Who says the lines below in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, and what do they mean?
...--O, there is a nobleman in town, one Paris, that would fain lay knife aboard; but she, good soul, had as lieve see a toad, a very toad, as see him. (II.iv.186-189)
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It is Juliet's nurse who says these lines to Romeo in Act 2, Scene 4, when she goes out into town to meet with Romeo and inquire what his plans are for marrying Juliet. After Romeo instructs Nurse to tell Juliet to meet him in Friar Laurence's chambers this afternoon when she has leave to go to confession, Nurse continues to prattle on in her bumbling fashion. One thing she babbles about is how Paris wants to marry Juliet. In the line saying that Paris "would fain lay knife aboard," the word fain can be translated to mean "gladly" or "willingly" (Random House Dictionary). Also, the phrase "lay knife aboard" can basically be translated as to kill. In other words, what Nurse is saying here is that "Paris would gladly kill to marry Juliet."
Nurse next says that Juliet, "good soul, had as lieve to see a toad, a very toad, as see him" (188-189). The word lieve in these lines can be interpreted as meaning "rather" (eNotes). In other words, Nurse is further saying that "Juliet would rather see a toad than look at Paris."
These lines are mostly an example of Nurse babbling irrelevant nonsense, but they also give us a glimmer of a chance to see that Nurse really would prefer to see Juliet marry Paris rather than Romeo. We can glean that understanding from the next lines in which Nurse says that she sometimes makes Juliet angry by saying that "Paris is the proper man," meaning that Paris is the better man than Romeo (189-190). However, we can further deduce Nurse's preference for Paris in the scene in which we first meet both Nurse and Juliet in which Lady Capulet tries to persuade Juliet to consider marrying Paris. In this earlier scene, as soon as Paris's name is mentioned, Nurse goes on and on to praise his handsomeness and his noble character. She praises his looks when she likens him to a wax statue, saying "Lady, such a man / As all the world--why he's a man of wax," meaning that his beauty is statuesque, as perfect as can be (I.iii.79-80). We also see Nurse comment on Paris's noble character, saying "Verona's summer hath not such a flower," meaning that he's the greatest prize in Verona (81).
Hence, we can see from the lines and passage in question that Nurse is commenting on Paris because she prefers Paris to Romeo.
This is the Nurse's conversation with Romeo from Act 2, scene 3 or 4(depending on which edition you're reading). "Fain" means either preferably; rather or happily; gladly. "Life" should read "lief" and means "rather." In Professor Levenson's notes(Oxford edition) we find: "'i.e., establish his claim. The diner at an ordinary brought his own knife with him and used it not only to mark his place but also to secure his helping.'" She(Levenson) is in turn quoting a Professor Crofts. She also notes that this is another of several seafaring similes and metaphors in the play and also yet another sexual pun.
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