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LIFE AND DEATH
KING RICHARD III.
ACT I.....SCENE I.
London. A Street.
Glo. Now is the winter of our discontent1 Made glorious summer by this sun of York;2 And all the clouds, that lowr'd upon our house, In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;
the winter of our discontent - Thus, in Sidney's Astrophel and Stella:
"Gone in the winter of my miserie." Steevens.
2 • this sun of York;] Alluding to the cognizance of Edward IV, which was a sun, in memory of the three suns, which are said to have appeared at the battle which he gained over the Lancastrians at Mortimer's Cross.
So, in Drayton's Miseries of Queen Margaret:
"Three suns were seen that instant to appear,
"Which this brave duke took to himself alone:" &c.
Again, in the 22d Song of the Polyolbion:
"And thankful to high heaven which of his cause had care, "Three suns for his device still in his ensign bare."
Such phænomena, if we may believe tradition, were formerly not uncommon. In the Wrighte's Play in the Chester Collection, MS. Harl. 1013, the same circumstance is introduced as attending on a more solemn event:
"That day was seene veramente
"Three sonnes in the firmament,
See Vol. X, p. 315, n. 8. Malone.
Our bruised arms3 hung up for monuments;
3 Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths; Our bruised arms &c.] So, in The Rape of Lucrece: "Made glorious by his manly chivalry,
"With bruised arms and wreaths of victory." Malone. 4 Our stern alarums chang'd to merry meetings,
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.
And now,-instead of mounting barbed steeds, &c.] So, in The tragical Life and Death of King Richard the Third, which is one of the metrical monologues in a collection entitled, The Mirrour of Magistrates. The first edition of it appeared in 1559, but the lines quoted on the present as well as future occasions throughout this play, are not found in any copy before that of 1610, so that the author was more probably indebted to Shakspeare, than Shakspeare to him:
-the battles fought in field before
"Were turn'd to meetings of sweet amitie;
"The war-god's thund'ring cannons' dreadful rore,
"And set his thoughts upon her wanton lookes." Steevens. Shakspeare seems to have had the following passage from Lyly's Alexander and Campaspe, 1584, before him, when he wrote these lines: "Is the warlike sound of drum and trump turn'd to the soft noise of lyre and lute? The neighing of barbed steeds, whose loudness filled the air with terror, and whose breaths dimned the sun with smoak, converted to delicate tunes and amorous glances?" &c. Reed.
▪delightful measures.] A measure was, strictly speaking, a court dance of a stately turn, though the word is sometimes employed to express dances in general.
So, in Romeo and Juliet:
"We'll measure them a measure, and be gone."
See Vol. IV, p. 117, n. 8.
barbed steeds,] i. e. steeds caparisoned in a warlike manner. I. Haywarde, in his Life and Raigne of King Henry IV, 1599, says, "The Duke of Hereford came to the barriers, mounted upon a white courser, barbed with blew and green velvet," &c.
Barbed, however, may be no more than a corruption of barded. Equus bardatus, in the Latin of the middle ages, was a horse
To fright the souls of fearful adversaries,—
But I, that am not shap❜d for sportive tricks,
I, that am curtail'd of this fair proportion,
adorned with military trappings. I have met with the word barded many times in our ancient chronicles and romances. An instance or two may suffice. "They mounted him surely upon a good and mighty courser, well barded," &c.
Hist. of Helyas Knight of the Swanne, bl. 1. no date. Again, in Barrett's Alveurie, or Quadruple Dictionary, 1580 :
"Bardes or trappers of horses." Phalera, Lat.
Again, Holinshed speaking of the preparations for the battle of Agincourt: "-to the intent that if the barded horses ran fiercely upon them," &c. Again, from p. 802, we learn, that bards and trappers had the same meaning. Steevens.
See "A Barbed horse," and "Bardes," in Minsheu's DICT. 1617, the latter of which he defines "horse-trappings." Malone.
5 He capers-] War capers. This is poetical, though a little harsh; if it be York that capers, the antecedent is at such a distance, that it is almost forgotten. Johnson.
6 Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,] By dissembling is not meant hypocritical nature, that pretends one thing and does another: but nature that puts together things of a dissimilar kind, as a brave soul and a deformed body. Warburton.
Dissembling is here put very licentiously for fraudful, deceitful. Johnson. Dr. Johnson hath certainly mistaken, and Dr. Warburton rightly explained the word dissembling; as is evident from the following extract: "Whyle thinges stoode in this case, and that the manner of addyng was sometime too short and sometime too long, els dissembled and let slip together." Arthur Golding's translation of Julius Solinus, 1587. Henley.
I once thought that Dr. Johnson's interpretation was the true one. Dissimulation necessarily includes fraud, and this might have been sufficient to induce Shakspeare to use the two words as synonymous, though fraud certainly may exist without dissimulation, But the following lines in the old King John, 1591, which our author must have carefully read, were perhaps in his thoughts, and seem rather in favour of Dr. Warburton's interpretation :
"Can nature so dissemble in her frame,
"To challenge any mark of true descent?"
Deform'd, unfinish'd, sent before my time
And hate the idle pleasures1 of these days.
Feature is used here, as in other pieces of the same age, for beauty in general. See note on Antony and Cleopatra, Act II, sc. v. Malone.
7 And descant on mine own deformity:] Descant is a term in musick, signifying in general that kind of harmony wherein one part is broken and formed into a kind of paraphrase on the other. The propriety and elegance of the above figure, without such an idea of the nature of descant, could not be discerned. Sir F Hawkins.
That this is the original meaning of the term, is certain. But I believe the word is here used in its secondary and colloquial sense, without any reference to musick. Malone.
8 And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,] Shakspeare very diligently inculcates, that the wickedness of Richard proceeded from his deformity, from the envy that rose at the comparison of his own person with others, and which incited him to disturb the pleasures that he could not partake. Johnson.
9 To entertain these fair well-spoken days,] I am strongly inclined to think that the poet wrote these fair well-spoken dames, and that the word days was caught by the compositor's eye glancing on a subsequent line. So, in the quarto copy of this play, printed in 1612, Sign. I:
"I, my lord, but I had rather kill two deep enemies." "King. Why, there thou hast it; two deep enemies." In the original copy, printed in 1597, the first line is right: kill two enemies" Malone.
1 And hate the idle pleasures -] Perhaps we might read: And bate the ille pleasures
2 inductions dangerous,] Preparations for mischief. The induction is preparatory to the action of the play. Johnson. Marston has put this line, with little variation, into the mouth of Fame:
"Plots ha' you laid? inductions dangerous?" Steevens.
In deadly hate the one against the other:
This day should Clarence closely be mew'd up;
Of Edward's heirs the murderer shall be.
Dive, thoughts, down to my soul! here Clarence comes. Enter CLARENCE, guarded, and BRAKENBURY. Brother, good day: What means this armed guard, That waits upon your grace?
Tendering my person's safety, hath appointed
Because my name is-George.
He hearkens after prophecies, and dreams; 4
And, for my name of George begins with G,5
Edward be as true and just,] The meaning is, if Edward keeps his word. Johnson.
May not this mean-If Edward hold his natural disposition and be true to that? M. Mason.
▲ He hearkens after prophecies, and dreams;] From Holinshed: "Some have reported that the cause of this nobleman's death rose of a foolish prophesie, which was, that after king Edward should raign one whose first letter of his name should be a G; wherewith the king and the queene were sore troubled, and began to conceive a grievous grudge against this duke, and could not be in quiet till they had brought him to his end." Philip de Comines, a contemporary historian, says that the English at that time were never unfurnished with some prophecy or other, by which they accounted for every event. Malone.
5 And, for my name of George begins with G, &c.] So, in Nichols's Tragical Life and Death of Richard 111: