And yet no man like he, doth greeue my heart

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The entry on like as a conjunction in Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage quotes Shakespeare as using "conjunctive like" in this line:

And yet no man like he doth grieve my heart.
Romeo and Juliet, 1595

The interpretation, apparently, is that "like he doth grieve my heart" is a clause, introduced by like as a subordinating conjunction, roughly "And yet no man [doth grieve my heart] like he doth grieve my heart". But under this analysis, it's puzzling how "And yet no man" fits in — the ellipsis seems to be happening in the wrong clause.

So some of the commenters on my post "Write like me" (7/24/2009) assumed instead that this is an example of prepositional like taking a nominative complement (= "And yet no man doth grieve my heart like him"), with the like-PP inserted between subject "no man" and verb "doth grieve". This makes syntactic sense, but it's morphologically odd (in fact, I think, impossible).

Others took it as conjunctive like allowing ellipsis of everything except the subject ("And yet no man doth grieve my heart like he [doth grieve my heart]), where like would work like than in "He's taller than I [am tall]". There's a problem here with the order of clauses — thus Shakespeare writes things like "Windsor knows more of Anne's mind than I do", or "you owed no more to time than I do now", but never (as far as I can tell) places the than-clause between the subject and verb of the main clause, e.g. "Windsor than I do knows more of Anne's mind", much less "Windsor than I knows more of Anne's mind". And the required full ellipsis with like strikes most if not all modern speakers as weird, and doesn't seem to have been common in Shakespeare's time either, if indeed it ever occurs elsewhere at all. But this seems to be the best of a set of problematic analyses, and it may be what the MWDEU editors had in mind.

I wondered whether the context might help clarify what structure Shakepeare had in mind for this line, and so I took a look at this passage in several of the fascimile editions available at the Internet Shakespeare Editions site.

You may want to remind yourself of the plot. We're at the point in the play where Romeo has killed Juliet's cousin Tybalt and been banished from Verona. Juliet is beside herself crying over Romeo's situation. Her mother tries to comfort her, ignorant of the real reason for her grief.

In the version from (the "bad") Quarto I, 1597, the interaction goes like this:

Moth: I cannot blame thee.
But it greeues thee more that Villaine liues.
Iul: What Villaine Madame?
Moth: That Villaine Romeo.
Iul: Villaine and he are manie miles a sunder.
Moth: Content thee Girle, if I could finde a man
I soone would send to Mantua where he is,
That should bestow on him so sure a draught,
As he should soone beare Tybalt companie.
Iul: Finde you the meanes, and Ile finde such a man:
For whilest he liues, my heart shall nere be light
Till I behold him, dead is my poore heart.
Thus for a Kinsman vext?
Moth: Well let that passe.

This version of the play doesn't have the "like he" sentence, but I want to point something out about it anyhow: Juliet's responses are full of double meanings, both syntactic and semantic. Thus the alternate parses

[For whilest he liues my heart shall nere be light till I behold him dead]
[is my poore heart thus for a Kinsman vext?]

and

[For whilest he liues my heart shall nere be light till I behold him]
[dead is my poore heart thus for a Kinsman vext?]

And "Villaine and he are manie miles a sunder" is open to two interpretations as well, depending on which direction you go in separating "Romeo" from "Villaine".

Oddly, it's even more unclear how to collect her mother's clauses into syntactically coherent sentences:

Content thee Girle, if I could finde a man
I soone would send to Mantua where he is,
That should bestow on him so sure a draught,
As he should soone beare Tybalt companie.

It's obvious what Lady Capulet means (that she would have Romeo poisoned if she could find an agent), but what's the structure? Should we assume an omitted complementizer "if I could finde a man [that] I soone would send", and interpret "that should bestow…" as the main clause, with "that [man]" as the subject, yielding the structure (in paraphrase)

[If I could find a man [whom I could immediately send to Mantua]] [that man would poison Romeo]

Or should we interpret "I soone would send…" as the main clause, with "that should bestow…" as a headless relative acting as the object of send:

[If I could find a man] [I would immediately send to Mantua [someone who would poison Romeo]]

Or is it something else entirely?  None of these are grammatical in modern English. Maybe the structure as well as the meaning was obvious to Shakespeare's audience — but I wonder.

The version of the same interaction from Quarto 2, 1599, is longer, and this time the "like he" phrase appears:

La. Wel gyrle, thou weepst not so much for his death,
As that the villaine liues which slaughterd him.
Iu: What villaine Madam?
La. That same villaine Romeo.
Iu: Villaine and he be many miles a sunder:
God pardon, I do with all my heart:
And yet no man like he, doth greeue my heart.
La. That is because the Traytor murderer liues.
Iu: I Madam from the reach of these my hands:
Would none but I might venge my Cozens death.
La. We will haue vengeance for it, feare thou not.
Then weepe no more, Ile send to one in Mantua,
Where that same bannisht runnagate doth liue,
Shall giue him such an vnaccustomd dram,
That he shall soone keepe Tybalt companie:
And then I hope thou wilt be satisfied.
Iu: Indeed I neuer shall be satisfied
With Romeo, till I behold him. Dead
Is my poore heart so for a kinsman vext:
Madam if you could find out but a man
To beare a poyson, I would temper it:
That Romeo should vpon receit thereof,
Soone sleepe in quiet. O how my heart abhors
To heare him namde and cannot come to him,
To wreake the loue I bore my Cozen,
Vpon his body that hath slaughterd him.

Here Juliet's ambiguity (one of many) is repeated in somewhat different words:

[Indeed I neuer shall be satisfied with Romeo till I behold him dead]
[Is my poore heart so for a kinsman vext]

versus

[Indeed I neuer shall be satisfied with Romeo till I behold him]
[Dead is my poore heart so for a kinsman vext]

Lady Capulet's clauses, though different, still seem to be at least one complementizer short of a sentence:

Then weepe no more, Ile send to one in Mantua,
Where that same bannisht runnagate doth liue,
Shall giue him such an vnaccustomd dram,
That he shall soone keepe Tybalt companie:

And now we have Juliet's "like he" phrase in context:

Villaine and he be many miles a sunder:
God pardon, I do with all my heart:
And yet no man like he, doth greeue my heart.

The first two lines might be an aside, not meant for her mother's ears (though the first, again, is  ambiguous, as before). The third line, "And yet no man like he, doth greeve my heart", is pragmatically ambiguous enough to serve her needs — does her heart grieve for Romeo the unpunished murderer or for Romeo the endangered lover? — but the syntactic structure is again unclear, as indicated at the start of this post.

And the context makes it worse, not better. The expression "God pardon __" is fairly common in Shakespeare, but always with an object. In modernized spelling:

… the unhappy king (whose wrongs in us God pardon) …
… as both of you, God pardon it, have done …
… God pardon all oaths that are broke to me …
… God pardon them, that are the cause thereof …
… God pardon sin, wast thou with Rosaline? …

It would make sense (and a ten-syllable line) to add "him" after "pardon" — but the first Folio (1623) doesn't, although it adds a comma and changes the spelling of a couple of  words:

Villaine and he, be many Miles assunder:
God pardon, I doe with all my heart:
And yet no man like he, doth grieue my heart.

Is there another way to fit these lines together? Not that I can see, at least without another cup of coffee. But the whole scene seems to be a collection of clausal shards that fit together in more than one way, or not at all.

I don't know whether this is artistic intent, or scribal unreliability, or just the dislocation of linguistic distance. But in any case, I suggest that we leave Juliet out of the conjunctive like controversy. The poor girl has her own troubles, linguistic as well as romantic.

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18 Comments »

  1. Philip Goldfarb said,

    July 28, 2009 @ 10:17 am

    If attempting to perform this, I would parse the "God pardon" line as a vocative, thus:
    God, pardon. I do with all my heart.

    This keeps ambiguity in "pardon," as it can be a request for God to pardon everyone, an elided "him", or an elided "me." The "do" by the way can either pick up meaning from "pardon" (which is I think Juliet's intent) or from Lady Capulet's "thou weepst"; which would in turn make the following statement about grief make more sense too. In this interpretation, the interchange about villains is merely an interruption to their real conversation about Juliet's weeping, which she returns to in this line.

    That doesn't help shed much light on "and yet no man like he," although I'd suggest it also has a double meaning, like so many of Juliet's lines, here as either "no man grieves my heart like he does" or "no man who is like him grieves my heart." I'm not sure how that works out linguistically, but I might also suggest that Juliet's grief (both the real and the feigned kind) might lead to somewhat disordered speech, a phenomenon Shakespeare portrays in many other contexts as well.

  2. Dan S said,

    July 28, 2009 @ 10:17 am

    Even before that (delightful) tour through the Quartos, I read Juliet's "like" as a preposition, only, as in: "no child under 12 doth ride this roller coaster."

    But after the tour I am all the more impressed by the Bard's raising the level of willful ambiguity. Except that I can find only one meaning for the "villaine and he" line. Is that one necessarily an aside?

    I do think the object of "God pardon" is omitted by necessity, to allow another dual meaning:

    (1) For mother: God pardon me, because I do weep that the villain Romeo lives.

    (2) Internal: God pardon Romeo, as I do (pardon Romeo).

  3. Dougal Stanton said,

    July 28, 2009 @ 10:43 am

    One of my favourite scenes from this play, with the delicious dramatic irony. But I had never appreciated before how interesting it is to see the evolution of the script.

  4. Dan S said,

    July 28, 2009 @ 10:45 am

    Maybe my #1 meaning of that line is better read with embedding?
    "God pardon (the fact that) I do with all my heart (weep that the villain is unpunished)."

    And now I think I see another reading of the line that started this:
    "And yet (there's) no man like he (is), doth grieve[proclaim, lamentingly] my heart."

    I promise to stop now. It's alternate parsings all the way down.

  5. Nick Lamb said,

    July 28, 2009 @ 10:55 am

    Dan S. The trick to "villaine and he" is pointed out by Mark. It matters which direction. An axis is established on which villain is a point, and Juliet asserts Romeo is far from that point. But is Romeo miles from villainy towards something _better_ or something _worse_ ? That's the ambiguity.

  6. Philip Goldfarb said,

    July 28, 2009 @ 12:16 pm

    Nick – I see where you're coming from, and you're correct. But I think that from a theatrical direction, it's going to be very very hard to make that worse interpretation read to an audience (or even in a personal connection, to make it read to Juliet's mother) without completely obliterating the very ambiguity you're trying to create (say, by ripping up a picture of Romeo). Otherwise, it's going to sound the way that Dan automatically parses it.

  7. John Baker said,

    July 28, 2009 @ 1:54 pm

    In my post on "Write like me," I suggested that the structure of this passage is the same as that used by Felicia Hemans:

    The boy stood on the burning deck
    Whence all but he had fled

    The Hemans passage is, so far as I know, devoid of the interesting but highly confusing background to Juliet's remark. Is it, as Thurber suggested, simply an error for "Whence all save him had fled"?

  8. Matthew Walenski said,

    July 28, 2009 @ 2:43 pm

    I have this interpretation:

    And yet [no man like he] doth grieve my heart -

    where "like he" is a reduced relative clause modifying "man":

    "no man who is like he" with a meaning along the lines of:

    'even someone similar to him doesn't' = 'no one else'

    (I'm not sure precisely what allows nominative case on 'he' in this construction, but it doesn't seem implausible or unnatural to me)

  9. Ian B said,

    July 28, 2009 @ 2:57 pm

    As for:

    "Content thee Girle, if I could finde a man
    I soone would send to Mantua where he is,
    That should bestow on him so sure a draught,
    As he should soone beare Tybalt companie."
    Is it possible that "That should…" is a relative clause defining "a man", but postponed until after the apodosis of the condition? i.e.: "If I could find a man that should bestow, I soon would send to Mantua where he is." That allows Lady Capulet to get the main clause out of the way first, and save the drama of the relative clause for the end. It might have been a little anti-climatic if she had said "If I could find a guy to kill Romeo, I would", instead of "If I could find a guy, he would kill Romeo."

    If "he" of "where he is" is "Romeo", then "I soon would send to Mantua" requires an object like "that man I found": "If I could find a man, I soon would send [that man] to Mantua where [Romeo] is." But Quarto 2 seems to have thought that the man Lady Capulet means to find lives in Mantua. In that case, "I soon would send to Mantua" involves no ellipsis: "If I could find a man, I soon would send to Mantua, where [that man] is." But taking the "he" of "where he is" as "that man" would require Lady Capulet to switch the referents of "he" mid-sentence (i.e. from "the man I would like to find" to "Romeo"), but it's a little more coherent if we restore the relative clause to its natural position after its antecedent: "If could find a man that would bestow on him [Romeo] so sure a draught, I soon would send to Mantua where he [this guy] is."

    As for:

    "God pardon, I do with all my heart:
    And yet no man like he, doth greeue my heart."
    I feel that "God pardon, I do with all my heart" has to mean something like "God pardon him, I pardon him with all my heart" because of the concessive "And yet" of the next line. If it meant "God pardon it, but I do grieve with all my heart (that he still lives, which is not very Christian)", then wouldn't the next line begin with something like "Because"? I think it makes more sense to read: "Even though I forgive him and want him to be forgiven, he still grieves me", and this is still ambiguous enough for Juliet's purposes.

    One last suggestion: this is maybe a cop-out, but maybe "And yet no man like he, doth grieve my heart" is slightly anacolouthonic. Juliet could have meant to say "And yet no man like he doth, grieves my heart." This would involve an ellipsis of "grieve" after "he doth", which is maybe more palatable than an ellipsis of everything but the subject "he". But it might have sounded weird, to Juliet's ears, to say "grieves" after "doth", especially when the subject of "grieves" was all the way before the "like he doth". Or maybe it was the copyists that chose the lectio simplicior, being more confident in the fact that verbs after "do" aren't conjugated, than in the facts of conjunctive "like."

    I would have maybe suggested that like is to be taken with "no man": "Like no [other] man, he does grieve my heart". But the meter doesn't really lend itself to that reading: "and YET NO MAN LIKE, HE doth GRIEVE my HEART." Simple iambs sound better, don't they? "and YET no MAN like HE doth, GRIEVE(S) my HEART."

  10. Ran Ari-Gur said,

    July 28, 2009 @ 5:56 pm

    Of your three proposed parses, one interprets "like" as a (traditional) preposition, with object "he", raising the question of why it's "he" rather than "him"; and the other two interpret it as a traditional subordinating conjunction (preposition with clausal complement), raising questions about which clause has the ellipsis, and why.

    Another possibility occurs to me: what if "like" is actually functioning as a coordinating conjunction (coordinator), on the model of "but"? Sort of like a mixture of "And yet no man but he doth grieve my heart" (meaning "and yet no man doth grieve my heart except for him") with "And yet no man like him doth grieve my heart", with the resulting meaning "And yet no man doth grieve my heart as he doth". I think that would make sense semantically, syntactically, and morphologically; the only problem is, I don't think I've ever heard "like" used that way before. (But then, nowadays this use of "but" has also become more like a traditional preposition — "no man but he knows" seems more common in older works, whereas "no man but him knows" seems more common in newer ones — so it could make sense that coordinating-"like" would seem more natural to Shakespeare, or to the compiler of Quarto 2, than to modern readers.)

  11. Tim said,

    July 29, 2009 @ 5:25 am

    I have to say, my immediate reaction to the "grieve" line was that it meant "no man doth grieve my heart like he [doth]", with the word order switched around for poetic reasons. And that's still how it sounds to me.

  12. Jay Lake: [links] Link salad for a hump day said,

    July 29, 2009 @ 8:57 am

    [...] And yet no man like he, doth greeue my heart — Language Log with some deep linguistic neepery about Shakespeare. [...]

  13. Andy Hollandbeck said,

    July 29, 2009 @ 9:27 am

    I read "God pardon, I do with all my heart:/ And yet no man like he, doth greeue my heart." along these lines: "God can forgive — and so do I (because I'm a good Christian?) — but forgiveness does not allay that acute grief that only he could bestow." The part that throws me is the comma after "like he."

  14. Ran Ari-Gur said,

    July 29, 2009 @ 5:51 pm

    @Andy Hollandbeck: It's pretty common in older writing that if the subject is at all complicated, then a comma appears between it and the verb. (And some people still do that, though it's no longer considered correct.) This argues that the subject of "doth" is "no man like he" (and therefore argues against some of the proposed parses). But given the flexibility of writing conventions back in the day, it may not be a very strong argument.

  15. Bloix said,

    July 30, 2009 @ 10:42 am

    Re commas between subject and verb- the US Constitution is full of them. The best-known example is in the Second Amendment, where it causes no end of confusion, but they're all over the place.

  16. Ben Hemmens said,

    July 30, 2009 @ 4:29 pm

    great shaggy dog story.

    must get some of the older versions of shaks.

  17. uberVU - social comments said,

    January 13, 2010 @ 10:49 pm

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by languagelog: And yet no man like he, doth greeue my heart: The entry on like as a conjunction in Merriam-Webster's Dictionary.. http://bit.ly/14OtEq

  18. Nelson said,

    June 2, 2012 @ 4:25 pm

    Content thee Girle, if I could finde a man
    I soone would send to Mantua where he is,
    That should bestow on him so sure a draught,
    As he should soone beare Tybalt companie.

    In this example, couldn't these be two separate sentences, with "that" as a demonstrative? So, "Content thee Girle, if I could finde a man
    I soone would send to Mantua where he is," followed by "That [action] should bestow on him so sure a draught,
    As he should soone beare Tybalt companie."

    (Actually, I read this as a relative clause, but this seems like yet another interpretation.)

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