’tis much pride For fair without the fair within to hide.

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yuechu

Senior Member
Canada, English
Hello!
I am reading Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and have a question about the following line from Act 1, Scene 3: "The fish lives in the sea, and ’tis much pride For fair without the fair within to hide." The modern translation is "As fish do not hide from the sea, neither should a beauty like you hide from a handsome man like him. "
Even after reading the modern translation (which I understand), I am having trouble following the original sentence... (perhaps it's the syntax? Are there missing words, for example?) Would anyone be able to explain the meaning of second part of the quotation?
Thanks!
 
  • london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Most people (those who are not familiar with Shakespearean English) would be able to understand it.:) I'm pretty sure there are no missing words. This is just an example of English of the time.
     
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    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    Your modern translation has misread the line. Lady Capulet is describing a young man whom she wants her daughter to marry. She is comparing him, in a very lengthy figure of speech, to a book. She has now reached the point where, having described the contents of the book (that is, his good character), she will describe the book's cover. She is saying here that just as you expect fish to live in the sea, it is appropriate for the beautiful character of Paris (the "fair within") to be housed in a handsome body (the "fair without"). Note how the next lines continue the idea of a good book in a beautiful cover:
    That book in many’s eyes doth share the glory,
    That in gold clasps locks in the golden story;
     

    yuechu

    Senior Member
    Canada, English
    Your modern translation has misread the line. Lady Capulet is describing a young man whom she wants her daughter to marry. She is comparing him, in a very lengthy figure of speech, to a book. She has now reached the point where, having described the contents of the book (that is, his good character), she will describe the book's cover. She is saying here that just as you expect fish to live in the sea, it is appropriate for the beautiful character of Paris (the "fair within") to be housed in a handsome body (the "fair without"). Note how the next lines continue the idea of a good book in a beautiful cover:
    That book in many’s eyes doth share the glory,
    That in gold clasps locks in the golden story;
    This helps my comprehension of the passage enormously! Thank you, GreenWhiteBlue! :) I really appreciate it!

    "For fair without the fair within to hide."
    = Since outer beauty hides inner beauty? (I am still a bit confused by the syntax here. Why is it "to hide" and not the conjugated "hides"? Does the to-infinitive give it a future meaning, for example?)
     

    lentulax

    Senior Member
    UK English
    "For fair without the fair within to hide."
    = Since outer beauty hides inner beauty? (I am still a bit confused by the syntax here. Why is it "to hide" and not the conjugated "hides"? Does the to-infinitive give it a future meaning, for example?)
    As Greenwhiteblue suggests , the structure is 'It is much pride [appropriate ?] for A to do B' - for 'fair without' to 'hide fair within' . Greenwhiteblue's 'it is appropriate for the beautiful character of Paris to be housed in a handsome body' makes me hesitate, though, since that seems to suggest (maybe my error in thinking so) that the 'beautiful body' , like the beautiful character, is that of Paris, which I don't think is the case. It's a generalisation - 'Tis much pride for beautiful content to be in a beautiful container'. Here , as GWB says, the image is of a book - Paris' face is the delightful text of the book, where any doubts are clarified by the notes in the margin provided by his eyes; however, this 'precious book of love' is still 'unbound', but 'to beautify him only lacks a cover' - he needs a binding, all that he needs to beautify him is a cover ; a good book deserves a good cover , and the beautiful cover, Lady C goes on to suggest, should be Juliet.
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    he needs a binding, all that he needs to beautify him is a cover ; a good book deserves a good cover , and the beautiful cover, Lady C goes on to suggest, should be Juliet.
    I like this better than my own initial suggestion. However, I think we both agree that the "translation" was wrong, and the within/without contrast is the inside/outside contrast of a book and its cover.
     
    There is a nice line-by-line analysis at

    Romeo and Juliet Navigator: Summary of Act 1, Scene 3

    I agree with lentulax: a good book deserves a good cover , and the beautiful cover, Lady C goes on to suggest, should be Juliet.

    The text, before says: "This precious book of love, this unbound lover, / To beautify him, only lacks a cover" (1.3.87-88).

    Juliet will find that as natural as a fish finds the ocean. {There's an odd mismatch, in that Juliet will be the fish}


    Further, Juliet, she says, will be proud to be that role.
     
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    Minnesota Guy

    Senior Member
    American English - USA
    "For fair without the fair within to hide."
    = Since outer beauty hides inner beauty? (I am still a bit confused by the syntax here. Why is it "to hide" and not the conjugated "hides"? Does the to-infinitive give it a future meaning, for example?)
    In this case, it's not the conjunction for, but the preposition for, used in the sense of definition no. 26 (!) in the online dictionary:

    (used to introduce a subject in a to + verb or infinitive phrase): It's time for me to go.

    That is, the preposition for requires the infinitive, not the conjugated hides.

    Incidentally, my print edition of Shakespeare gives another explanation of "the fish is in the sea," namely that Paris is the fish, swimming freely until he is caught (in marriage). I'm not sure if I agree, but it's certainly typical of Shakespeare to play around with metaphors and images, and create little puzzles for the reader or spectator.
     
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