« AnteriorContinuar »
gallant chiDING”—“Chiding' of old signified loud sharp sound, without reference to the rebuke generally conveyed in such tones. It afterwards became limited to that secondary sense ; but Milton, in his prose works, still employs it as descriptive of noise.
"SO FLEW'D, SO SANDED"--The flews are the large chaps of a hound: “80 sanded" refers to the sandy marks on the dogs, which is one of the indications of the true breed in bloodhounds. A century afterwards, Nat. Lee, in his “ Theodosius," thus imitated this passage, and adopted its language:
When through the woods we chased the foaming boar,
With ears and chests that dashed the morning dews. “Without the peril of the Athenian law”—This is the reading of Fisher's quarto, so as to make Lysander interrupted by Egeus, with “ Enough, enough!" The quarto (which the folio followed) added be after "might," in order to complete the sense at “ Athenian law," to the destruction of the metre, and in opposition to the context. All the modern editors have adopted the mistake, without reference to Fisher's quarto, until Mr. Collier.
“ – in Fancy following me"-Here again “fancy" means affection, or love.
"– I have found Demetrius, like a jewel''—i. e. She has found Demetrius, as a person picks up a jewel-for the moment it is his own, but its value may cause it to be reclaimed. She feels insecure in the possession of her treasure. The thought and expression resemble the lines in ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA
His fretted fortunes give him hope and fear
Of what he has and has not, etc.
I shall sing it at her death"—i. e. At the death of Thisbe, of which “piece of work” Bottom's head was full.
Theobald would read “after death”-i. e. after Bottom had been killed, in the part of Pyramus.
“scorching snow;" and Mason, “strong snow." Knight says, "snow is a common thing; and, therefore, “won. drous strange" is sufficiently antithetical-hot ice, and snow as strange."
" — what poor duty cannot do”-i. e. “What dutifulness tries to perform without ability, lofty generosity receives with complacency; estimating it not by the actual merit of the performance, but by what it might have been, had the abilities of the performers been equal to their zeal.”—Malone.
I doubt“ might" being used for possibility. It seems more obvious to receive “in might" as meaning, “ ac. cording to the might or ability of the offerer, not the merit of his works."
“Flourish of trumpets"_" It was usual on the old English stage for the actor who spoke the Prologue to enter upon the stage when the trumpet or trumpets had sounded thrice."-Collier's Hist. Eng. Dram. Poetry.
“ This fellow doth not stand upon POINTS" - The Prologue is very carefully mis-pointed in the original editions—'a tangled chain; nothing impaired, but all disordered.' Had the fellow stood upon points,' it would have read thus:
If we offend, it is with our good will
That you should think we come not to offend;
That is the true beginning of our end.
We do not come. As, minding to content you,
We are not here that you should here repent you.
You shall know all that you are like to know. We fear that we have taken longer to puzzle out this enigma than the Poet did to produce it."--Knight.
“ – on a RECORDER"-The “recorder" was what we now call the flageolet. (See in Hamlet.)
“ – the wittiest PARTITION"-In the age of Elizabeth and James, eloquence in the pulpit, at the bar, and elsewhere, delighted in innumerable divisions and subdi. visions, set out with great logical parade. These were known as “partitions" of the discourse, or serinon; and there seems here to be a play on the two senses of the word.
" — the MAN I'THE MOON"-" The man in the moon was a considerable personage in Shakespeare's day. He not only walked in the moon, (his ‘lantern,') with his thorn-bush' and his dog,' but he did sundry other odd things, such as the man in the moon has ceased to do in these our unimaginative days. There is an old black-letter ballad, of the time of James II., preserved in the British Museum, entitled, “ The Man in the Moon drinks Claret,' adorned with a woodcut of this remark. able tippler."-Knight.
"- il is already in SNUFF"-To take any thing "in snuff" was to take it in anger. Here it is playful, but sometimes the phrase was used in grave language, as it may be found in HENRY IV., (act i. scene 3 ;) as well it might be, being drawn from the natural image of the impatient breathing of anger. Our modern luxury of
snuff” was named afterwards from this; and the phrase has fallen in dignity, and become slang, as the association of artificial habits has superseded the original allusion.
“And so the lion vanished"—Dr. Farmer suggested that the text ought to run
And so comes Pyramus.
And then the moon vanisheswhich has been adopted in the editions following the boldly altered text of Stevens. The critics talk from their familiarity with the story, not with the play. Besides, the moon does not vanish, but remains to be thanked by Pyramus, and to go out after his death.
“— hear a Bergomask dance"-A dance after the manner of the peasants of Bergomasco, proverbially clownish.
SCENE II. – SIXPENCE A-Day in Pyramus"-"Shakespeare has already ridiculed the title-page of Cambyses,' by Thomas Preston; and here he seems to allude to him, or some other person who, like him, had been pensioned for his dramatic abilities. Preston acted a part in John Ritwise's play of • Dido,' before Queen Elizabeth, at Cambridge, in 1564; and the Queen was so well pleased what she bestowed on him a pension of twenty pounds a-year, which is little more than a shilling a-day.”— STEVENS.
ACT V.-SCENE I. - SEETHING brains"-i. e. Boiling brains. Elsewbere (Malone remarks) Shakespeare speaks of boiled brains," as in the WINTER's Tale, and the TEMPEST.
“ The battle with the Centaurs"—This text is in accordance with both the quartos; but the folio represents Lysander as reading the list, and Theseus as commenting upon it, instead of making Theseus both read and comment. Perhaps the change into dialogue was an afterthought to add to the theatrical effect.
". The thrice three Muses mourning'”—T. Warton observed that Shakespeare here, perhaps, alluded to Spenser's poem, entitled the “Tears of the Muses,' on the neglect and contempt of learning. This piece first appeared in quarto, with others, in 1591. The oldest edition of this play, now known, is dated in 1600. If the allusion be allowed, it seems to bring the play below 1591.
“ – hot ice, and wondrous strange snow”—There seems to be some want of an antithetic word here, which the editors have attempted to supply by conjecture. They want an antithesis for “snow," as “hot” is for “ce." Upton reads, "black snow;" Hanmer,
In the MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR
About him, fairies, sing a scornful rhyme, “ Now the hungry lion roars”—“Very Anacreon,
And as you trip still pinch him to your time. (says Coleridge,) in perfectness, proportion, grace, and spontaneity. So far it is Greek; but then add, O! what both the old quartos give to Oberon, is, in the edition
" Now, until the break of day"—“This speech, which wealth, what wild ranging, and yet what compression and condensation of English fancy. In truth, there is
of 1623, and in all the following, printed as the song. I
have restored it to Oberon, as it apparently contains not nothing in Anacreon more perfect than these thirty lines, or halt so rich and imaginative. They form a speckless his declaration that he will bless it, and his orders to the
the blessing which he intends to bestow on the bed, but diamond.”—(“Literary Remains.")
fairies how to perform the necessary rites. But where, " — triple Hecate's team”—Marlowe, Middleton, then, is the song? I am afraid it is gone after many and Golding, also use“ Hecate" as a dissyllable. In
other things of greater value. The truth is that two Spenser and Jonson we find “Hecaté."
songs are lost. The series of the scene is this : after the
speech of Puck, Oberon enters, and calls his fairies to a “ – sweep the dust behind the door"_" Cleanliness
song, which song is apparently wanting in all the old was always supposed to be necessary to invite the resi copies. Next Titania leads another song, which is indence and favour of the fairies. Drayton says deed lost, like the former, though the editors have enThese make our girls their sluttery rue,
deavoured to find it. Then Oberon dismisses his fairies By pinching them both black and blue;
to the despatch of the ceremonies. The songs, I sup And put a penny in their shoe, The house for cleanly sweeping.
pose, were lost; because they were not inserted in the
players' parts, from which the drama was printed." . To sweep the dust behind the door' is a common ex
" — I'm an HONEST Puck"_" Puck,' or Pouke, pression for to sweep the dust from behind the door; a necessary monition in large old houses, where the
meant the devil; and (as Tyrwhitt remarks) it is used doors of hålls and galleries are thrown backward, and
in that sense in · Pierce Ploughman's Vision," and else seldom shut."
where. It was therefore necessary for Shakespeare's
fairy messenger to assert his honesty, and to clear him“ – dance it TRIPPINGLY”—The trip was the fairy self from any connection with the helle Pouke.'”pace: in the TEMPEST we have
"Give me your hands”—The line seems playfully inWill be here with mop and moe.
tended to convey two analogous senses—the giving and In VENUS AND ADONIS
joining hands of friends, and the clapping hands of theOr, like a fairy trip upon the green.
The MIDSUMMER-Night's DREAM has employed a "compact of imagination;' 'something of great constancy, succession of eminent authors and playwrights to adapt for consistency; sweet Pyramus translated there ; its etherial forms to mortal representatives. Whether • the law of Athens, which by no means we may exten from the impossibility of success or from the fault of the uate.' I have considerable doubts whether any of these adapters, all these attempts “ to paint the lily, to throw expressions would be found in the contemporary prose a perfume on the violet," have failed. The first effort of Elizabeth's reign, which was less overrun by pedof this kind bears the title of the “ Faery Queen," under antry than that of her successor; but, could authority the great name of Dryden. It was printed in 1692, be produced for Latinisms so forced, it is still not very and contains many additional songs, etc.; but I have likely that one, who did not understand their proper not been able to find it in any edition of Dryden's meaning, would have introduced them into poetry. It works, nor any mention of it in the biographies of him. would be a weak answer that we do not detect in A similar alteration was tried by Garrick, many years Shakespeare any imitations of the Latin poets. His after, and then again another by Colman, (the elder:) knowledge of the language may have been chiefly deand a still later one by Reynolds, a popular dramatist rived, like that of schoolboys, from the dictionary, and of the last generation. There are also two or three insufficient for the thorough appreciation of their beauothers mentioned in the dramatic catalogues, none of ties. But, if we should believe him well acquainted which have been thought worth reprinting.
with Virgil or Ovid, it would be by no means surprising
that his learning does not display itself in imitation. "The beautiful play of MIDSUMMER-Night's DREAM
Shakespeare seems now and then to have a tinge on his is placed by Malone as early as 1592; its superiority
imagination from former passages; but he never deto the TAMING OF THE Shrew and Love's Labour's
signedly imitates, though, as we have seen, he has someLost affords some presumption that it was written after
times adopted. The streams of invention flowed too
fast from his own mind to leave him time to accommothem. But it evidently belongs to the earlier period of Shakespeare's genius ; poetical as we account it, more
date the words of a foreign language to our own. He than dramatic, yet rather so, because the indescribable
knew that to create would be easier, and pleasanter,
and better."-HALLAM. profusion of imaginative poetry in this play overpowers our senses till we can hardly observe any thing else, than from any deficiency of dramatic excellence. For “ Addison says, “When I look at the tombs of dein reality the structure of the fable, consisting as it does parted greatness, every emotion of envy dies within me.' of three if not four actions, very distinct in their sub I have never been so sacrilegious as to envy Shakejects and personages, yet wrought into each other with speare, in the bad sense of the word, but if there can out effort or confusion, displays the skill, or rather in be such an emotion as sinless envy, I feel it towards stinctive felicity of Shakespeare, as much as in any play him; and if I thought that the sight of his tombstone he has written. No preceding dramatist had attempted would kill so pleasant a feeling, I should keep out of to fabricate a complex plot; for low comic scenes, inter the way of it. Of all his works, the MIDSUMMERspersed with a serious action upon which they have no Night's Dream leaves the strongest impression on my influence, do not merit notice. The Menachmi' of mind, that this miserable world must have, for once at Plautus had been imitated by others as well as by least, contained a happy man. This play is so purely Shakespeare; but we speak here of original invention. delicious, so little intermixed with the painful passions
The MidsuMMER-Night's DREAM is, I believe, alto from which poetry distils her sterner sweets, so fragrant gether original in one of the most beautiful conceptions with hilarity, so bland and yet so bold, that I cannot ibat ever visited the mind of a poet-the fairy machinery. imagine Shakespeare's mind to have been in any other A few before him had dealt, in a vulgar and clumsy frame than that of healthful ecstacy when the sparks of manner, with popular superstitions; but the sportive, inspiration thrilled through his brain in composing it. I beneficent, invisible population of air and earth, long have heard, however, an old critic object that Shakesince established in the creed of childhood, and of those speare might have foreseen it would never be a good simple as children, had never for a moment been acting play; for where could you get actors tiny enough blended with human mortals,' among the personages
to couch in flower-blossoms? Well! I believe no manof the drama. Lyly's • Maid's Metamorphosis' is prob ager was ever so fortunate as to get recruits from Fairyably later than this play of Shakespeare, and was not land; and yet I am told that a MIDSUMMER-Night's published till 1600. It is unnecessary to observe that Dream was some twenty years ago revived at Covent ihe fairies of Spenser, as he has dealt with them, are Garden, though altered, of course not much for the betwholly of a different race.
ter, by Reynolds, and that it had a run of eighteen The language of MIDSUMMER-Night's Dream is nights-a tolerably good reception. But supposing that equally novel with the machinery. It sparkles in per it never could have been acted, I should only thank petual brightness with all the hues of the rainbow; yet Shakespeare the more that he wrote here as a poet and ibere is nothing overcharged, or affectedly ornamented. not as a playwright. And as a birth of his imagination. Perhaps no play of Shakespeare has fewer blemishes, whether it was to suit the stage or not, can we suppose or is from beginning to end in so perfect keeping ; none the Poet himself to have been insensible of its worth? in which so few lines could be erased, or so few ex Is a mother blind to the beauty of her own child ? No! pressions blamed. His own peculiar idiom, the dress nor could Shakespeare be unconscious that posterity of his mind, which began to be discernible in the Two would doat on this, one of his loveliest children. How GENTLEMEN OF VERONA, is more frequently manifested he must have chuckled and laughed in the act of placing in the present play. The expression is seldom obscure, the ass's head on Bottom's shoulders! He must have but it is never in poetry, and hardly in prose, the ex foretasted the mirth of generations unborn at Titania's pression of other dramatists, and far less of the people. doating on the metamorphosed weaver, and on his callAnd here, without reviving the debated question of ing for a repast of sweet peas. His animal spirits must Shakespeare's learning, I must venture to think that he have bounded with the hunter's joy, while he wrote possessed rather more acquaintance with the Latin than Theseus's description of his well-tuned dogs and of the many believe. The phrases, unintelligible and im glory of the chase. He must have been happy as Puck proper, except in the sense of their primitive roots, himself while he was describing the merry Fairy, and which occur so copiously in his plays, seem to be unac all this time he must have been self-assured that his gecountable on the supposition of absolute ignorance. In nius was to put a girdle round the earth ;' and that the MIDSUMMER-Night's Dream, these are much less souls, not yet in being, were to enjoy the revelry of his frequent than in his later dramas. But here we find fancy. several instances. Thus things base and vild, hold “ But nothing can be more irregular (says a modern ing no quantity,' for value; rivers, that have over critic, Augustine Skottowe) than to bring into contact borne their continents,' (the continente ripa of Horace ;) the fairy mythology of modern Europe and the early
events of Grecian history. Now, in the plural number, and Hippolyta, my critic says that they are uninterestShakespeare is not amenable to this charge; for he al ing; but when he wrote that judgment, he must have ludes to only one event in that history, namely, to the fallen asleep after the hunting-scene. Their felicity is marriage of Theseus and Hippolyta; and, as to the in seemingly secure, and it throws a tranquil assurance troduction of fairies, I am not aware that he makes any that all will end well. But the bond of sympathy beof the Athenian personages believe in their existence, tween Theseus and his four loving subjects is any thing though they are subject to their influence. Let us be but slender. It is, on the contrary, most natural and candid on the subject. If there were fairies in modern probable for a newly-married pair to have patronized Europe, which no rational believer in fairy tales will their amorous lieges during their honey-moon. Then deny, why should those fine creatures not have existed comes the question, what natural connection can a party previously in Greece, although the poor, blind, heathen of fairies have with human beings ? This is indeed a Greeks, on whom the gospel of Gothic mythology had posing interrogation; and I can only reply, that fairies not yet dawned, had no conception of them? If The are an odd sort of beings, whose connection with more seus and Hippolyta had talked believingly about the tals can never be set down but as supernatural. dapper elves, there would have been some room for “Very soon Mr. Augustine Skottowe blames Shakecritical complaint; but otherwise the fairies have as speare for introducing common mechanics as amateur good a right to be in Greece, in the days of Theseus, as actors, during the reign of Theseus, in classic Athens. to play their pranks any where else, or at any other time. I dare say. Shakespeare troubled himself little about
- There are few plays (says the same critic) which Greek antiquities; but here the Poet happens to be consist of such incongruous materials as a MIDSUMMER right, and his critic to be wrong. Athens was not a Night's DREAM. It comprises four histories—that of classical city in the days of Theseus; and, about seven Theseus and Hippolyta, that of the four Athenian hundred years later than his reign, the players of Attica Lovers, that of the Actors, and that of the Fairies; and roved about in carts, besmearing their faces with the the link of connection between them is exceedingly lees of wine. I have little doubt that, long after the slender. In answer to this, I say that the plot contains time of Theseus, there were many prototypes of Bottom nothing (about any of the four parties concerned) ap- the weaver, and Snug the joiner, in the itinerant acting proaching to the pretension of a history. Of Theseus companies of Attica.”—T. CAMPBELL.