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unmeaning. I would read with the quarto “ pleated” [contraction) and in the sense of compleated : not, however, signifying compleated cunning--but as a compleated business :-a purpose thoroughly effected. The sense of the whole is this : Regan and Goneril, by pretending a more than common love for their father, had gained an ascendancy over him, and to the injury of Cordelia, whom they hated, and whose ingenuous nature would not have recourse to artifice. B.
Gon. We must do something, and i' the heat.
- i the heat.] i.e. We must strike while the iron's hot. Steey.
“;' the heat.” “ While our father is warm: while he is enraged against Cordelia.” By this she would insinuate that thus they may increase their power. B.
Edm. Wherefore should I
Stand in the plague of custom,–] The word plague is in all the old copies : I can scarcely think it right, nor can I yet reconcile myself to plage, the emendation proposed by Dr. Warburton, though I have nothing better to offer. Joun.
The meaning is plain, though oddly expressed. Wherefore should I acquiesce, submit tamely to the plagues and injustice of custom
Shakspeare seems to mean by the plague of custom, Wherefore should I remain in a situation where I shall be plagued and tormented only in consequence of the contempt with which custom regards those who are not the issue of a lawful bed? Dr. Warburton defines plage to be the place, the country, the boundary of custom; a word to be found only in Chaucer. STEEY.
" Stand in the plague of custom." To stand in a plague is nonsense. Warburton has hit on the right word, “ plage." fr. Plage, however, has two significations, and he has, in his interpretation, chosen the wrong one. The word, which is here employed, is thus ex
plained in the Dictionaries: Rivage de mer qui n'a pas assez d'eau pour tenir les vaisseaur à flot: a shallow road.
“ Wherefore should I, says Edmund, stand in the shallow or flat of custom ?? In other words, “ why be timid? why remain in shore? why not boldly run out to sea?” Or the passage inay be printed as follows, which perhaps will be the better reading :
“ Wherefore should [ . “ Stand in ? (the plague of custom !)" i.e. " Wherefore should I bide myself? why should I stand back ? (plague of custom!) and permit, &c.”
Thus by throwing plague of custom into a parenthesis, the sense is clear, and without the alteration of a single word. B.
The courtesy of nations.] Nr. Pope reads nicety. The copies give-the curiosity of nations ;-but our author's word was, curtesy. In our laws some lands are held by the curtesy of England. Theod.
“ 'The courtesy of nations.” I do not understand how the curiosity of nations was to deprive or hinder him from enjoying the goods of fortune. The hard-heartedness or inflexibility of natious certainly might. I therefore read corcity : a word which Shakspeare has coined from cor fr. (dureté, durillon) and which, by a figure, may stand for cruelty. Curtesy is likewise as unquestionably wrong, because it can bear no other sense than favor, a sense which will by no means suit here. B:
Edm. Well, my legitimate, if this letter speed; And my invention thrive, Edmund the base Shall top the legitimate.
Shall be the legitimate.] Here the Oxford editor would show us that he is as good at coining phrases as his author, and so alters the text thus:
“ Shall toe the legitimate. " i. e. says he, stand on even ground with him, as be would do with his author. WARB.
Hanmer's emendation will appear very plausible to him that shall consult the original reading. Butter's quarto roads :
" Edmund the base
“ Shall tooth' legitimate.”
" Edmund the base
phray be download with
Hanmer, therefore, could hardly be charged with coining a word, though his explanation may be doubted. To toe him is perhaps to kick him out, a phrase yet in vulgar use; or, to toe, may be literally to supplant. The word be has no authority. Joun.
« Shall top the legitimate.” The reading of the quarto, “shall tooth legitimate,” is the true one. The meaning is pry into, examine, by setting myself in opposition to hiin. The word is used in this sense by Spenser; and we now say “ in the teeth of him ” to note resistance. B.
Edm. I hope, for my brother's justification, he wrote this but as an essay or taste of my virtue.
Taste of my virtuc.] Though taste may stand in this place, yet I believe we should read, assay or test of my virtue: they are both metallurgical terms, and properly joined. So, in Hamlet : « Bring me to the test.”
John. “ Taste of my yirtue.” Dr. Johnson seems not to have felt the force of taste in this instance. It comes from the french tâster, to feel the pulse of any one, to tamper with him. B.
Edm. I will seek him, sir, presently; convey the business as. I shall find means, and acquaint you withal.
Convey the business. Convey, for introduce; but convey is a fine word, as alluding to the practice of clandestine conveying goods so as not to be found upon the felon. Wars.
To convey is rather to carry through than to introduce; in this place it is to manage artfully : we say of a juggler, that he has a clean conveyance. John.
“ Convey the business ” can mean nothing more than make him acquainted with the business, or break the business to him. Edmund, though he really means to manage artfully, would never intimate so much to his father ; but on the contrary, appear open and plain in his dealing. B.
Kent. If but as well I other accents borrow,.
If but as well I other accents borrow,
And can my speech disuse.] Thus Rowe, Pope, and
“ If but as will I other accents borrow,
“ May carry through,” &c. We must suppose that Kent advances looking on his disguise. This circumstance very naturally leads to his speech, which otherwise would have no very apparent introduction. “If I can change my speech as well as I have changed my dress." To diffuse speech, signifies to disorder it, and so to disguise it; as in the Merry Wives of Windsor, Act iv. sc. 7.
" rush at once
Steev. “That can my speech diffuse." "Diffuse,” as in the first folio, is the proper word: but Mr. Steevens does not understand the passage. “ Diffuse my speech," has no such meaning as the Editor would affix to it. It plainly signifies “ pour out my sentiments." Kent has the wel. fare of his king and master at heart. “If, says he,” I can but borrow such accents, if I can but disguise my voice so well as that I may be enabled, under this assumed character, to pour out my thoughts, to make known my sentiments to him,--my good intentions may be crowned with success.” B.
Kent. I do profess to be no less than I seem ; to serve him truly, that will put me in trust; to love him that is honest; to converse with him that is wise, and say little.
Him that is wise, and says little.] Though saying little may be the character of wisdom, it was not a quality to choose a companion by for his conversation. We should read : to say little ; which was prudent when he chose a wise companion to profit by. So that it was as much as to say, I profess to talk little myself, that I may profit the more by the conversation of the wise. WARB.
To converse significs immediately and properly to keep company, not to discourse or talk. His meaning is, that he chuses for his companions men of reserve and caution; men who are no tattlers nor tale-bearers. The old reading is the true. John.
We still say in the same sense-he had criminal conversation with her - meaning commerce. So in King Richard III:
“ His apparent open guilt omitted,
“ I mean his conversation with Shore's wife.” MAL. “ Him that is wise, and says little!” This remark of Johnson may be taken as a curious specimen of cavil and objection. But “out of thine own mouth shalt thou be judged.” See Johnsoy's Dict. “To converse, to convey the thoughts reciprocally in talk, to discourse familiarly upon any subject.” And shall it then be maintained, that to converse is not to discourse ? Beside, what is it to keep company, but to talk? The Doctor's captiousness and animadversion, particularly in regard to the opinions of the learned prelate, are far from being honorable to him. The best that can be said in his favor, on the present oc-, casion, is, that he has made, according to the language of the schools, a distinction without a difference. The old reading is not the true.
As to Mr. Malone's meaning in bringing forward “ criminal conversation," and for the purpose of illustration here, it can only be known to himself. B.
Lear. Thou but remember'st me of mine own conception: I have perceived a most faint neglect of late ; which I have rather blamed as mine own jealous curiosity, than as a very pretence and purpose of unkindness.
“ I have perceived a most faint neglect.” A most faint neglect is surely wrong. It seems to be adverse to the general remark of Lear. We may read “a most fain neglect. i. e. I can discover that they would fain show me neglect : at least, such has been my conceit; but your words will make me observe them nearer, I shall more particularly note their conduct." B.
Lear. Do you bandy looks with me, you rascal?
bandy looks.] A metaphor from Tennis : “Come in, take this bandy with the racket of patience.”
Decker's Satiromastif. STEEV.