Page images
PDF
EPUB

so they sell bullocks. But did you think, the prince would have served you thus?

CLAUD. I pray you, leave me.

BENE. Ho! now you strike like the blind man ; 'twas the boy that stole your meat, and you'll beat the post.

CLAUD. If it will not be, I'll leave you. [Exit.

BENE. Alas, poor hurt fowl! Now will he creep into sedges. But, that my lady Beatrice should know me, and not know me! The prince's fool!Ha! it may be, I go under that title, because I am merry.-Yea, but so; I am apt to do myself wrong: I am not so reputed: it is the base, the bitter disposition of Beatrice, that puts the world into her person, and so gives me out. Well, I'll be revenged as I may.

3

Re-enter Don PEDRO, HERO, and LEONATO.

D. PEDRO. Now, signior, where's the count; Did you see him?

BENE. Troth, my lord, I have played the part of lady Fame. I found him here as melancholy as a lodge in a warren; I told him, and, I think, I told

3 it is the base, the bitter disposition of Beatrice, that puts the world into her person,] That is, It is the disposition of Beatrice, who takes upon her to personate the world, and therefore represents the world as saying what she only says herself.

The old copies read-base, though bitter: but I do not understand how base and bitter are inconsistent, or why what is bitter should not be base. I believe, we may safely read,-It is the base, the bitter disposition. JOHNSON.

I have adopted Dr. Johnson's emendation, though I once thought it unnecessary. STEEVEns.

4 as melancholy as a lodge in a warren;] A parallel thought occurs in the first chapter of Isaiah, where the prophet,

him true, that your grace had got the good will of this young lady;" and I offered him my company to a willow tree, either to make him a garland, as being forsaken, or to bind him up a rod, as being worthy to be whipped.

D. PEDRO. To be whipped! What's his fault?

BENE. The flat transgression of a school-boy; who, being overjoy'd with finding a bird's nest, shows it his companion, and he steals it.

D. PEDRO. Wilt thou make a trust a transgression? The transgression is in the stealer.

BENE. Yet it had not been amiss, the rod had been made, and the garland too; for the garland he might have worn himself; and the rod he might have bestow'd on you, who, as I take it, havé stol'n his bird's nest.

D. PEDRO. I will but teach them to sing, and restore them to the owner.

BENE. If their singing answer your saying, by iny faith, you say honestly.

regu

describing the desolation of Judah, says: "The daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers," &c. I am informed, that near Aleppo, these lonely buildings are still made use of, it being necessary, that the fields where water-melons, cucumbers, &c. are raised, should be larly watched. I learn from Tho. Newton's Herball to the Bible, 8vo. 1587, that "so soone as the cucumbers, &c. be gathered, these lodges are abandoned of the watchmen and keepers, and no more frequented." From these forsaken buildings, it should seem, the prophet takes his comparison. STEEvens.

5

of this young lady;] Benedick speaks of Hero as if she were on the stage. Perhaps, both she and Leonato were meant to make their entrance with Don Pedro. When Beatrice enters, she is spoken of as coming in with only Claudio.

STEEVENS.

I have regulated the entries accordingly. MALONE.

D. PEDRO. The lady Beatrice hath a quarrel to you; the gentleman, that danced with her, told her, she is much wronged by you.

BENE. O, she misused me past the endurance of a block; an oak, but with one green leaf on it, would have answered her; my very visor began to assume life, and scold with her: She told me, not thinking I had been myself, that I was the prince's jester; that I was duller than a great thaw; huddling jest upon jest, with such impossible conveyance, upon me, that I stood like a man at a mark,

6

7

my visor began to assume life, and scold-] 'Tis whimsical, that a similar thought should have been found in the tenth Thebaid of Statius, v. 658:

[ocr errors]

66

ipsa insanire videtur

[ocr errors]

Sphynx galeæ custos-.' STEEVENS.

7 such impossible conveyance,] Dr. Warburton reads impassable: Sir Thomas Hanmer impetuous, and Dr. Johnson importable, which, says he, is used by Spenser, in a sense very congruous to this passage, for insupportable, or not to be sustained. Also by the last translators of the Apocrypha; and therefore such a word as Shakspeare may be supposed to have written. REED.

Importable is very often used by Lidgate, in his Prologue to the translation of The Tragedies gathered by Ihon Bochas, &c. as well as by Holinshed.

Impossible may be licentiously used for unaccountable. Beatrice has already said, that Benedick invents impossible slanders. So, in The Fair Maid of the Inn, by Beaumont and Fletcher: "You would look for some most impossible antick.” Again, in The Roman Actor, by Massinger:

66

to lose

"Ourselves, by building on impossible hopes."

STEEVENS.

Impossible may have been what Shakspeare wrote, and be used in the sense of incredible or inconceivable, both here and in the beginning of the scene, where Beatrice speaks of impossible slanders. M. MASON.

I believe the meaning is-with a rapidity equal to that of jugglers, who appear to perform impossibilities. We have the

VOL. VI.

E

8

with a whole army shooting at me: She speaks poniards, and every word stabs: if her breath were as terrible as her terminations, there were no living near her, she would infect to the north star. I would not marry her, though she were endowed with all that Adam had left him before he transgressed: she would have made Hercules have turned spit; yea, and have cleft his club to make the fire too. Come, talk not of her; you shall find her the infernal Até in good apparel." I would to God, some scholar would conjure her;' for, certainly, while she is here, a man may live as quiet in hell, as in a sanctuary; and people sin upon purpose, because they would go thither; so, indeed, all disquiet, horror, and perturbation follow her.

same epithet again in Twelfth-Night: "There is no Christian. can ever believe such impossible passages of grossness." So Ford says, in The Merry Wives of Windsor: I will examine impossible places." Again, in Julius Cæsar:

"Now bid me run,

"And I will strive with things impossible,

"And get the better of them."

Conveyance was the common term in our author's time for sleight of hand. MALONE.

She speaks poniards,] So, in Hamlet:

"I'll speak daggers to her-." STEEVENS.

the infernal Até in good apparel.] This is a pleasant allusion to the custom of ancient poets and painters, who represent the Furies in rags. WARBURTON.

Até is not one of the Furies, but the Goddess of Revenge, or Discord. STEEVENS.

1

some scholar would conjure her;] As Shakspeare always attributes to his exorcists the power of raising spirits, he gives his conjurer, in this place, the power of laying them. M. MASON.

Re-enter CLAUDIO and Beatrice.

D. PEDRO. Look, here she comes.

BENE. Will your grace command me any service to the world's end? I will go on the slightest errand now to the Antipodes, that you can devise to send me on; I will fetch you a toothpicker now from the farthest inch of Asia; bring you the length of Prester John's foot; fetch you a hair off the great Cham's beard;2 do you any embassage to the Pigmies, rather than hold three words' conference with this harpy: You have no employment for me?

D. PEDRO. None, but to desire your good company.

BENE. O God, sir, here's a dish I love not; I cannot endure my lady Tongue.3

[Exit.

bring you the length of Prester John's foot; fetch you a hair off the great Cham's beard;] i. e. I will undertake the hardest task, rather than have any conversation with lady Beatrice. Alluding to the difficulty of access to either of those monarchs, but more particularly to the former.

So, Cartwright, in his comedy called The Siege, or Love's Convert, 1651:

66 bid me take the Parthian king by the beard; or draw an eye-tooth from the jaw royal of the Persian monarch."

[ocr errors]

Such an achievement, however, Huon of Bourdeaux was sent to perform, and performed it. See chap. 46, edit. 1601: he opened his mouth, and tooke out his foure great teeth, and then cut off his beard, and tooke thereof as much as pleased him." STEEVENS.

"Thou must goe to the citie of Babylon to the Admiral Gaudisse, to bring me thy hand full of the heare of his beard, and foure of his greatest teeth. Alas, my lord, (quoth the Barrons,) we see well you desire greatly his death, when you charge him with such a message." Huon of Bourdeaux, ch. 17. BOWLE

my lady Tongue.] Thus the quarto, 1600. The folio

reads this lady Tongue. STERVENS.

« PreviousContinue »