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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Thursday, September 26, 2019

What in Hell was Milton thinking, when he wrote his First Folio marginalia and his SATAN & FALL acrostics? The Satanic Friar Laurence in Romeo and Juliet!

© Arnold L. Perlstein 2019 .    

[NOTE on October 2, 2019: This is a revised version of my original post of September 26, 2019]

ABSTRACT:  There is highly ‘fruitful’ synergy between: (a) the recent discovery of John Milton’s personal First Folio, in which, surprisingly, Romeo and Juliet has the most marginalia; & (b) my prior claims of linked SATAN acrostics in Paradise Lost, Romeo and Juliet (and in Shakespeare’s source, Romeus and Juliet). They all point to Shakespeare’s Friar Laurence as an unsuspected, significant allusive source for Milton’s characterization of Satan, and to other largely unexplored intertextualities between Paradise Lost and Romeo and Juliet.


In March 2015, I first made the case (and posted about it in Shaksper) that Milton’s Paradise Lost owed an enormous unsuspected allusive debt to Shakespeare’s great early tragedy of love, temptation, and the fall from innocence, Romeo and Juliet!

As the primary basis for my argument, I detailed the following pattern:
Two SATAN “tail-touching” acrostics in Arthur Brooke’s Romeus and Juliet (1562);
One SATAN acrostic in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (1597); &
One SATAN acrostic in Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667).

For those who want all the background, see these links to my 3 blog posts:

For the rest of you, here is a summary of the key points of my 2015 posts:
In each of the three works, the acrostic SATAN is hidden in plain sight at precisely the place and moment in each story, at which the young female protagonist is subjected to a dangerous sexual temptation by a trusted mentor, who turns out to be untrustworthy. That pattern suggests a profound intertextuality, as to which the only connection previously recognized by mainstream Milton and/or Shakespeare scholars has been the obvious one, that the plot and characters of Romeo and Juliet closely tracks that of Romeus and Juliet. And, even more extraordinary, each successive acrostic SATAN was apparently a covert, intentional allusion to the one (or two) preceding it.

And here, briefly, is a recap as to each of these three SATANS, this time in reverse chronological order:

The SATAN acrostic in Paradise Lost: Discovered by Prof. Paul Klemp in 1977, Milton’s SATAN acrostic appears in Book 9, just as Satan slithers in for the final temptation of Eve to take a bite of forbidden fruit from the Tree of Life:

………………….. pleasing was his shape,
And lovely, never since of SERPENT kind
Lovelier, not those that in Illyria chang’d   
Hermione and Cadmus, or the God
In Epidaurus; nor to which transformd
Ammonian Jove, or Capitolinewas seen,
Hee with Olympias, this with her who bore
S    Scipio the highth of Rome.With tract oblique  510
At first, as one who sought access, but feard
To interrupt, side-long he works his way.
As when a Ship by Skilful Stearsman wrought
Nigh Rivers mouth or Foreland, where the Wind  
Veres oft, as oft so steers, and shifts her saile;…      

The SATAN acrostic in Romeo and Juliet: First discovered back in 1909, by an obsessive Baconian, William Stone Booth (yes, also a relative of Lincoln’s assassin). It promptly vanished without scholarly notice; rediscovered by me a century later, in 2010.

In Act 4, Scene 1, Friar Laurence seals the deal in convincing Juliet to take his potion, with the goal of a happy ever after ending that of course is tragically not reached:

No warmth, no breath, shall testify thou livest;
The roses in thy lips and cheeks shall fade
To paly ashes, thy eyes' windows fall,
Like death, when he shuts up the day of life;
Each part, deprived of supple government,
S   Shall, stiff and stark and cold, appear like death:
And in this borrow'd likeness of shrunk death
Thou shalt continue two and forty hours,
And then awake as from a pleasant sleep.
Now, when the bridegroom in the morning comes
To rouse thee from thy bed, there art thou dead…

The SATAN acrostic in Romeus and Juliet : In 2013, already knowing about Shakespeare’s and Milton’s respective SATAN acrostics, I deduced the existence of, and then discovered, Brooke’s SATAN acrostic, which clearly was the source of Shakespeare’s, and likely Milton’s as well.

In Brooke’s version, it is Juliet, in soliloquy, preyed on by fears and doubts about the Friar’s potion he has previously given to her, who “speaks” not one but two SATANS:

  Sooner or later than it should, or else, not work at all?
A  And then my CRAFT descried as open as the day,
T   The people's TALE and laughing-stock shall I remain for aye."
"AN  And what know I," quoth she, "if SERPENTS odious,
AN   And other beasts and worms that are of nature venomous,
T    That wonted are to lurk in dark caves underground,
A    And commonly, as I have heard, in dead men's tombs are found,
    Shall harm me, yea or nay, where I shall lie as dead?                 

Notice first that Brooke puns by placing the word 'tale' in the 'tail' line of the first serpent shaped SATAN acrostic. I also claim it is significant that Shakespeare moved his acrostic SATAN to Friar Laurence, whereas Brooke’s SATAN acrostics were spoken by Juliet. I believe he did this, to remove any ambiguity as to who the SATAN is in this picture- Friar Laurence!

There is much, much more to the pattern of the three acrostic SATANS than I’ve put in the above recap -- such as the covert satire of Franciscans like Friar Laurence by Brooke, Shakespeare and Milton, which other  authors like Marlowe and Spenser also participated in – but, again, it’s all detailed in my 2015 posts. The focus of this post is on the crucial added perspective provided by Milton’s First Folio marginalia.

With that introduction: for those who haven’t already read about it, here’s the news of the identification of Milton’s personal First Folio:

When Milton met Shakespeare: poet's notes on Bard appear to have been found by Alison Flood Hailed as one of the most significant archival discoveries of modern times, text seems to show the Paradise Lost poet making careful annotations on his edition of Shakespeare’s plays
“Almost 400 years after the first folio of Shakespeare was published in 1623, scholars believe they have identified the early owner of one copy of the text, who made hundreds of insightful annotations throughout: John Milton.
The astonishing find, which academics say could be one of the most important literary discoveries of modern times, was made by Cambridge University fellow Jason Scott-Warren when he was reading an article about the anonymous annotator by Pennsylvania State University English professor Claire Bourne. Bourne’s study of this copy, which has been housed in the Free Library of Philadelphia since 1944, dated the annotator to the mid-17th century, finding them alive to “the sense, accuracy, and interpretative possibility of the dialogue”. She also provided many images of the handwritten notes, which struck Scott-Warren as looking oddly similar to Milton’s hand….”    END QUOTE

As to the largest question raised by this discovery, the significance of what was (sequentially) found by the co-discoverers, Bourne and Scott-Warren, here are their preliminary comments in that regard:

Bourne: ““It shows how Milton was engaging with Shakespeare...We’ve known that Shakespeare has influenced Milton for a long time, but this could be material proof. It’s quite rare to find this level of engagement from a reader, and when we do find traces of it, it’s pretty exciting.”

Scott-Warren: “you can see [Milton] constructing himself through Shakespeare… It shows you the firsthand encounter between two great writers… I don’t think it’s about wanting to do it better than Shakespeare; I think it’s about appreciating the immense potential of the texts … Milton is a real admirer of Shakespeare. He thinks Shakespeare is a brilliant writer, and he wants the text to be as brilliant as it can be.…It’s how they echo with his work, the sense that the volume offers you the opportunity to read Shakespeare through Milton’s eyes. Because the lines in the margin don’t give you any verbal content, you don’t know why he’s singled out a passage for attention, but it forces you to think your way into Milton’s head and it does really chime with a lot of what goes on in his poetry, so you can see him constructing himself through Shakespeare.”

When I first read such news reports two weeks ago, armed with what I already discussed in my March 2015 posts, I dared to hope that fate had provided me with a pretty impressive ally in my claims about a close relationship between Romeo and Juliet and Paradise Lost; an ally who was a much earlier reader of Shakespeare, John Milton; a reader who had thoughtfully left behind his handwritten marginalia on Romeo and Juliet! And as I’ll show you, below, it has turned out, indeed, to be a major corroboration of my acrostic reading of Friar Laurence as Satan, based on the following two basic, key facts:

A: Milton emended Romeo and Juliet 39 times, basically equal to the number of his emendations of all of Shakespeare’s other 35 First Folio plays (other than Hamlet’s 32, and Measure for Measure’s 7) combined; and,

B: As to why Romeo and Juliet received the most attention from Milton, several of those 39 emendations relate specifically to Friar Laurence, and are “pinged” by Milton in Paradise Lost, in ways that unmistakably reinforce the subliminal acrostic message that the Friar is indeed meant by Shakespeare to be seen as a secret Satan – and Milton did this on purpose!

Now, before I begin my actual analysis of Milton’s marginalia to Romeo and Juliet, just a bit more of necessary background and context:

Aside from Prince Hal in the Henriad, I know of no other major Shakespearean character who has provoked more diversity of scholarly interpretation, as to both morality and motivation, than Shakespeare’s voluble Franciscan friar. Is he good, bad, or some sort of mixture of the two? Does he have a hidden agenda in his decisive role as go-between? Judging by the many essays which have addressed that question, the book definitely remains out, as to whether Shakespeare was of Friar Laurence’s party, or not, but didn’t know it either way!

As for my own take on Friar Laurence, it’s not just Shakespeare’s SATAN acrostic in Romeo and Juliet that throws Friar Laurence decisively into the “bad guy” category. It’s also, of course, what he does in the play. For starters, let’s interpret his SATAN-acrosticked speech with that thought in mind.

Juliet is a scared 14 year old girl, who has in a matter of days fallen in love, married, lost her virginity, learned that her new husband killed her cousin, thereby requiring that he be banished, and, then, to really make her day, her father, after cruelly abusing her verbally, is compelling her to marry a much older man she has no feelings for whatever.

So what does Friar Laurence, her “Ghostly Confessor”, do? He first, in inappropriate, macabre detail, describes to her the death-like effects she will shortly experience from the sleeping potion he has concocted from his garden -- not exactly an epitome of Christian consolation to a girl in dire need of it, as Mr. Bennet said of Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice!

But then, after scaring this poor traumatized girl half to death before she has even drunk so much as a drop of his magic potion, and just before he ends, he takes an abrupt rhetorical u-turn, shifts into a parental tone of jovial reassurance, and says, in effect, “But not to worry about all that, because, thanks to my Rube-Goldberg-esque scheme, you will wake up and escape Verona with Romeo and live together happily ever after. Click, end of story.”

But as we all know, that ain’t what happens! And that’s why, I believe, Shakespeare chose that precise point in the speech, right before that abrupt change of tone, to place his subliminal SATAN along the left margin of his blank verse, as a warning to his readers, “Don’t be fooled by this ghostly used-car salesman!”

Ever since John Milton published Paradise Lost (first version in 1667, second one in 1674), there’s been no secret whatsoever as to the two primary Biblical backstories to his poetic masterpiece: Genesis 3:1-6, 13-15 and Revelation 12: 7-9. And we read about paradise, a/k/a the Garden of Eden, in the former.

But it’s also no secret that Paradise Lost is the poem that launched a thousand annotations, which collectively reveal the depth and breadth of Milton’s encyclopedic literary knowledge, from the ancients to his greatest recent source, Shakespeare. So, sly devil that he was, I see Milton as giving a large hint, right off the bat, to Romeo and Juliet as a literary ancestor of Paradise Lost, by audaciously hiding it in plain sight, in his own title: Paradise Lost. Check out these two “paradise” excerpts from Romeo and Juliet in that regard, especially the second:

“…first let me tell ye, if ye should lead her into a fool's PARADISE, as they say, it were a very gross kind of behavior, as they say…” -Juliet’s nurse’s warning to Romeo to treat Juliet right.

And then, in Juliet’s reaction to hearing that Romeo killed Tybalt, she echoes the Nurse:

O SERPENT heart, hid with a flowering face!
Did ever DRAGON keep so fair a cave?
Beautiful tyrant! FIEND ANGELICAL!
Dove-feather'd raven! wolvish-ravening lamb!
Despised substance of divinest show!
Just opposite to what thou justly seem'st,
A damned saint, an honourable villain!
O nature, what hadst thou to do in HELL,
When thou didst BOWER the spirit of a FIEND
In moral PARADISE of such sweet flesh?
Was ever book containing such vile matter
So fairly bound? O that deceit should dwell
In such a gorgeous palace!

It’s not just the word “paradise” in the above passages in Romeo and Juliet that Milton pointed to, that confirms to me that it is an intentional allusion; it’s all the imagery in ALL CAPS in Juliet’s above speech that, just as in Paradise Lost, points in equal measure to the subtle serpent of Genesis, and to the rebellious, warlike serpent/dragon of Revelation, which gave birth to Satan in Paradise Lost.

So, literally with its first word, Paradise Lost hints at the lurking presence of the serpent/fiend in Hell in Romeo and Juliet. But, if we look more closely at Juliet’s speech, and the Nurse’s reply, through the lenses of Genesis and the SATAN acrostic in Friar Laurence’s speech, I suggest that Juliet may plausibly be understood to be thinking and speaking about both Romeo and Friar Laurence, as she rages and grieves after hearing of Tybalt’s death at Romeo’s hand! Here’s my reasoning.

First, I quote you the highly relevant commentary of Hannibal Hamlin in his 2014 The Bible in Shakespeare:

“[A Biblical] allusion limited in scope occurs in Romeo and Juliet, when Juliet, on hearing that Romeo has killed her cousin Tybalt, calls her lover a ‘wolvish ravening lamb’ (3.2.76). The image of hypocrisy from the Gospel of Matthew reads: ‘Beware of false Prophets, which come to you in sheepes clothing, but inwardely they are ravening wolves.’ (Matt. 7:15). Juliet’s allusion is ironic, in that Romeo is not a wolf in lamb’s clothing, but a lamb that ravens like a wolf…In any case, while adding poignancy to Juliet’s bitter outburst, the allusion has no significance beyond the scene (other than that the Nurse has called Romeo as ‘gentle as a lamb’ in an earlier scene, 2.5.44); even within a few lines, Juliet’s love for Romeo reasserts itself…..” 

Hamlin’s Biblical-allusion-catch is spot-on, and his interpretation is plausible, but I suggest strongly that Shakespeare, with wicked cleverness, has also subtly suggested an alternative plausible interpretation, under which the “wolf in sheep’s clothing” is Juliet’s “ghostly confessor”, Friar Laurence – the man of God upon whose wisdom and saintliness she has relied in so quickly marrying, and then bedding, Romeo. Some of her verbiage (the references to fleshly beauty and erotic attraction) clearly points to Romeo. However, the other verbiage (‘divinest show’, ‘saintly villain’, etc), as well as the allusion to Matthew, clearly fits Friar Laurence – especially the Friar Laurence who speaks a SATAN acrostic shortly thereafter—better. Plus, we do not then, as Hamlin had to, refer to Juliet’s love for Romeo ‘reasserting’ itself, since that love did not ever stop!

In short, it is more than plausible to see Juliet raging against Friar Laurence because he misled her, and presented her with a “gorgeous” hunk of ‘flesh’, Romeo, and didn’t give her the cautious counsel he ought to have, to not rush into love, marriage, and sex so impetuously.

And a final gorgeous touch by Shakespeare – the Nurse’s reply to Juliet:

A  All forsworn, all naught, all dissemblers.
A  Ah, where’s my man? Give me some aqua vitae:
T  These griefs, these woes, these sorrows make me old.

S   Shame come to Romeo!

While this speech also superficially seems to refer only to Romeo as having ‘no faith’ and ‘no honesty’, it can also be plausibly construed as the Nurse’s unwitting acknowledgment, by her use of the plural ‘men’, that Friar Laurence is another one of those ‘dissemblers”! And note also, at that very instant, the Nurse speaks an anagram acrostic on SATAN, which foreshadows the 'perfect' acrostic spoken by Friar Laurence very shortly after!

And literally as I was completing this revision of my post, it occurred to me to check for the words 'ravening' and ‘wolvish’ in Paradise Lost, to see whether Milton might have used either such word in such a way as to bear on this tantalizing question of which dissembling man or men Juliet is raging at. I found the following extraordinarily damning passage -- and it’s a lulu! It is in Book 12, only a few dozen lines before the very end of the entire poem, therefore, literally, pretty much Milton’s ‘last word’ on the subject he addresses in it – which is, believe it or not, abuse of sacred clerical authority by corrupt clergy!

This is the Angel Michael speaking, giving his final answer to Adam as to the future of humankind. Michael has just glowingly described the original apostles and early saints of Christianity who first took on the task of carrying out the word of Jesus. But then, clearly referring to the current Catholic clergy, especially with the word ‘superstition’, he makes it crystal clear that he, Milton, believes it was Friar Laurence who was the ‘wolf’ at whom Juliet was justifiably directing her rage:

                                                  at length
  Thir Ministry perform'd, and race well run,
  Thir doctrine and thir story written left,
  They die; but in thir room, as they forewarne,
  WOLVES shall succeed for teachers, grievous WOLVES,
  Who all the sacred mysteries of Heav'n
  To thir own vile advantages shall turne
  Of lucre and ambition, and the truth
  With SUPERSTITIONS and traditions taint,
  Left onely in those written Records pure,
  Though not but by the Spirit understood.
  Then shall they seek to avail themselves of names,
  Places and titles, and with these to joine
  Secular power, though feigning still to act
  By spiritual, to themselves appropriating
  The Spirit of God
, promisd alike and giv'n
  To all Beleevers; and from that pretense,
  Spiritual Lawes by carnal power shall force
  On every conscience; Laws which none shall finde
  Left them inrould, or what the Spirit within
  Shall on the heart engrave. What will they then
  But force the Spirit of Grace it self, and binde
  His consort Libertie; what, but unbuild
  His living Temples, built by Faith to stand,
  Thir own Faith not anothers: for on Earth
  Who against Faith and Conscience can be heard
  INFALLIBLE? yet many will presume
  Whence heavie persecution shall arise
  On all who in the worship persevere
  Of Spirit and Truth; the rest, farr greater part,
  Will deem in outward Rites and specious formes
  Religion satisfi'd; Truth shall retire
  Bestuck with slandrous darts, and works of Faith
  Rarely be found: so shall the World goe on,
  To good malignant, to bad men benigne,
  Under her own waight groaning, till the day
  Appeer of respiration to the just,
  And vengeance to the wicked, at return
  Of him so lately promis'd to thy aid,
  The Womans seed, obscurely then foretold,
  Now amplier known thy Saviour and thy Lord,
  Last in the Clouds from Heav'n to be reveald
  In glory of the Father, to dissolve
  SATAN with his perverted World, then raise
  From the conflagrant mass, purg'd and refin'd,
  New Heav'ns, new Earth, Ages of endless date
  Founded in righteousness and peace and love,
  To bring forth fruits Joy and eternal Bliss.

In a nutshell, the wickedness of the likes of ‘grievous wolves’ like Friar Laurence will be punished!

And not only does Milton thereby wink at Shakespeare’s allusion to Matthew, he further shows his own erudition by referring to the “grievous wolves”, which points to a later passage in the Christian Bible on the same exact theme, in Acts 20, when Paul tells his audience to watch out for the fakers who will seek to draw them away from what Paul has just sold them:

28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
29 For I know this, that after my departing shall GRIEVOUS WOLVES enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.
31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.

By 1634, the young Milton was already deeply engaged with Romeo and Juliet, and in particular, the satanic Friar Laurence of Brooke and Shakespeare, when he wrote his poem A Maske (formerly known as Comus). It was first staged at Ludlow Castle in 1634, then published in 1637 or so, only a couple of years after publication of the Second Folio (which famously included a poem by the young Milton praising Shakespeare).

That was over three decades before Milton published his first version of Paradise Lost. And thanks to Elizabeth Seaton back in the 1940s, it has long been known that Milton’s youthful A Maske was strongly saturated with Romeo and Juliet subtext. With hindsight, that suggests that we may view it, with its shape-shifting satanic protagonist Comus, as a trial run, if you will, for Paradise Lost, informed, it seems likely to me, by Shakespeare’s Satanic characters.

As Bourne brilliantly showed, we may infer (e.g., from careful attention to the dates of publication of various later Shakespeare quarto editions) that Milton probably added his cryptic margins notes over a period of years. Bourne goes further, and makes a convincing case that ‘Reader A’ (i.e., Milton) was strongly focused on bringing the First Folio versions of Shakespeare’s plays into harmony with later quarto editions of certain of those plays, particularly Q4 and Q5 of Romeo and Juliet.

With that in mind, my best guess is that Milton had two goals, which largely coincided:

First, as per Bourne, to correct apparent editorial errors, and at times to even improve on Shakespeare’s poetic word choices, so as to arrive at the optimal version of certain of Shakespeare’s plays, in particular reconciling the First Folio version of Romeo and Juliet with Q4 and Q5 of the play; and

Second, and to my mind more importantly, to then subtly embed those actual marginalia words, that corrected and improved verbiage, in the text of Paradise Lost, to also act as beacons shining a strong beam back to illuminate Romeo and Juliet, whence they originated.

To “reverse engineer” Milton’s process for your edification, I’ve chosen three of his Romeo and Juliet marginalia as illustrations to stand in for the whole group. They are really juicy ‘fruit” – think of them as virtual pomegranates -- to tempt you with, because they all connect directly to Friar Laurence’s SATAN-ic acrostic speech! And then I’ve got one that relates to the fall of Adam and Eve as well!

In the speech by Juliet in Act 4, Scene 1 that prompts Friar Laurence’s SATAN-acrosticked speech as a reply, Milton has substituted the word “shroud” for “grave” at the end of the eighth line:

O, bid me leap, rather than marry Paris,
From off the battlements of yonder tower;
Or walk in thievish ways; or bid me lurk
Where SERPENTS are; chain me with roaring bears…. (note those Brooke-inspired “serpents”!)
Or shut me nightly in a charnel-house,
O'er-cover'd quite with dead men's rattling bones,
With reeky shanks and yellow chapless skulls;
Or bid me go into a new-made grave
And hide me with a dead man in his SHROUD;
Things that, to hear them told, have made me tremble;
And I will do it without fear or doubt,
To live an unstain'd wife to my sweet love.

No doubt, purely on poetic grounds, Milton found awkwardness in the repetition of a “grave” at the end of two consecutive lines. But is that all there is to his change? When I did a word search in Paradise Lost for the word ‘shroud’, I found an additional, compelling explanation:  Milton uses the word “shroud” in a burial sense only once in all of Paradise Lost (although he also used ‘shrouds’ in a nautical sense as well).

He does so in the following passage, at the end of Book 10. It is in the scene when the archangel Raphael pronounces to Adam and Eve God’s punishment for their fall, and then Adam speaks to Eve afterwards:

 My labour will sustain me; and least Cold
 Or Heat should injure us, God’s timely care
 Hath unbesaught provided, and his hands
 Cloath'd us unworthie, pitying while he judg'd;
 How much more, if we pray him, will his ear
 Be open, and his heart to pitie incline,
 And teach us further by what means to shun
 Th' inclement Seasons, Rain, Ice, Hail and Snow,
 Which now the Skie with various Face begins
 To shew us in this Mountain, while the Winds
 Blow moist and keen, shattering the graceful locks
 Of these fair spreading Trees; which bids us seek
 Som better SHROUD, som better WARMTH to cherish
 Our LIMBS benumm'd, ere this diurnal Starr
 Leave COLD the Night, how we his gather'd beams
 Reflected, may with matter sere foment,
 Or by collision of two bodies grinde
 The Air attrite to Fire, as late the Clouds
 Justling or pusht with Winds rude in thir shock
 Tine the slant Lightning, whose thwart flame driv'n down
 Kindles the gummie bark of Firr or Pine,
 And sends a comfortable heat from farr,
 Which might supplie the Sun….
To paraphrase: Adam is saying to Eve, ‘Now that we’ve been cast out of eternal life in Eden – in that sense a kind of ‘death’ -- let’s forego the literal shroud of cold death, and instead choose the “better”, metaphorical shroud of sun-warming life, where we at least be able to live on for a while, coping together with the strong penalty imposed by God.’

But why does he make this macabre statement to Eve in the first place? Because, in context, Adam is trying to reassure Eve, who has just fallen into deep despair after the full weight of the Fall has hit her; and so she briefly contemplates the very Juliet-like solution of suicide! And then we read this:

She ended heer, or vehement despaire
Broke off the rest; so much of Death her thoughts
Had entertaind, as di'd her CHEEKS with PALE.”

Eve at that instant not only sounds like Juliet contemplating her own death among the shrouds of her mouldering ancestors, she also looks like Juliet in her fear and despair! Just as you’d expect if this really is Eve channeling Juliet, there you have Milton’s apparent riff on Juliet’s pale cheeks as described at the end of Friar Laurence’s SATAN-acrosticked speech (which, by the way, is the second Milton marginalia I’ll be discussing shortly), as he describes the effect of his sleeping potion. Juliet pale-cheeked and scared of death becomes Eve pale-cheeked and scared of death!

So we can see that Milton’s marginal “shroud” in his First Folio closely corresponds in another important way to his textual “shroud” in Book 10 of Paradise Lost. To wit: Milton’s Adam reverses the meaning of Juliet’s morbid, chilling terrors about a “shroud” of death, replying to it, in effect, with Adam’s fantasy of a life- and heat-giving “shroud” of life (as in, The Tree of Life!).

That is the rebuttal, in effect, to Juliet, in a moment of deep despair, contemplating choosing the cold shroud of death. We may playfully say that Milton’s Adam unwittingly looks far ahead to events which Raphael does not inform him about, because they will occur in a fictional 16th century Verona – just as Milton looks back seventy years to Shakespeare’s writing those fictional events in Romeo and Juliet!

Now for the second, even more dramatic example of the same. As I first scanned through Bourne’s chapter 10 days ago, with fingers crossed, I hoped that Milton had found some word to emend in Friar Laurence’s SATAN-acrosticked speech itself, that might in some way shed more light on it.

My hopes were far exceeded, when I found in Bourne’s chapter a photo of the first dozen lines of that very same Friar Laurence SATAN-acrosticked speech, as printed in Milton’s First Folio, with the last line showing in her photo being the one that begins with the second “A” in the SATAN acrostic! I.e., Bourne had not noticed the SATAN acrostic right there. But it turns out that the SATAN acrostic in Friar Laurence’s speech is not the only textual beacon which Milton left there!

Among other details regarding that speech,  Bourne notes that Milton “suggests that ’many ashes’ could also be read as ‘palie ashes’.…This provisional change accepts both the image of Juliet’s lips and cheeks fading to ‘many’ ashes – ashes to ashes, dust to dust – and the image of them losing color, that is, fading to ‘palie’ (or pale) ashes…”.

So, as with the ‘shroud’ in the first above example I discussed, I speculated from those margin notes, that the marginal word “pale”, like “shroud”, and like the SATAN acrostic in Friar Laurence’s speech, must have been placed by Milton somewhere in Paradise Lost where it has a similar meaning and context.

And a quick word search for “pale” in Paradise Lost led me right to the following passage which appears in Book 9, very, very close following after Milton’s SATAN acrostic!!:

Thus EVE with Countnance blithe her storie told;
 But in her Cheek distemper flushing glowd.
 On th' other side, ADAM, soon as he heard
 The fatal Trespass don by EVE, amaz'd,
 Astonied stood and Blank, while HORROR CHILL
 Ran through his VEINS, and all his JOYNTS relax'd;
 From his slack hand the Garland wreath'd for EVE
 Down drop'd, and all the FADED ROSES shed:
 Speechless he stood and PALE, till thus at length
 First to himself he inward silence broke.

This is the precise moment when Adam was the first of the Edenic couple to be horrified into paleness. It occurs in his case when he sees the drastically altered Eve for the first time after she has fallen prey to Satan’s temptation! Again, BINGO! Sounds like Milton is ascribing to Adam the same sort of dread that afflicts Juliet. And, as with the ‘shroud’ example, but much more intensely, we see densely clustered echoing of powerful imagery that also points back unmistakably to Romeo and Juliet.

As previously, I put various words in ALL CAPS in the above passage, for visual impact, to show that it’s not just the word “pale” that echoes Friar Laurence’s SATAN-acrosticked speech, which I reproduce here again now, but also all those other echoed, connected keywords:

Hold, then; go home, be merry, give consent
To marry Paris: Wednesday is to-morrow:
To-morrow night look that thou lie alone;
Let not thy nurse lie with thee in thy chamber:
Take thou this vial, being then in bed,
And this DISTILLED liquor drink thou off;
When presently through all thy VEINS shall run
A COLD and drowsy humour, for no pulse
Shall keep his native progress, but surcease:
No warmth, no breath, shall testify thou livest;
The ROSES in thy lips and cheeks shall FADE
To PALY ashes, thy eyes' windows fall,
Like death, when he shuts up the day of life;
Each part, deprived of supple government,
S. Shall, stiff and stark and cold, appear like death:
A. And in this borrow'd likeness of shrunk death
T. Thou shalt continue two and forty hours,
A. And then awake as from a pleasant sleep.
N. Now, when the bridegroom in the morning comes
To rouse thee from thy bed, there art thou dead…

So, even if the echoing of a common word like “pale” could be random, surely no one would suggest that this dense cluster of a half dozen related images could be, especially because Shakespeare carefully placed that cluster in the same speech as his SATAN acrostic! I deem this proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Milton’s SATAN acrostic was meant to point to Shakespeare’s, and Milton’s marginal “palie” as part and parcel of that allusion!

A short while later in Romeo and Juliet, in the first part of the speech by Juliet that contains the ‘shroud’ marginal insertion I discussed earlier in this section, we find multiple echoes of that same dense cluster of images in Paradise Lost, at the start and the end of Friar Laurence’s speech, that Milton also noticed:

Exeunt LADY CAPULET and Nurse
Farewell! God knows when we shall meet again.
I have a faint COLD fear thrills through my VEINS,
That almost FREEZES up the HEAT OF LIFE:
I'll call them back again to comfort me:
Alack, alack, is it not like that I,
So early waking, what with loathsome smells,
And shrieks like mandrakes' torn out of the earth,
That living mortals, hearing them, run mad:--
O, if I wake, shall I not be distraught,
Environed with all these hideous fears?
And madly play with my forefather's JOINTS?
And pluck the mangled Tybalt from his SHROUD?
And, in this rage, with some great kinsman's bone,
As with a club, dash out my desperate brains?
O, look! methinks I see my cousin's ghost
Seeking out Romeo, that did spit his body
Upon a rapier's point: stay, Tybalt, stay!
Romeo, I come! this do I drink to thee.
She falls upon her bed, within the curtains

The above is a perfect illustration of one way that Bourn/Scott-Warren’s joint discovery can indeed reveal how Milton read Shakespeare, and how Milton then used verbal echoing and acrostics as a buoy to point to his specific Shakespearean source. In Paradise Lost, Milton conveyed, via this sort of decodable literary cryptography, how he read between (or to be precise, along the left side of) Shakespeare’s lines! And, in particular, we see that a repeated negative focus of the marginalia inserts is, again, good ol’ Friar Laurence!

The third of Milton’s marginalia in his First Folio Romeo and Juliet connected to Milton’s picking up on Friar Laurence as a Satan is one that has no word in the margin next to it, but does have a curved handwritten line of Milton’s cupping it, suggesting some sort of extra attention. In Act 2, Scene 3, Friar Laurence says:

The grey-eyed morn smiles on the frowning night,
Chequering the eastern clouds with streaks of light,
And flecked darkness like a drunkard reels
From forth day's path and Titan's fiery wheels:
Now, ere the sun advance his burning eye,
The day to cheer and night's dank dew to dry,
I must up-fill this osier cage of ours
With baleful weeds and precious-juiced flowers.
The EARTH that's NATURE’S MOTHER is her tomb;
What is her burying GRAVE that is her WOMB
And from her WOMB children of divers kind
We sucking on her natural bosom find,
Many for many virtues excellent,
None but for some and yet all different….

In the middle there, that’s a pretty upbeat celebration of the natural benefits of the friar’s “baleful weeds ad precious-juiced flowers” which the sun has nurtured. But, here’s where Milton pulls a wicked twist --- the passage in Paradise Lost that echoes Friar Laurence’s “nature’s womb’ is no simple affirming echo of a Shakespearean image.

No, upon examination, its Miltonian echo is found in the description, in Book 2, of what strikes me as one of the most disturbing, unnatural passages in all of Paradise Lost – a scene as opposite to Friar Laurence’s bucolic idyl as can be imagined – Milton paints a grotesque scene occurring literally outside the gates of Hell!

It describes what Satan sees right after his daughter Sin, the “Portress of Hell”, finally yields to his pressure, and uses her key to open the gates of Hell wide, allowing Satan to soar out into the Chaos, and begin his long solo journey that eventually brings him to the gates of Eden.

Milton dwells on the hellish, Boschian scene in vivid detail for about 25 lines, before he comes to his parodic allusion to Friar Laurence’s rustic paean:

                             CHAOS Umpire sits,
  And by decision more imbroiles the fray
  By which he Reigns: next him high Arbiter
  CHANCE governs all. Into this wilde Abyss,
  The WOMB of NATURE and perhaps her GRAVE,
  Of neither Sea, nor Shore, nor Air, nor FIRE,
  But all these in thir pregnant causes mixt
and which thus must ever fight,
  Unless th' Almighty Maker them ordain
  His dark materials to create more Worlds,
  Into this wilde Abyss the warie fiend
  Stood on the brink of Hell and look'd a while,
  Pondering his Voyage; for no narrow frith
  He had to cross.

I believe Milton, by this strong echo of Friar Laurence’s ode, is deadly serious, in suggesting that Friar Laurence, despite his seemingly innocent paean to the power of nature, is unwittingly revealing that he will, before the end of the play, unleash the deadly duos of sin and death, and chaos and chance, upon Romeo and Juliet! Isn’t that the same reason that Shakespeare has Friar Laurence unwittingly speaking a SATAN acrostic when he fulfils his own prophecy by giving Juliet the sleeping potion which turns out, in a sense, to really be a fatal poison?

Proverbs 30:
14: There is a generation, whose teeth are as swords, and their jaw teeth as knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, and the needy from among men.
15 The horseleach hath two daughters, crying, Give, give. There are three things that are never satisfied, yea, four things say not, It is enough:
16 The GRAVE; and the barren WOMB; the EARTH that is not filled with water; and the FIRE that saith not, It is enough.

While pages of analysis would be required to fully unpack the significance of that Biblical allusion in both Romeo and Juliet and Paradise Lost, suffice for today to point out that it taps into the theme of insatiable appetite – not only for food, but for sex, for knowledge, for love, and any other human experiences which can become too much of a good thing. And a few other authors are involved in this allusive matrix, including some guy you probably heard of named Dante -- who was actually the guy, by the way, at whose title Shakespeare was winking in his two references to “paradise” in Romeo and Juliet that I earlier suggested was Milton’s source for his title.

There is so much more to unpack in that allusion by Shakespeare to that passage in Proverbs 30, and by Milton to both Shakespeare and Proverbs 30, but that is for another time.

At this point, I’ve presented plenty of evidence, so it’s time to rest my case and ask the judge for a summary judgment against Friar Laurence, for high crim---- I mean, for Satanic temptation….and also first degree murder of Romeo, Juliet, and Paris. Guilty as changed, send that man back to Hell!

Absorbing Bourn’s and Scott-Warren’s extraordinary discovery has also enhanced my understanding of how much Milton’s Adam and Eve owe to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. These acrostics not only spur us to read Paradise Lost through the lens of Romeo and Juliet, but also to turn the lens around, and read Romeo and Juliet through Milton’s eyes and mind– not only with the Satanic Friar Laurence, but with the ‘fall’ of Romeo and Juliet!

In that very regard, we come to another of Milton’s First Folio emendations, as to which I will quote Bourne’s excellent discussion of “Juliet’s astonishingly frank soliloquy on the eve of her marriage to Romeo. In this speech, she calls on night (a “sober suted Matron”) to “learn” her how to lose her virginity—“how to loose a winning match.” At the same time, Juliet knows (or feels) enough to anticipate the physical pleasure of this match:
Come gentle night, come louing blackebrow’d night.
Giue me my Romeo, and when I shall DIE,
Take him and cut him out in little stares,
And he will make the Face of heauen so fine,
That all the world will be in Loue with night,
And pay no worship to the Garish Sun.
[Milton] offers an alternative to the “I” in the second line of this passage by inscribing a caret below and an “x” above the printed “I” and writing Q5’s “he” in the right-hand margin…The sense of the passage changes dramatically depending on which pronoun Juliet uses.”

Bourne then gives the innocent interpretation of “die” as actual death before noting that “[h]owever, these lines are also charged with physical desire. Juliet’s blood is “bayting” in her “Cheekes,” and in F1, she imagines the ecstasy of reaching orgasm (i.e., “when I shall die”). [Milton’s] provisional emendation (i.e., “when he shall die”) replaces Juliet’s focus on her own sexual pleasure with a focus on Romeo’s. However, by not actually crossing out “I” in favor of “he,” [Milton] allows for the couple’s shared pleasure, a sense of reciprocity that Juliet stresses later in the speech when she figures her own body as well as Romeo’s as purchased goods that have yet to be possessed (or, enjoyed) by the other.” END QUOTE FROM BOURNE ARTICLE

What came to my mind immediately as I read Bourne’s excellent subversive reading of the sexual pun on the verb “die” in Juliet’s speech, was this famous statement by Raphael to Adam early in Paradise Lost, as he warns Adam that he and Eve must never eat the forbidden fruit:

In the day thou eatest, thou DIEST;
DEATH is the penalty imposed; beware,
And govern well thy appetite; lest Sin
Surprise thee, and her black attendant DEATH.

Adam takes Raphael literally, but Eve, with the guidance of Satan (as serpent), gradually realizes that there will be no physical death upon eating the fruit. And as things turn out, the first thing that happens after both Adam and Eve have both eaten the forbidden fruit, is that they both simultaneously do “die” in the sexual sense!

Now, am I suspecting Milton of some outrageously sly sexual punning on “death” as sexual fulfilment, in the same sense that his idol Shakespeare punned a hundred times throughout his entire playwriting career, including the passage that Bourne analyzed so insightfully? You’re “damned” right I am, and Milton’s marginal change to ambiguate who dies, Romeo and/or Juliet, is stron evidence in favor of that claim!

From going through all of the above marginal word changes that Milton wrote on the pages of Romeo and Juliet in his First Folio, and some others reported by Bourne, I’ve found that most of them function in a similar manner as what I just walked us through. Each word that Milton wrote in the margin has the effect of pointing us to a passage in Paradise Lost which in some significant way is thematically connected to the Romeo and Juliet passage he found it in. Literary buoys, as I suggested earlier regarding the SATAN acrostics.

So now you have a much better idea of why I believe Milton’s acrostics, and also his First Folio marginalia, function together as a powerful secret decoder ring, for the reader who takes them both seriously. I was fortunate to already have developed a unique perspective by 2013, that would serve me well when Milton’s Romeo and Juliet marginalia recently became known, that enabled me to  demonstrate a wealth of intertextuality between Romeo and Juliet and Paradise Lost, primarily focused on Friar Laurence and Satan.

I believe the only logical inference from all of the above evidence is that Milton, in drawing his complex character Satan, drew most heavily not from Shakespeare’s obvious Satans (Iago, Edmund, Richard III), but on Shakespeare’s most enigmatic character, a Man of God whose morality readers have debated for centuries. And that insight makes me realize that this goes to the essence of the mysterious alchemy whence Milton constructed the character of Satan –the fact that so many have read him as the hero of Paradise Lost must be due, in no small part, to his primary Shakespearean model being the most ambiguous of Shakespeare’s Satans!

What I’ve discussed above, in terms of intertextuality between Romeo and Juliet  and Paradise Lost goes far beyond what I can find in the scholarly literature in this regard. Some scholars have seen some small aspect of Juliet in Eve, a few have seen a trace of Adam in Romeo, but no one I can find has seen Friar Laurence in Satan. Yet we know that this was important enough for Shakespeare to put his SATAN acrostic (and his ‘pale” margin note) in Friar Laurence’s most satanic speech -and even made it more personal, as I now remind you – Shakespeare tellingly shifted the acrostic SATAN from Brooke’s Juliet’s fear of Friar Laurence being Satan, to his own Friar Laurence revealing himself to be Satan.

And there are still other aspects of this rich intertextuality to be explored, which were beyond the scope of this post – for example, is the ‘war’ between the Montagues and Capulets meant in any way by Milton to be a model for the cosmic war between Heaven and Hell? Or is that an acrostic too far? I don’t think so, I believe much remains to be understood, once we allow our literary imagination to really hear these textual whispers by Shakespeare and Milton, and follow the textual beacons where they point us.

So there you see specifics as to how “Milton was engaging with Shakespeare”, and also proof that “Shakespeare has influenced Milton for a long time”, or even, in Scott-Warren’s elegant turn of phrase, how “Milton construct[ed] himself through Shakespeare”. Indeed, as per Goodman, “now you can look at the annotations in a new way and almost get into [Milton’s] mind” and Milton’s First Folio is indeed “still telling us new stories.” Or, more playfully, his marginalia reveal to us that Paradise Lost is nothing less than (as Steve Martin’s screenplay pitching Bowfinger might have put it)  Romeo and Juliet meets Satan from Genesis and Revelation. Love, death, and the human race ensue.”

And with that I will leave the topic of Milton’s First Folio marginalia, and turn to a brief mention of another recent Milton discovery and its relevance for Friar Laurence as a Satan:

Miranda Phaal, a senior at Tufts U., identified a complex acrostic of the Edenic word “FALL” in Book 9 of Milton’s Paradise Lost.

Phaal has outlined her discovery in the September 2019 issue of The Milton Quarterly: “The Treble Fall: An Interlocking Acrostic in Paradise Lost:

“…the same word, FALL, interlocks with itself three times:
         …………………...his foul esteem
Sticks no dishonor on our Front, but turns
Foul on himself; then wherefore shunn’d or fear’d
By us? who rather double honor gain
F  From his surmise prov’d false, find peace within,
F  Favor from Heav’n, our witness from th’event.
A And what is Faith, Love, Virtue unassay’d
A Alone, without exterior help sustain’d?
L Let us not then suspect our happy State
L Left so imperfect by the Maker wise,
A As not secure to single or combin’d.
F  Frail is our happiness, if this be so,
And Eden were no Eden thus expos’d. (9.329-41)
This acrostic entwines the double fall of man (FFAALL) with the fall of Satan (a single FALL, read from bottom to top), perhaps commenting on their shared inciter—Satan—or their shared root—pride.”

It turns out that there are several striking usages of the word ‘fall’ in Romeo and Juliet, which have connotations very resonant with the Miltonian sense of that word. One involves the Nurse: in Act 1, Scene 3, the Nurse and her late husband wax proverbial about baby Juliet’s future sexual career.

But today my focus is on the Satanic Friar Laurence:

In Act 2, Scene 4, Romeo confesses to Friar Laurence about his love of Juliet, and asks that he administer them their marriage vows, whereupon the friar (there he goes again!) finishes his reply with a reference to women who “may FALL”, in that same sexual, sinful sense as used by the Nurse’s late husband:

…If e'er thou wast thyself and these woes thine,
Thou and these woes were all for Rosaline:
And art thou changed? pronounce this sentence then,
Women may FALL, when there's no strength in men.

In Act 2, Scene 6, after the marriage ceremony is complete, Friar Laurence first utters to himself a plea for moderation in love, and then a cryptic, seemingly ironic judgment to Juliet on her ‘lightness’, presumably after sex with Romeo:

…Here comes the lady: O, so light a foot
Will ne'er wear out the everlasting flint:
A lover may bestride the gossamer
That idles in the wanton summer air,
And yet not FALL; so light is vanity.

But it’s the last, but not least, in Act 4, Scene 1, in Friar Laurence’s SATAN-acrosticked speech, where we find a ‘fall’ in that same line with the marginalia “paly” ashes!:

….No warmth, no breath, shall testify thou livest;
The roses in thy lips and cheeks shall fade
To PALY ashes, thy eyes' windows FALL,
Like death, when he shuts up the day of life;

In the process of doing the above analysis of Milton’s marginalia in Romeo and Juliet, my imagination was sparked, to uncover even more intertextuality regarding Friar Laurence as Satan. I imagine Milton, at the height (or “highth”?) of rhetorical genius, paying sly tribute to the author, who helped inspire Milton’s Satan. And the precise point in Paradise Lost I believe Milton chose for this tribute is the moment when Satan, having possessed the body of a serpent, is about to achieve (or so he thought) the most exquisite revenge against God, utilizing all his skills to overcome the last shred of Eve’s resistance.

That is when Satan delivers a speech praising the benefits of the forbidden tree, that will seal the deal with Eve:

O sacred, wise, and wisdom-giving PLANT,
Mother of science! now I feel thy POWER
Within me clear; not only to discern
Things in their causes, but to trace the ways
Of highest agents, deemed however wise.
Queen of this universe! do not believe
Those rigid threats of DEATH: ye shall not die:
How should you? by the fruit? it gives you life
To knowledge; by the threatener? 

Remind you of anything, Bardolaters? It reminds me very much of the second half of Friar Laurence’s paean to nature and in particular plants (and you’ll recall that I showed earlier, how the first half of the friar’s speech was subjected by Milton to sharp parody in a scene outside the gates of Hell in Book 3):

….O, mickle is the powerful grace that lies
In herbs, PLANTS, stones, and their true qualities:
For nought so vile that on the earth doth live
But to the earth some special good doth give,
Nor aught so good but strain'd from that fair use
Revolts from true birth, stumbling on abuse:
Virtue itself turns vice, being misapplied;
And vice sometimes by action dignified.
Within the infant rind of this small flower
Poison hath residence and medicine POWER:
For this, being smelt, with that part cheers each part;
Being tasted, slays all senses with the heart.
Two such opposed kings encamp them still
In man as well as herbs, grace and rude will;
And where the worser is predominant,
Full soon the canker DEATH eats up that PLANT.

So what we have there is yet another clear echo of Friar Laurence in Milton’s Satan, this time echoed by three keywords, but even more so,  by strong parallel of subject and tone. This time, it seems to me that Milton has in effect said that Friar Laurence, who will use all those herbs and plants to produce the sleeping potion for Juliet to take, is a pious fraud, like Satan.

 It would take several pages more to unpack all the rest of the intertextuality of those two speeches with each other, and of the two of them with Genesis, but that will be for another day and another post.

As significant as the above analysis shows Milton’s powerful engagement was with Romeo and Juliet, that’s only the most prominent section of the “iceberg” in terms of Milton’s overall engagement with the rest of Shakespeare plays. In writing the above post regarding Milton’s 39 marginalia in Romeo and Juliet, I was able to actually see all the margin notes by Milton in that play. I understand from Bourne’s article that the only other Shakespeare to even get in the same ballpark is Hamlet, with 32.

Of the several Hamlet emendations, I was so far only able to see those few that Bourne discussed. Based on them, in a followup post, I will be writing about the similar intertextuality between Hamlet and Paradise Lost. While not quite on a scale with that of Romeo and Juliet, it is nonetheless quite  significant, and sheds light in both directions, i.e., we read Hamlet through Milton’s incredible mind, and we understand Paradise Lost better from its echoing of Hamlet.

Two particular themes leap out at me as very significant – the parallels between how dreams are talked about and depicted in both Hamlet and Paradise Lost, and the way that Milton’s Satan draws heavily from both Claudius and Hamlet. And, of course, that area of analysis, the ability to glimpse Milton as reader of Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet, also opens up potential new vistas on connections between Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet.

As to all of Shakespeare’s other 35 First Folio plays, I predict that when Milton’s personal copy is eventually digitized and available to universal inspection, more than a fair share of Milton’s sparse marginalia in those other plays will relate to Shakespeare’s other “Satans”, besides the ones who clearly mattered most to him, Friar Laurence and Claudius. I’m talking about Iago, Edmund, and Richard III, first and foremost, and also Shakespeare’s master manipulators, like Oberon, Duke Vincentio, and Prospero. Or maybe there will be another surprising Satan in the mix, that Milton saw.

I want to now revisit the speech by Juliet in Act 4, Scene 1, the one to which Friar Laurence’s pep talk about his sleeping potion is a response, and in which Milton changed “grave” to ‘shroud’:

O, bid me leap, rather than marry Paris,
From off the battlements of yonder tower;
Or walk in thievish ways; or bid me lurk
Where SERPENTS are; chain me with roaring bears;
Or shut me nightly in a charnel-house,
O'er-cover'd quite with dead men's rattling bones,
With reeky shanks and yellow chapless skulls;
Or bid me go into a new-made grave
And hide me with a dead man in his SHROUD;
Things that, to hear them told, have made me tremble;
And I will do it without fear or doubt,
To live an unstain'd wife to my sweet love.

This time, I zero in on  Juliet telling Friar Laurence that her marrying Paris would be so awful, that she’d rather jump off a tower instead! I’m not the first to notice that Juliet is thereby casting Friar Laurence in the role of none other than Satan, in another of his Biblical cameos – this time in his temptation of Jesus in Matthew 4:5-7:

5 Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, 
6 and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written:
‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and,
‘In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ”
7 Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’ 

My point is that this is the same Biblical passage that Horatio alludes to in Act 1 of Hamlet, in his fear that the Ghost of the late King Hamlet, if he proves to be Satan in disguise, will tempt Hamlet to leap off a cliff. And Hamlet is, you recall, the second most emended play in Milton’s First Folio.

And with that, I can only end by paraphrasing Hamlet’s wise comment to Horatio: there is far more in Romeo and Juliet (and Hamlet) vis a vis Paradise Lost than is dreamt of in the philosophy of scholars  ignore useful evidence of literary meaning like context-resonant acrostics. After all, we can hardly count on another Bourne/Scott-Warren discovery anytime soon, such as the marginalia of another great author, to speak to us like a ghost come back from the “undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns.”  We need to be willing to be brave, like Hamlet: step outside the ‘bourn’ of the horizontal line of verse, read beside the lines, and use our imagination to hear the great authors as they whisper: ‘Remember me’.

@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

[Great thanks to my friends Paul Klemp and Diane Reynolds for invaluable feedback, corrections, and suggestions regarding the above]