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Mr. Douce not only supposes that Shakespeare had seen these lines, but is disposed to infer from some parts of them, that he was a Latin scholar: and it must be allowed, that extravagant, erring, and confine, are terms not vernacular: derivatives from a learned language, they have here, though used in close succession, a dignified propriety and nothing tumid or pedantic, but are, on the contrary, delivered with all the ease and perspicuity, with which an accomplished scholar might be supposed to adapt and transfuse the spirit of one language, that he had a mastery in, to the occasion and into the character in which he chose to use it in another.
But it is also to be considered, that these short Latin hymns (such as Flaminius's,
“ Jam noctis umbras Lucifer
“ Almæ diei nuntius,” &c. printed in Preces privatæ regia authoritate, 12mo. 1598,) were so popular, that their language even might have been familiar, as well as the images open, to our author through translation. There are so many channels through which the wording of religious formularies, and the records of popular superstitions, in whatever language they are found, become accessible, that the adoption of either their words, or images, or both, will afford a very slender argument in favour of Mr. Douce's conclusion.
Mr. Steevens points out two instances in Chapman's Odyssey, in which this word is used in the sense of wandering or erratic. Telemachus calls Ulysses “My erring father." Odys. IV. p. 55.
“ Erring Grecians we from Troy were turning homewards.” Tpoin.Sev atroTay Hayles. Odys. IX. v. 259.
We find the verb also in the sense of rove or range, in his Batrachom. p. 4.
“ The cat and night-hawke, who much scathe confer “On all the outraies (foramen, Tpwyan) where for food I erre."
Mr. Steevens has produced an instance of the word extravagant in the sense in which vagrant is used in our criminal law : “ They took me up for a 'stravagant.” Nobody and Somebody. -1598. And in Othello we have the same ideas coupled in nearly the same expressions :
“ In an extravagant and wheeling stranger.” 1. 1. Roder.
(28) It faded on the crowing of the cock] Its shadowy appear. ance lost all of its distinctness: it melted into thin air : passed away, vanished, Aitted. Vado is to flow or go, as a river doth," says Littleton in his Dictionary, “Hinc Angl. to vade or fade."
“ Thy form's divine, no fading, vading flower."-Brathwaite's Strappado for the Divell, 12mo. 1515. p. 53.
“ darknesse, fade thy way from hence."—Barnabe Googe's Palengenius's Zodiake of Life, 12mo. Mr. Steevens refers to Vit. A poll. IV. 16. Philostratus giving an account of the apparition of Achilles' shade to Apollonius Tyaneus, says that it vanished with a little glimmer as soon as the cock crowed.
(29) No fairy takes] Takes, the reading of the quartos, is catches, possesses, blasts. See M. W. of W. IV. 4. Mrs. Page.
(30) gracious] Partaking of the nature of the epithet with which it is associated, with “ blessedness :" participating of a heavenly quality, of grace in its scriptural sense-quasi quodam divino afflatus spiritu: in the sense in which it is used in K. John, III. 4. Const.
“ There was not such a gracious creature born." And frequently in our author's works: where it does not mean, as has been interpreted, graceful, elegant, winning, pleasing simply, but of the character and nature above stated ; touched with something holy, instinct with goodness. O scelestum hominem! “Oh what an ungratious felowe!” Nic. Udall's Floures from Terence, 12mo. 1550. fo. 83. & 98, b. See Two G, of V. Launce. III. 1.
(31) But, look, the morn, &c.] Doubtless the almost momentary appearance of the Ghost, and the short conversations preceding and subsequent to it, could not have filled up the long interval of a winter's night in Denmark, from twelve till morning. But, indifferent as was Shakespeare to all dramatic rules and laws, there was no other license so large as that which he took with Time. In whatever direction and wherever he sped,
“ Still panting Time toil'd after him in vain.” With the interesting topic he has contrived to introduce at the close, and dazzled also as an audience would be by the splendor of his poetry, this irregularity would not in representation be generally detected at any time; and at this time it would neither be thought of or regarded : and when the age and the audience so little attended to it, as Mr. Steevens represents to be the case, the playwright was not likely to be very
anxious about it. He tells us, in his notes upon Hamlet's advice to the players, that “dumb shews sometimes supplied deficiences, and at others filled up the space of time which was necessary to pass, while business was supposed to be transacted in foreign parts. With this method of preserving one of the unities, our ancestors appear to have been satisfied." (32) - with a defeated
joy, With one auspicious, and one dropping eye] With joy baffled, and with one well-omen’d and smiling, and one clouded and weeping eye.
A similar idea is pointed out by Mr. Steevens in Wint. T.: “ She had one eye declined for the loss of her husband; another elevated that the oracle was fulfilled."
(33) bands of law] Under every species of bond or solemn obligation. “A sealed compact, well ratified by law and heraldry." Sc. ). Hor. “Limit this presumed liberty within the
bands of discretion and government."- Heywood's Apol. for Actors, 1612.
(34) gait] Progress. From the A. S. verb gae. A gate for a path, passage, or street, is still, says Dr. Percy, current in the North. See M. N. Dr. V. 1. Thes.
(35) Out of his subject] Out of those subject to him.
“ So nightly toils the subject of the land.” Sc. 1. Marcell.
M. for M. II. 4. Ang. & III. 2. Lucio.
Of these dilated articles allow] The tenor of these articles, set out at large, authorizes.
The use of the plural verb with a nominative singular, so far from being offensive even to modern ears, seems under the present circumstances, viz. those of a plural genitive intervening, to improve the harmony of the versification, and to constitute an exception to the general rule.
At any rate our author would be fully justified by the loose practise of his age, which, even in prose, and where no member of a sentence was interposed between the nominative case and the verb, allowed plural verbs and nouns singular, and vice versa, to be united.
A similar example occurs * in III. 2, Player King, where, indeed, it may be said, that this license was used for the convenience of the rhyme: but nothing is more fully understood, than that it was the practise of the learned of these times, of our translators both in prose and verse, and of our highest personages, as well as our greatest scholars and most polished writers, to join noun and verb without any regard to the singular or plural of either. In her translation of a classic it was done by the sovereign of that day: “ The cleare daies followes the darck clowdes : the roughest seas insues the greatest calmes :" Queen Elizabeth's Seneca, given to Sir J. Harrington, 1597. Nuge Antiq. 12mo. 1779, II. 308: and, when laying down rules for composition, we find in the works of her learned successor,
" And birds with all their heavenlie voces cleare
King James's reylis and cautelis of Scottis Poesie, 1584. And, whether it was understood or not, that, from the rude state of our language, the ear was then untuned and inattentive to niceties and the modulation of its periods, certainly this was not
“ The violence of either grief or joy
an age, in which it is possible to refer such a practise to the want of a knowledge of the common rules of grammar.
Such then, from whatever cause arising, being the actual ine difference to the application of this rule, even where the verb immediately follows the nominative case, and Shakespeare, as his ear guided, giving occasionally into a practise into which he had been led, and has been followed, by scholars and princes, this departure from rule, or, more properly, such exceptions to it as the present, whatever may be pretended by modern refinement, were then at least warranted; and in familiar dialogue may yet be admitted as judicious.
In this case, where, after a genitive plural preceded by a nominative singular, a plural verb, immediately following the genitive plural, forms the sentence, the ear does not only not feel this use of the verb as any way offensive, but, on the contrary, seems to call for it: the sound of the plural s misleads and occasions the ear to refer itself to the plural genitive, as if it were the legitimate nominative case : at the same time it is urged to this expedient for the purpose of avoiding an offensive accumulation and clashing of ss; as the plural genitive and verb singular, thus brought so near together invariably produce this consequence.
To the ear, therefore, it belongs altogether to decide ; there can be no question of grammar: or, if such were raised, it ought to be in plain and common case; as in the quotation from Queen Elizabeth, and the second instance from King James, where the verbs immediately follow the nominative cases; or where, as is frequent in Shakespeare, and is found in the Bible and our best writers of that day, only other members of sentences, not plural nouns, are interposed. But Mr. Malone tells us here (and elsewhere, L. L. L.
“ The voice of all the Gods
IV.3, Biron.) that it should be otherwise, and that it is Shakespeare that is in error; although he has there pointed out an instance (“ The number of the names together were about an hundred and twenty." Acts I. 15.), where there is no clashing of consonants. And this is also the use of Shakespeare, where another branch of a sentence is interposed between the plural genitive and verbs.
• The venom of such looks, we fairly hope,
“ Have lost their quality." H. V. İsab. v. 2. And, where other branches of sentences are also interposed, closing with plural nouns in contact with the verb, (as in
“ How oft the sight of means, to do ill deeds,
" Make ill deeds done." K. John, IV. 2, K. John), there seems additional reason to insist
upon this exception. Under these combinations then, this course must have been thought consistent with good taste and good writing; and, as is
conceived, is called for more particularly in poetry, where the music of numbers ought to make a part of the consideration : at that day the want of agreement between noun and verb, even where nothing was interposed, was not thought by scholars an indispensable rule of grammar, or barbarous or offensive even to the ear of courtiers; and this violation of it would frequently escape even their ear, though their eye might detect it.
The courtly Puttenham and the poet Daniel, each of them giving lessons on the subject of their art, afford such examples :
“ Three causes moves us to this figure.” Arte of English Poesie, 1589, p. 149; and “The distribution of giftes are universall, and all seasons hath them in some sort.” Daniel's Apologie for Ryme, 1603, in answer to Campion's Observations in the Arte of English Poesie, 1602; and “ Superfluous humours destroyeth naturall hete.” Vulgaria Hormanni 4to. 1530. Signat. I. 1.
Closing these instances with a reading of our author, which after the severest scrutiny has been approved as the true one by every critic, except Steevens, from Warburton to Ritson, “ Masters of passion sways it to the mood," &c.
M. of V. IV. 1. Shylock, we shall add, that this usage of a plural for the purpose of giving effect, is carried much further in Macbeth, where it is taken up from the general impression of the dialogue. The Doctor, speaking of Lady Macbeth, says, “ You see her eyes are open?". Gent. “Ay, but their sense are shut.” V. 1. Their sense, i.e. the sense of her
eyes, here carried along with that word (which is no more than a pronoun possessive, and wanting that termination of plural nouns that usually affects the ear) a plural image; and the loose grammar of the age allowed the annexation of a plural verb.
Mr. Malone, in the close of the first scene of the Tempest, where Ariel enters invisible, Reed's edition, IV. 78, says, “ The plural noun, joined to a verb in the singular number, is to be met with in almost every page of the first folio." Such has been shewn to be the case in the pages of his contemporaries. A playw.right, bound to copy the manners, has full warrant, without laying any particular ground for it, to use the familiar language of his time : and the poet, who must not neglect the flow and harmony of his numbers, is, for that reason, wherever it shall answer his
purpose, called upon to employ it.
(37) A little more than kin, and less than kind] More than a common relation, having a confusedly accumulated title of relationship, you have less than benevolent, or less than even natural feeling : by a play upon this last word, kind, in its double use and double sense ; its use as an adjective and importing benevolent, and its sense as a substantive and signifying nature: the sense in which he presently afterwards uses it adjectively;
“ Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless, villain!” II. 2, Haml, where kindless means unnatural. And in this last