« PreviousContinue »
spreading my backe lyke a thornbacke or an elephantes eare ;---and in consummation of my curiositie, my handes without gloves, all u more French," &c. RITSON.
P. 130. My barge stays;] The speaker is now in the King's palace at Bridewell, from which he is proceeding by water to York-place, (Cardinal Wolsey's house,) now Whitehall. MALONE.
P. 184. a little heated.] The King, on being discovered and desired by Wolsey to take his place, said that he would "first go and shift him: and thereupon, went into the Cardinal's bed-chamber, where was a great fire prepared for him, and there he new appareled himselfe with rich and princely garments. And in the king's absence the dishes of the banquet were cleane taken away, and the tables covered with new and perfumed clothes.---Then the king took his seat under the cloath of estate, commanding every person to sit still as before; and then came in a new banquet before his majestie of two hundred dishes, and so they passed the night in banqueting and dancing until morning," Cavendish's Life of Wolsey.
P. 145. You'd venture an emballing :] You would venture to be distinguished by the ball, the ensign of royalty. JOHNSON.
The Old Lady's jocularity, I am afraid, carries her beyond the bounds of decorum; but her quibbling allusion is more easily comprehended than explained. RITSON.
P. 166. To Asher-house, my lord of Winchester's.] Shakespeare forgot that Wolsey was himself Bishop of Winchester, unless he meant to say, you must confine your self to that house which you possess as Bishop of Winchester. Asher, near Hampton Court, was one of the houses belonging to that bishopric. MALONE.
Fox, Bishop of Winchester, died Sept, 14, 1528, and Wolsey held this see in com mendam. Asher therefore was his own house. REED.
P. 170. Or gild again the noble troops that waited
Upon my smiles.] The number of persons wno composed Cardinal Wols sey's household, was one hundred and eighty.
P. 178. Ipswich,] "The foundation-stone of the College which the Cardinal founded in this place, was discovered a few years ago. It is now in the Chapter-house of Christ-Church, Oxford." Seward's Anecdotes of distinguished Persons, &c. 1795. STEEVENS.
P. 179. go to, kneel.] Queen Katharine's servants, after the divorce at Dunstable, and the Pope's curse stuck up at Dunkirk, were directed to be sworn to serve her not as a Queen, but as Princess Dowager. Some refused to take the oath, and so were forced to leave her service; and as for those who took it and stayed, she would not be be served by them, by which means she was almost destitute of attendants. See Hall, fol. 219. Bishop Burnet says, all the women about her still called her Queen. Burnet, p. 162. REED.
P. 180. This to my lord the king.] This letter probably fell into the hands of Polydore Virgil, who was then in England, and has preserved it in the twenty-seventh book of his history. The following is Lord Herbert's translation of it
"My most dear lord, king, and husband,
"The hour of my death now approaching, I cannot choose but, out of the love I bear you, advise you of your soul's health, which you ought to prefer before all considerations of the world or flesh whatsoever: for which you have cast me into many calamities, and yourself into many troubles.---But I forgive you all, and pray God to do so likewise. For the rest, I commend unto you Mary our daughter, beseeching you to be a good father to her, as I have heretofore desired. I must entreat you also to respect my maids, and give them in marriage. (which is not much, they being but three,) and to all my other servants a years pay besides their due, lest otherwise they should be unprovided for. Lastly, I make this vow, that mine eyes desire you above all things. Farewell." MALONE.
The legal instrument for the divorce of Queen Katharine is still in being; and among the signatures to it is that of Polydore Virgil. STEEVENS.
P. 188. Chan. Speak to the business,] In the preceding scene we have heard of the birth of Elizabeth, and from the conclusion of the present it appears that she is not yet christened. She was born September 7, 1533, and baptized on the 11th of the same month. Cardinal Wolsey was Chancellor of England from September 7, 1516, to the 25th of October, 1530, on which day the seals were given to Sir Tho mas More. He held them till the 20th May, 1533, when Sir Thomas Audley was appointed Lord Keeper. He therefore is the person here introduced; but Shakespeare
has made a mistake in calling him Lord Chancellor, for he did not obtain that title till the January after the birth of Elizabeth.
P. 228. in Galen.] An anachronism of near 650 years. Menenius flourished Anno U. C. 260, about 492 years before the birth of our Saviour. Galen was born in the year of our Lord 130, flourished about the year 155 or 160, and lived to the year 200. GREY.
---empiricutic,] The old copies---empirickqutique. "The most sovereign prescription in Galen (says Menenius) is to this news but empiricutick: an adjective evidently formed by the author from empiric (empirique, Fr.) a quack."
TROILUS AND CRESSIDA.
P. 33. --though you bite so sharp at reasons, &c.] Here is a wretched quibble betweeen reasons and raisins, which in Shakespeare's time, were, I believe, pronounc ed alike. Dogberry, in Much Ado about Nothing, plays upon the same words: "If Justice cannot tame you, she shall never weigh more reasons in her balance." And Falstaff says, "If reasons were as plenty as blackberries, I would give no man a reason upon compulsion, I." MALONE.
P. 84. How the devil luxury, with his fat rump, and potatoe finger, tickles these together. Luxuria was the appropriate term used by the school divines, to express the sin of incontinence, which accordingly is called luxury in all our old English writers. Hence, in King Lear, our author uses the word in this particular sense :
"To't, Luxury, pell-mell, for I want soldiers."
But why is luxury, or lasciviousness said to have a potatoe finger ?---This_root, which was in our author's time but newly imported from America, was considered as a rare exotick, and esteemed a very strong provocative. As the plant is so common now, it may entertain the reader to see how it is described by Gerard, in his Herbal, 1597, p. 780:
"This plant, which is called of some Skyrrits of Peru, is generally of us called Potatus, or Potatoes.There is not any that hath written of this plant;---therefore, I refer the description thereof unto those that shall hereafter have further knowledge of the same. They are used to be eaten roasted in the ashes. Howsoever they be dressed, they comfort, nourish, and strengthen the bodie, procure bodily lust, and that with great greediness."
Shakespeare alludes to this quality of potatoes in The Merry Wives of Windsor: 'Let the sky rain potatoes, hail kissing comfits, and snow eringoes; let a tempest of provocation come." COLLINS.
P. 87. --the dreadful spout,
Which shipmen do the hurricano call,] A particular account of a spout," is given in Captain John Smith's Sea Grammar, quarto, 1627: A spout is, as it were, a small river falling entirely from the clouds, like one of our water-spouts, which make the sea, where it falleth, to rebound in flashes exceeding high; i. e. in the language of Shakespeare to dizzy the ear of Neptune. STEEVENS.
P. 217. And well are worth the want that you have wanted.] You are well deserv ing of the want of dower that you are without. So, in The Third Part of King Henry VI. Act. IV. sc. i: "Though I want a kingdom," i. e. though I am without a king dom. Again, in Stowe's Chronicle, p. 137: "Anselm was expelled the realm, and wanted the whole profits of his bishoprick," i. e. he did not receive the profits, &c. TOLLET.
P. 224. That can my speech diffuse,] We must suppose that Kent advances looking on his disguise. This circumstance very naturally leads to his speech, which otherwise would have no very apparent introduction. If I can change my speech as well as I have changed my dress. To diffuse speech, signifies to disorder it, and so to disguise it. STEEVENS.
P. 230. Which they will make an obedient father.] Which, is on this occasion used with two deviations from present language. It is referred, contrary to the rules of grammarians, to the pronoun I, and is employed according to a mode now obsolete, for whom, the accusative case of who. STEEVENS.
P. 232. That these hot tears, &c.] I will transcribe this passage from the first edi
tion, that it may appear to those who are unacquainted with old books, what is the difficulty of revision, and what indulgence is due to those that endeavour to restore corrupted passages." That these hot tears, that breake from me perforce, should make the worst blasts and fogs upon the untender woundings of a father's curse, peruse every sense about the old fond eyes, beweep this cause again," &c.
P 24S. "---and shall find time
From this enormous state---seeking to give
Losses their remedies:] I confess I do not understand this passage, unless it may be considered as divided parts of Cordelia's letter, which he is reading to himself by moonlight: it certainly conveys the sense of what she would have said. In reading a letter, it is natural enough to dwell on those circumstances in it that promise the change in our affairs which we most wish for; and Kent having read Cordelia's assurances that she will find a time to free the injured from the enormous misrule of Regan, is willing to go to sleep with that pleasing reflection uppermost in his mind. But this is mere conjecture. STEEVENS.
P. 244. Of Bedlam beggars.] Randle Holme, in his Academy of Arms and Blazon, has the following passage descriptive of this class of vagabonds: "The Bedlam is in the same garb, with a long staff, and a cow or ox-horn by his side; but his cloathing is more fantastick and ridiculous; for, being a madman, he is madly decked and dressed all over with rubins, feathers, cuttings of cloth, and what not; to make him seem a mad-man, or one distracted, when he is no other than a dissembling knave."
In the Bell-man of London, by Decker, 5th edit. 1640, is another account of one of these characters, under the title of an Abraham-Man : “ ------he sweares he hath been in Bedlam, and will talke frantickely of purpose: you see pinnes stuck in sundry places of his naked flesh, especially in his armes, which paine he gladly puts himselfe to, only to make you believe he is out of his wits. He calls himselfe by the name of Poore Tom, and comming near any body cries out, Poore Tom is acold. Of these Abraham-men, some be exceeding merry, and doe nothing but sing songs fashioned out of their own braines: some will dance, others will doe nothing but either laugh or weepe: others are dogged, and so sullen both in loke and speech, that spying but a small company in a house, they boldly and bluntly enter, compell ing the servants through feare to give them what they demand." STEEVENS.
P. 250. Corn. What trumpet's that?
Reg. I know't, my sister's] Thus, in Othello:
"The Moore,--I know his trumpet."
It should seem from both these passages, and others that might be quoted, that the approach of great personages was announced by some distinguishing note or tune appropriately used by their own trumpeters. Cornwall knows not the present sound; but to Regan, who had often heard her sister's trumpet, the first flourish of it was as familiar as was that of the Moor to the ears of Iago. STEEVENS.
P. 285. There's your press-money.] It is evident from the whole of this speech, that Lear fancies himself in a battle: but, There's your press-money has not been properly explained. It means the money which was paid to soldiers when they were retained in the King's service; and it appears from some ancient statutes, and particularly 7 Henry VII. c. 1. and 3. Henry VIII. c. 5. that it was felony in any soldier to withdraw himself from the King's service after receipt of this money, without special leave. On the contrary, he was obliged at all times to hold himself in readiness. The term is from the French "prest," ready. It is written prest in King Henry VIIth's Book of household expences still preserved in the Exchequer. This may serve also to explain the following passage in Act V. sc. ii: "And turn our im prest lances in our eyes ;" and in Hamlet, Act I. sc. i: "Why such impress of ship wrights?"
P. 287. This a good block?] Upon the king's saying, I will preach to thee, the poet seems to have meant him to pull off his hat and keep turning it and feeling it in the attitude of one of the preachers of those times, (whom I have seen so represented in ancient prints,) till the idea of felt, which the good hat or block was made of, raises the stratagem in his brain of shoeing a troop of horse with a substance soft as that which he held and moulded between his hands. This makes him start from his preachment. Block anciently signified the head part of the hat, or the thing on which a hat is formed, and sometimes the hat itself.---See Much Ado about Nothing: "He wears his faith but as the fashion of his hat; it changes with the next block." STEEVENS.
P. 11. as, by the same co-mart,] Co-mart is, I suppose, a joint bargain, a word perhaps of our poet's coinage. A mart signifying a great fair or market, he would not have scrupled to have written -to mart, in the sense of to make a bargain. In the preceding speech we find mart used for bargain or purchase. MALONE.
P. 41. And all we mourn for.] The ridicule of this character is here admirably sustained. He would not only be thought to have discovered this intrigue by his own sagacity, but to have remarked all the stages of Hamlet's disorder, from his sadness to his raving, as regularly as his physician could have done; when all the while the madness was only feigned. The humour of this is exquisite from a man who tells us, with a confidence peculiar to small politicians, that he could find "Where truth was hid, though it were hid indeed "Within the centre."
P. 46. an aiery of children, &c.] Relating to play houses then contending, the Bankside, the Fortune, &c. played by the children of his majesty's chapel.
POPE. It relates to the young singing men of the chapel royal, or St. Paul's, of the former of whom perhaps the earliest mention occurs in an anonymous puritanical pamphlet, 1569, entitled The Children of the Chapel stript and whipt: "Plaies will neuer be supprest, while her maiesties unfledged minions flaunt it in silkes and sattens. They had as well be at their popish seruice in the deuil's garments," &c.--Again, ibid: Euen in her maiesties chapel do these pretty upstart youthes profane the Lordes day by the lasciuious writhing of their tender limbes, and gorgeous decking of their apparell, in feigning bawdie fables gathered from the idolatrous heathen poets," &c. STEEVENS.
P. 54 To be, or not to be,] Of this celebrated soliloquy, which bursting from a man distracted with contrariety of desires and overwhelmed with the magnitude of his own purposes, is connected rather in the speaker's mind, than on his tongue, I shall endeavour to discover the train, and to show how one sentiment produces another.
Hamlet, knowing himself injured in the most enormous and atrocious degree, and seeing no means of redress, but such as must expose him to the extremity of hazard, meditates on his situation in this manner: Before I can form any rational scheme of action under this pressure of distress, it is necessary to decide, whether, after our present state, we are to be, or not to be. That is the question, which, as it shall be answered, will determine, whether 'tis nobler, and more suitable to the dignity of reason, to suffer the outrages of fortune patiently, or to take arms against them, ami by opposing end them, though perhaps with the loss of life. If to dis, were to sleep no more, and by a sleep to end the miseries of our nature, such a sleep were devoutly to be wished; but if to sleep in death, be to dream, to retain our powers of sensibility, we must pause, to consider, in that sleep of death what dreams may come. This con sideration makes calamity so long endured; for who would bear the vexations of life, which might be ended by a bare bodkin, but that he is afraid of something in unknown futurity? This fear it is that gives efficacy to conscience, which, by turning the mind upon this regard, chills the ardour of resolution, checks the vigour of en terprize, and makes the current of desire stagnate in inactivity. We may suppose that he would have applied these general observations to his own case, but that he discovered Ophelia.
Dr. Johnson's explication of the first five lines of this passage is surely wrong. Hamlet is not deliberating whether after our present state we are to exist or not, but whether he should continue to live, or put an end to his life: as is pointed out by the second and the three following lines, which are manifestly a paraphrase on the first: "whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer, &c. or to take armis." The question concerning our existence in a future state is not considered till the tenth line: To sleep! perchance, to dream;" &c. MALONE.
P. 61. The dumb show follows,] and appears to contain every circumstance of the murder of Hamlet's father. Now there is no apparent reason why the surper should not be as much affected by this mute representation of his crimes, as e is afterwards when the same action is accompanied by words.
I once conceived this might have been a kind of direction to the players, which was from mistake inserted in the editions; but the subsequent conversation between Hamlet and Ophelia, entirely destroys such a notion. PYE.
I cannot reconcile myself to the exhibition in dumb show, preceding the inter
lude, which is injudiciously introduced by the author, and should always be omitted on the stage; as we cannot well conceive why the mute representation of his crime should not affect as much the conscience of the King, as the scene that follows it. M. MASON.
P. 85. ------the owl was a baker's daughter.] This is a common story amongst the vulgar in Gloucestershire, and is thus related: "Our Saviour went into a baker's shop where they were baking, and asked for some bread to eat. The mistress of the shop immediately put a piece of dough into the oven to bake for him; but was reprimanded by her daughter, who insisting that the piece of dough was too large, reduced it to a very small size. The dough, however, immediately afterwards began to swell, and presently became of a most enormous size. Whereupon the baker's daughter cried out, Heugh, heugh, heugh,' which owl-like noise probably induced our Saviour for her wickedness to transform her into that bird." This story is often related to children, in order to deter them, from such illiberal behaviour to DOUCE. poor people.
P. 86. Like to a murdering piece,] The small cannon, which are, or were used in the forecastle, half-deck, or steerage of a ship of war were within this century, called murdering-pieces. MALONE.
Perhaps what is now, from the manner of it, called a swivel. It is mentioned in Sir T. Roes Voiage to the E. Indies, at the end of Della Valle's Travels, 1665. "the East India company had a very little pinnace---mann'd she was with ten men, and had only one small murdering-piece within her." Probably, it was never charged with a single ball, but always with shot, pieces of old iron, &c. RITSON.
P. 88. There's rosemary, that's for remembrance ;---and there is pansies, that's for thoughts.] Pansies is for thoughts; because of its name, Pensees; but why rosemary indicates remembrance, except that it is an ever-green, and carried at funerals, have not discovered. JOHNSON.
Rosemary was anciently supposed to strengthen the memory, and was not only carried at funerals, but worn at weddings. STEEVENS.
P. 89. There's fennel for you, and columbines:] Greene, in his Quip for an Upstart Courtier, 1620, calls fennel, women's weeds:"fit generally for that sex, sith while they are maidens, they wish wantonly."
STEEVENS. Columbine was an emblem of cuckoldom on account of the horns of its nectaria, which are remarkable in this plant.
It was also emblematical of forsaken lovers.
P. 89. -----there's rue for you ;] Ophelia means, I think, that the Queen may with peculiar propriety on Sundays, when she solicits pardon for that crime which she has so much occasion to rue and repent of, call her rue, herb of grace.
Ophelia, after having given the Queen rue to remind her of the sorrow and contrition she ought to feel for her incestuous marriage, tells her, she may wear it with a difference, to distinguish it from that worn by Ophelia herself; because her tears flowed from the loss of a father, those of the Queen ought to flow for her guilt.
P. 89. There's a daisy :] Greene, in his Quip for an Upstart Courtier, has explained the significance of this flower: "Next them grew the dissembling daisie, to warne such light-of-love wenches not to trust every faire promise that such
amorous bachelors make them."
The violet is thus characterized in an old collection of Sonnets:
"Violet is for faithfulnesse,
"Which in me shall abide;
"Hoping likewise that from your heart
"You will not let it slide.""
P. 98. to play at loggats with them?] This is a game played in several parts of England even at this time. A stake is fixed into the ground; those who play, throw loggats at it, and he that is nearest the stake, wins: I have seen it played in different counties at their sheep-shearing feasts, where the winner was entitled to a black fleece, which he afterwards presented to the farmer's maid to spin for the purpose of making a petticoat, and on condition that she knelt down on the fleece to be kissed by all the rusticks present. STEEVENS.
A loggat ground, like a skittle ground, is strewed with ashes, but is more extensive. A bowl much larger than the jack of the game of bowls is thrown first. The pins, which I believe are called loggats, are much thinner, and lighter at one extremity than the other. The bowl being first thrown, the players take the pins up by the thinner and lighter end, and fling them towards the bowl, VOL. X.