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ANNOTATIONS

UPON THE

MIDSUMMER-NIGHT'S DREAM.

'Long withering out a young man's revenue.] Mr. Warburton would read wintering on for withering out: Dr. Johnson, however, is in the right when he says that as he cannot perceive that the common reading is not good English, therefore he finds no temptation to change it.

2-gawds,] i.e. bawbles, toys, trifles. This word is common to Shakspeare. See King John, Act 3. Scene 5.

STEEVENS. 3 Or to her death according to our law.] By a law of Solon, parents had an absolute power of life and death over their children. So it suited the poet's purpose well enough, to suppose the Athenians had it before.—Or perhaps he neither thought nor knew any thing of the matter.

WARBURTON. 4 To leave the figure, or disfigure it.] The sense is, you owe to your father a being which he may at pleasure continue or destroy.

JOHNson. I Know of your youth.] Reflect on the desires attendant on youth.

o spotted-] as spotless is innocent, so spotted is wicked.

Johnson. 7 Beteem them.] Give them, bestow upon them.

Johnson. 8 Too bigh to be inthralld to ļow,) enthralled to love was in all the copies till Theobald restored the meaning. The antithesis is exactly the same between high and low as between old and young immediately after.

9 Collied night-] Collied is used for dark or black as a coal.

10 That in a spleen unfolds both heaven and earth.] Mr. Warburton's interpretation of spleen in this place, appears very just, a sudden, hasty, fit. In The Two Gentlemen of Verona Shakspeare lises, on the contrary, sudden for splenetic.

" Your eyes are lode-stars.] This was a compliment not unfrequent among the old poets. The lodestar is the leading or guiding star, i. e. the Pole Star. The magnet is for the same reason called the loadstone, either because it leads iron or guides the sailor.

JOHnson. 12 —or a part to tear a cat in.] We should read,

A part to tear a cap in. for as a ranting whore was called a tear-sheet, [2d Part of Hen. IVth.) so a ranting bully was called a tearcap. For this reason it is, the poet makes l'ully Bottom, as he is called afterwards, wish for a part to tear a cap in. And in the ancient plays, the bombast and

the rant held the place of the sublime and pathetic: and indeed constituted the very essence of their tragical farces. Thus Bale in his Acts of English Votaries, Part II, says,-grennyng like termaguantes in a play.

WARBURTON. In the old comedy of the Roaring Girl, 1611, there is a character called Tear-cat, who says, “ I am called, by those who have seen my valour, Tear. cat." In an anonymous piece called Histriomastix, or the Player whipt, 1610, in six Acts, a parcel of soldiers drag a company of players on the stage, and the captain says, “ Sirrah, this is you that would rend and tear a cat upon a stage,” &c. Again,

In The Isle of Gulls, a Comedy by J. Day, 1606. I had rather hear two such jests, than a whole play of such Tear-cat thunderclaps.” Steevens.

13 you may speak as small as you will.] This passage shews how the want of women on the old stage was supplied. If they had not a young man who could perform the part with a face that might pass for feminine, the character was acted in a mask, which was, at that time, a part of a lady's dress so much in use, that it did not give any unusual appearance to the scene: and he that could modulate his voice in a female tone might play the woman very successfully. It is observed in Down's Memoirs of the Playhouse, that one of these counterfeit heroines moved the passions more strongly than the women that have since 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. 14 —you must play Thisby's mother.] There seems a double forgetfulness of our poet, in relation to the characters of this interlude. The father and mother of Tbisby, 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. 15-1 will discharge it in either your strawcoloured beard, &c.] Johnson, who remarks in a note at the beginning of the scene, that Shakspeare takes advantage of his knowledge of the stage to ridicule the competitions and prejudices of the players, adds here that Bottom discovers a true genius for the stage by his solicitude for propriety of dress, and his deliberation, which beard to choose among many beards, all unnatural.

16 Some of your French-crowns have no hair at all-) That is, a head from which the hair has fallen in one of the last stages of the lues venera, called the carona veneris. To this our poet has frequent allusions.

STEEVENS. +7 hold, or cut low-strings.] This proverbial phrase came originally from the camp. When a rendezvous was appointed, the militia soldiers would frequently make excuse for not keeping word, that their low-strings were broke, i.e. their arms unser

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