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Of a poor worm:9 Thy best of rest is sleep,
the soft and tender fork Of a poor worm :] Worm is put for any creeping thing or serpent. Sbakspeare supposes falsely, but according to the vul. gar notion, that a serpent wounds with his tongue, and that his tongue is forked. He confounds reality and fiction; a serpent's tongue is soft but not forked nor hurtful. If it could hurt, it could not be soft. In A Midsummer Night's Dream he has the same notion.
“ With doubler tongue
“ Than thine, O serpent, never adder stung.” Johnson. Shakspeare mentions the “adder's fork” in Macbeth; and might have caught this idea from old tapestries or paintings, in which the tongues of serpents and dragons always appear barbed like the point of an arrow.
Thy death which is no more.] Evidently from the following passage of Cicero: “ Habes somnum imaginem mortis, eamque quotidie induis, et dubitas quin sensus in morte nullus sit, cum in ejus simulacro videas esse nullum sensum.” But the Epicurean insi. nuation is, with great judgment, omitted in the imitation.
Warburton. Here Dr. Warburton might have found a sentiment worthy of his animadversion. I cannot without indignation find Shakspeare saying, that death is only sleep, lengthening out his exhortation by a sentence which in the friar is impious, in the reasoner is foolish, and in the poet trite and vulgar. Johnson.
This was an oversight in Shakspeare ; for in the second scene of the fourth act, the Provost speaks of the desperate Barnar. dine, as one who regards death only as a drunken sleep. Steevens,
I apprehend Shakspeare means to say no more, than that the passage from this life to another is as easy as sleep; a position in which there is surely neither folly nor impiety. Malone,
2 Thou art not thyself;] Thou art perpetually repaired and renovated by external assistance, thou subsistest upon foreign matter, and hast no power of producing or continuing thy own being. Fobnson.
For, like an ass, whose back with ingots bows,
-strange effects,] For effects read affects; that is, affections, passions of mind, or disorders of body variously affected. So, in Othello :
“ The young affects.” Johnson.
like an ass, whose back with ingots bows,] This simile is far more ancient than Shakspeare's play. It occurs in T. Churchyard's Discourse of Rebellion, &c. 1570:
• Rebellion thus, with paynted vizage brave,
7bou bast nor youth, nor age; But, as it were, an after-dinner's sleep,
Dreaming on both :) This is exquisitely imagined.' When we are young, we bus ourselves in forming schemes for succeeding time, and miss the gratifications that are before us ; when we are old, we amuse the langour of age with the recollection of youthful pleasures or performances; so that our life, of which no part is filled with the business of the present time, resembles our dreams after dinner, when the events of the morning are mingled with the designs of the evening. Johnson.
palsied eld;] Eld is generally used for old age, decrepitude. It is here put for old people, persons worn with years. So, in Marston's Dutch Courtesan, 1604:
“ Let colder eld their strong objections move." Again, in our author's Merry Wives of Windsor :
“ The superstitious idle-headed eld.” Gower uses it for age as opposed to youth :
“ His elde had turned into youth.”
De Confessione Amantis, Lib. V. fol. 106. Steevens.
- for all thy blessed youth
To make thy riches pleasant. What 's yet in this,
Of palsied eld; and when thou art old, and rich,
Thou hast neither beat, &c.] The drift of this period is to prove, that neither youth nor age can be said to be really enjoyed, which, in poetical language, is,-We have neither youth nor age. But how is this made out ? That age is not enjoyed, he proves by recapitulating the infirmities of it, which deprive that period of life of all sense of pleasure. To prove that youth is not enjoyed, he uses these words :
- for all thy blessed youth
Of palsied eld; Out of which, he that can deduce the conclusion, has a better knack at logic than I have. I suppose the poet wrote,
-For pall'd, thy blazed youth
Of palsied elf; i. e. when thy youthful appetite becomes palled, as it will be in the very enjoyment, the blaze of youth is at once assuaged, and thou immediately contractest the infirmities of old age ; as particularly the palsy and other nervous disorders, consequent on the inordinate use of sensual pleasures. This is to the purpose; and proves youth is not enjoyed, by shewing the short duration of it. Warburton.
Here again I think Dr. Warburton totally mistaken. Shakspeare declares that man has neither youth nor age ; for in youth, which is the happiest time, or which might be the happiest, he commonly wants means to obtain what he could enjoy ; he is dependent on palsied eld; must beg alms from the coffers of hoary avarice; and being very niggardly supplied, becomes as aged, looks, like an old man, on happiness which is beyond his reach. And, when he is old, and rich, when he has wealth enough for the purchase of all that formerly excited his desires, he has no longer the powers of enjoyment;
bas neither beat, affection, limb, nor beauty, To make his riches pleasant. I have explained this passage according to the present read. ing, which may stand without much inconvenience; yet I am willing to persuade my reader, because I have almost persuaded myself, that our author wrote,
- for all thy blasted youth Becomes as aged - Johnson. The sentiment contained in these lines, which Dr. Johnson has explained with his usual precision, occurs again in the forged letter that Edmund delivers to his father, as written by Ed. gar; X. Lear, Act I, sc. ii : “ This policy, and reverence of age, makes the world bitter to the best of our times ; keeps our fortunes from us till our oldness cannot relish them." The words above, printed in Italicks, support, I think, the reading of the old copy,~" blessed youth,” and show that any emendation is unnecessary.
That bears the name of life? Yet in this life
I humbly thank you.
a welcome. Duke. Dear sir, ere long I 'll visit you again. Claud. Most holy sir, I thank you. Isab. My business is a word or two with Claudio. Proo. And very welcome. Look, signior, here's
beat, affection, limb, nor beauty,] But how does beauty make riches pleasant? We should read bounty, which comipletes the sense, and is this ; thou hast neither the pleasure of enjoying riches thyself, for thou wantest vigour; nor of seeing it enjoyed by others, for thou wantest bounty. Where the making the want of bounty as inseparable from old age as the want of bealth, is extremely satirical, though not altogether just.
Warburton. I am inclined to believe, that neither man nor woman will have much difficulty to tell how beauty makes riches pleasant. Surely this emendation, though it is elegant and ingenious, is not such as that an opportunity of inserting it should be purchased by declaring ignorance of what every one knows, by confessing insensibility of what every one feels. Johnson.
By heat” and “affection” the poet meant to express appetite, and by“ limb” and “beauty" strength. Edwards.
more thousand deaths :] For this Sir T. Hanmer reads :
a thousand deaths : The meaning is, not only a thousand deaths, but a tbousand deaths besides what have been mentioned. Fobnson. 2 To sue to live, I find, I seek to die ;
And, seeking death, find life :) Had the Friar, in reconciling Claudio to death, urged to him the certainty of happiness hereafter, this speech would have been introduced with more propriety ; but the Friar says nothing of that subject, and argues more like a philosopher, than a Christian divine. M. Mason.
Mr. M. Mason seems to forget that no actual Friar was the speaker, but the Duke, who might reasonably be supposed to have more of the philosopher than the divine in his composition.
Duke. Provost, a word with you.
As many as you please. Duke. Bring them to speak, where I may be conceald, Yet hear them.3
[Excunt Duke and Prov. Claud.
Now, sister, what's the comfort? Isab. Why, as all comforts are; most good in deed:* Lord Angelo, having affairs to heaven, Intends you for his swift embassador, Where you shall be an everlasting leiger: Therefore your best appointment make with speed; 3 Bring them to speak, where I may be conceald,
Yet bear them.] The first copy, published by the players, gives the passage thus :
Bring them to bear me speak, where I may be conceald. Perhaps we should read:
Bring me to hear them speak, where I, &c. Steevens. The second folio authorizes the reading in the text. Tyrwhitt.
The alterations made in that copy do not deserve the smallest credit. There are undoubted proofs that they were merely arbitrary; and in general they are also extremely injudicious.
Malone. I am of a different opinion, in which I am joined by Dr. Farmer ; and consequently prefer the reading of the second folio to my own attempt at emendation, though Mr. Malone has done me the honour to adopt it. Steevens.
as all comforts are ; most good in deed :] If this reading be right, Isabeðla must mean that she brings something better than words of comfort, she brings an assurance of deeds. This is harsh and constrained, but I know .not what better to offer. Sir Thomas Hanmer reads :
in speed. Johnson. The old copy reads :
Why, As all comforts are: most good, most good indeede. I believe the present reading, as explained by Dr. Johnson, is the true one. So, in Macbeth:
“ We're yet but young in deed.” Steevens. I would point the lines thus : “ Claud. Now, sister, what 's the comfort ?
“ Isab. Why, as all comforts are, most good. Indeed Lord Angelo,” &c.
Indeed is the same as in truth, or truly, the common beginning of speeches in Shakspeare's age. See Charles the First's Trial. The King and Bradshaw seldom say any thing without this
Truly, Sir _” Blackstone.
an everlasting leiger ; Therefore your best appointment-] Leiger is the same with resident. Appointment ; preparation ; act of fitting, or state of
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