Crush a Cup

In Act One of Romeo and Juliet, there are a number of speeches, the scansion of which makes it appear that the speakers may well be drunk.

Act One, Scene Three

The Nurse uses such awkward meter that it certainly appears that she is in some altered state:

\ ~  ~   \   ~   \   \    ~  ~   \
Even or odd, of all days in the year,
~    \  ~   \  ~   \      ~    ~   \  ~   \
Come Lammas Eve at night shall she be fourteen.
\ ~   ~   \    ~   \    ~    \   ~    \
Susan and she (God rest all Christian souls!)
~    \ ~   \    ~     \ ~  \   ~    \
Were of an age: well, Susan is with God;
\   ~   ~   \    ~   \    ~   \  ~  \
She was too good for me.  But, as I said,
~   \  ~   \  ~   \      ~    ~   \  ~   \
On Lammas Eve at night shall she be fourteen;
~    \    ~     \ ~  \  ~ \  ~  ~   \
That shall she, marry; I remember it well.
~   \     ~   \     \    \  ~ \ ~    \
'Tis since the earthquake now eleven years;
~   \   ~    \     ~  \ ~    \    ~  \  ~
And she was weaned (I never shall forget it)
~   \   ~   \   ~   ~   \    ~ \    ~   \
Of all the days of the year, upon that day,
~  \  ~    \   ~    \   ~    \  ~  \
For I had then laid wormwood to my dug,
\  ~    -~-    \  \  ~   ~   \   ~     \
Sitting in the sun under the dovehouse wall.
~  \    ~   \   ~     \  ~   \  ~\
My lord and you were then at Mantua.
\   ~  \  \   ~  \      \   ~  ~   \
Nay, I do bear a brain. But, as I said,
\  ~   ~   \     ~   \   ~   \   ~   \  ~
When it did taste the wormwood on the nipple
~   ~  \   ~   \   ~   \  ~     \  ~  \
Of my dug and felt it bitter, pretty fool,
~  \  ~   \   ~  ~   \    \   ~    ~   \
To see it tetchy and fall out with the dug!
\     ~    ~   \    ~       \   ~  \    ~  \
Shake quoth the dovehouse! 'Twas no need, I trow,
~  \   ~   \
To bid me trudge.

— I.iii.16-34

The meter is a mess. Of the nineteen lines, only five have regular iambic rhythm (and one of those has feminine ending, and the last is a half line — so it’s iambic but only bimeter, not pentameter). She pauses at this point, but why? What follows in her repeated telling of the story her late husband and the toddler Juliet:

 ~   \      ~   \   \  ~  ~ \ ~    \
And since that time it is eleven years,
~    \   ~   \      ~    \    ~     \   ~   -\-
For then she could stand high-lone; nay, by th' rood,
~    \    ~    \   ~   \  ~    \  ~ \
She could have run and waddled all about;
~   -\-  ~   \   ~ \     ~    \    ~   \
For even the day before, she broke her brow:
~    \   ~  \  ~     \  ~    \   ~   \
And then my husband (God be with his soul!
~   \  ~  \  ~  \    \   ~   ~    \
A' was a merry man) took up the child:
\     ~     ~    \    ~    \   ~ \   ~   \
'Yea,' quoth he, 'dost thou fall upon thy face?
~   \    ~    \   ~     \    ~   \    ~    \
Thou wilt fall backward when thou hast more wit;
\    ~    ~    \      ~    \  ~  \ ~ \
Wilt thou not, Jule?' and, by my holidame,
~    \  ~   \     ~     \ ~   \   ~    \
The pretty wretch left crying and said 'Ay.'
~  \    ~    \  ~  \    ~     \   ~ \
To see, now, how a jest shall come about!
~   -\-    ~  \   ~     \   ~   \  ~    \
I warrant, an I should live a thousand years,
~  \ ~    \     ~  \  ~     \     ~  \     \      ~     \
I never should forget it: 'Wilt thou not, Jule?' quoth he,
~    \   ~  \    ~    \  ~   \   ~    \
And, pretty fool, it stinted and said 'Ay.'

— I.iii.35-48

and then again

 ~    \ ~    \  ~  \  ~    \     ~   \
Yes, madam. Yet I cannot choose but laugh
~   \   ~    \     ~      \ ~   \   ~   \
To think it should leave crying and say 'Ay.'
~   \   ~   -\-    ~   \  ~ \   ~   \
And yet, I warrant, it had upon its brow
~  \   ~   \  \  ~  \     \    ~     \
A bump as big as a young cock'rel's stone--
~  \   ~    \     ~  \   \     \ ~   \
A parlous knock; and it cried bitterly.
\     ~     ~  \  ~     \      ~ \   ~   \
'Yea,' quoth my husband,'fall'st upon thy face?
~   \    ~    \   ~     \    ~   -\-    ~  \
Thou wilt fall backward when thou comest to age;
\    ~    ~    \     ~    \  ~   \   ~    \
Wilt thou not, Jule?' it stinted and said 'Ay.'

— I.iii.50-57

Yet, when she tells the story, the meter regulates. This is a story she has obviously told, time and time again; in a sense, she’s on auto-pilot. Even drunk, she can get through the story normally.

It should come as no suprise that under stress, like that of having to deliver the news of Tybalt’s death and Romeo’s banishment, she calls for “aqua vitae” (III.ii.88), which is “Any form in which ardent spirits have been drunk, as brandy, whisky, etc.” (Oxford English Dictionary Second Edition on CD-ROM [v. 4.0]).

Act One, Scene Four

On the way to the Capulet party, Benvolio responds to Romeo’s question concerning an apology for crashing the party:

The date is out of such prolixity.
We'll have no Cupid hoodwink'd with a scarf,
Bearing a Tartar's painted bow of lath,
Scaring the ladies like a crow-keeper;
Nor no without-book prologue, faintly spoke
After the prompter, for our entrance;
But let them measure us by what they will,
We'll measure them a measure and be gone.

— I.iv.3-10

Benvolio, for the only time in the play, cuts loose with verbal virtuosity: referencing Cupid and Tartar, playing with consonance (crow-keeper, prologue/prompter), and punning with the word “measure.” Nowhere else in the play, does his language take such flight… it’s all straightforward reportage or urgings. It would appear by content alone that Benvolio has done a little pre-partying.

then what to make Mercutio’s Queen Mab speech from yesterday ? maybe Luhrmann has it right, making Mab an ecstasy-like drug…

Act One, Scene Five

At the party itself, check out the meter of our host Capulet:

 \  ~     \  ~  \    \  ~    ~   \     ~    \
Welcome, gentlemen! Ladies that have their toes
~   \      ~    \     ~    \   ~  \    ~    \
Unplagued with corns will have a bout with you.
~   \   ~  \   ~  \     \   ~   ~   \
Ah ha, my mistresses! which of you all
~    \   \ ~  ~  \      \    ~   \     \   ~
Will now deny to dance? She that makes dainty,
\    ~     \     ~    \     ~  \  ~    \    ~  \
She, I'll swear, hath corns; am I come near ye now?
\  ~     \  ~  \   \  ~    \    ~   \
Welcome, gentlemen! I have seen the day
~  \  ~    \   ~  \ ~   \   ~     \
That I have worn a visor and could tell
~   \  -~-    \   ~  ~  \    \ ~    \
A whispering tale in a fair lady's ear,
\   ~   ~      \       ~   \      ~   \      ~   \
Such as would please. 'Tis gone, 'tis gone, 'tis gone!
\   ~   \  ~     \  ~  \    \    ~  \  ~      \
You are welcome, gentlemen! Come, musicians, play.

— I.v.16-25

Compare the mess of that meter with his more measured verse with Paris earlier in the day:

 ~   \   ~    \  ~   \ ~    \   ~   \
But woo her, gentle Paris, get her heart;
~  \    ~  \   ~  \   ~   \  ~  \
My will to her consent is but a part.
~   \  ~  \    ~  \   ~    \   ~    \
An she agree, within her scope of choice
~    \  ~  \    ~   \   ~  \  ~    \
Lies my consent and fair according voice.
\   ~    ~  \   ~  \   ~  \  ~     \
This night I hold an old accustomed feast,
~   \ ~  \   ~  \ ~   \ -~-  \
Whereto I have invited many a guest,
\   ~  ~  \     ~   \   ~ \    ~   \
Such as I love; and you, among the store,
~   \     ~    \  ~     \     ~  \  ~   \
One more, most welcome, makes my number more.

— I.ii.16-23

The garrulousness and awkward meter of the first passage points to a certain inebriation at the opening of the party.

Why all the drinking?

And once again, what a great play to teach freshmen!

sarcasm alert!

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