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For ere Demetrius look'd on Hermia's eyne 7,
If I have thanks, it is a dear expence :
Enter Quince the carpenter, Snug the joiner, Bottom the weaver, Flute the bellows-mender 9, Snout the tinker, and Starveling the taylor'.
Quin. Is all our company here?
7 -Hermia's eyne,] This plural is common both in Chaucer and Spenfer. So, in Chaucer's Character of the Prioreffe, late edit. v. 152:
-hir eyen grey as glas."
Again, in Spenfer's Facry Queen, b. i. c. 4. ft. 9: "While flashing beams do dare his feeble eyen.' " STEEVENS. -this hail] Thus all the editions, except the quarto, 1600, printed by Roberts, which reads instead of this bail, his bail. STEVENS.
9-the bellows-mender,] In Ben Jonfon's mafque of Pan's Anniversary, &c. a man of the fame profeffion is introduced. I have been told that a bellows-mender was one who had the care of organs, regals, &c. STEEVENS.
In this fcene Shakspeare takes advantage of his knowledge of the theatre, to ridicule the prejudices and competitions of the players. Bottom, who is generally acknowledged the principal actor, declares his intention to be for a tyrant, for a part of fury, tumult, and noise, fuch as every young man pants to perform when he first steps upon the stage. The fame Bottom, who feems bred in a tiring-room, has another hiftrionical paffion. He is for engroffing every part, and would exclude his inferiors from all poffibility of diftinction. He is therefore defirous to play Pyramus, Thibe, and the Lyon at the fame time. JOHNSON,
Bot. You were beft to call them generally, man by man, according to the fcrip 2.
Quin. Here is the fcrowl of every man's name, which is thought fit, through all Athens, to play in our interlude before the duke and dutchefs, on his wedding-day at night.
Bot. First, good Peter Quince, fay what the play treats on; then read the names of the actors; and fo grow to a point.
Quin. Marry our play is-The moft lamentable
2 the scrip.] A fcrip, Fr. efcript, now written ecrit.
So, Chaucer, in Troilus and Crefida, 1. 2. 1130.
Scripe nor bil."
Again, in Heywood's, If you know not me, you know Nobody; 1633, Part II:
"I'll take thy own word without scrip or scroll.” Holinfhed likewifes ufes the word. STEEVENS.
3 grow to a point.] Dr. Warburton reads go on ; is ufed, in allufion to his name, Quince. JOHNSON.
To grow to a point, I believe, has no reference to the name of Quince. I meet with the fame kind of expreffion in Wily Beguiled: "As yet we are grown to no conclufion." Again, in The Arraignment of Paris, 1584: "Our reafons will be infinite, I trow, "Unless unto fome other point we and fo grow to a point.] The first folio reads: and fo grow on to a point. MALONE.
And fo grow on to a point.] The fenfe, in my opinion, hath been hitherto mistaken; and instead of a point, a fubftantive, I would read appoint a verb, that is, appoint what parts each actor is to perform, which is the real cafe." Quince first tells them the name of the play, then calls the actors by their names, and after that, tells each of them what part is fet down for him to act.
Perhaps, however, only the particle a may be inferted by the printer, and Shakspeare wrote to point, i. e. to appoint. The word occurs in that fenfe in a poem by B. N. 1614, called I Would and would Not, stanza iii :
"To point the captains every one their fight." WARNER. The moft lamentable comedy, &c.] This is very probably a bur lefque on the title page of Cambyfes: "A lamentable Tragedie, mixed full of pleafant Mirth, containing, The Life of Cambifes King of Percia, &c." By Tho. Pretton, bl. 1. no date.
On the registers of the Stationers' company however appears, "the boke of Perymus and Thefbye," 1562. Perhaps Shakspeare copied fome part of his interlude from it. STEEVENS.
comedy, and moft cruel death of Pyramus and Thisby.
Bot. A very good piece of work, I affure you, and a merry4. Now, good Peter Quince, call forth your actors by the fcrowl: Mafters, spread yourselves. Quin. Anfwer, as I call you. Nick Bottom the
Bot. Ready: Name what part I am for, and proceed.
Quin. You, Nick Bottom, are fet down for Pyramus. Bot. What is Pyramus? a lover, or a tyrant? Quin. A lover, that kills himfelf moft gallantly for love.
Bot. That will afk fome tears in the true perform→ ing of it: If I do it, let the audience look to their eyes; I will move ftorms, I will condole in fome measure 5. To the reft :-Yet my chief humour is for a tyrant I could play Ercles rarely, or a part to tear a cat in, to make all fplit 7.
A very good piece of work, and a merry.] This is defigned as a ridicule on the titles of our ancient moralities and interludes. Thus Skelton's Magnificence is called "a goodly interlude and a mery." STEEVENS.
s I will condole in fome measure.] When we ufe this verb at prefent we put with before the perfon for whofe misfortune we profefs concern. Anciently it seems to have been employed without it. So, in A Pennyworth of good Counfell, an ancient ballad : "Thus to the wall
"I may condole."
Again, in the Three Merry Coblers another old fong:
"Poore weather beaten foles,
"Whose case the body condoles." STEEVENS.
6 I could play Ercles rarely, or a part to tear a CAT in:] In the old comedy of the Roaring Girl, 1611, there is a character called Tear-cat, who fays: "I am called, by those who have seen my valour, Tear cat. "In an anonymous piece called Hiftriomaflix, or The Player Whipt, 1610, in fix acts, a parcel of foldiers drag a company of players on the ftage, and the captain fays: "Sirrah, this is you that would rend and tear a cat upon a ftage, &c." Again, in The Isle of Gulls, a comedy by J. Day, 1606: "I had rather hear two fuch jefts, than a whole play of fuch Tear-cat thunderclaps." STEEVENS.
"The raging rocks.
This was lofty!-Now name the reft of the players. This is Ercles' vein, a tyrant's vein; a lover is more condoling.
Quin. Francis Flute, the belows-mender.
Flu. Here, Peter Quince.
Quin. You must take Thisbe on you. Flu. What is Thifby? a wandering knight? Quin. It is the lady that Pyramus muft love. Flu. Nay, faith, let me not play a woman; I have a beard coming.
Quin. That's all one; you fhall play it in a mask, and you may speak as fmall as you will.
7 To make all split.] This is to be connected with the previous part of the fpeech; not with the fubfequent rhymes. It was the defcription of a bully. In the fecond act of the Scornful Lady, we meet with "two roaring boys of Rome, that made all split."
I meet with the fame expreffion in the Widow's Tears, by Chapman, 1612: "Her wit I muft employ upon this bufinefs to prepare my next encounter, but in fuch a fashion as fhall make all split." MALONE.
and fhivering fhocks,] Dr. Farmer rightly wished to read with. STEEVENS.
9 As fmall, &c.] This paffage fhews how the want of women on the old ftage was fupplied. If they had not a young man who could perform the part with a face that might pafs for feminine, the character was acted in a mask, which was at that time a part of a lady's dress so much in ufe that it did not give any unusual appearance to the fcene: and he that could modulate his voice in a female tone might play the woman very fuccefsfully. It is obferved in Downes's Rofcius Anglicanus, that Kynafton, one of these counterfeit heroines moyed the paffions more strongly than the
Bot. An I may hide my face, let me play Thisby too: I'll fpeak in a monftrous little voice;-Thife, Thifne,—Ah, Pyramus, my lover dear; thy Thisby dear! and lady dear!
Quin. No, no; you must play Pyramus, and, Flute, you Thisby.
Bot. Well, proceed.
Quin. Robin Starveling, the taylor.
Star. Here, Peter Quince.
Quin. Robin Starveling, you must play Thisby's mother.-Tom Snowt, the tinker.
Snow. Here, Peter Quince.
Quin. You, Pyramus's father; myfelf, Thifby's father;-Snug, the joiner, you, the lion's part :and, I hope, there is a play fitted'.
Snug. Have you the lion's part written? pray you, if it be, give it me, for I am flow of study. Quin. You may do it extempore, for it is nothing
women that have fince been brought upon the stage. Some of the catastrophes of the old comedies, which make lovers marry the wrong women, are by recollection of the common use of masks, brought nearer to probability. JOHNSON.
Prynne, in his Hifiriomaftix, exclaims with great vehemence through feveral pages, becaufe a woman acted a part in a play at Blackfryars in the year 1628. STEEVENS.
you must play Thifty's mother.] There feems a double forgetfulness of our poet, in relation to the characters of this interlude. The father and mother of Thisby, and the father of Pyramus, are here mentioned, who do not appear at all in the interlude; but Wall and Moonshine are both employed in it, of whom there is not the least notice taken here. THEOBALD.
Theobald is wrong as to this last particular.
The introduction of Wall and Moonshine was an after-thought. See act iii. fc. 1. It may be obferved, however, that no part of what is rehearfed is afterwards repeated, when the piece is acted before Thefeus.
2 there is a play fitted.] Both the quartos read here. STEEVENS. -flow of study.] Study is ftill the cant term used in a theatre for getting any nonienfe by rote. Hamlet afks the player if he can Audy" a fpeech. STEEVENS.