age and senatorial character of old Brabantio commanded a
most patient hearing from that grave assembly; but the incensed
father conducted his accusation with so much intemperance,
producing likelihoods and allegations for proofs, that, when
Othello was called upon for his defense, he had only to relate a
plain tale of the course of his love; which he did with such an
artless eloquence, recounting the whole story of his wooing as we
have related it above, and delivered his speech with so noble a
plainness (the evidence of truth) that the duke, who sat as chief
judge, could not help confessing that a tale so told would have
won his daughter, too, and the spells and conjurations which
Othello had used in his courtship plainly appeared to have been
no more than the honest arts of men in love, and the only
witchcraft which he had used the faculty of telling a soft tale
to win a lady's ear.

This statement of Othello was confirmed by the testimony of the
Lady Desdemona herself, who appeared in court and, professing a
duty to her father for life and education, challenged leave of
him to profess a yet higher duty to her lord and husband, even so
much as her mother had shown in preferring him (Brabantio) above
HER father.

The old senator, unable to maintain his plea, called the Moor to
him with many expressions of sorrow, and, as an act of necessity,
bestowed upon him his daughter, whom, if he had been free to
withhold her (he told him), he would with all his heart have kept
from him; adding that he was glad at soul that he had no other
child, for this behavior of Desdemona would have taught him to be
a tyrant and hang clogs on them for her desertion.

This difficulty being got over, Othello, to whom custom had
rendered the hardships of a military life as natural as food and
rest are to other men, readily undertook the management of the
wars in Cyprus; and Desdemona, preferring the honor of her lord
(though with danger) before the indulgence of those idle delights
in which new-married people usually waste their time, cheerfully
consented to his going.

No sooner were Othello and his lady landed in Cyprus than news
arrived that a desperate tempest had dispersed the Turkish fleet,
and thus the island was secure from any immediate apprehension of
an attack. But the war which Othello was to suffer was now
beginning; and the enemies which malice stirred up against his
innocent lady proved in their nature more deadly than strangers
or infidels.

Among all the general's friends no one possessed the confidence
of Othello more entirely than Cassio. Michael Cassio was a young
soldier, a Florentine, gay, amorous, and of pleasing address,
favorite qualities with women; he was handsome and eloquent, and
exactly such a person as might alarm the jealousy of a man
advanced in years (as Othello in some measure was) who had
married a young and beautiful wife; but Othello was as free from
jealousy as he was noble, and as incapable of suspecting as of
doing a base action. He had employed this Cassio in his love
affair with Desdemona, and Cassio had been a sort of go-between
in his suit; for Othello, fearing that himself had not those soft
parts of conversation which please ladies, and finding these
qualities in his friend, would often depute Cassio to go (as he
phrased it) a-courting for him, such innocent simplicity being
rather an honor than a blemish to the character of the valiant
Moor. So that no wonder if, next to Othello himself (but at far
distance, as beseems a virtuous wife), the gentle Desdemona loved
and trusted Cassio. Nor had the marriage of this couple made any
difference in their behavior to Michael Cassio. He frequented
their house, and his free and rattling talk was no unpleasing
variety to Othello, who was himself of a more serious temper; for
such tempers are observed often to delight in their contraries,
as a relief from the oppressive excess of their own; and
Desdemona and Cassio would talk and laugh together, as in the
days when he went a-courting for his friend.

Othello had lately promoted Cassio to be the lieutenant, a place
of trust, and nearest to the general's person. This promotion
gave great offense to Iago, an older officer who thought he had a
better claim than Cassio, and would often ridicule Cassio as a
fellow fit only for the company of ladies and one that knew no
more of the art of war or how to set an army in array for battle
than a girl. Iago hated Cassio, and he hated Othello as well for
favoring Cassio as for an unjust suspicion, which he had lightly
taken up against Othello, that the Moor was too fond of Iago's
wife Emilia. From these imaginary provocations the plotting mind
of Iago conceived a horrid scheme of revenge, which should
involve Cassio, the Moor, and Desdemona in one common ruin.

Iago was artful, and had studied human nature deeply, and he knew
that of all the torments which afflict the mind of man (and far
beyond bodily torture) the pains of jealousy were the most
intolerable and had the sorest sting. If he could succeed in
making Othello jealous of Cassio he thought it would be an
exquisite plot of revenge and might end in the death of Cassio or
Othello, or both; he cared not.

The arrival of the general and his lady in Cyprus, meeting with
news of the dispersion of the enemy's fleet, made a sort of
holiday in the island. Everybody gave himself up to feasting and
making merry. Wine flowed in abundance, and cups went round to
the health of the black Othello and his lady the fair Desdemona.

Cassio had the direction of the guard that night, with a charge
from Othello to keep the soldiers from excess in drinking, that
no brawl might arise to fright the inhabitants or disgust them
with the new-landed forces. That night Iago began his deep-laid
plans of mischief. Under color of loyalty and love to the
general, he enticed Cassio to make rather too free with the
bottle (a great fault in an officer upon guard). Cassio for a
time resisted, but he could not long hold out against the honest
freedom which Iago knew how to put on, but kept swallowing glass
after glass (as Iago still plied him with drink and encouraging
songs), and Cassio's tongue ran over in praise of the Lady
Desdemona, whom he again and again toasted, affirming that she
was a most exquisite lady. Until at last the enemy which he put
into his mouth stole away his brains; and upon some provocation
given him by a fellow whom Iago had set on, swords were drawn,
and Montano, a worthy officer, who interfered to appease the
dispute, was wounded in the scuffle. The riot now began to be
general, and Iago, who had set on foot the mischief, was foremost
in spreading the alarm, causing the castle bell to be rung (as if
some dangerous mutiny instead of a slight drunken quarrel had
arisen). The alarm-bell ringing awakened Othello, who, dressing
in a hurry and coming to the scene of action, questioned Cassio
of the cause.

Cassio was now come to himself, the effect of the wine having a
little gone off, but was too much ashamed to reply; and Iago,
pretending a great reluctance to accuse Cassio, but, as it were,
forced into it by Othello, who insisted to know the truth, gave
an account of the whole matter (leaving out his own share in it,
which Cassio was too far gone to remember) in such a manner as,
while he seemed to make Cassio's offense less, did indeed make it
appear greater than it was. The result was that Othello, who was
a strict observer of discipline, was compelled to take away
Cassio's place of lieutenant from him.

Thus did Iago's first artifice succeed completely; he had now
undermined his hated rival and thrust him,out of his place; but a
further use was hereafter to be made of the adventure of this
disastrous night.

Cassio, whom this misfortune had entirely sobered, now lamented
to his seeming friend Iago that he should have been such a fool
as to transform himself into a beast. He was undone, for how
could he ask the general for his place again? He would tell him
he was a drunkard. He despised himself. Iago, affecting to make
light of it, said that he, or any man living, might be drunk upon
occasion; it remained now to make the best of a bad bargain. The
general's wife was now the general, and could do anything with
Othello; that he were best to apply to the Lady Desdemona to
mediate for him with her lord; that she was of a frank, obliging
disposition and would readily undertake a good office of this
sort and set Cassio right again in the general's favor; and then
this crack in their love would be made stronger than ever. A good
advice of Iago, if it had not been given for wicked purposes,
which will after appear.

Cassio did as Iago advised him, and made application to the Lady
Desdemona, who was easy to be won over in any honest suit; and
she promised Cassio that she should be his solicitor with her
lord, and rather die than give up his cause. This she immediately
set about in so earnest and pretty a manner that Othello, who was
mortally offended with Cassio, could not put her off. When he
pleaded delay, and that it was too soon to pardon such an
offender, she would not be beat back, but insisted that it should
be the next night, or the morning after, or the next morning to
that at farthest. Then she showed how penitent and humbled poor
Cassio was, and that his offense did not deserve so sharp a

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