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Bast. Because he hath a half-face, like my
father ; With that half-face would he have all my land : A half-faced groat five hundred pound a year ! Rob. My gracious liege, when that my father
liv'd, Your brother did employ my father much ;Bast. Well, sir, by this you cannot get my
land; Your tale must be, how he employ'd my mother.
Rob. And once despatch'd him in an embassy
3 With that HALF-FACE-] The old copy—with half that face. But why with half that face? There is no question but the poet wrote, as I have restored the text: “With that half-face-, Mr. Pope, perhaps, will be angry with me for discovering an anachronism of our poet's in the next line, where he alludes to a coin not struck till the year 1504, in the reign of King Henry VII. viz. a groat, which, as well as the half groat, bore but half faces impressed. Vide Stowe's Survey of London, p. 47, Holinshed, Camden’s remains, &c. The poet sneers at the meagre sharp visage of the elder brother, by comparing him to a silver groat that bore the king's face in profile, so showed but half the face: the groats of all our Kings of England, and indeed all their other coins of silver, one or two only excepted, had a full face crowned ; till Henry VII. at the time above mentioned, coined groats and halfgroats, as also some shillings with half faces, i. e. faces in profile, as all our coin has now. The first groats of King Henry VIII. were like those of his father; though afterwards he returned to the broad faces again. These groats with the impression in profile, are undoubtedly here alluded to: though as I said, the poet is knowingly guilty of an anachronism in it: for in the time of King John, there were no groats at all; they being first, as far as appears, coined in the reign of King Edward III. THEOBALD.
The same contemptuous allusion occurs in The Downfall of Robert Earl of Huntington, 1601 :
“You half-fac'd groat, you thick-cheek'd chitty-face." Again, in Histriomastix, 1610 :
“Whilst I behold yon half-fac'd minion." STEEVENS.
Where how he did prevail, I shame to speak :
K. John. Sirrah, your brother is legitimate;
large lengths of seas and shores Between my father and my mother lay,] This is Homeric, and is thus rendered by Chapman in the first Iliad :
hills enow, and farre-resounding seas
Innumeri montes inter me teque, viæque
TOOK IT, on his death,] i. e, entertained it as his fixed opinion, when he was dying. So, in Hamlet :
this, I take it, “ Is the main motive of our preparation." STEEVENS. 6 -- your father might have kept
This CALF, bred from his cow, from all the world ;] The decision of King John coincides with that of Menie, the Indian lawgiver : “ Should a bull beget a hundred calves on cows not owned by his master, those calves belong solely to the proprietors of the cows." See The Hindu Laws, &c. translated by Sir W. Jones, London edit. p. 251. Steevens.
My brother might not claim him; nor your father,
Rob. Shall then my father's will be of no force, To dispossess that child which is not his ?
Bast. Of no more force to dispossess me, sir,
Bast. Madam, an if my brother had my shape, And I had his, sir Robert his, like him ';
7 This concludes,] This is a decisive argument. As your father, if he liked him, could not have been forced to resign him, so, not liking him, he is not at liberty to reject him. Johnson.
8 Lord of the presence, and no land beside ?] Lord of thy presence can signify only master of thyself, and it is a strange expression to signify even that. However, that he might be, without parting with his land. We should read — Lord of the presence, i. e. prince of the blood. WARBURTON.
“ Lord of thy presence, and no land beside ?” Lord of thy presence means, - master of that dignity and grandeur of appearance that may sufficiently distinguish thee from the vulgar, without the help of fortune.'
Lord of his presence apparently signifies, great in his own person,' and is used in this sense by King John in one of the following scenes. Johnson.
9 And I had his, sir Robert his, like him;] This is obscure and ill expressed. The meaning is—' If I had his shape, sir Robert's—as he has.'
Sir Robert his, for Sir Robert's, is agreeable to the practice of that time, when the 's added to the nominative was believed, I think erroneously, to be a contraction of his. So, Donne:
Who now lives to age, “ Fit to be called Methusalem, his page?” Johnson. This ought to be printed :
- sir Robert his, like him.” His, according to a mistaken notion formerly received, being the
And if my legs were two such riding-rods,
sign of the genitive case. As the text before stood there was a double genitive. MALONE.
my face so thin,
Lest men should say, Look, where THREE-FARTHINGS goes !] In this very obscure passage our poet is anticipating the date of another coin; humorously to rally a thin face, eclipsed, as it were, by a full blown rose. We must observe, to explain this allusion, that Queen Elizabeth was the first, and indeed the only prince, who coined in England three-half-pence, and three-farthing pieces. She coined shillings, six-pences, groats, three-pences, two-pences, three-half-pence, pence, three-farthings, and half-pence; and these pieces all had her head, and were alternately with the rose behind, and without the rose.
THEOBALD. Mr. Theobald has not mentioned a material circumstance relative to these three-farthing pieces, on which the propriety of the allusion in some measure depends ; viz. that they were made of silver, and consequently extremely thin. From their thinness they were very liable to be cracked. Hence Ben Jonson, in his Every Man in his Humour, says, “He values me at a cracked three-farthings." Malone.
So, in The Shoemaker's Holiday, &c. 1610 :
“ Firk. 'Tis but three-half-pence I think : yes, 'tis threepence; I smell the rose.”
Steevens. The sticking roses about them was then all the court-fashion, as appears from this passage of the Confession Catholique du S. de Sancy, 1. ii. c. i. : “ Je luy ay appris à mettre des roses par tous les coins:" i. in every place about him," says the speaker, of one to whom he had taught all the court-fashions.
WARBURTON. The roses stuck in the ear were, I believe, only roses composed of ribbands. In Marston's What You Will is the following passage : Dupatzo the elder brother, the fool, he that bought the half-penny ribband, wearing it in his ear," &c. Again, in Every Man out of his Humour : - This ribband in my ear, or so." Again, in Love and Honour, by Sir W. D'Avenant, 1649:
“A lock on the left side, so rarely hung
“ With ribbanding,” &c. I think I remember, among Vandyck's pictures in the Duke of
And, to his shape, were heir to all this land?,
Queensbury's collection at Ambrosbury, to have seen one, with the lock nearest the ear ornamented with ribbands which terminate in roses ; and Burton, in his Anatomy of Melancholy, says, “ that it was once the fashion to stick real flowers in the ear.”
At Kirtling, (vulgarly pronounced-Catlage,) in Cambridgeshire, the magnificent residence of the first Lord North, there is a juvenile portrait, (supposed to be of Queen Elizabeth,) with a red rose sticking in her ear.” Steevens.
Marston, in his Satires, 1598, alludes to this fashion as fantastical :
“ Ribbanded eares, Grenada nether-stocks.” And from the epigrams of Sir John Davies, printed at. Middleburgh, about 1598, it appears that some men of gallantry, in our author's time, suffered their ears to be bored, and wore their mistress's silken shoe-strings in them. MALONE.
2 And, to his shape, WERE heir to all this land,] There is no noun to which were can belong, unless the personal pronoun in the last line but one be understood here. I suspect that our author wrote
“ And though his shape were heir to all his land.” Thus the sentence proceeds in one uniform tenour.
“ Madam, an if my brother had my shape, and I had his—and if my legs were, &c.—and though his shape were heir, &ç, I would give."
MALONE. The old reading is the true one. “ To his shape” means, 'in addition to it.' So, in Troilus and Cressida :
“ The Greeks are strong, and skilful to their strength,
“ Fierce to their skill, and to their fierceness valiant." Mr. M. Mason, however, would transpose the words his and this :
** And to this shape were heir to all his land.” By this shape, says he, Faulconbridge means, the shape he had been just describing. STEVENS.
3 I would not be sir Nob-] Sir Nob is used contemptuously for Sir Robert. The old copy reads—" It would not be --” The correction was made by the editor of the second folio. I am not sure that it is necessary. Malone. VOL, XV.