« PreviousContinue »
KING HENRY V.
Line 1. O, for a muse of fire, &c.] This goes upon the notion of the Peripatetic system, which imagines several heavens one above another; the last and highest of which was one of fire.
WARBURTON. It alludes likewise to the aspiring nature of fire, which, by its levity, at the separation of the chaos, took the highest seat of all the elements.
JOHNSON. Line 3. —princes to act, &c.] Shakspeare does not seem to set distance enough between the performers and spectators.
JOHNSON. Line 14. Within this wooden 0,] Nothing shows more evidently the power of custom over language, than that the frequent use of calling a circle an 0 could so much hide the meanness of the metaphor from Shakspeare, that he has used it many times where he makes his most eager attempts at dignity of style.
JOHNSON. Mr. Henley very judiciously observes, that this is an allusion to the Globe playhouse, which was circular.
-the very casques,] The helmets,
Line 14. - 19. imaginary forces-] Imaginary for imaginative, or your powers of fancy. Active and passive words are by this author frequently confounded. JOHNSON.
Line 26. And make imaginary puissance:] This shows that Shakspeare was fully sensible of the absurdity of showing battles on the theatre, which, indeed, is never done, but tragedy becomes farce. Nothing can be represented to the eye, but by something like it, and within a wooden O nothing very like a battle can be exhibited. JOHNSON. Line 29. For 'tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings, &c.] We may read king for kings. The prologue relates only to this single play. The mistake was made by referring them to kings, which belongs to thoughts. The sense is, your thoughts must give the king his proper greatness; carry therefore your thoughts here and there, jumping over time, and crouding years into an hour. JOHNSON.
ACT I. SCÈNE I.
London.] It appears from Hall's and Holinshed's Chronicles, that the business of this scene was transacted at Leicester, where king Henry V. held a parliament in the second year of his reign. But the chorus at the beginning of the second act shows that the author intended to make London the place of his first scene.
MALONE. Line 5. the scambling and unquiet time-] To scamble, means to make shift.
Line 31. Consideration like an angel &c.] As paradise, when sin and Adam were driven out by the angel, became the habitation of celestial spirits, so the king's heart, since consideration has driven out his follies, is now the receptacle of wisdom and of virtue. JOHNSON.
Line 36. Never came reformation in a flood,] Alluding to the method by which Hercules cleansed the famous stables, when he turned a river through them. Hercules still is in our author's head when he mentions the Hydra. JOHNSON. Line 52. The air, &c.] This line is exquisitely beautiful, JOHNS. 55. So that the art and practick part of life-] He dis
courses with so much skill on all subjects, that the art and practice of life must be the mistress or teacher of his theorick; that is, that his theory must have been taught by art and practice; which, says he, is strange, since he could see little of the true art or practice among his loose companions, nor ever retired to digest his practice into theory. Art is used by the author for practice, as distinguished from science or theory. JOHNSON. -to this theorick:] In our author's time this word was always used where we now use theory. MALONE. crescive in his faculty.] Increasing in its proper JOHNSON.
Line 92. The severals, and unhidden passages,] This line I suspect of corruption, though it may be fairly enough explained: the passages of his titles are the lines of succession, by which his claims descend. Unhidden is open, clear. JOHNSON.
ACT I. SCENE II.
Line 109. Send for him, good uncle.] The person here addressed was Thomas Beaufort, earl of Dorset, who was half-brother to king Henry IV. being one of the sons of John of Gaunt, by Katharine Swynford. MALONE.
Line 113. task-] Keep busied with scruples and laborious disquisitions. JOHNSON. Line 124. Or nicely charge your understanding soul-] Take heed, lest by nice and subtle sophistry you burthen your knowing soul, or knowingly burthen your soul, with the guilt of advancing a false title, or of maintaining, by specious fallacies, a claim which, if shown in its native and true colours, would appear to be false.
JOHNSON. Line 125. miscreate,] Ill-begotten, illegitimate, spurious. JOHNSON.
130. take heed how you impawn our person,] The whole drift of the king is to impress upon the archbishop a due sense of the caution with which he is to speak. He tells him that the crime of unjust war, if the war be unjust, shall rest upon him: Therefore take heed how you impawn your person.
So, I think, it should be read, Take heed how you pledge yourself, your honour, your happiness, in support of bad advice.
Dr. Warburton explains impawn by engage, and so escapes the difficulty.
JOHNSON. Line 151. -gloze,] To gloze, is to comment upon.
184. -To fine his title, &c.] To fine, is a word probably taken metaphorically from the fining of liquors.
The words in Holinshed's Chronicle are: “-to make his title seem true, and appear good, though indeed it was stark naught.”In Hall, “ to make, &c.--though indeed it was both evil and untrue."
MALONE. Line 186. Convey'd himself-] Derived his title. Our poet found this expression also in Holinshed.
MALONE. Line 207. imbare their crooked titles-] In the folio the word is spelt imbarre. Imbare is, I believe, the true reading. It is formed like impaint, impawn, and many other similar words used by Shakspeare.
MALONE. Line 228. and cold for action!] If cold be the true reading, their coldness should arise from inaction; and therefore the reading must be, cold for want of action. So Lyly, in Euphues and his England, 1581: “-If he were too long for the bed, Procrustes cut off his legs, for catching cold," i. e. for fear of catching cold.
MALONE. Line 257. They of those marches,] Marches, i. e. limits, borders.
282. And make your chronicle as rich with praise, &c.] The similitude between the chronicle and the sea consists only in this, that they are both full, and filled with something valuable. The quarto has your, the folio their chronicle.
JOHNSON. Line 292. To spoil and havock more than she can eat.] It is not much the quality of the mouse to tear the food it comes at, but to run over it and defile it.
THEOBALD. Line 294. Yet that is but a curs'd necessity;] It is certainly (as Dr. Warburton bas also observed) the speaker's business to show that there is no real necessity for staying at home. MALONE.
Line 305. Setting endeavour &c.] The sense is, that all endeavour is to terminate in obedience, to be subordinate to the publick good and general design of government. JOHNSON.
Line 309. The act of order-) Act here means law, or statute; as appears from the old quarto, where the words are, “ Creatures that by awe ordain an act of order to a peopled kingdom."
Line 312. venture trade abroad;] Toventure trade is a phrase of the same import and structure as to hazard battle. JOHNSON. Line 318. The singing masons-] Our author probably had here two images in his thoughts. The hum of a bee is obvious. I believe he was also thinking of a common practice among masons, who, like many other artificers, frequently sing at work: a practice that could not have escaped his observation. MALONE. Line 319. kneading up the honey;] To knead the honey gives an easy sense, though not physically true. The bees do, in fact, knead the wax more than the honey, but that Shakspeare perhaps did not know. JOHNSON. -to éxecutors-] Executors is here used for MALONE. Line 356. with a waxen epitaph.] A grave not dignified with the slightest memorial. JOHNSON. -a nimble galliard won;] A galliard was a nim
Line 323. executioners.
Line 394. -chaces.] Chace is a term at tennis. JOHNSON. 397.-this poor seat of England;] By the seat of England, the king, I believe, means the throne. MALONE. Line 404. For that I have laid by-] To qualify myself for this undertaking, I have descended from my station, and studied the arts of life in a lower character. JOHNSON.
Line 410. -his balls to gun-stones;] When ordnance was first used, they discharged balls, not of iron, but of stone. JOHNS.
ACT II. CHORUS.
Line 1. Now all the youth of England-] I think Mr. Pope mistaken in transposing this chorus, [to the end of the first scene of the second act,] and Mr. Theobald in concluding the [first] act with it. The chorus evidently introduces that which follows, not comments on that which precedes, and therefore rather begins than ends the act; and so I have printed it. JOHNSON.
For now sits Expectation in the air;
And hides a sword, from hilts unto the point, With crowns imperial, &c.] The imagery is wonder. fully fine, and the thought exquisite. Expectation sitting in the air designs the height of their ambition; and the sword hid from