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Enter ELBOW, FROTH, Clown, Officers, &c. Elb. Come, bring them away: if these be good people in a common-weal, that do nothing but use their
Tower of London, where it was occasionally used as an engine of state, not of law, more than once in the reign of Queen Elizabeth.” See Coke's Instit. 35, Barrington, 69, 385, and Fuller's Worthies, p. 317.
A part of this horrid engine still remains in the Tower. It consists of a strong iron frame about six feet long, with three rollers of wood within it. The middle one of these, which has · iron teeth at each end, is governed by two stops of iron, and was, probably, that part of the machine which suspended the powers of the rest, when the unhappy sufferer was sufficiently strained by the cords, &c. to begin confession. I cannot conclude this account of it without confessing my obligation to Sir Charles Frederick, who politely condescended to direct my inquiries, while his high command rendered every part ur ine Tower accessible to my researches.
I have since observed that, in Fox's Martyrs, edit. 1596, p. 1843, there is a representation of this machine. To this also, Skelton, in his Why come ye not to Court, seems to allude:
“ And with a cole rake
“ Bruise them on a brake." If Shakspeare alluded to this engine, the sense of the con. tested passage will be: Some run more than once from engines of punishment, and answer no interrogatories: while some are condemn. ed to suffer for a single trespass.
It should not, however, be dissembled, that yet a plainer meaning may be deduced from the same words. By brakes of vice may be meant a collection, a number, a thicket of vices. The same image occurs in Daniel's Civil Wars, B. IV:
“Rushing into the thickest woods of spears,
“ And brakes of swords," &c. That a brake meant a bush, may be known from Drayton's poem on Moses and bis Miracles:
“Where God unto the Hebrew spake,
Appearing from the burning brake.” Again, in The Mooncalf of the same author :
“ He brings into a brake of briars and thorn,
“ And so entangles.” Mr. Tollet is of opinion that, by brakes of vice, Shakspeare means only the thorny paths of vice. So, in Ben Jonson's Underwoods, Whalley's edit. Vol. VI,
“ Look at the false and cunning man, &c.
“ Crush'd in the snakey brakes that he had past." Steevens. The words-answer none (that is, make no confession of guilt) evidently shew that brake of vice here means the engine of tor
The same mode of question is again referred to in Act V:
abuses in common houses, I know no law: bring them away.
Ang. How now, sir! What's your name? and what's the matter?
Elb. If it please your honour, I am the poor duke's constable, and my name is Elbow ; I do lean upon justice, sir, and do bring in here before your good honour two notorious benefactors.
Ang. Benefactors? Well; what benefactors are they? are they not malefactors?
Elb. If it please your honour, I know not well what they are: but precise villains they are, that I am sure of: and void of all profanation in the world, that good christians ought to have.
Escal. This c mes off well;' here 's a wise officer.
Ang. Go to: what quality are they of? Elbow is your name? Why dost ilivu not speak, Elbow ??
“ To the rack with him; we ’ll touze you joint by joint,
“ But we will know this purpose.” The name of broke of vice, appears to have been given this machine, from its resemblance to that used to subdue vicious horses; to which Daniel thus refers:
“ Lyke as the brake within the rider's hande
“ Not us'd before to come in such a band," &c. Henley. I am not satisfied with either the old or present reading of this very difficult passage; yet have nothing better to propose. The modern reading, vice, was introduced by Mr. Rowe. In King Henry VIII, we have
“ 'Tis but the fate of place, and the rough brake
“ That virtue must go through." Malone. 1 This comes of well;] This is nimbly spoken; this is volubly uttered. Fohnson.
The same phrase is employed in Timon of Atbens, and elsewhere; but in the present instance it is used ironically. The meaning of it, when seriously applied to speech, is- This is well delivered, this story is well told. Steevens.
2 Why dost thou not speak, Elbow?] Says Angelo to the constable. “He cannot, sir, (quoth the Clown) he's out at elbow.” I know not whether this quibble be generally understood: he is out at the word elbow, and out at the elbow of his coat. The Constable, in his account of master Froth and the Clown, has a stroke at the Puritans, who were very zealous against the stage about this time: “ Precise villains they are, that I am sure of; and void of all profanation in the world, that good christians ought to have.” Farmer.
Clo. He cannot, sir; he's out at elbow.
Elb. He, sir? a tapster, sir; parcel-bawd;3 one that serves a bad woman; whose house, sir, was, as they say, pluck'd down in the suburbs; and now she professes a hot-house," which, I think, is a very ill house too.
Escal. How know you that?
Elb. My wife, sir, whom I detests before heaven and your honour,
Escal. How! thy wife?
Elb. Ay, sir; whom, I thank heaven, is an honest woman;
Escal. Dost thou detest her therefore?
Elb. I say, sir, I will detest myself also, as well as she, that this house, if it be not a bawd's house, it is pity of her life, for it is a naughty house.
Escal. How dost thou know that, constable?
Elb. Marry, sir, by my wife; who, if she had been a woman cardinally given, might have been accused in fornication, adultery, and all uncleanliness there.
Escal. By the woman's means?
Elb. Ay, sir, by mistress Over-done's means:6 but as she spit in his face, so she defy'd him.
Clo. Sir, if it please your honour, this is not so.
Elb. Prove it before these varlets here, thou horourable man, prove it.
a tapster, sir; parcel-bawd;] This we should now express by saying, he is half-tapster, half-bawd. Fobnson. Thus, in King Henry IV, P. II: “ - a parcel-gilt goblet.”
Steevens. . sbe professes a hot-h-se,] A hot-house is an English name for a bagnio. So, Ben Jonson:
“ Where lately harbour'd many a famous whore,
whom I detest -] He designed to say protest. Mrs. Quickly makes the same blunder in The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act I, sc. iv." But, I detest, an honest maid,” &c. Steevens.
6 Ay, sir, by mistress Over-stone's means :) Here seems to have been some mention made of Froth, who was to be accused, and some words therefore may have been lost, unless the irregularity of, the narrative may be better imputed to the ignorance of the constable. Fohnson.
Escal. Do you hear how he misplaces? [To Ang.
Clo. Sir, she came in great with child ; and longing (saving your honoar's reverence) for stew'd prunes; sir, we had but two in the house, which at that very distant time stood as it were, in a fruit-dish, a dish of some three-pence; your honours have seen such dishes; they are not China dishes, but very good dishes.
Escal. Go to, go to; no matter for the dish, sir.
Clo. No, indeed, sir, not of a pin; you are therein in the right; but to the point: As I say, this mistress Elbow, being as I say, with child, and being great belly’d, and longing, as I said, for prunes; and having but two in the dish, as I said, master Froth here, this very man, having eaten the rest, as I said, and, as I say, paying for them very honestly ;-for, as you know, master Froth, I could not give you three-pence again.
Froth. No, indeed.
Clo. Very well: you being then, if you be remember'd, cracking the stones of the foresaid prunes.
Froth. Ay, so I did, indeed.
Clo. Why, very well: I telling you then, if you be remember'd, that such a one, and such a one, were past cure of the thing you wot of, unless they kept very good diet, as I told you ;
Froth. All this is true.
Escal. Come, you are a tedious fool: to the purpose.What was done to Elbow's wife, that he hath cause to complain of? Come me to what was done to her.
stew'd prunes;] Stew'd prunes were to be found in every brothel.
So, in Maroccus Exstaticus, or Bankes's Bay Horse in a Trance, 1595: “ With this stocke of wenches will this trustie Roger and his Bettrice set up, forsooth, with their pamphlet pots and stewed prunes, &c. in a sinful saucer,” &c.
See a note on the 3d scene of the 3d Act of the First Part of King Henry IV. In the old copy prunes are spelt, according to vulgar pronunciation, prewyns
Steevens. not China dishes,] A China dish, in the age of Shakspeare, must have been such an uncommon thing, that the Clown's exemption of it, as no utensil in a common brothel, is a striking circumstance in his absurd and tautological deposition.
Clo. Sir, your honour cannot come to that yet.
Clo, Sir, but you shall come to it, by your honour's leave: And, I beseech you, look into master Froth here, sir; a man of fourscore pound a year; whose father died at Hallowmas:—Was 't not at Hallowmas, master Froth?
Froth. All-hollond eve.
Clo. Why, very well; I hope here be truths: He, sir, sitting, as I say, in a lower chair,o sir;-'twas in the Bunch of Grapes, where, indeed, you have a delight to sit: Have you not? Froth. I have so; because it is an open room,
and good for winter.
Clo. Why, very well then ;-I hope here be truths.
Ang. This will last out a night in Russia,
[Exit Ang. Now, sir, come on: What was done to Elbow's wife, once more?
Clo. Once, sir? there was nothing done to her once.
Elb. I beseech you, sir, ask him what this man did to my wife.
Clo. I beseech your honour, ask me.
Clo I beseech you, sir, look in this gentleman's face: Good master Froth, look upon his honour; 'tis for a good purpose: Doth your honour mark his face?
Escal. Ay, sir, very well.
in a lower chair,] Every house had formerly, among its other furniture, what was called a low chair, designed for the ease of sick people, and, occasionally, occupied by lazy
Of these conveniencies I have seen many, though, perhaps, at present they are wholly disused. Steevens.