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a-day for playing Pyramus, I'll be hanged; he would have deserved it: sixpence a-day, in Pyramus, or nothing.'
Enter Bottom. Bot. Where are these lads? where are these hearts?
Quin. Bottom! O most courageous day! O most happy hour!
Bot. Masters, I am to discourse wonders: but ask me not what; for, if tell you, I am no true Athenian. I will tell you every thing, right as it fell out.
Quin. Let us hear, sweet Bottom.
Bot. Not a word of me. All that I will tell you, is, that the duke hath dined: Get your apparel together; good strings to your beards,' new ribbons to your pumps; meet presently at the palace; every man look o’er his part; for, the short and the long is, our play is preferred.2 In any case, let Thisby have clean linen; and let not him, that plays the lion, pare his nails, for they shall hang out
- sixpence a day, in Pyramus, or nothing. ] Shakspeare 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, that she bestowed on him a pension of twenty pounds a year, which is little more than a shilling a day. Steevens.
- good strings to your beards,] i. e. to prevent the false beards, which they were to wear, from falling off. Malone.
As no false beard could be worn, without a ligature to fasten it on, (and a slender one would suffice) the caution of Bottom, considered in such a light, is superfluous. I suspect, therefore, that the good strings recommended by him were ornamental, or employed to give an air of novelty to the countenances of the performers. Thus in Measure for Measure (where the natural beard is unquestionably spoken of) the Duke, intent on disfiguring the head of Ragozine, says: “0, death 's a great disguiser ; and you may add to it. Shave the head, and tie the beard."
Steevens. our play is preferred.] This word is not to be understood in its most common acceptation here, as if their play was chosen in preference to the others; (for that appears afterwards not to be the fact;) but means, that it was given in among others for the duke's option. So, in Julius Cæsar, Decius says:
“ Where is Metellus Cimber? let him go,
for the lion's claws. And, most dear actors, eat no onions, nor garlick, for we are to utter sweet breath; and I do not doubt, but to hear them say, it is a sweet comedy. No more words; away; go, away.
ACT V..... SCENE I.
An Apartment in the Palace of Theseus.
Enter THESEUS, HIPPOLYTA, PHILOSTRATE,
Lords, and Attendants. Hip. 'Tis strange, my Theseus, that these lovers
speak of. The. More strange than true. I never may believe These antique fables, nor these fairy toys. Lovers, and madmen, have such seething brains, 3 Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend More than cool reason ever comprehends. The lunatick, the lover, and the poet, Are of imagination all compact:5 One sees more devils than vast hell can hold; That is, the madman: the lover, all as frantick,6
such seething brains,] So, in The Tempest:
thy brains, “ Now useless, boild within thy scull.” Steevens. We meet with the same expression in The Winter's Tale: “Would any but these boil'd bruins of three and twenty hunt this weather?" Malone.
4 The lunatick, the lover, and the poet,] An ingenious modern writer supposes that our author had here in contemplation Ores. tes, Mark Antony, and himself; but I do not recollect any passage in his works that shows him to have been acquainted with the story of Agamemnon's son,-scelerum furiis agitatus Orestes: and indeed, if even such were found, the supposed allusion would still remain very problematical. Malone.
5 Are of imagination all compact.] i. e. are made of mere ima. gination. So, in As you like it :
“If he, compact of jars, grow musical.” Steevens. 6 That is, the madman: the lover, all as frantick,] Such is the reading of all the old copies; instead of which, the modern edi. tors have given us : “ The madman: while the lover," &c. Steevena.
Sees Helen's beauty in a brow of Egypt:?
Hip. But all the story of the night told over,
The. Here come the lovers, full of joy and mirth. Joy, gentle friends! joy, and fresh days of love, Accompany your hearts ! Lys.
More than to us
7 Sees Helen's beauty in a brow of Egypt:] By
a brow of Egypt,” Shakspeare means no more than the brow of a gipsy. So much for some ingenious modern's ideal Cleopatra, See note 5.
Steevens, 8-in a fine frenzy rolling,] This seems to have been imi. tated by Drayton, in his Epistle to 7. Reynolds, on Poets and Poetry: describing Marlowe, he says:
that fine madness still he did retain, “Which rightly should possess a poet's brain.” Malone.
constancy; ] Consistency, stability, certainty. Johnson. 1 Wait on--] The old copies have_wait in. Corrected by Mr. Rowe. Malone.
Here, mighty Theseus.
Philos. There is a brief, 4 how many sports are ripe;s Make choice of which your highness will see first.
[Giving a paper.
2 Call Philostrate.] In the folio, 1623, it is, Call Egeus, and all the speeches afterwards spoken by Philostrate, except that beginning, “ No, my noble lord,” &c. are there given to that character. But the modern editions, from the quarto 1600, have rightly given them to Philostrate, who appears in the first scene as master of the revels to Theseus, and is there sent out on a si. milar kind of errand.
In The Knight's Tale of Chaucer, Arcite, under the name of Philostrate, is 'squire of the chamber to Theseus. Steevens.
Say, what abridgment, &c.] By abridgment our author may mean a dramatick performance, which crowds the events of years into a few hours. So, in Hamlet, Act II, sc. vii, he calls the players “abridgments, abstracts, and brief chronicles of the time." Again, in K. Henry V :
“Then brook'abridgment; and your eyes advance
“ After your thoughts It may be worth while, however, to observe that, in the North, the word abatement had the same meaning as diversion or amusement. So, in the Prologue to the 5th Book of G. Douglas's version of the Æneid:
“Ful mony mery abaitmentis followis here.” Steevens. Does not abridgment, in the present instance, signify amusement to beguile the tediousness of the evening? or, in one word, pastime? Henley.
a brief,] i. e. a short account or enumeration. So, in Gascoigne's Dulce Bellum Inexpertis:
“She sent a brief unto me by her mayd." Again, in King Fohn:
the hand of time “ Shall draw this brief into as huge a volume.” Steevens.
are ripe;] One of the quartos has—ripe; the other old editions-rife. Fohnson.
Ripe is the reading of Fisher's quarto. Rife, however, is a word used both by Sydney and Spenser. It means abounding, but is now almost obsolete. Thus, in the Arcadia, Lib. II:
“ A shop of shame, a booke where blots be rife.” Again, in Stephen Gosson's School of Abuse, 1579: “ - you shall find the theaters of the one, and the abuses of the other, to be rife among us.” Steevens.
The. reads.] The battle with the Centaurs, to be sung,
By an Athenian eunuch to the harp.?
The riot of the tipsy Bacchanals,
Tearing the Thracian singer in their rage. That is an old device; and it was play'd When I from Thebes came last a conqueror.
The thrice three Muses mourning for the death
Of learning, 8 late deceas'd in beggary. That is some satire, keen, and critical, Not sorting with a nuptial ceremony.
A tedious brief scene of young Pyramus,
And his love Thisbe; very tragical mirth.
6 The. reads.] This is printed as Mr. Theobald gave it from both the old quartos. In the first folio, and all the following editions, Lysander reads the catalogue, and Theseus makes the remarks. Fohnson.
9 By an Athenian eunuch to the harp.] This seems to imply a more ancient practice of castration for the voice, than can be found in opera annals. Burney. 8 The thrice three Muses mourning for the death
Of learning, &c.] I do not know whether it has been before observed, that Shakspeare 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, 1591. The oldest edition of this play, now known, is dated 1600. If Spenser's poem be here intended, may we not presume that there is some earlier edition of this ? But, however, if the allusion be allowed, at least it seems to bring the play below 1591. T. Warton.
-keen, and critical,] Critical here means criticising, censuring. So, in Othello:
“O, I am nothing if not critical.” Steevens. 1 Merry and tragical?] Our poet is still harping on Cambyses, of which the first edition might have appeared in 1569-70; when “ an Enterlude, a lamentable Tragedy full of pleasant Myrth,” was licensed to John Alde, Regist. Stat. fol. 184, b. Steevens.
2 That is, hot ice, and wonderous strange snow.] The nonsense of this line should be corrected thus :
“ That is, hot ice, a wonderous strange show." Warburton. Mr. Upton reads, and not improbably:
“And wonderous strange black snow." Johnson.