« PreviousContinue »
face such an army as we hear the enemy will bring against us.
-a render Where we have liv’d;] An account of our place of abode. This dialogue is a just representation of the superfluous caution of an old man. JOHNSON.
57 Yea, bloody cloth, &c.] This is a soliloquy of nature, uttered when the effervescence of a mind agitated and perturbed spontaneously and inadvertently discharges itself in words. The speech, throughout all its tenor, if the last conceit be excepted, seems to issue warm from the heart. He first condemns his own violence; then tries to disburden himself, by imputing part of the crime to Pisanio; he next sooths his mind to an artificial and momentary tranquillity, by trying to think that he has been only an instrument of the gods for the happiness of Imogen. He is now grown reasonable enough to determine, that having done so much evil he will do no more; that he will not fight against the country which he has already injured; but as life is not longer supportable, he will die in a just cause, and die with the obscurity of a man who does not think himself worthy' to be remembered.
JOHNSON. -each elder worse;] For this reading all the later editors have contentedly taken,
each worse than other ; without enquiries whence they have received it. Yet they know, or might know, that it has no authority. The original copy reads,
each elder worse ; The last deed is certainly not the oldest, but Shakspeare calls the deed of an elder man an elder deed.
59 And make them dread it to the doers' thrift.] The divinity schools have not furnished juster observations on the conduct of Providence, than Posthumus gives us here in his private reflections. You gods, says he, act in a different manner with your different creatures; “ You snatch some hence for little faults; that's
love, “ To have them fall no more: Others, says our poet, you permit to live on, to multiply and increase in crimes;
" And make them dread it to the doers' thrift." Here is a relative without an antecedent substantive; which is a breach of grammar. We must certainly read:
And make them dreaded, to the doers' thrift. i. e, others you permit to aggravate one crime with more; which enormities not only make them revered and dreaded, but turn in other kinds to their advantage. Dignity, respect, and profit, accrue to them from crimes committed with impunity.
This emendation is followed by Hanmer. Dr. Warburton reads, I know not whether by the printer's negligence,
And make them dread, to the doers' thrift. There seems to be no very satisfactory sense yet offered. I read, but with hesitation,
And make them deeded to the doers' thrift. The word deeded I know not indeed where to find; but Shakspeare has, in another sense undeeded, in Macbeth:
“ I sheath again undeeded." I will try again, and read thus:
-others you permit
And make them trade it to the doers' thrift. Trade and thrift correspond. Our author plays with trade, as it signifies a lucrative vocation, or a frequent practice. So Isabella says :
“Thy sins, not accidental, but a trade."
60 The country base,] i. e. A rustic game called prison-bars, vulgarly prison-base.
-bugs-) Bugbears, terrors.
LI, in mine own woe charm’d,] Alluding to the common superstition of charms being powerful enough to keep men unhurt in battle. It was derived from our Saxon ancestors, and so is common to us with the Germans, who are above all other people given to this superstition; which made Erasmus, where, in his Morice Encomium, he gives to each nation its proper characteristic, say, “Germani corporum proceritate et magiæ cognitione sibi placent." And Prior, in his Alma.
“ North Britons hence have second sight;
-great the answer be-] Answer, as once in this play before, is retaliation.
64 You shall not now be stolen,] This wit of the gaoler alludes to the custom of putting a lock on a horse's leg, when he is turned to pasture. JOHNSON.
65 Solemn music. &c.] Here follow a vision, a masque, and a prophesy, which interrupt the fable without the least necessity, and unmeasurably lengthen this act. I think it plainly foisted in afterwards for mere show, and apparently not of Shakspeare.
We have a sufficient instance of the liberties taken by the actors, in an old pamphlet, by Nash, called Lenten Stuffe, with the Prayse of the red Herring, 4to, 1599, where he assures us, that in a play of his called The Isle of Dogs, four acts, without his consent, or the least guess of his drift or scope, were supplied by the players. 66 cloys his beak,] Claus his beak. -sorry
hare paid &c.] i. e. sorry that you have paid too much out of your pocket, and sorry that you are subdued too much by the liquor. So Falstaff,
-seven of the eleven I pay'd.” Steevens,
-I never suw one so prone.] i. e. forward. 69 So feat.] So ready; so dextrous in waiting.
JOHNSON. 70 Quail to remember,] To quail is to sink into dejection. The word is common to many authors; among the rest, to Stanyhurst, in his translation of the second book of the Æneid:
“ With nightly silence was I quail'd, and greatly with horror.”
a carbuncle Of Phæbus' wheel;] So in Antony and Cleopatra:
“ He has desery'd it, were it curbuncled
« Like Phæbus' car.” 72 Think, that you are upon a rock;] In this speech, or in the answer, there is little meaning. suppose, she would say, Consider such another act as equally fatal to me with precipitation from a rock, and now let me see whether
repeat it. 73 Thou weep'st, and speak'st.] “Thy tears give testimony to the sincerity of thy relation; and I have the less reason to be incredulous, because the actions which
have done within my knowledge are more incredible than the story which you relate.” The king reasons very justly. 74 My peace we will begin:] I think it better to read, By peace we will begin.