Imagens das páginas

Rom. -In bed asleep; while they do dream things

true 3. Mer. 40, then, I see, Queen Mab has been with

you. She is the Fairies' midwife, and she comes

3 In the quarto 1597, after the first line of Mercutio's speech, Romeo says, Queen Mab, what's the ? and the printer, by a blander, has given all the rest of the speech to the same character. STEEVENS. + 0, then, I fee, Queen Mab hath been with you:

She is the Fairies' midwife,] Thus begins that admirable fpeech upon the effects of the imagination in dreams. But, Queen Mab the fairies mid-wife? What is the then Queen of ? Why, the fairies. What! and their midwife too? But this is not the greatest of the absurdities. Let us see upon what occasion he is introduced, and under what quality. It is as a being that has great power over human imagination. But then the title given her must have reference to the employment she is put upon : First then, she is called Queen ; which is very pertinent, for that designs her power : then she is called the fairies' mid-wife; but what has that to do with the point in hand ? If we would think that Shakespeare wrote sense, we must say, he wrote the FANCY's midwife; and this is a proper title, as it introduces all that is said afterwards of her vagaries. Befides, it exactly quadrates with these lines :

I talk of dreams,
Which are the children of an idle brain,

Begot of nothing but vain fantafie. These dreams are begot upon fantasie, and Mab is the midwife to bring them forth. And fancy's mid-wife is a phrase altogether in the manner of our author.

WARBURTON. All the copies, three of which were published in the author's life-time, concur in reading fairies' mid-wife. Queen Mab's bufiness is to inspire people with thoughts, to impregnate them with fancies, and not to deliver them of such thoughts or fancies as they have already conceived. There is no reason then for making her the fancy's midwife, when Shakespeare had appointed her to that office in the fairy coart. Dr. Warburton seems to have forgot that Juno, though the Queen of Heaven, was not disparaged by being a mid-wife. By this title too, among others, Horace invokes Diana :

“ Montium cuftos nemorumq; virgo

“ Quæ laborantes utero puellas,” &c. It may be worth while to add, that the word Queen was used by the Sastons only to fignify the female sex. Queen-Fwgol was a ken-fowl, queen-cat a jise-cat. STEVENS.


In shape no bigger than an agat-stone
s On the fore-finger of an alderman,
Drawn with a team of little atomies,
Athwart mens' noses as they lie asleep :
Her waggon-spokes made of long spinners' legs;
The cover, of the wings of grashoppers ;
The traces, of the smallest fpider's web;
The collars, of the moonshine's watry beams;
Her whip, of cricket's bone; the lash, of film:
Her waggoner a small grey-coated gnat,
Not half so big as a round little worm,
Prick'd from the lazy finger of a maid.
Her chariot is an empty hazel nut,
Made by the joiner squirrel, or old grub,
Time out of mind the fairies' coach-makers.
And in this state she gallops, night by night,
Through lover's brains, and then they dream of love,
On courtiers' knees, that dream on court’lies strait;
O'er lawyers' fingers, who strait dream on fees :
O'er ladies' lips, who strait on kisses dream,
Which oft the angry Mab with blisters plagues,
Because their breaths with sweet-meats tainted are,
• Sometimes she gallops o'er a courtier's nose,
And then dreams he of smelling out a suit :


$ On the fore-finger of an alderman,] The quarto, 1597, teads, of a burgo-master. The alteration was probably made by the poet himself, as we find it in the succeeding copy 1599; but in order to familiarize the idea, he has diminished its propriety. In the pictures of burgo-mafers, the ring is generally placed on the fore-finger; and from a passage in The First Part of Hen. IV. we may suppose the citizens in Shakespeare's time io have worn this ornament on the thumb. So again, Glapthorne, in his comedy of Wit in a Constable, 1639,

and an alderman, As I may say to you, he has no more “ Wit than the rest o' the bench; and that lies in his

thumb-ring." STEEVENS. Sometimes she gallops o'er a LAWYER's nose, And oben dreams be of smelling out a fair :] The old editions..


And sometimes comes she with a tithe-pig's tail,
Tickling a parson's nose as he lies aseep,
Then dreams he of another benefice.


have it, COURTIER's noje; and this undoubtedly is the true reading: and for these reasons. First, In the present reading there is a vicious repetition in this fine fpeech; the same thought having been given in the foregoing line,

O'er lawyers' fingers, who strait dream on fees : Nor can it be objected that there will be the same fault if we read courtier's, it having been said before,

On courtiers' knees, that dream on curtsies strait; because they are shewn in two places under different views : in the first

, their foppery ; in the second, their rapacity is ridiculed. Secondly, In our author's time, a court-solicitation was called, Simply, a suit; and a process, a suit at law, to distinguish it from the other. "The King" (says an anonymous cotemporary writer of the life of Sir William Cecil) « called him (Sir “ William Cecil] and after long talk with him, being much

delighted with his answers, willed his father to FIND “ [i. e. to smell out) A suit for him. Whereupon he became

SUITER for the reversion of the Custos-brevium office in the “ Common Pleas: which the king willingly granted, it being '"* the first suit he had in his life.” Indeed cur poet has very rarely turned his fatire against lawyers and law proccedings, the common topic of later writers: for, to observe it to the honour of the English judicatures, they preserved the purity and fimplicity of their first institution, long after chicane had over-run all the other laws of Europe. WARBURTON.

On couRTIERS' knees, that dream on curt'lies strait;
O'er lawyers' fingers, who strait dream on fees.
Sometimes the gallops o'er a courtier's nose,

And then dreams he of smelling out a fuit;In the latter lines Dr. Warburton has very juftly restored the old reading courtier's noje, which had been changed into lawyer's noje, by some editor, who did not know, as it should seem, of any suits but law juits. Dr. Warburton has explained the passage with his usual learning; but I do not think he is so happy in his endeavour to justify Shakespeare from the charge of a vicious repetition in introducing the courtier twice. The second folio, i obferve, reads,

On COUNTRIES knees : which has led me to conjecture, that the line ought to be read thus :

On COUNTIES knees, that dream on courthies strait: VOL. X.



He then goes on,

Sometimes she driveth o'er a soldier's neck,
And then dreams he of cutting foreign throats,
Of breaches, ambuscadoes, 7 Spanish blades,
Of healths five fathom deep, and then anon
Drums in his ear; at which he starts and wakes;
And, being thus frighted, swears a prayer or two,
And Neeps again. This is that
That plats the manes of horses in the night,

very Mab,

Counties I anderstand to signify noblemen in general. Paris, 'who, in one place, I think, is called earl, is most commonly ftiled the countie in this play. Shakespeare seems to have preferred, for {ome reason or other, the Italian conte to our count. It was no permanent reason, for I do not recollect that he uses the title in other plays, where the scene is in Italy. Perhaps he took it from the old English novel, from which he is said to have taken his plot.-Observations and Conjectures, printed at Oxford, 1766.

This speech at different times received much alteration and improvement, 'The part of it in question, stands thus in the oldcit quarto 1597 :

And in this fort the gallops up and down
Through lovers braines, and then they dream of love:
O'er courtiers knees, who strait on cursies dreame :
O'er ladies lips, who dreame on kisses strait ;
Which oft the angrie Mab with blisters plagues,
Because their breaths with sweetmeats tainted are.
Sometimes the gallops o're a lawyer's lap,
And then he of smelling out a fuit:
And sometimes comes the with a tithe-pig's taile,
Tickling a parson's nose that lies asleepe,
And then dreames he of another benefice.
Sometimes she gallops o'er a foldier's nose,
And then dreames he of cutting foreign throats,
Of breaches, ambuscadoes, countermines,

Of healths five fadome deep, &c.
Shakespeare, as I have observed before, did not always attend
to the propriety of his own alterations. STEEVENS.

i Spanijh blades,] A fword is calied a toledo, from the excellence of the Toletan steel. So Grotius,

Enfis Toletanus
“ Unda Tagi non eft alio celebranda metallo,
“ Uulis in cives ett ibi lamna suos.” JOHNSON.

[ocr errors]

$ And cakes the elf-locks in foul suttish hairs,
Which, once untangled, much misfortune bodes.
This is the hag, when maids lie on their backs,
That presses them, and learns them first to bear,
Making them women of good carriage.
This is the

Rom. Peace, peace, Mercutio, peace;
Thou talk'st of nothing.

Mer. True, I talk of dreams, Which are the children of an idle brain, Begot of nothing but vain phantafy; Which is as thin of substance as the air, And more unconstant than the wind; who wooes Ev'n now, the frozen bosom of the north, And, being anger'd, puffs away from thence, Turning his face to the dew-dropping south. Ben. This wind, you talk of, blows us from our

selves; Supper is done, and we shall come too late.

Rom. I fear, too early : for my mind misgives, Some consequence, yet hanging in the stars, Shall bitterly begin his fearful date With this night's revels; and expire the term Of a despised life clos’d in my breast, By some vile forfeit of untimely death : But he, that hath the steerage of my course, , 9 Direct my fail ! On, lusty gentlemen. Ben. Strike, drum.


And cakes the elf-locks, &c.] This was a common superftition; and seems to have had its rise from the horrid disease called the Plica Polonica. WARBURTON.

· Direzt my fail!] I have restored this reading from the elder quarto, as being more congruous to the metaphor in the preceding line. Suit is the reading of the folio. STEEVENS.

Dire ? my fuit!] Guide the sequel of the adventure. JOHNS.

[blocks in formation]
« AnteriorContinuar »