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Some additional Remarks upon particular
ACT I. SCENE 1.
“ Vailing her high top, &c.] To vail signifies also to lower, to let down. Thus in the ancient metrical romance of the Sowdon of Babylone, p. 60:
“ Thay avaled the brigge and lete them yn.” Again (as Mr. Douce observes to me) in Hardynge's Chronicle : “ And by the even their sayles avaled were set.”
Page 41. Monies is your suit, &c.] Monies is here the word in the editions of 1793 and 1803, and that of Mr. Capell, but being, I think, unquestionably plural, the verb ought to be in the plural likewise
« Monies are your suit.” I find, however, that money is the reading in the quartos, and certainly ought to have been preferred in the present edition. E.
Page 52. Hitherto Scene 7 of Act II.- This Scene in which Morochius proceeds to try his fortune, must be supposed a part of the same day with the preceding, as Portia therein proposed not to defer the experiment longer than till ” after dinner.” I have accordingly, by a very natural transposition, removed it from its former situation, that of the seventh in the second Act, and placed it immediately after that in which this Prince first appears, as coming most properly next in order of time, though, possibly, with the distance of some hours between them, and incorporated both into the first Act, making them the fourth and fifth of the same. As an excuse for the apparent presumption of this proceeding, it will be very proper to cite the authority of Dr. Johnson in a note placed at the conclusion of this Scene, as it heretofore stood, and calculated, not indeed, for the purpose to which it is now applied, that of licensing the temerity of transposition, but merely to point out the, perhaps, superior propriety of making the Scene, in its former situation, to terminate the Act. His words are these ; “ The old quarto editions of “ 1600, have no distribution of Acts, but proceed « from the beginning to the end in an unbroken te« nor. This play, therefore, having been probably “ divided without authority by the publishers of the « first folio, lies open to a new regulation, if any “ more commodious division can be proposed. The « story is itself so wildly incredible, and the changes « of the Scene so frequent and capricious, that the “ probability of action does not deserve much care ; “ yet it may be proper to observe, that by concluding " the second Act here, time is given for Bassanio's “ passage to Belmont.” To the doctrine advanced by this much revered critic, in the first member of
the concluding sentence, I am not, I acknowledge, very willing to subscribe. E.
ACT II. SCENE I.
Page 59. In former editions, Scene 2 of this Act It is absolutely necessary, in order that the incidents of this play may not appear destitute of all consistency, and, indeed, for the purpose of reconciling us to the notion of so large a portion of time as three months having elapsed between the date and forfeiture of Anthonio's bond, to suppose either that there is a considerable pause in the action, during which Bassanio must be conceived to have put off his projected expedition, i.e. between the third Scene of the first Act, (or rather, between the instant in which Anthonio signs the bond, namely, on the first day from the commencement of the play,) and that now before us, in which Launcelot, who there discovers his design of running away from the Jew, first makes his appearance, and in the conclusion of which he hires with Bassanio; or else, that the latter and his friend make their abode with Portia at Belmont during almost the entire space of three months, before he proceeds to try his fortune with the caskets in the second Scene of the third Act. Of these two hypotheses the former to me appears by much the most eligible. Though we are not informed of any particular accident having happened to retard his journey, we are yet, by, no means assured that some obstacles might not have arisen to interrupt the prosecution of his purpose beyond the point of time at first intended. In order, however, to avoid the necessity of protracting the period of Bassanio's delay at Venice to an unreasonable degree, it will be highly proper to imagine that, won by the delights of Belmont, and the charms of his mistress's society, he may be induced
to defer, for a considerable time after his arrival there, the determination of his fate. In conformity to this scheme the transposition taken notice of at the beginning of the foregoing Scene has been made, and, by this means, the first of the two supposed intervals just mentioned may be imagined to pass between the Acts, and this Scene, in which Launcelot utters his soliloquy, becomes the first of the second Act. That interval must, as to its duration, necessarily remain indefinite, and, perhaps, even its existence be regarded as, in a great measure, gratuitous, since it cannot be denied, notwithstanding what has been just alleged, that, by admitting the Moorish Prince to have postponed his election of the caskets not only till after dinner, as was proposed by Portia upon his first appearance, but until after nine at night, the hour expressly pointed out by Anthonio as that at which the Scene that hitherto has gone before it passes, and that almost three months afterwards elapse while Bassanio remains in a state of suspense at Belmont, the election Scene, in the close of which Morochius takes his leave, might still retain it's place, and that, and all the antecedent business of the play be supposed to have been transacted within the compass of a single day ; but this latter plan seems to be fraught with no little degree of difficulty and improbability. E.
Page 72. Considering the humorous and fantastical language in which the poet hath dressed the character of Launcelot, this place will very well bear the following interpretation : “ If any man in Italy have a fairer “ table, which pronounces that I shall have good " fortune, with as much assurance as if it was ready “ to swear it upon a book- " Here the sentence breaks off, and we must supply, “ I am mistaken,” or some other expression of the like import. Heath.
Launcelot Launcelot does not stop where Dr. Johnson' supposes, but goes on to say what is to be sworn upon the book, i. e. that he shall have good fortune. But this is not to be sworn either by Launcelot himself, or by any other man. It is the hand that promises so strongly, and as it were, offers to swear upon a book, that he shall have good fortune. None of the commentators, though very sensible of the break in this passage, seem to know where it lies; but if I might be allowed to take the most trifling liberty in the world with the text, I dare say the reader would see the whole meaning and propriety of it, at one view. " Well, if any man in Italy have a fairer “ table !---Why, it doth offer to swear upon a " book, I shall have good fortune. Go to," &c. Taking the words, also, in this sense, there is a beauty and propriety in saying the palm offers to swear upon a book; because, in judicial attestations, the essential part of the form lies in kissing the book, which the hand may not improperly be said to do, even in laying hold of it. Dr. Johnson, apparently having a confused idea of a court of justice in his head, confounds the action of a criminal holding up his hand at the bar, with that of a witness, qualifying himself by oath, to give evidence against him. The former, indeed, must of course, display the palm ; but, I believe, the latter seldom or never does. KENRICK.
Without examining the expositions of this passage given by three learned annotators, I shall briefly set down what appears to me to be the whole meaning of it. Launcelot, applauding himself for his success with Bassanio, and looking into the palm of his hand, which by fortune-tellers is called the table, breaks out into the following reflection : “ Well, if any “ man in Italy have a fairer table ; which doth offer “ to swear upon a book, I shall have good fortune;" i. e. a table, which doth (not only promise, but) offer to swear (and to swear upon a book too) That I shall