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A Hall in Angelo's House.

Enter ANGELO, ESCALUS, a Justice, Provost, Officers, and other Attendants.


ANG. We must not make a scare-crow of the law, Setting it up to fear the birds of prey,1 And let it keep one shape, till custom make it Their perch, and not their terror.


Ay, but yet Let us be keen, and rather cut a little, Than fall, and bruise to death: 2 Alas! this gentleman,

• Provost,] A Provost martial, Minshieu explains, "Prevost des mareschaux: Præfectus rerum capitalium, Prætor rerum capitalium.'


A provost is generally the executioner of an army. So, in The famous History of Thomas Stukely, 1605, bl. 1:

"Provost, lay irons upon him, and take him to your


Again, in The Virgin Martyr, by Massinger:


Thy provost, to see execution done

"On these base Christians in Cæsarea."


A prison for military offenders is at this day, in some places, called the Prevôt. MALone.

The Provost here, is not a military officer, but a kind of sheriff or gaoler, so called in foreign countries. Douce.


to fear the birds of prey,] To fear is to affright, to terrify. So, in The Merchant of Venice:

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This aspect of mine "Hath fear'd the valiant.”


2 Than fall, and bruise to death:] I should rather read fell, i. e. strike down. So, in Timon of Athens:

Whom I would save, had a most noble father.
Let but your honour know,3

Whom I believe to be most strait in virtue,)
That, in the working of your own affections,
Had time coher'd with place, or place with wishing,
Or that the resolute acting of your blood

Could have attain'd the effect of your own purpose,
Whether you had not sometime in your life
Err'd in this point which now you censure him,*
And pull'd the law upon you.

ANG. 'Tis one thing to be tempted, Escalus, Another thing to fall. I not deny,

The jury, passing on the prisoner's life,

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Fall is the old reading, and the true one. Shakspeare has used the same verb active in The Comedy of Errors:

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as easy may'st thou fall

"A drop of water,-,"

i. e. let fall. So, in As you like it :

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the executioner

"Falls not the axe upon the humbled neck."


Than fall, and bruise to death :] i. e. fall the axe; or rather, let the criminal fall, &c. Malone.

3 Let but your honour know,] To know is here to examine, to take cognisance. So, in A Midsummer-Night's Dream:

"Therefore, fair Hermia, question your desires;
"Know of your youth, examine well your blood."


• Err'd in this point which now you censure him,] Some word seems to be wanting to make this line sense. Perhaps, we should read:

Err'd in this point which now you censure him for.


The sense undoubtedly requires, " which now you censure him for," but the text certainly appears as the poet left it. I have elsewhere shewn that he frequently uses these elliptical expressions. Malone.

May, in the sworn twelve, have a thief or two Guiltier than him they try: What's open made to justice,

That justice seizes." What know the laws,

That thieves do pass on thieves? 'Tis very pregnant,'

The jewel that we find, we stoop and take it,
Because we see it; but what we do not see,
We tread upon, and never think of it.
You may not so extenuate his offence,


For I have had such faults; but rather tell me, When I, that censure him, do so offend,

Let mine own judgment pattern out my death, And nothing come in partial. Sir, he must die. ESCAL. Be it as your wisdom will.


Where is the provost ?

PROV. Here, if it like your


• That justice seizes.] For the sake of metre, I think we should read,-seizes on; or, perhaps, we should regulate the passage thus:

Guiltier than him they try: What's open made

To justice, justice seizes. What know, &c. STEEVens.

What know the laws,

That thieves do pass on thieves?] How can the admini strators of the laws take cognizance of what I have just mentioned? How can they know, whether the jurymen, who decide on the life or death of thieves, be themselves as criminal as those whom they try? To pass on is a forensick term. MALONE.

So, in King Lear, Act III. sc. vii:

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Though well we may not pass upon his life." See my note on this passage. STEEvens.

7 'Tis very pregnant,] 'Tis plain that we must act with bad as with good; we punish the faults, as we take the advantages that lie in our way, and what we do not see we cannot note. JOHNSON.

For I have had-] That is, because, by reason that I have had such faults. JOHNSON.


See that Claudio

Be executed by nine to-morrow morning:
Bring him his confessor, let him be prepar❜d;
For that's the utmost of his pilgrimage.

[Exit Provost." ESCAL. Well, heaven forgive him! and forgive us all!

Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall :
Some run from brakes of vice, and answer none;
And some condemned for a fault alone.9

9 Some rise &c.] This line is in the first folio printed in Italics as a quotation. All the folios read in the next line: Some run from brakes of ice, and answer none.


The old reading is, perhaps, the true one, and may mean, some run away from danger, and stay to answer none of their faults, whilst others are condemned only on account of a single frailty.

If this be the true reading, it should be printed:

·Some run from breaks [i. e. fractures] of ice, &c. Since I suggested this, I have found reason to change my opi nion. A brake anciently meant not only a sharp bit, a snaffle, but also the engine with which farriers confined the legs of such unruly horses as would not otherwise submit themselves to be shod, or to have a cruel operation performed on them. This, in some places, is still called a smith's brake. In this last sense, Ben Jonson uses the word in his Underwoods:

"And not think he had eat a stake,

"Or were set up in a brake."

And, for the former sense, see The Silent Woman, Act IV. Again, for the latter sense, Bussy D'Ambois, by Chapman: "Or, like a strumpet, learn to set my face

"In an eternal brake.”

Again, in The Opportunity, by Shirley, 1640:

"He is fallen into some brake, some wench has tied him by the legs."

Again, in Holland's Leaguer, 1633 :

66 - her I'll make

“A stale, to catch this courtier in a brake.”

I offer these quotations, which may prove of use to some more fortunate conjecturer; but am able myself to derive very little from them to suit the passage before us.

Enter ELBOW, FROTH, Clown, Officers, &c.

ELB. Come, bring them away: if these be good people in a common-weal, that do nothing but use

I likewise find from Holinshed, p. 670, that the brake was an engine of torture. "The said Hawkins was cast into the Tower, and at length brought to the brake, called the Duke of Excester's daughter, by means of which pain he shewed many things," &c.

"When the Dukes of Exeter and Suffolk, (says Blackstone, in his Commentaries, Vol. IV. chap. xxv. p. 320, 321,) and other ministers of Henry VI. had laid a design to introduce the civil law into this kingdom as the rule of government, for a beginning thereof they erected a rack for torture; which was called in derision the Duke of Exeter's Daughter, and still remains in the Tower of London, where it was occasionally used as an engine of state, not of law, more than once in the reign of Queen Elizabeth." See Coke's Instit, 35, Barrington, 69, 385, and Fuller's Worthies, p. 317.

A part of this horrid engine still remains in the Tower, and the following is the figure of it:

It consists of a strong iron frame about six feet long, with three rollers of wood within it. The middle one of these, which has iron teeth at each end, is governed by two stops of iron, and was, probably, that part of the machine which suspended the powers of the rest, when the unhappy sufferer was sufficiently

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