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What hath been cannot be: Who ever strove
• The mightiest space in fortune nature brings
To join like likes, and kiss like native things.
What hath been -] All these four lines are obscure, and I believe, corrupt; I shall propose an emendation, which those who can explain the present reading, are at liberty to reject:
Through mightiest space in fortune nature brings
Likes to join likes, and kiss like native things. That is, nature brings like qualities and dispositions to meet through any distance that fortune may set between them; she joins them and makes them kiss like things born together. The next lines I read with Sir T. Hanmer :
Impossible be strange attempts to those
What ha'n't been, cannot be. New attempts seem impossible to those who estimate their labour or enterprises by sense, and believe that nothing can be but what they see before them. Fohnson. I understand the meaning to be this
- The affections given us by nature often unite persons between whom fortune or accident has placed the greatest distance or disparity; and cause them to join, like likes (instar parium) like persons in the same situation or rank of life. Thus (as Mr. Steevens has observed) in Timon of Athens :
« Thou solderest close impossibilities,
66 And mak'st them kiss." This interpretation is strongly confirmed by a subsequent speech of the countesses steward, who is supposed to have overheard this soliloquy of Helena: “ Fortune, she said, was no god. dess, that had put such difference betwixt their two estates."
The mightiest space in fortune, for persons the most widely sepa. rated by fortune, is certainly a licentious expression; but it is such a license as Shakspeare often takes. Thus, in Cymbeline, the diminution of space is used for the diminution, of which space or distance, is the cause. If he had written spaces, (as in Troilus and Cressida,
her whom we know well “ The world 's large spaces cannot parallel,)” the passage would have been more clear; but he was confined by the metre. We might, however, read
The mightiest space in nature fortune brings
To join, &c. i. e. accident sometimes unites those whom inequality of rank has separated. But I believe the text is right. Malone.
Paris. A Room in the King's Palace. Flourish of cornets. Enter the King of France, with let
ters; Lords and others attending.
I Lord. So 'tis reported, sir.
His love and wisdom,
He hath arm'd our answer,
What's he comes here?
Youth, thou bear'st thy father's face; Frank nature, rather curious than in haste, Hath well compos’d thee. Thy father's moral parts May'st thou inherit too! Welcome to Paris.
Ber. My thanks and duty are your majesty's.
Senoys -] The Sanesi, as they are termed by Boccace. Painter, who translates him, calls them Senois. They were the people of a small republick, of which the capital was Sienna. The Florentines were at perpetual variance with them. Steevens.
Rousillon,] The old copy reads Rosignoll. Steevens.
King. I would I had that corporal soundness now,
It much repairs me To talk of your good father: ] To repair, in these plays, generally signifies to renovate. So, in Cymbeline :
O disloyal thing,
To-day in our young lords ; but they may jest,
Ere they can hide their levity in honour.] I believe honour is not dignity of birth or rank, but acquired reputation : Your father, says the king, had the same airy flights of satirical wit with the young lords of the present time, but they do not what he did, hide their unnoted levity, in honour, cover petty faults with great merit.
This is an excellent observation. Jocose folies, and slight offences, are only allowed by mankind in him that over-powers them by great qualities. Fohnson. Point thus :
He had the wit, which I can well observe
So like a courtier. Contempt, &c. Blackstone.
So like a courtier, contempt nor bitterness
His equal had awak'd them:] Nor was used without reduplication. So, in Measure for Measure:
“ More nor less to others paying,
Clock to itself, knew the true minute when
The old text needs to be explained. He was so like a courtier, that there was in his dignity of manner nothing contemptuous, and in his keenness of wit nothing bitter. If bitterness or contemptuousness ever appeared, they had been awakened by some injury, not of a man below him, but of bis equal. This is the complete image of a well-bred man, and somewhat like this Voltaire has exhibited his hero, Lewis XIV. Johnson.
1 His tongue obey'd his hand:) We should read— His tongue obe;'d the hand. That is, the hand of his honour's clock, showing the true minute when exceptions bad him speak. Johnson. His is put for its. So, in Othello:
her motion “ Blush'd at herself,”-instead of itself. Steevens. ? He us'd as creatures of another place;] i. e. he made allowances for their conduct, and bore from them what he would not from one of his own rank. The Oxford editor, not understand. ing the sense, has altered another place to a brother-race.
Warburton. I doubt whether this was our author's meaning. I rather incline to think that he meant only, that the father of Bertram treated those below him with becoming condescension, as creatures not indeed in so high a place as himself, but yet holding a certain place; as one of the links, though not the largest, of the great chain of society.
In The Winter's Tale, place is again used for rank or situation in life:
O thou thing, “ Which I 'll not call a creature of thy place.” Malone. 3 Making them proud of his humility,
In their poor praise he humbled:] But why were they proud of his humility? It should be read and pointed thus :
Making them proud ; and his humility,
In their poor praise, he humbled i.e. by condescending to stoop to his inferiors, he exalted them and made them proud; and in the gracious receiving their poor praise, he humbled even his humility. The sentiment is fine.
Warburton. Every man has seen the mean too often proud of the humility of the great, and perhaps the great may sometimes be humbled in the praises of the mean, of those who commend them without
Might be a copy to these younger times;
His good remembrance, sir,
conviction or discernment: this, however, is not so common; the mean are found more frequently than the great. Johnson.
I think the meaning is–Making them proud of receiving such inarks of condesvension and affability from a person in so ele. vated a situation, and at the same time lowering or humbling himself, by stooping to accept of the encomiums of mean per. sons for that humility. The construction seems to be, “he being humbled in their poor praise.” Malone.
Giving them a better opinion of their own importance, by his condescending manner of behaving to them. M. Mason. 1 So in approof lives not his epitaph,
As in your royal speech.] Epitaph for character. Warburton. I should wish to read
Approof so lives not in his epitaph,
As in your royal speech. Approof is approbation. If I should allow Dr. Warburton's interpretation of epitaph, which is more than can be reasonably expected, I can yet find no sense in the present reading. Johnson. We might, by a slight transposition, read
So his approof lives not in epitaph.
“ A man so absolute in my approof,
“That he enjoys not.” Again, in Measure for Measure:
“ Either of condemnation or approof.” Steevens. Perhaps the meaning is this:–His epitaph or inscription on his tomb is not so much in approbation or commendation of him, as is your royal speech. Tollet.
There can be no doubt but the word approof is frequently used in the sense of approbation, but this is not always the case; and in this place it signifies proof or confirmation. The meaning of the passage appears to be this: “The truth of his epitaph is in no way so fully proved, as by your royal speech.” It is needless to remark, that epitaphs generally contain the character and praises of the deceased. Approof is used in the same sense by Bertram, in the second Act:
“ Laf. But I hope your lordship thinks him not a soldier. “ Ber. Yes, my lord, and of very valiant approof” M. Mason. Mr. Heath supposes the meaning to be this: “ His epitaph or he character he left behind him, is not so well established by