Page images
PDF
EPUB

GLOSSARY.

ASSINEGO. Act II., Sc. 1.

“An assinego may tutor thee.” Assinego was a cant term for a fool, an ass. BRIZE. Act I., Sc. 3.

“The herd hath more annoyance by the brize.” The brize is the gad-fly. COMPASSED WINDOW. Act I., Sc. 2.

“Into the compassed window." A compassed window) is a bow-windour. CAPOCCHIA. Act IV., Sc. 2.

“A poor capocchia.” In the Italian Dictionary of Florio, cappocchio is explained as

"a shallow skonce, a blockhead.” DISMES. Act II., Sc. 2.

“Every tithe soul, 'mongst many thousand dismes.”

Disme, from the French dîme, is the tithe or tenth. FILLS. Act III., Sc. 2.

We'll put you i' the fills.” The fills are thills or shafts of a carriage. FRUSH. Act V., Sc. 6.

“I'll frush it, and unlock the rivets all.” To frush is to break to pieces, to crush. FULFILLING. Prologue.

“And corresponsive and fulfilling bolts." Fulfilling is here used in the sense of filling full. As in Chaucer's 'Knight's Tale, —

“ The citee, Fulfilled of ire and of yniquitee.” Hatch'd. Act I., Sc. 3.

As venerable Nestor, hatch'd in silver.” According to Gifford “to hatchis to inlay. LIFTER. Act I., Sc. 2.

Is he so young a man, and so old a lifter.”
A lifter is here used for a thief; we still use the term a shop

lifter.

a

[ocr errors]

MASTICK. Act I., Sc. 3.

“When rank Thersites opes his mastick jaws.” 'Histrio-mastix: the Player's Scourge,' was the name of a

play first printed in 1610, as well as the title of Prynne's better known work. Both were attacks on players and dramatic writers. The word has been changed in modern editions to mastive, but we think it more probable that Shakspere should apply an epithet to Thersites which should point out that he had made himself obnoxious to the poet's

fraternity. ORGULOUS. Prologue.

The princes orgulous.” Orgulous is from the French orgueilleux, proud. Lord Ber

ners has used the word several times in his translation of Froissart, as, “the Flemings were great, fierce, and or.

gulous.” PASSED. Act I., Sc. 2.

All the rest so laughed, that it passed.” Passedpast conception. See Merry Wives of Windsor.

Cressida retorts, using the word in its usual acceptation. PELTING. Act IV., Sc. 5.

“We have had pelting wars.” See ‘Measure for Measure.' Pun. Act II., Sc. 1.

“He would pun thee into shivers.” Pun is pound, to break to pieces. SAME. Act II., Sc. 2.

“ We do not throw in unrespective same.” Same is here used as a noun in the sense of a heap or mass

collected in one place; in strict accordance with its Saxon derivation. The common reading gives us sieve, from sive

of the quarto edition. SCULLS. Act V., Sc. 5.

“Like scaled sculls

Before the belching whale." Sculls are shoals of fish. It is thus used in 'Paradise Lost,' book vii. :“Fish, that with their fins and shining scales

Glide under the green wave, in sculls that oft

Bank the mid sea.” SHENT. Act II., Sc. 3.

“He shent our messengers." Shent is to abuse, reproach, to handle roughly.

STICKLER. Act V., Sc. 7.

“And, stickler-like, the armies separate.” A stickler was an umpire or arbitrator, so called from carrying

a stick or staff, who presided over the combats of quarter

staff and wrestling. SPERR. Prologue.

"Sperr up the sons of Troy.” Sperr, sometimes written sparr, from the Anglo-Saxon sparran, is to shut up, close, or bar. The original has stirre up. The Greeks had pitched their tents on the Dardan plains, and shut up the Trojans in their six-gated city. The correc

tion was made by Theobald. SPIRIT. Act I., Sc. 1.

“-And spirit of sense

Hard as the palm of ploughman."
Spirit of sense is explained by Johnson as the most exquisite

sensibility of touch. UNTRADED. Act IV., Sc. 5.

“Mock not, that I affect the untraded oath." Untraded is untreaded, unused, uncommon. See ‘Richard II.'

for a notice of trade in this sense. VARLET. Act I., Sc. 1.

“Call here my varlet." Varlet—the modern valetis a hireling, a servant. Horne

Tooke considers that these words, and harlot, are all from

the same Anglo-Saxon root, hyran, to hire. VAUNT. Prologue.

“Leaps o'er the vaunt." The vaunt is the van. VINEW'DEST. Act II., Sc. 1.

'Speak then, thou vinew'dest leaven.” Vinewed, vinny, means decayed, mouldy. In the preface to

our translation of the Bible we have “fenewed traditions." Horne Tooke says the word is from the Anglo-Saxon fynigean, and that finie-hlaf is a corrupted or spoiled loaf.

[ocr errors]

a

PLOT AND CHARACTERS.

66

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

“The original story," says Dryden, was written by one Lollius, a Lombard, in Latin verse, and translated by Chaucer into English ; intended, I suppose, a satire on the inconstancy of women. I find nothing of it among the ancients, not so much as the name Cressida once mentioned. Shakspere (as I hinted), in the apprenticeship of his writing, modelled it into that play which is now called by the name of Troilus and Cressida.'' Without entering into the question who Lollius was, we at once receive the “ Troilus and Creseide' of Chaucer as the foundation of Shakspere's play. Of his perfect acquaintance with that poem there can be no doubt. Chaucer, of all English writers, was the one who would have the greatest charm for Shakspere. Mr. Godwin has justly observed that the Shaksperian commentators have done injustice to Chaucer in not more distinctly associating his poem with this remarkable play. But although the main incidents in the adventures of the Greek lover and his faithless mistress, as given by Chaucer, are followed with little deviation, yet, independent of the wonderful difference in the characterization, the whole story under the treatment of Shakspere becomes thoroughly original. In no play does he appear to us to have a more complete mastery over his materials, or to mould them into more plastic shapes by the force of his most surpassing imagination. The great Homeric poem, the rude romance of the destruction of Troy, the beautiful elaboration of that romance by Chaucer, are all subjected to his wondrous alchemy; and new forms and combinations are called forth so life-like, that all the representations which have preceded them look cold and rigid statues, not warm and breathing men and women. Coleridge's theory of the principle upon which this was effected is, we have no doubt, essentially

true:

"I am half inclined to believe that Shakspere's main object (or shall I rather say his ruling impulse ?) was to translate the poetic heroes of Paganism into the not less rude, but more intellectually vigorous, and more featurely, warriors of Christian chivalry, and to substantiate the distinct and graceful profiles or outlines of the Homeric epic into the flesh and blood of the romantic drama,-in short, to give a grand history-piece in the robust style of Albert Dürer." *

The whole tendency of the play,—its incidents, its characterization,-is to lower what the Germans call herodom. Ulrici maintains that “the far-sighted Shakspere most certainly did not mistake as to the beneficial effect which a nearer intimacy with the high culture of antiquity had produced, and would produce, upon the Christian European mind. But he saw the danger of an indiscriminate admiration of this classical antiquity ; for he who thus accepted it must necessarily fall to the very lowest station in religion and morality —as, indeed, if we closely observe the character of the eighteenth century, we see has happened. Out of this prophetic spirit, which penetrated with equal clearness through the darkness of coming centuries and the clouds of a far-distant past, Shakspere wrote this deeply significant satire upon the Homeric herodom. He had no desire to debase the elevated, to deteriorate or make little the great, and still less to attack the poetical worth of Homer, or of heroic poetry in general. But he wished to waru thoroughly against the over-valuation and idolatry of them, to which man so willingly abandons himself. He endeavoured, at the same time, to bring strikingly to view the universal truth, that everything that is merely human, even when it is glorified with the nimbus of a poetic ideality and a mythical past, yet, seen in the bird's-eye perspective of a pure moral ideality, appears very small.”

Dryden, we have seen, speaks of Shakspere's "Troilus and Cressida’ as a work of his apprenticeship. Dryden himself aspired to reform it with his own master-hand. The notion of Dryden was to convert the “Troilus and Cressida' into a regular tragedy. He complains that “the chief persons who

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »