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Dromio says, that his wrongs and blows prove him an ass; but immediately, with a correction of his former sentiment, such as may be hourly observed in conversation, he observes that, if he had been an ass, he should, when he was kicked, have kicked again.
JOHNSON. Line 49. Mome,] A dull stupid fellow.
50. -patch!) A paltry fellow.
147. -we'll pluck a crow together.] We find the same quibble on a like occasion in one of the comedies of Plautus.
Steevens. Line 158. -the doors are made against you.] To make the door, is the expression used to this day in some counties of England, instead of, to bar the door.
STEEVENS. · Line 166. -supposed by the common rout-) For suppose I once thought it might be more commodious to substitute supported; but there is no need of change : supposed is founded on supposition, made by conjecture.
JOHNSON Line 173. And, in despight of mirth,] The meaning is, I will be merry, even out of spite to mirth, which is, now, of all things, the most unpleasing to me.
ACT III. SCENE II.
hare quite forgot, &c.] What our poet means, is this: Shall thy love-springs rot, even in the spring of love? and shall thy love grow ruinous, even while 'tis but building up?
THEOBALD. Line 214. Being compact of credit,] Means, being made altogether of credulity.
STEEVENS. -vain,] Is light of tongue, not veracious. Johns. - 250. Not mad, but mated ;] i. e, confounded. So in Macbeth :
My mind she has mated, and amaz'd my sight. STEEVENS. Line 266. My sole earth's heaven, and my heuren's claim.] When he calls the girl his only heuren on the earth, he utters the common cant of lovers. When he calls her his heuven's claim, I cannot understand him. Perhaps he means that which he asks of heaven.
Line 307. Swart,] i. e. Swarth or tawny.
-328. In her forehead; armed, and reverted, making war against her hair.] With this corrected text Dr. Warburton concurs, and sir T. Hanmer thinks an equivocation intended, though he retains hair in the text. Yet surely they have all lost the. sense by looking beyond. Our author here sports with an allusion, in which he takes too much delight, and means that his mistress had the French disease. The ideas are rather too offensive to be dilated. By a forehead armed, he means covered with incrusted eruptions : by reverted, he means having the hair turning backward. An equivocal word must have senses applicable to both the subjects to which it is applied. Both forehead and France might in some sort make war against their hair, but how did the forehead make war against its heir ? as Theobald conjectures. The sense which I have given immediately occurred to me, and will, I believe, arise to every reader who is contented with the meaning that lies before him, without sending out conjecture in search of refinements.
Johnson. Line 350. -And, I think, if my breast had not been made of faith, &c.] Alluding to the superstition of the common people, that nothing could resist a witch's power, of transforming men into animals, but a great share of faith. WARBURTON.
Line 375. at the Porcupine :) It is remarkable, that all over the ancient editions of Shakspeare's plays, the word Porpentine is used instead of Porcupine. It was so written at that time.
ACT IV. SCENE I. Line 4. -want gilders—] A gilder is a coin of the value of one shilling and sixpence, to two shillings.
ACT IV. SCENE II, Line 6. meteors tilting in his face ?] Alluding to those meteors in the sky, which have the appearance of lines of armies meeting in the shock.
WARBURTON. Line 154. -sere,] that is, dry, withered. JOHNSON
157. Stigmatical in making,] That is, marked or stigmatized by nature with deformity, as a token of his vicious disposition.
Line 162. Far from her nest the lapwing, &c.] This expression seems to be proverbial. I have met with it in many of the old comic writers.
STEVENS. Line 173. A fiend, a fairy, pitiless and rough ;] Mr. Theobald would read fury.
There were fairies like hobgoblins, pitiless and rough, and described as malevolent and mischievous.
JOHNSON. Line 178. A hound that runs counter, and yet draws dry-foot well;] To run counter, is to run backward, by mistaking the course of the animal pursued; to draw dry-foot is, I believe, to pursue by the track or prick of the foot ; to run counter and draw dry-fout well are, therefore, inconsistent. The jest consists in the ambiguity of the word counter, which means the wrong way in the chase, and a prison in London. The officer that arrested him was a serjeant of the counter. For the congruity of this jest with the scene of action, let our author answer.
JOHNSON. To draw dry-foot, is when the dog pursues the game by the scent of the foot: for which the blood-hound is famed.
GREY. Line 180. -poor souls to hell.] Hell was the cant term for an obscure dungeon in any of our prisons. It is mentioned in the Counter-rat, a poem, 1658 : “ In Wood-street's hole, or Poultry's hell.”
Steev. Line 184. on the case.] An action
case, neral action given for the redress of a wrong done
any man without force, and not especially provided for by law.
GREY, Line 195.
-was he arrested on a band?] Thus the old copy, and I believe rightly; though the modern editors read bond. A bond, i. e. an obligatory writing to pay a sum of money, was anciently spelt band. A band is likewise a neckcloth. On this circumstance I believe the humour of the passage turns. STEEV,
is a ge
ACT IV. SCENE, III. Line 248. he that sets up his rest to do more exploits wilh his mace, than a morris-pike.] The rest of a pike was a common term, and signified, I believe, the manner in which it was fixed to receive the rush of the enemy. A morris-pike was a pike used in a morris or a military dance, and with which great exploits were done, that is, great feats of dexterity were shewn. JOHNSON
ACT IV. SCENE IV.
-your customers ?] A customer was the term for a prostitute.
-companion :-) A term of contempt, a fellow. 41). Perdy,] For Pardieu, the French oath.
- 417. Certes,] i. e. certainly. -417. -kitchen-vestal-] Her charge being like that of the vestal virgins, to keep the fire burning. JOHNSON.
Line 511. Fetch our stuff-] i. e. Goods or furniture.
ACT V. SCENE I.
38. take a house.] i. e. Take to a house, get within a house.
Line 115. -a formal man again :) i. e. To bring him back to his senses, and the forms of sober behaviour. So in Measure for Measure :-informal women for just the contrary. STEEV. Line 151. At your important letters,] Important means im
JOHNSON. Line 186. Whose beard they have singed off with brands of fire;] Such a ludicrous circumstance is not unworthy of the farce in which we find it introduced; but is rather extraordinary to be met with in an epic poem, amidst all the horrors and carnage of a battle.
Steevens. Line 191. His man with scissars nicks him like a fool:] It appears to have been the custom for the established fools to have their hair cut close to their heads in a very ludicrous manner.
Line 200. To scorch your face,] We should read scotch, i.e. hack, cut.
WARBURTON. To scorch I believe is right. He would have punished her as he had punished the conjurer before.
Steevens. Line 316. -mated,] i. e. Confused.
STEEVENS. 338. deformed hand-] Time's deforming hand.
-339 strange defeatures.] Defeature is the privative of feature. The meaning is, time hath cancelled my features.
JOHNSON. Line 359. All these old witnesses (I cannot err,)] By old witnesses I believe he means experienced, accustomed ones, which are therefore less Akely to err.
STEEVENS. Line 451. Twenty-five years] In former editions, thirty
'Tis impossible the poet could be so forgetful, as to design this number here: and therefore I have ventured to alter it to twentyfive, upon a proof, that, I think, amounts to demonstration. The number, I presume, was at first wrote in figures, and, perhaps, blindly; and thence the mistake might arise. THEOBALD.
Line 456. —and go with me ;] We should read, and gaude with me : i. e, rejoice, from the French gaudir. WARBURTON.
The sense is clear enough without the alteration, STEEVENS.
Line 457. After so long grief, such nativity !] We should surely read, After so long grief, such festivity!
Nativity lying so near, and the termination being the same of both words, the mistake was easy.
JOHNSON. Mr. Steevens is of opinion, nativity is the right reading, as she alludes to her sons.
Line 484. In this play we find more intricacy of plot than distinction of character; and our attention is less forcibly engaged, because we can guess in great measure how it will conclude. Yet the poet seems unwilling to part with his subject, even in the last and unnecessary scene, where the same mistakes are continued, till they have lost the power of affording any entertainment at all.
END OF THE ANNOTATIONS ON THE COMEDY OF ERRORS,