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To several subjects: heaven hath' my empty words
“ Do what I can, no reason cooles desire:
Steevens. 9 Whilst my invention,] Nothing can be either plainer or exacter than this expression. (Dr.
Warburton means-intention, a word substituted by himself.] But the old blundering folio having it, invention, this was enough for Mr. Theobald to prefer authority to sense. Warburton.
Intention (if it be the true reading) has, in this instance, more than its common meaning, and signifies eagerness of desire. So, in The Merry Wives of Windsor :
- course o'er my exteriors, with such greediness of
intention." By intention, however, I believe the poet means imagination.
Stecvene. So, in our author's 1032 Sonnet:
face, “That overgoes my blunt invention quite." Again, in King Henry V:
“O for a muse of fire, that would ascend
“ The brightest heaven of invention !” Malone. Steevens says that intention, in this place, means eagerness of desire;-but I believe it means attention only, a sense in which the word is frequently used by Shakspeare and the other writers of his time.-Angelo says, he thinks and prays to several subjects; that Heaven has his prayers, but his thoughts are fixed on Isabel.--So, in Hamlet, the King says:
My words fly up, my thoughts remain below;
M. Masoko 1 Anchors on Isabel :) We have the same singular expression in Antony and Cleopatra:
“There would be anchor his aspect, and die
“ With looking on his life.” Malone. The same phrase occurs again in Cymbeline:
“ Posthumus anchors upon Imogen.” Steedens, 2 Grown fear'd and tedious;] We should read seared, i. e. olds
Wherein (let no man hear me) I take pride,
So, Shakspeare uses in the sear, to signify old age. Warburton.
I think feard may stand. What we go to with reluctance may he said to be fear'd. Juhnson.
with boot,] Boot is profit, advantage, gain. So, in M. Kyffin's translation of The Andria of Terence, 1588: "You obtained this at my hands, and I went about it while there was any boot.” Again, in The Pinner of Wakefield, 1599:
“ Then list to me: Saint Andrew be my boot,
change for an idle plume, Which the air beats for vain. O place! O form! &c.] There is, I believe, no instance in Shakspeare, or any other author, of “ for vain” being used for “ in vain.” Besides; has the air or wind less effect on a feather than on twenty other things? or rather, is not the reverse of this the truth? An idle plume assur. edly is not that “ever-fixed mark," of which our author speaks elsewhere, “ that looks on tempests, and is never shaken." The old copy has vaine, in which way a vane or weather-cock was formerly spelt. [See Minshieu's Dict. 1617, in verb.-So also, in Love's Labour's Lust, Act IV, sc. i, edit. 1623: “ What vaine? what weathercock?”] I would therefore read—vane.-I would exchange my gravity, says Angelo, for an idle feather, which being driven along by the wind, serves, to the spectator, for a rane or weathercock, So, in The Winter's Tale:
“ I am a feather for each wind that blows." And in The Merchant of Venice we meet with a kindred thought:
- I shouid be still “ Plucking the grass, to know where sits the wind.” The omission of the article is certainly awkward, but not without example. Thus, in King Lear:
“ Hot questrists after him met him at gate." Again, in Coriolanus :
“ Go, see him out at gates." Again, in Titus Andronicus:
" Ascend, fair queen, Pantheon : Again, in Cymbeline :
“Nor tent, to bottom, that."
- an idle plume,
How often dost thou-C. The pronoun thou, referring to only one antecedent, appears to me strongly to support such a regulation. Malone.
How often dost thou with thy case, thy habit,
I adhere to the old reading. As fair is known to have been repeatedly used by Shakspeare, Marston, &c. for fairness, vain might have been employed on the present occasion, instead of vanity. Pure is also substituted for purity in England's Helicon. See likewise notes on The Midsummer Night's Dream, Act I, sc. i, and The Comedy of Errors, Act II, sc.i. Again, in Love's Labour's Lost, foul is given, as a substantive, to express foulness.
The air is represented by Angelo as chastising the plume for being vain. A feather is exhibited by many writers as the em. blem of vanity. Shakspeare himself, in K. Henry VIII, mentions fool and feather as congenial objects.
That the air beats the plume for its vainness, is a supposition fanciful enough; and yet it may be paralleled by an image in K. Edvard III, 1599, where flags are made the assailarts, and “cuff' the air, and beat the wind” that struggles to kiss them.
The pronoun thou, referring to the double antecedents place and form, ought to be no objection, for, a little further on, the Duke says:
“O place and greatness ! millions of false eyes
“ Ale stuck upon thee." We have all heard of Town-bulls, Town-balls, Town-clocks, and Town-tops; but the vane o' the place (meaning a thing of general property, and proverbially distinct from private ownership) is, to me at least, an idea which no example has hitherto countenanced.--I may add, that the plume could be no longer idle, if it served as an index to the wind:--and with whatever propriety the vane in some petty market-town might be distinguished, can we conceive there was only a single weathercock in so large a city as Vienna, where the scene of this comedy is laid?
Steevens. - case,] For outside ; garb; external show. Johnson. 6 Wrench uwe from fools, and tie the wiser souls
To thy false seeming?] Here Shakspeare judiciously distinguishes the different operations of high place upon different minds. Fools are frighted, and wise men are allured. Those who cannot judge but by the eye, are easily awed by splendour ; those who consider men as well as conditions, are easily per. suaded to love the appearance of virtue dignified with power.
Fohnson. 7 Blood, thou still art blool:] The old copy reads---Blood, thou art blood. Mr. Pope, to supply the syllable wanting to complete the metre, reads--Blood, thou art but blood! But the word now introduced appears to me to agree better with the context, and therefore more likely to bave been the authors.-Blood is used here, as in other places, for temperament of body.
Let 's write good angel on the devil's horn,
8 Let's write good angel on the devil's born,
'Tis not the devil's crest.] i. e. Let the most wicked thing have but a virtuous pretence, and it shall pass for innocent. This was his conclusion from his preceding words:
To thy false seeming? But the Oxford editor makes him conclude just counter to his own premises; by altering it to,
Is 't not the devil's crest? So that, according to this alteration, the reasoning stands thus:-False seeming, wrenches awe from fools, and deceives the wise. Therefore, Let us but write good angel on the devil's born, (i. e. give him the appearance of an angel;) and what then? Is 't not the devil's crest? (i. e. he shall be esteemed a devil.)
Warburton. I am still inclined to the opinion of the Oxford editor. Angelo, reflecting on the difference between his seeming character, and his real disposition, observes, that he could change his gravity for a plume. He then digresses into an apostrophe, O dignity, how dost thou impose upon the world! then returning to himself, Blood (says he) thou art but blood, however concealed with appearances and decorations. Title and character do not alter nature which is still corrupt, however dignified:
Let's write good angel on the devil's horn;
Is 't not?-or rather-'Tis yet the devil's crest. It may however be understood, according to Dr. Warburton's explanation. O place, how dost thou impose upon the world by false, appearances! so much that if we write good angel on the devil's born, 'tis not taken any longer to be the devil's crest. In this sense.
Blood, thou art but blood! is an interjected exclamation. Johnson. A Hebrew proverb seems to favour Dr. Johnson's reading :
- 'Tis get the devil's crest." “ A nettle standing among myrtles, doth notwithstanding retain the name of a nettle.” Steevens.
This passage, as it stands, appears to me to be right, and Angelo's reasoning to be this: “O place! O form! though you wrench awe from fools, and tie even wiser souls to your false seeming, yet you make no alteration in the minds or constitutions of those who possess, or assume you.—Though we should write good angel on the devil's horn, it will not change his nature, so as to give him a right to wear that crest.” It is well known that the crest was formerly chosen either as emblematical of some quality conspicuous in the person who bore it, or as alluding to VOL. III.
One Isabel, a sister,
Teach her the way. [Exit Serv.
some remarkable incident of his life; and on this circumstance depends the justness of the present allusion. M. Mason.
It should be remembered, that the devil is usually represented with horns and cloven feet. The old copy appears to me to require no alteration. Malone.
- to my beart;] Of this speech there is no other trace in Promos and Cassandra, than the following: “ Both hope and dreade at once my harte doth tuch.”
Steevens, 1 The general, subject to a well-wis.bd king,] The later editions have-" subjects;” but the old copies read:
The general subject to a well-wish'd king.The general subject seems a harsh expression, but general sub. jects has no sense at all, and general was, in our author's time, a word for people; so that the gneral is the people, or multitude, subject to a king. So, in Hamlet : “ The play pleased not the million : 'twas caviare to the general.” Johnson.
Mr. Malone observes, that the use of this phrase " the general,”
,” for the people, continued so late as to the time of Lord Clarendon: as rather to be consented to, than that the gene. ral should suffer.” Hist. B. V, p. 530, 8vo. I therefore adhere to the old reading, with only a slight change in the punctuation.
The general, subject to a well-wish'd king,
Quit, &c. i.e. the generality who are subjects, &c. Twice in Hamlet our author uses subject for subjects ;
“ So nightly toils the subject of the land.” “Act I, sc. i. Again, Act I, sc. ii:
“ The lists and full proportions, all are made
“Out of his subject.' The general subject however may mean the subjects in general. So, in As you Like it, Act II, sc. vii :
“Wouldst thou disgorge into the general world.” Steevens.