Page images

Warburton well explained virtues, but has not, I think, reached the force of the word traitors, and therefore has not shewn the full extent of Shakspeare's masterly observation. Virtues in an unclean mind are virtues and traitors too. Estimable and useful qualities, joined with evil disposition, give that evil disposition power over others, who, by admiring the virtue, are betrayed to the malevolence. The Tatler, mentioning the sharpers of his time, observes, that some of them are men of such elegance and knowledge, that a young man who falls into their way is betrayed as much by his judgment as his passions. JOHNSON.

Line 51.

—can season her praise in:] Twelfth Night;

"all this to season

"A brother's dead love, which she would keep fresh,
"And lasting in her remembrance."

Line 54. all livelihood-] Means all appearance of life.

61. If the living be enemy to the grief, the excess makes it soon mortal.] Lafeu says, excessive grief is the enemy of the living: the countess replies, If the living be an enemy to grief, the excess soon makes it mortal: that is, if the living do not indulge grief, grief destroys itself by its own excess. By the word mortal I understand that which dies, and Dr. Warburton, (whose reading is-be not enemy) that which destroys. I think that my interpretation gives a sentence more acute and more refined. Let the reader judge. JOHNSON.

Line 75. That thee may furnish,] That may help thee with more and better qualifications. JOHNSON.


Line 82. The best wishes, &c.] That is, may you be mistress of your wishes, and have power to bring them to effect. JOHNS. Line 90.these great tears-] The tears which the king and countess shed for him.


Line 98. In his bright radiance and collateral light, &c.] I cannot be united with him and move in the same sphere, but must be comforted at a distance by the radiance that shoots on all sides from him. JOHNSON.

Line 105. In our hearts' table;] Table means the board or canvass on which a picture was painted. See Walpole's Anecdotes. Line 106. trick of his sweet favour:] So in King John:

"-he hath a trick of Cœur de Lion's face." Trick seems to be some peculiarity of look or feature. JOHNSON. Line 115. Cold wisdom waiting on superfluous folly.] Cold for naked; as superfluous for over-cloathed. This makes the propriety of the antithesis. WARBURTON.

Line 117. And you, monarch.] Probably monarcho, then a popular and ridiculous character of the age.

Line 121. stain of soldier- -] Stain for colour. Parolles was in red, as appears from his being afterwards called red-tail'd humble-bee. WARBURTON.

It does not appear from either of these expressions, that Parolles was entirely drest in red. Shakspeare writes only some stain of soldier, meaning only he had red breeches on, which is sufficiently evident from calling him afterwards red-tail'd humble-bee. STEEV. Stain rather for what we now say tincture, some qualities, at least superficial, of a soldier. JOHNSON.

Line 138. Loss of virginity is rational increase ;] Mr. Tyrwhitt would read national, which I think more plausible and correct. Line 156. inhabited sin―] i. e. Forbidden. So in Othello: -a practiser,

[ocr errors]

"Of arts inhabited and out of warrant."

So the first folio. Theobald and Johnson read prohibited. STEEV. Line 163. Marry, ill, to like him that ne'er it likes, &c.] Parolles, in answer to the question, how one shall lose virginity to her own liking? plays upon the word liking, and says, she must do ill, for virginity, to be so lost, must like him that likes not virginity. JOHNSON.

Line 170. -your date is better-] Here is a quibble on the word date, which means both age, and a particular kind of fruit much used in our author's time- Romeo and Juliet:


"They call for dates and quinces in the pastry." Line 177. Not my virginity yet.] Perhaps Parolles, going away after his harangue, said, will you any thing with me? to which Helen may reply. JOHNSON. Parolles has been laughing at the unprofitableness of virginity, especially when it grows ancient, and compares it to withered fruit. Helena, properly enough replies, that hers is not yet in


that state, but that in the enjoyment of her, his master should find the gratification of all his most romantic wishes. STEEV. Line 182. -a traitress,] It seems that traitress was in that age a term of endearment, for when Lafeu introduces Helena to the king, he says, You like a traytor, but such traytors his majesty does not much fear. JOHNSON.

Line 197. And shew what we alone must think;] And shew by realities what we now must only think. JOHNSON.

Line 216. is a virtue of a good wing,] I confess, that a virtue of a good wing is an expression that I cannot understand, unless by a metaphor taken from falconry, it may mean, a virtue that will fly high, and, in the stile of Hotspur, Pluck honour from the moon. JOHNSON.

Mr. Edwards is of opinion, that a virtue of a good wing refers to his nimbleness or fleetness in running away. STEEVENS.

Line 232. What power is it, which mounts my love so high, That makes me see, and cannot feed mine eye] She means, by what influence is my love directed to a person so much above me, why am I made to discern excellence, and left to long after it, without the food of hope. JOHNSON.

Line 234.

The mightiest space in fortune nature brings
To join like likes, and kiss like native things.

Impossible be strange attempts, to those

That weigh their pains in sense; and do suppose,

What hath been,] All these lines are obscure, and,

I believe, corrupt. I shall propose an emendation, which those who can explain the present reading, are at liberty to reject.

Through mightiest space in fortune nature brings

Likes to join likes, and kiss like native things.

That is, nature brings like qualities and dispositions to meet through any distance that fortune may have set between them; she joins them and makes them kiss like things born together.

The next lines I read with Hanmer.

Impossible be strange attempts to those

That weigh their pain in sense, and do suppose

What ha'n't been, cannot be.

New attempts seem impossible to those who estimate their labour

or enterprises by sense, and believe that nothing can be but what they see before them. JOHNSON.


Line 242. Senoys-] Senoys were the natives of Sienna. He had the wit, which I can well observe


To-day in our young lords; but they may jest,

Till their own scorn return to them unnoted;

Ere they can hide their levity in honour.] i. e. Ere

their titles can cover the levity of their behaviour, and make it pass for desert. WARBURTON.

I believe honour is not dignity of birth or rank, but acquired reputation: "Your father, (says the king,) had the same airy "flights of satirical wit with the young lords of the present time, "but they do not what he did, hide their unnoted levity in honour, "cover petty faults with great merit."

This is an excellent observation. Jocose follies, and slight offences, are only allowed by mankind in him that overpowers them by great qualities. JOHNSON.

Line 292. So like a courtier, contempt nor bitterness

Were in his pride or sharpness; if they were,

His equal had awak'd them;] He was so like a courtier, that there was in his dignity of manner nothing contemptuous, and in his keenness of wit nothing bitter. If bitterness or contemptuousness ever appeared, they had been awakened by some injury, not of a man below him, but of his equal. This is the complete image of a well bred man, and somewhat like this Voltaire has exhibited his hero Lewis XIV. JOHNSON.

Line 297. His tongue obey'd his hand:] We should read,

His tongue obeyed the hand.

That is, the hand of his honour's clock, shewing the true minute when exceptions bad him speak. JOHNSON.

Line 298. He us'd as creatures of another place.] i, e. He made allowances for their conduct, and bore from them what he would not from one of his own rank. WARBURTON.

Line 300. Making them proud of his humility,

In their poor praise he humbled:] Every man has seen the mean too often proud of the humility of the great, and

perhaps the great may sometimes be humbled in the praises of the mean, of those who commend them without conviction or discernment: this, however is not so common; the mean are found more frequently than the great. JOHNSON.

Line 307. So in approof lives not his epitaph,

As in your royal speech.] Epitaph for character.


Approof is approbation. If I should allow Dr. Warburton's interpretation of epitaph, which is more than can be reasonably expected, I can yet find no sense in the present reading. Line 312. —whose judgments are


Mere fathers of their garments;] Who have no other use of their faculties, than to invent new modes of dress. JOHNS.


Line 339. Steward, and Clown.] A Clown in Shakspeare is commonly taken for a licensed jester, or domestick fool. We are not to wonder that we find this character often in his plays, since fools were, at that time. maintained in all great families, to keep up merriment in the house. In the picture of Sir Thomas More's family, by Hans Holbein, the only servant represented is Patison the fool. This is a proof of the familiarity to which they were admitted, not by the great only, but the wise.

In some plays, a servant, or a rustic, of remarkable petulance and freedom of speech, is likewise called a clown. JOHNSON. Line 341. To even your content.] To act up to your desires. JOHNSON.

349. -you lack not folly to commit them, and have ability enough to make such knaveries yours.] After premising that the accusative, them, refers to the precedent word, complaints, and that this, by a metonymy of the effect for the cause, stands for the freaks which occasioned those complaints, the sense will be extremely clear. You are fool enough to commit those irregularities you are charged with, and yet not so much fool neither, as to discredit the accusation by any defect in your ability. HEATH.

Line 356.

-to go to the world,] Means, to be married. 381. Clo. You are shallow, madam, e'en great friends;] In the old copy, in great friends.

« PreviousContinue »