Romeo and Juliet (excerpts): O then I see Queen Mab hath been with you

Romeo and Juliet (excerpts): O then I see Queen Mab hath been with you

Original Text

Mr William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies (London: Printed by Isaac Jaggard and Ed. Blount, 1623), sig. ee5r (p. 673) / STC (2nd ed.) 22273

2She is the Fairies’ midwife, and she comes
4On the forefinger of an alderman,
6Over men’s noses as they lie asleep.
7Her chariot is an empty hazel-nut
8Made by the joiner squirrel, or old grub,
9Time out of mind the Fairies’ coach-makers,
11The cover of the wings of grasshoppers,
13Her collars of the moonshine’s watery beams,
15Her waggoner a small, grey-coated gnat,
16Not half so big as a round little worm
17Prick’d from the lazy finger of a man.
18And in this state she gallops by night
19Through lovers’ brains, and then they dream of love,
20O’er courtiers’ knees that dream on curtsies straight,
21O’er lawyers’ fingers, who straight dream on fees,
22O’er ladies’ lips, who straight on kisses dream,
23Which oft the angry Mab with blisters plagues
25Sometimes she gallops o’er a courtier’s nose,
28Tickling a parson’s nose as he lies asleep,
30Sometimes she drives o’er a soldier’s neck,
31And then dreams he of cutting foreign throats,
34Drums in his ears, at which he starts and wakes,
35And being thus frighted, swears a prayer or two
36And sleeps again. This is that very Mab
37That pleats the manes of horses in the night,
38And bakes the elk-locks in foul, sluttish hairs,
39Which once untangled much misfortune bodes.
40This is the hag, when maids lie on their backs,
41That presses them and learns them first to bear,
42Making them women of good carriage:
43This is she.


1] Mercutio satirically recounts the origin of dreams for the love-lorn Romeo in Act One. A pun on “Queen” (“quean”: prostitute) is probably intended as “Mab” was a conventional name for a promiscuous woman in Shakespeare’s time. Back to Line
3] agate: a colorful mineral; also a Renaissance term for a diminutive person Back to Line
5] atomi: particle-sized creatures Back to Line
10] spinner’s legs: spider’s legs Back to Line
12] traces: ropes harnessing animals to a cart Back to Line
14] film: thin membrane Back to Line
24] sweetmeats: candied delicacies Back to Line
26] suit: an appeal made at court on behalf of a petitioner in return for a fee Back to Line
27] tithe-pig: traditionally paid by a parish to a church Back to Line
29] benefice: ecclesiastical appointment Back to Line
32] breaches: the penetration of fortifications / ambuscadoes: ambushing troops / Spanish blades: well-respected Toledo swords and fighting men Back to Line
33] healths: alcholic toasts Back to Line
Publication Notes

Minor variants appear in four quartos printed before the Folio (Q1 1597, Q2 1599, Q3 1609, and Q4 c. 1622).

RPO poem Editors
Christopher Matusiak
RPO Edition