Page images

Why should you want? Behold, the earth hath roots;8
Within this mile break forth a hundred springs:
The oaks bear mast, the briars scarlet hips;
The bounteous huswife, nature, on each bush
Lays her full mess before you. Want? why want?

i Thief. We cannot live on grass, on berries, water, As beasts, and birds, and fishes. Tim. Nor on the beasts themselves, the birds, and

fishes; You must eat men. Yet thanks I must you con,


Launcelot says, to our author's meaning: If these poor Thieves wanted meat, what greater want could they be cursed with, as they could not live on grass, and berries, and water? but I dare warrant the poet wrote:

- you much want of meet. i. e. Much of what you ought to be; much of the qualities befitting you as human creatures. Theobald.

Such is Mr. Theobald's emendation, in which he is followed by Dr. Warburton. Sir Thomas Hanmer reads:

you want much of men. They have been all busy without necessity. Observe tbe series of the conversation. The Thieves tell him, that they are men that much do want. Here is an ambiguity between much want and want of much. Timon takes it on the wrong side, and tells them that their greatest want is, that, like other men, they want much of meat; then telling them where meat may be had, he asks, Want? why want? Johnson. Perhaps we should read:

Your greatest want is, you want much of me. rejecting the two last letters of the word. The sense will then be-your greatest want is that you expect supplies of me from whom you can reasonably expect nothing Your necessities are indeed desperate, when you apply for relief to one in my situation. Dr. Farmer, however, with no small probability, would point the passage as follows:

Your greatest want is, you want much. Of meat
Why should you want? Behold, &c. Steevens.

the earth hath roots; &c.]
“ Vile olus, & duris hærentia mora rubetis,

Pugnantis stomachi composuere famem:

“ Flumine vicino stultus sitit.” I do not suppose these to be imitations, but only to be similar thoughts on similar occasions. Johnson.

- Yet thanks I must you con,] To con thanks is a very common expression among our old dramatick writers. So, in The Story of King Darius, 1565, an interlude:

“Yea and well said, I con you no thanke."


[ocr errors]

That you are thieves profess'd; that you work not
In holier shapes : for there is boundless theft
In limited professions.2 Rascal thieves,
Here's gold: Go, suck the subtle blood of the grape,
Till the high fever seeth your blood to froth,
And so 'scape hanging: trust not the physician;
His antidotes are poison, and he slays
More than you rob: take wealth and lives together;
Do villainy, do, since you profess to do it,
Like workmen. I'll example you with thievery:
The sun 's a thief, and with his great attraction
Robs the vast sea: the moon 's an arrant thief,
And her pale fire she snatches from the sun:
The sea 's a thief, whose liquid surge resolves
The moon into salt tears :3 the earth 's a thief,

Again, in Pierce Pennilesse his Supplication to the Devil, by Nash, 1592: “ It is well done to practise my wit; but I believe our lord will con thee little thanks for it.” Steevens.

1 In limited professions,) Limited, for legal. Warburton. Regular, orderly, professions. So, in Macbeth:

For 'tis my limited service." i.e. my appointed service, prescribed by the necessary duty and rules of my office. Malone.

since you profess to do’t,] The old copy has-protest. The correction was made by Mr. Theobald. Malone. 3 The sea 's a thief, whose liquid surge resolves

The moon into salt tears :) The moon is supposed to be humid, and perhaps a source of humidity, but cannot be resolved by the surges of the sea. Yet I think moon is the true reading. Here is a circulation of thievery described : The sun, moon, and sea, all rob, and are robbed. Fohnson.

He says simply, that the sun, the moon, and the sea, rob one another by turns, but the earth robs them all: the sea, i. e. liquid surge, by supplying the moon with moisture, robs her in turn of the soft tears of dew which the poets always fetch from this planet. Soft for salt is an easy change. In this sense Milton speaks of her moist continent. Paradise Lost, Book V, 1.422. And, in Hamlet, Horatio says:

the moist star
“Upon whose influence Neptune's empire stands."

Steevens. We are not to attend on such occasions merely to philosophical truth; we are to consider what might have been the received or vulgar notions of the time.--- The populace, in the days of Shakspeare, might possibly have considered the waining of the moon as a gradual dissolution of it, and have attributed to this melting

That feeds and breeds by a composture* stolen
From general excrement: each thing's a thief;
The laws, your curb and whip, in their rough power
Have uncheck’d theft. Love not yourselves; away;
Rob one another. There's more gold; Cut throats ;
All that you meet are thieves: To Athens, go,
Break open shops; nothing can you steal,5
But thieves do lose it: Steal not less, for this
I give you; and gold confound you howsoever!

[Tim. retires to his Cave. 3 Thief. He has almost charmed me from my pro. fession, by persuading me to it.

1 Thief. 'Tis in the malice of mankind, that he thus advises us; not to have us tlirive in our mystery.7

of the moon, the increase of the sea at the time she disappears. They might, it is true, be told, that there is a similar increase in the tides when the moon becomes full; but when popular notions are once established, the reasons urged against them are but little attended to. It may also be observed, that the moon, when viewed through a telescope, has a humid appearance, and seems to have drops of water suspended from the rim of it; to which circumstance Shakspeare probably alludes in Macbeth, where Hecate says:

« Upon the corner of the moon

“ There hangs a vaporous drop,” &c. M. Mason. Shakspeare knew that the moon was the cause of the tides, [See The Tempest, Vol. II, p. 134,) and in that respect the liquid surge, that is, the waves of the sea, rising one upon another, in the progress of the tide, may be said to resolve the moon into salt tears, the moon, as the poet chooses to state the matter, losing some part of her humidity, and the accretion to the sea, in consequence of her tears, being the cause of the liquid surge. Add to this the popular notion, yet prevailing, of the moon's influence on the weather; which, together with what has been already stated, probably induced our author here and in other places to allude to the watry quality of that planet. In Romeo and Juliet, he speaks of her " watry beams." Malone.

by a composture - ] i. e. composition, compost. Steedens.

- nothing can you steal,] To complete the measure I would read:

where nothing can you steal, Steevens.

Steal not less,] Not, which was accidentally omitted in the old copy, was inserted by Mr. Rowe. Malone.

7 'Tis in the malice of mankind, that he thus udvises us; not to have us thrive in our mystery.] The reason of his advice, says the






2 Thief. I'll believe him as an enemy, and give over

my trade.

i Thief. Let us first see peace in Athens : There is no time so miserable, but a man may be true.8

[Excunt Thieyes, Enter FLAVIUS. Flav. O you gods! Is yon despis’d and ruinous man my lord ? Full of decay and failing? O monument And wonder of good deeds evilly bestow'd! What an alteration of honour has Desperate want made !! What viler thing upon the earth, than friends, Who can bring noblest minds to basest ends! How rarely' does it meet with this time's guise, When man was wish'd to love his enemies : 2 Grant, I may ever love, and rather woo Those that would mischief me, than those that do!3

Thief, is malice to mankind, not any kindness to us, or desire to have us thrive in our mystery. Johnson.

Let us first see peace in Athens : There is no time so miserable, but a man may be true ] [Dr. Warburton divides this line between the two thieves.) This and the concluding little speech have in all the editions been placed to one speaker: But, it is evident, the latter words ought to be put in the mouth of the secund Thief, who is repenting, and leaving off his trade.

Warburton. The second Thief bas just said, he 'll give over his trade. It is time enough for that, says the first Thief: let us wait till Athens is at peace. There is no hour of a man's life so wretched, but he always has it in his power to become a true, i. e. an honest man. I have explained this easy passage, because it has, I think, been misunderstood.

Our author has made Mrs. Quickly utter nearly the same ex. hortation to the dying Falstaff: “. Now I bid him not think of God; there was time enough for that yet.” Malone. ? What an alteration of honour has

Desperate want made ! ] An alteration of honour, is an alteration of an honourable state to a state of disgrace. Johnson. 1 How rarely does it meet --] Rarely for fitly; not for seldom.

Warburton. How curiously; how happily. Malone.

2 When man was wish'd to love his enemies :) We should readwilld. He forgets his Pagan system here again. Warburton. Wish'd is right. It means recommended. See Vol. VI, p. 38, n.7.


He has caught me in his eye: I will present
My honest grief unto him; and, as my lord,
Still serve him with my life. My dearest master!

Timon comes forward from his Cave.
Tim. Away! what art thou?

Have you forgot me, sir? Tim. Why dost ask that? I have forgot all men; Then, if thou grant'st thou 'rt man, I have forgot thee.

Flav. An honest poor servant of yours.

I know thee not: I ne'er had honest man
About me, I; all that5 I kept were knaves,6
To serve in meat to villains.

The gods are witness,
Ne'er did poor steward wear a truer grief
For his undone lord, than mine eyes for you.
Tim. What, dost thou weep?-Come nearer ;--thier

I love thee,
Because thou art a woman, and disclaim'st
Flinty mankind; whose eyes do never give,
But thorough lust, and laughter. Pity 's sleeping:

3 Grant, I may ever love, and rather woo

Those that would mischief me, than those that do!] It is plain, that in this whole speech friends and enemies are taken only for those who profess friendship and profess enmity'; for the friend is supposed not to be more kind, but more dangerous than the enemy. The sense is, Let me rather woo or caress those that would mischief, that profess to mean me mischief, than those that really do me mischief, under false professions of kindness. The Spaniards, I think, have this proverb: Defend me from my friends, and from my enemies I will defend myself. This proverb is a sufficient comment on the passage. Fohnson.

thou 'rt man,] Old copy-thou rt a man. Steevens.

-that-] I have supplied this pronoun, for the metre's sake. Steevens.

- knaves,) Knade is here in the compound sense of a servant and a rascal. Fohnson.

Pity's sleeping :) I do not know that any correction is ne. cessary, but I think we might read:

-eyes do never give, But thorough lust and laughter, pity sleeping: Eyes never flow (to give is to dissolve, as saline bodies in moist weather, but by lust or laughter, undisturbed by emotions of pity.




« PreviousContinue »