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SOME TEXTUAL DIFFICULTIES

IN SHAKESPEARE

SOME TEXTUAL DIFFICULTIES

IN SHAKESPEARE

RUNAWAY'S EYES

Juliet. Gallop apace, you fiery-footed steeds,
Towards Phoebus' lodging: such a waggoner
As Phaeton would whip you to the west,
And bring in cloudy night immediately.
Spread thy close curtain, love-performing night,
That runaways' eyes may wink, and Romeo
Leap to these arms, untalk'd of and unseen.

(Romeo and Juliet, iii, 2, 6, Globe ed.)

MORE time and effort seem to have been spent on this crux than upon any other line in Shakespeare. In Furness' Variorum edition of the play, a crown octavo volume, twentyeight pages of fine print are devoted to a review of the attempts that have been made to clear up the meaning; it occupies, in fact, the whole index to the play. The question which has been so long argued is — What does the

runaways' of the First Folio mean? And should it be printed runaway's or runaways?? In what sense also, or in what connection, is this winking to be understood?

Gollancz says that runaways' eyes is "the main difficulty of the passage, which has been,

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perhaps, the greatest crux or puzzle in Shakespeare.” R. Grant White, in his Shakespeare's Scholar, p. 373, says: “The error will probably remain forever uncorrected unless a word which I venture to suggest seems as unexceptionable to others as it does to me.” He then suggests rumour's eyes. Professor Charles F. Johnson, in his Shakespeare and his critics (1909) says: “In some cases, like 'that runaways eyes may wink,' in “Romeo and Juliet,” it is impossible to hit upon a satisfactory reading, though we should like exceedingly to know who ‘runaway' was. The conjecture ‘rumour's eyes' is not altogether satisfactory, and the question is insoluble.”

White, who at first felt certain that it should be edited rumour's, later changed his view to noonday's, while Hudson, on the other hand, printed it rumour's (1880). Thus the struggle with the passage has veered back and forth from the time of Theobald (1733) up to the present day. Our ancestors have seen this puzzling word of the Folio altered by editors in all sorts of ways. Knight's note in his pictorial edition will give a slight idea of the trouble:

“This passage has been a perpetual source of contention to the commentators. Their difficulties are well represented by Warburton's question: 'What run-aways are these whose eyes Juliet is wishing to be stopped ?' Warburton says Phoebus is the runaway, Steevens

proves that Night is the runaway. Douce thinks that Juliet is the runaway. Monck Mason is confident that the passage ought to be, 'that Renomy's eyes may wink,' Renomy being a new personage created out of the French Renommée, and answering, we suppose, to the 'Rumour' of Spenser.” Knight then adopts unawares, the suggestion of a compositor named Jackson. Others, of the present day, think that "runaways" are prying spectators on the street but yet wonder whether, after all, the word may not mean the steeds of the sun whose eyes

will wink at sunset. More serious than this change in the interpretation of the word itself is the fact that, in the hope of wresting sense out of the passage as a whole, the words are cut up into quite different sentences in various editions, the editor ignoring the punctuation of the First Folio entirely and putting a period here and a semicolon there as he sees a chance to make something else out of it; and this effort is still going

Neilson's edition, for instance (1909), has gone back to a sentence division quite different from that of the Globe text of 1895 long considered standard by Shakespeare scholars generally. It must be evident however that any ingenious effort with exclamation points, periods and commas must be vain so long as we remain in the dark as to the sense of the one word which gives the point of view of the whole passage. As so much of the text is in

on.

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