Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Queen Mab

In the play "Romeo and Juliet," by William Shakespeare, one of the PRINCIPAL, i.e. MAIN characters is a fiery fellow named MERCUTIO. The name (smart playwright) is based on Mercury (bored god), hence "mercurial."

In Act I Scene 4, Mercutio notices that Romeo is moping about a woman. Mercutio slowly wigs out about it in the famous "Queen Mab" soliloquoy. I here reprint the Bard's version and then give a short translation. For my money, this soliloquoy, INCLUDED IN BOTH FAMOUS FILM VERSIONS, is a brilliant treatise on the dark abilities of faeries.

O then I see Queen Mab hath been with you.
She is the faeries' midwife, and she comes
In shape no bigger than an agate stone
On the forefinger of an alderman,
Drawn with a team of little atomies
Over men's noses as they lie asleep.
Her chariot is an empty hazelnut
Made by the joiner squirrel or old grub,
Time out o' mind the faeries' coachmakers;
Her waggon-spokes made of long spinners' legs,
The cover of the wings of grasshoppers,
Her traces of the smallest spider web,
Her collars of the moonshine's watery beams,
Her whip of cricket's bone, the lash of film,
Her waggoner a small gray-coated gnat,
Not half so big as a round little worm
Pricked from the lazy finger of a maid;
And in this shape she gallops night after night
Through lovers' brains, and then they dream of love;
O'er courtiers' knees, that dream on curtsies straight;
O'er lawyers' fingers who straight dream on fees;
O'er ladies' lips, who straight on kisses dream,
Which oft the angry Mab with blisters plagues
Because their breaths with sweetmeats tainted are.
Sometimes she gallops o'er a courtier's nose
And then dreams he of smelling out a suit;
And sometime comes she with a tithe-pig's tail,
Tickling a parson's nose as he lies asleep;
Then dreams he of another benefice.
Sometimes she driveth o'er a soldier's neck
And then dreams he of cutting foreign throats,
Of breaches, ambuscados, Spanish blades,
Of healths five fathom deep; and then anon
Drums in his ear, at which he starts and wakes,
And sleeps again. This is that very Mab
That plaits the manes of horses in the night
And bakes the elf-locks 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,
Making them women of good carriage.
This is she ---

(And at this point Romeo interrupts him and Mercutio pauses for breath.)

Anne's translation (not meant for the stage):

This faerie, Queen Mab, is a miniature trouble-maker, all done up in finery made by bugs. When you go to sleep, she gives you dreams of your desires. Beware, though. She won't make you happy. In fact, if you follow her, she will smite you with dashed hopes, cold sores, and pregnancy. Mab isn't nice. Don't listen to her.

And now (drum roll, please), Mr. G's version of this seminal soliloquoy from "Romeo and Juliet," also featured in the 1971 Franco Zefferelli film and the 1996 re-make with Leonardo di Caprio:


Chuck VA said...

The marvelous Zefferelli film is 1968. I was still in high school when it was released. I fondly recall how we boys were enamored with Victoria Hussey. And that scene of her awaking and rolling over.
Oh my.

Thalia said...

A bit of it showed up in a Duran Duran video too if I'm not mistaken. :)

alex Pendragon said...

Ahhhhh, yes; Victoria Hussey.......sigh.......

Intense Guy said...

M-A-B.... Making America Beautiful................

Hahn and Nelson Family Medicine said...

Isn't it Olivia Hussey? She was perfect for that role....wonder what happened to her?