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Upon whose influence Neptune's empire stands,
["also the brightness of the sunne was darkened, the which, all that yeare through, rose very pale, and shined not out,"] but by various passages in our author's works. So, in The Tempest: I have be-dimm'd, "The noon-tide sun.”
Again, in King Richard II. :
"As doth the blushing discontented sun,-
Again, in our author's 18th Sonnet :
"Sometimes too hot the eye of heaven shines,
I suspect that the words As stars are a corruption, and have no doubt that either a line preceding or following the first of those quoted at the head of this note, has been lost or that the beginning of one line has been joined to the end of another, the intervening words being omitted. That such conjectures are not merely chimerical, I have already proved. See Henry IV. Act IV. Sc. I. and Richard III. Act II. Sc. II.
The following lines in Julius Cæsar, in which the prodigies that are said to have preceded his death, are recounted, may throw some light on the passage before us :
There is one within,
"Besides the things that we have heard and seen,
"And graves have yawn'd and yielded up their dead:
"In ranks, and squadrons, and right form of war,
"Horses do neigh, and dying men did groan;
And ghosts did shriek and squeal about the streets."
The lost words perhaps contained a description of fiery war ́riors fighting on the clouds, or of brands burning bright beneath the
The 15th book of Ovid's Metamorphoses, translated by Golding, in which an account is given of the prodigies that preceded Cæsar's death, furnished Shakspeare with some of the images in both these passages:
battels fighting in the clouds with crashing armour flew, "And dreadful trumpets sounded in the ayre, and hornes eke blew,
'As warning men beforehand of the mischiefe that did brew ;
"And Phoebus also looking dim did cast a drowsie light,
"Uppon the earth, which seemde likewise to be in sory plighte: "From underneath beneath the starres brandes oft seemde burning bright,
"It often rained drops of blood. The morning star look'd blew, "And was bespotted here and there with specks of rustic hew. "The moone had also spots of blood.
"Salt teares from ivorie-images in sundry places fell; "The dogges did howle, and every where appeared ghastly
"And with an earthquake shaken was the towne."
Plutarch only says, that "the sunne was darkened," that "diverse men were seen going up and down in fire; " there were "fires in the element; sprites were seene running up and downe "in the night, and solitarie birds sitting in the great market-place."
The disagreeable recurrence of the word stars in the second line induces me to believe that As stars, in that which precedes, is a corruption. Perhaps Shakspeare wrote:
Astres with trains of fire,
and dews of blood
'Disasterous dimm'd the sun.'
The word astre is used in an old collection of poems entitled Diana, addressed to the Earl of Oxenforde, a book of which I know not the date, but believe it was printed about 1580. In Othello we have antres, a word exactly of a similar formation.
The word-astre, (which is no where else to be found) was affectedly taken from the French by John Southern, author of the poems cited by Mr. Malone. This wretched plagiarist stands indebted both for his verbiage and his imagery to Ronsard. See the European Magazine, for June, 1788, p. 389. STEEVENS.
Mr. Jennens also, in his edition of Hamlet, 1773, conjectured, that a line had been lost, and suggested the following:
"Tremendous prodigies in heav'n appear'd." BoS WELL. 7- and the MOIST STAR, &c.] i. e. the moon. So, in the Winter's Tale, Act I. Sc. II. :
"Nine changes of the watry star have been
"The shepherd's note."
So, also, in Marlowe's Hero and Leander, 1598:
"Not that night-wand'ring, pale, and watry star," &c.
8 And even] Not only such prodigies have been seen in Rome, but the elements have shown our countrymen like forerunners and foretokens of violent events. JOHNSON.
And prologue to the omen coming on1-
But, soft; behold! lo, where it comes again!
9- - precurse of FIERCE events,] Fierce, for terrible.
I rather believe that fierce signifies conspicuous, glaring. It is
used in a somewhat similar sense in Timon of Athens:
I And PROLOGUE to the OMEN coming on,] But prologue and omen are merely synonymous here. The poet means, that these strange phænomena are prologues and forerunners of the events presag'd: and such sense the slight alteration which I have ventured to make, by changing omen to omen'd, very aptly gives. THEOBALD.
Omen, for fate. WARBURTON.
Hanmer follows Theobald.
A distich from the life of Merlin, by Heywood, however, will show that there is no occasion for correction :
"Merlin well vers'd in many a hidden spell,
"His countries omen did long since foretell." FARMER. Again, in The Vowbreaker:
"And much I fear the weakness of her braine "Should draw her to some ominous exigent." Omen, I believe, is danger. STEEVENS. "And even the like precurse of fierce events, "As harbingers preceding still the fates,
"And prologue to the omen coming on." So, in one of our author's poems:
"But thou shrieking harbinger,
"The omen coming on" is, the approaching dreadful and portentous event. So, in King Richard III. :
"Thy name is ominous to children." i. e. (not boding ill fortune, but) destructive to children. Again, ibidem:
"O Pomfret, Pomfret, O, thou bloody prison,
? I'll cross it, though it blast me.] The person who crossed the
If thou hast any sound, or use of voice,
If there be any good thing to be done,
If thou art privy to thy country's fate,
Or, if thou hast uphoarded in thy life
HOR. Do, if it will not stand 5.
* Quarto, your.
† Quarto, strike it.
spot on which a spectre was seen, became subjected to its malignant influence. Among the reasons given in a curious paper, printed in the third volume of Mr. Lodge's Illustrations of British History, p. 48, for supposing the young earl of Derby (Ferdinando, who died April, 1594,) to have been bewitched, is the following: "On Friday there appeared a tall man who twice crossed him swiftly; and when the earl came to the place where he saw this man, he first fell sick." BLAKEWAY.
3 IF thou hast any SOUND,] The speech of Horatio to the spectre is very elegant and noble, and congruous to the common traditions of the causes of apparitions. JOHNSON.
4 Or, if thou hast uphoarded, &c.] So, in Decker's Knight's Conjuring, &c. "If any of them had bound the spirit of gold by any charmes in caves, or in iron fetters under the ground, they should for their own soules quiet (which questionlesse else would whine up and down) if not for the good of their children, release it." STEEVENS.
Stop it, Marcellus.
Hor. Do, if it will not stand.] I am unwilling to suppose that Shakspeare could appropriate these absurd effusions to Horatio, who is a scholar, and has sufficiently proved his good understanding by the propriety of his addresses to the phantom. Such a man therefore must have known that
"As easy might he the intrenchant air
as commit any act of violence on the royal shadow. The words
MAR. "Tis gone!
We do it wrong, being so majestical,
BER. It was about to speak, when the cock crew. HOR. And then it started like a guilty thing Upon a fearful summons I have heard, The cock, that is the trumpet to the morn",
-Stop it, Marcellus.-and Do, if it will not stand-better suit the next speaker, Bernardo, who, in the true spirit of an unlettered officer, nihil non arroget armis. Perhaps the first idea that occurs to a man of this description, is to strike at what offends him. Nicholas Poussin, in his celebrated picture of the Crucifixion, has introduced a similar occurrence. While lots are casting for the sacred vesture, the graves are giving up their dead. This prodigy is perceived by one of the soldiers, who instantly grasps his sword, as if preparing to defend himself, or resent such an invasion from the other world.
The two next speeches-'Tis here!-'Tis here!-may be allotted to Marcellus and Bernardo; and the third-'Tis gone! &c. to Horatio, whose superiority of character indeed seems to demand it. As the text now stands, Marcellus proposes to strike the Ghost with his partizan, and yet afterwards is made to descant on the indecorum and impotence of such an attempt.
The names of speakers have so often been confounded by the first publishers of our author, that I suggest this change with less hesitation than I should express concerning any conjecture that could operate to the disadvantage of his words or meaning.-Had the assignment of the old copies been such, would it have been thought liable to objection? STEEVENS.
it is, as THE AIR, INVULNERABLE,] So, in Macbeth :
Again, in King John:
Against the invulnerable clouds of heaven." MALONE. The cock, that is the trumpet to the morn,] So, the quarto 1604. Folio-" to the day."
In England's Parnassus, Svo. 1600, I find the two following lines ascribed to Drayton, but know not in which of his poems they are found: