Romeo and Juliet

by: William Shakespeare

  Act 1 Scene 4

page Act 1 Scene 4 Page 4

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Her chariot is an empty hazelnut
Made by the joiner squirrel or old grub,
70Time out o' mind the fairies' coachmakers.
And in this state she gallops night by night
Through lovers' brains, and then they dream of love;
On courtiers' knees, that dream on curtsies straight;
O'er lawyers' fingers, who straight dream on fees;
75O'er ladies' lips, who straight on kisses dream,
Which oft the angry Mab with blisters plagues,
Because their breaths with sweetmeats tainted are.
Sometime she gallops o'er a courtier’s nose,
And then dreams he of smelling out a suit.
80And sometime comes she with a tithe-pig’s tail
Tickling a parson’s nose as he lies asleep,
Then he dreams of another benefice.
Sometime she driveth o'er a soldier’s neck,
And then dreams he of cutting foreign throats,
85Of breaches, ambuscadoes, Spanish blades,
Of healths five fathom deep, and then anon
Drums in his ear, at which he starts and wakes,
And being thus frighted swears a prayer or two
And sleeps again. This is that very Mab
90That plaits the manes of horses in the night
And bakes the elflocks in foul sluttish hairs,
Which once untangled, much misfortune bodes.
This is the hag, when maids lie on their backs,
That presses them and learns them first to bear,
95Making them women of good carriage.
This is she—
Her chariot is a hazelnut shell. It was made by a carpenter squirrel or an old grubworm; they’ve made wagons for the fairies as long as anyone can remember. In this royal wagon, she rides every night through the brains of lovers and makes them dream about love. She rides over courtiers' knees, and they dream about curtsying. She rides over lawyers' fingers, and right away, they dream about their fees. She rides over ladies' lips, and they immediately dream of kisses. Queen Mab often puts blisters on their lips because their breath smells like candy, which makes her mad. Sometimes she rides over a courtier’s lips, and he dreams of making money off of someone. Sometimes she tickles a priest’s nose with a

tithe-pigs

A tithe-pig was a pig given to the church to support a priest.

tithe-pigs
tail, and he dreams of a large donation. Sometimes she rides over a soldier’s neck, and he dreams of cutting the throats of foreign enemies, of breaking down walls, of ambushes, of Spanish swords, and of enormous cups of liquor. And then, drums beat in his ear and he wakes up. He’s frightened, so he says a couple of prayers and goes back to sleep. She is the same Mab who tangles the hair in horses' manes at night and makes the tangles hard in the dirty hairs, which bring bad luck if they’re untangled. Mab is the old hag who gives false sex dreams to virgins and teaches them how to hold a lover and bear a child. She’s the one—

ROMEO

   Peace, peace, Mercutio, peace!
Thou talk’st of nothing.

ROMEO

Enough, enough! Mercutio, be quiet. You’re talking nonsense.

MERCUTIO

     True, I talk of dreams,
Which are the children of an idle brain,
Begot of nothing but vain fantasy,
100Which is as thin of substance as the air
And more inconstant than the wind, who woos
Even now the frozen bosom of the north,
And, being angered, puffs away from thence,
Turning his face to the dew-dropping south.

MERCUTIO

True. I’m talking about dreams, which are the products of a brain that’s doing nothing. Dreams are nothing but silly imagination, as thin as air, and less predictable than the wind, which sometimes blows on the frozen north and then gets angry and blows south.