Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

So you to study now it is too late,
Climb o'er the house* to unlock the little gate.

King. Well, sit you out:5 go home, Biron; adieu !
Biron. No, my good lord; I have sworn to stay with

you: And though I have for barbarism spoke more,

Than for that angel knowledge you can say, Yet confident I'll keep what I have swore,

And bide the penance of each three years' day. Give me the paper, let me read the same; And to the strict'st decrees I 'll write my name. King. How well this yielding rescues thee from

shame! Biron. [Reads.] Item, That no woman shall come within a mile of my court. And hath this been proclaim’d? Long.

Four days ago Biron. Let's see the penalty. [Reads.]-On pain of losing her tongue

Who devis'd this? Long. Marry, that did I.

i. e, as the ground is in that month enamelled by the gay diversity of flowers which the spring produces.

Again, in The Destruction of Troy, 1619: “At the entry of the month of May, when the earth is attired and adorned with di. vers flowers,” &c. Malone.

I concur with Mr. Warton; for with what propriety can the flowers which every year produces with the same identical shape and colours, be called-new-fangled? The sports of May might be annually diversified, but its natural productions would be invariably the same. Steevens.

4 Climb o'er the house &c.] This is the reading of the quarto, 1598, and much preferable to that of the folio: “ That were to climb o'er the house to unlock the gate."

Malone. sit you out :) This may mean, hold you out, continue refractory. But I suspect, we should read-set you out. Malone.

To sit out, is a term from the card-table. Thus, Bishop Sanderson:

They are glad, rather than sit out, to play very small game.”

The person who cuts out at a rubber of whist, is still said to -sit out; i. e. to be no longer engaged in the party. Steevens.

6 Who devis'd this?] The old copies read-this penalty. I have omitted this needless repetition of the word penalty, because it destroys the measure. Steevens.

66

Biron. Sweet lord, and why?
Long. To fright them hence with that dread penalty.
Biron. A dangerous law against gentility."

[Reads.] Item, If any man be seen to talk with a woman within the term of three years, he shall endure such publick shame as the rest of the court can possibly devise. This article, my liege, yourself must break;

For, well you know, here comes in embassy
The French king's daughter, with yourself to speak

A maid of grace, and complete majesty,
About surrender-up of Aquitain

To her decrepit, sick, and bed-rid father:
Therefore this article is made in vain,

Or vainly comes the admired princess hither.
King. What say you, lords? why this was quite forgot.

Biron. So study evermore is overshot;
While it doth study to have what it would,
It doth forget to do the thing it should:
And when it hath the thing it hunteth most,
'Tis won, as towns with fire; so won, so lost.

King. We must, of force, dispense with this decree; She must lie here8 on mere necessity.

7 A dangerous law against gentility!] I have ventured to prefix the name of Biron to this line, it being evident, for two reasons, that it, by some accident or other, slipt out of the printed books. In the first place, Longaville confesses he had devised the penalty: and why he should immediately arraign it as a dangerous law, seems to be very inconsistent. In the next place, it is much more natural for Biron to make this reflection, who is cavilling at every thing; and then for him to pursue his reading over the remaining articles.-As to the word gentility, here, it does not signify that rank of people called gentry; but what the French express by gentilesse, i. e. elegantia, urbanitas. And then the meaning is this: Such a law for banishing women from the court, is dangerous, or injurious, to politeness, urbanity, and the more refined pleasures of life. For men without women would turn brutal, and savage, in their natures and behaviour. Theobald.

lie here -] Means reside here, in the same sense as an ambassador is said to lie leiger. See Beaumont and Fletcher's Love's Cure, or the Martial Maid, Act II, sc. ii:

“Or did the cold Muscovite beget thee,

“ That lay here leiger, in the last great frost ?" Again, in Sir Henry Wotton's Definition: “An ambassador is an honest man sent to lie (i. e. reside) abroad for the good of his country.” Reed.

8

Biron. Necessity will make us all forsworn

Three thousand times within this three years' space: For every man with his affects is born;

Not by might master'd, but by special grace:9 If I break faith, this word shall speak for me, I am forsworn on mere necessitySo to the laws at large I write my name: [Subscribes.

And he, that breaks them in the least degree, Stands in attainder of eternal shame:

Suggestions? are to others, as to me; But, I believe, although I seem so loath, I am the last that will last keep his oath. But is there no quick recreation granted? King. Ay, that there is; our court, you know, is

haunted With a refined traveller of Spain ; A man in all the world's new fashion planted,

That hath a mint of phrases in his brain:
One, whom the musick of his own vain tongue

Doth ravish, like enchanting harmony;
A man of complements, whom right and wrong

Have chose as umpire of their mutiny :3

. Not by might master'd, but by special grace:] Biron, amidst his extravagancies, speaks with great justness against the folly of vows. They are made without sufficient regard to the variations of life, and are therefore broken by some unforeseen necessity. They proceed commonly from a presumptuous confidence, and a false estimate of human power. Fohnson.

1 Suggestions - ] Temptations. Fohnson. So, in King Henry IV, P. I:

« And these led on by your suggestion.Steevens.
-quick recreation -] Lively sport, spritely diversion.

Fohnson. So, in Antony and Cleopatra:

- the quick comedians Extemporally will stage us." Steevens. 3 A man of complements, whom right and wrong

Have chose as umpire of their mutiny: ] As very bad a play as this is, it was certainly Shakspeare's, as appears by many fine master-strokes scattered up and down. An excessive complaisance is here admirably painted, in the person of one who was willing to make even right and wrong friends ; and to persuade the one to recede from the accustomed stubbornness of her nature, and wink at the liberties of her opposite, rather than he would incur the imputation of ill-breeding in keeping up the quarrel. And

2

This child of fancy, that Armado hight,

For interim to our studies, shall relate,
In high-born words, the worth of many a knight

From tawny Spain, lost in the world's debate.

as our author, and Jonson his contemporary, are confessedly the two greatest writers in the drama that our nation could ever boast of, this may be no improper occasion to take notice of one mate. rial difference between Shakspeare's worst plays and the other's. Our author owed all to his prodigious natural genius; and Jon. son most to his acquired parts and learning. This, if attended to, will explain the difference we speak of: which is this, that, in Jonson's bad pieces, we do not discover the least traces of the author of the Fox and Alchemist; but in the wildest and most es. travagant notes of Shakspeare, you every now and then encoun. ter strains that recognize their divine composer. And the reason is this, that Jonson owing his chief excellence to art, by which he sometimes strained himself to an uncommon pitch, when he unbent himself, had nothing to support him, but fell below all likeness of himself; while Shakspeare, indebted more largely to nature, than the other to his acquired talents, could never, in his most negligent hours, so totally divest himself of his genius, but that it would frequently break out with amazing force and splen. dour. Warburton.

This passage, I believe, means no more than that Don Ar. mado was a man nicely versed in ceremonial distinctions; one who could distinguish in the most delicate questions of honour, the exact boundaries of right and wrong. Compliment, in Shakspeare's time, did not signify, at least did not only signify verbal civility, or phrases of courtesy, but, according to its original meaning, the trappings, or ornamental appendages of a cha. raćter, in the same manner, and on the same principles of speech with accomplishment. Complement is, as Armado well expresses it, the varnish of a complete man. Johnson.

Dr. Johnson's opinion may be supported by the following passage in Lingua, or The Combat of the Tongue and the Five Senses for Superiority, 1609 :-—" after all fashions and of all colours, with rings, jewels, a fan, and in every other place, odd comple

And again, by the title-page to Richard Braithwaite's English Gentlewoman: “ drawne out to the full body, expressing what habiliments doe best attire her: what ornaments doe best adorne her; and what complements doe best accomplish her." Again, in p. 59, we are told that " complement hath beene an. ciently defined, and so successively retained ;-a no lesse réali than formall accomplishment."

* This child of fancy,] This fantastick. The expression, in another sense, has been adopted by Milton in his L'Allegro:

“Or sweetest Shakspeare, Fancy's child —," Malone. 5 That Armado hight,] Who is called Armado. Malone.

ments.

[ocr errors]

}

How you delight, my lords, I know not, I;
But, I protest, I love to hear him lie,
And I will use him for my minstrelsy.?

Biron. Armado is a most illustrious wight,
A man of fire-new words, 8 fashion's own knight.

Long. Costard the swain, and he, shall be our sport; And, so to study, three years is but short.

Enter Dull, with a letter, and COSTARD. Dull. Which is the duke's own person ? 9

son.

6 From tawny Spain, lost in the world's debate.] i. e. he shall relate to us the celebrated stories recorded in the old romances, and in their very style. Why he says, from tawny Spain, is, because those romances, being of Spanish original, the heroes and, the scene were generally of that country. Why he says, lost in the world's debate, is, because the subject of those romances were the crusades of the European Christians against the Saracens of Asia and Africa. Warburton.

I have suffered this note to hold its place, though Mr. Tyrwhitt has shewn that it is wholly unfounded, because Dr. Warburton refers to it in his dissertation at the end of this play. Malone.

in the world's debate.] The world seems to be used in a monastick sense by the king, now devoted for a time to a monas. tick life. In the world, in seculo, in the bustle of human affairs, from which we are now happily sequestered, in the world, to which the votaries of solitude have no relation. Johnson. Warburton's interpretation is clearly preferable to that of John

The king had not yet so weaned himself from the world, as to adopt the language of a cloister. M. Mason.

? And I will use him for my minstrelsy.] i.e. I will make a minstrel of him, whose occupation was to relate fabulous stories.

Douce. fire-new words,] “i. e. (says an intelligent writer in the Edinburgh Magazine, Nov. 1786,) words newly coined, new from the forge. Fire-new, new off the irons, and the Scottish expression bren-new, have all the same origin.” The same compound epithet occurs in King Richard III: “ Your fire-new stamp of honour is scarce current.”

Steevens. . Which is the duke's own person?] The king of Navarre in se. veral passages, through all the copies, is called the duke: but as this must have sprung rather from the inadvertence of the editors than a forgetfulness in the poet, I have every where, to avoid confusion, restored king to the text. Theobald.

The princess in the next act calls the king_"this virtuous duke;" a word which, in our author's time, seems to have been used with great laxity. And indeed, though this were not the

8

« ZurückWeiter »