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Balth. O good my lord, tax not so bad a voice
D. Pedro. It is the witness still of excellency,
Balth. Because you talk of wooing, I will sing:
Nay, pray thee, come:
Note this before my notes,
D. Pedro. Why these are very crotchets that he speaks; Note, notes, forsooth, and noting!1
[Musick. Bene. Now, Divine air! now is his soul ravish'd! Is it not strange, that sheeps' guts should hale souls out of men's bodies ?-Well, a horn for my money, when all's done.
Balth. Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more,2
Men were deceivers ever ;
To one thing constant never :
8 with musick.] I am not sure that this stage-direction (taken from the quarto, 1600) is proper. Balthazar might have been designed at once for a vocal and an instrumental performer. Shakspeare's orchestra was hardly numerous; and the first folio, instead of Balthazar, only gives us Jacke Wilson, the name of the actor who represented him. Steevens.
9 Gome, Balthazar, we'll hear that song again.] Balthazar, the musician and servant of Don Pedro, was perilaps thus named from the celebrated Baltazarini, called De Beaujoyeux, an Italian performer on the violin, who was in the highest fame and favour at the court of Henry II, of France, 1577. Burney.
and noting!] The old copies—nothing. The correction was made by Mr. Theobald. Malone. 2 Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more,] • Weep no more, woful shepherds, weep no more.
Milton's Lycidas. Steevens.
Then sigh not 80,
But let them go,
sounds of woe Into, Hey nonny, nonny.
Sing no more ditties, sing no mo
Of dumps so dull and heavy ;
Then sigh not so, &c.
D. Pedro. Ha? no; no, faith; thou sing'st well enough for a shift.
Bene. [Aside] An he had been a dog, that should have howlid thus, they would have hang'd him: and, I pray God, his bad voice bode no mischief! I had as lief have heard the night-raven, 3 come what plague could have come after it.
D. Pedro. Yea, marry: [T. CLAUD.]—Dost thou hear, Balthazar? I pray thee, get us some excellent musick; for to-morrow night we would have it at the lady Hero's chamber-window.
Balth. The best I can, my lord.
D. Pedro. Do so: farewel. [Exeunt Balth. and mu. sick] Come hither, Leonato: What was it you
told me of to-day? that your niece Beatrice was in love with signior Benedick?
Claud. O, ay:-Stalk on, stalk on; the fowl sits. 4
- I pray God, his bad voice bode no mischief! I had as lief have heard the night-raven,] i. e. the owl; vuutixóps. So, in King Henry VI, P. III, Act V, sc. vi:
“ The night-crow cried, aboding luckless time.” Steevens, Thus alsa, Milton, in L'Allegro:
“And the night-raven sings.” Douce.
- Stalk stalk on; the fowl sits.] This is an allusion to the stalking-horse; a horse either real or factitious, by which the fowler anciently sheltered himself from the sight of the game. So, in The Honest Lawyer, 1616:
Lye there, thou happy warranted case
[Aside to Pedro) I did never think that lady would have loved any man.
Leon. No, nor I neither; but most wonderful, that she should so dote on signior Benedick, whom she hath in all outward behaviours seem'd ever to abhor. Bene. Is 't possible? Sits the wind in that corner?
[Aside. Leon. By my troth, my lord, I cannot tell what to think of it; but that she loves him with an enraged affection,—it is past the infinite of thought.5
Again, in the 25th Song of Drayton's Polyolbion:
“One underneath his horse to get a shoot doth stalk.” Again, in his Muses' Elysium: “ Then underneath my horse, I stalk my game to strike.”
Steevens. Again, in New Shreds of the Old Snare, by John Gee, quarto, p. 23: “— Methinks I behold the cunning fowler, such as I have knowne in the fenne countries and els-where, that doe shoot at woodcockes, snipes, and wilde fowle, by sneaking behind a painted cloth which they carrey before them, having pictured in it the shape of a horse; which while the silly fowle gazeth on, it is knockt downe with hale shot, and so put in the fowler's budget.” Reed.
A stalking-bull, with a cloth thrown over him, was sometimes used for deceiving the game; as may be seen from a very elegant cut in Loniceri Venatus et Aucupium. Francofurti, 1582, 4to. and from a print by F. Valeggio, with the motto
“Veste boves operit, dum sturnos fallit edaces.” Douce.
but that she loves him with an enraged affection,-it is past the infinite of thought.] It is impossible to make sense and grammar of this speech. And the reason is, that the two beginnings of two different sentences are jumbled together and made one, For—but that she loves him with an enraged affection, is only part of a sentence, which should conclude thus,-is most certain. But a new idea striking the speaker, he leaves his sentence un. finished, and turns to another,-- It is past the infinite of thought,which is likewise left unfinished; for it should conclude thusto say how great that affection is. Those broken disjointed sen, tences are usual in conversation. However, there is one word wrong, which yet perplexes the sense; and that is infinite. Human thought cannot surely be called infinite with any kind of figu. rative propriety. I suppose the true reading was definite. This makes the passage intelligible. It is past the definite of thought, -i. e. it cannot be defined or conceived how great that affection is. Shakspeare uses the word again in the same sense in Cymbeline :
“ For ideots, in this case of favour, would
“ Be wisely definite.”. i. e. could tell how to pronounce or determine in the case.
D. Pedro. May be, she doth but counterfeit.
Leon. O God! counterfeit! There never was counterfeit of passion came so near the life of passion, as she discovers it.
D. Pedro. Why, what effects of passion shows she? Claud. Bait the hook well; this fish will bite. [Aside.
Leon. What effects, my lord! She will sit you,—You heard my daughter tell you how.
Claud. She did, indeed.
D. Pedro. How, how, I pray you? You amaze me: I would have thought her spirit had been invincible against all assaults of affection.
Leon. I would have sworn it had, my lord; especially against Benedick.
Bene. [Aside] I should think this a gull, but that the white-bearded fellow speaks it: knavery cannot, sure, hide himself in such reverence.
Claud. He hath ta'en the infection; hold it up. [Aside.
D. Pedro. Hath she made her affection known to Benedick?
Leon. No; and swears she never will: that 's her torment.
Claud. 'Tis true, indeed; so your daughter says: Shall 1, says she, that have 80 oft encounter'd him with scorn, write to him that I love him?
Leon. This says she now when she is beginning to write to him: for she 'll be up twenty times a night; and there will she sit in her smock, till she have writ a sheet of paper:6--my daughter tells us all.
Here are difficulties raised only to show how easily they can be removed. The plain sense is, I know not what to think otherwise, but that she loves him with an enraged affection: It (this affection) is past the infinite of thought. Here are no abrupt stops, or imperfect sentences. Infinite may well enough stand; it is used by more careful writers for indefinite : and the speaker only means, that thought, though in itself unbounded, cannot reach or estimate the degree of her passion. Johnson.
The meaning I think, is,-but with what an enraged affection she loves him, it is beyond the power of thought to conceive. Malone. Shakspeare has a similar expression in King John: • Beyond the infinite and boundless reach
Steevens. 6 This says she now when she is beginning to write to him: for
Claud. Now you talk of a sheet of paper, I remember a pretty jest your daughter told us of.
Leon. 0-When she had writ it, and was reading it over, she found Benedick and Beatrice between the sheet?
Leon. O! she tore the letter into a thousand halfpense;7 rail'd at herself, that she should be so immodest to write to one that she knew would flout her: I measure him, says she, by my own spirit; for I should flout him, if he writ to me; yea, though I love him, I should.
Claud. Then down upon her knees she falls, weeps,
she'll be up twenty times a night; and there will she sit in her smock, till she have writ a sheet of paper :] Shakspeare has more than once availed himself of such incidents as occurred to him from history, &c. to compliment the princes before whom his pieces were performed. A striking instance of flattery to James occurs in Macbeth; perhaps the passage here quoted was not less grateful to Elizabeth, as it apparently alludes to an extraordinary trait in one of the letters pretended to have been written by the hated Mary to Bothwell :
“ I am nakit, and ganging to sleep, and zit I cease not to scribble all this paper, in so meikle as rest is thairof.” That is, I am naked, and going to sleep, and yet I cease not to scribble to the end of my paper, much as there remains of it unwritten on. Henley.
Mr. Henley's observation must fall to the ground; the word in every edition of Mary's letter which Shakspeare could possibly have seen, being irkit, not nakit. “ I am irkit” means, I am uneasy. So, in As you Like it :
“ And yet it irks me, the poor dappled fools,” &c. Again, in K. Henry VI:
“ It irks his heart he cannot be reveng’d.” Steevens. 70! she tore the letter into a thousand halfpense;] i. e. into a thousand pieces of the same bigness. So, in As you Like it : “they were all like one another, as halfpense are. Theobald.
A farthing, and perhaps a halfpenny, was used to signify any small particle or division. So, in the character of the Prioress in Chaucer:
“ 'That in hire cuppe was no ferthing sene
Prol. to the Cant. Tales, Tyrwhitt's edit. v. 135. Steedens. See Mortimeriados, by Michael Drayton, 4to. 1596:
“She now begins to write unto her lover,