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ACT III. SCENE I.
The French King's Tent.
Enter Constance, Arthur, and Salisbury. Const. Gone to be married ! gone to swear a
peace! False blood to false blood join'd! Gone to be
friends! Shall Lewis have Blanch ? and Blanch those pro
vinces ? It is not so; thou hast misspoke, misheard; Be well advis'd, tell o'er thy tale again : It cannot be; thou dost but say, 'tis so: I trust, I may not trust thee; for thy word Is but the vain breath of a common man : Believe me, I do not believe thee, man; I have a king's oath to the contrary. Thou shalt be punish'd for thus frighting me, For I am sick, and capable of fears'; Oppress'd with wrongs, and therefore full of fears ; A widow 6, husbandless, subject to fears; A woman, naturally born to fear3; And though thou now confess, thou didst but jest,
speech of Lady Constance, in the next scene, at the conclusion of which she throws herself on the ground. The present division, which was made by Mr. Theobald, and has been adopted by the subsequent editors, is certainly right. MALONE.
See Mr. Theobald's note, p. 265. Steevens.
5 For I am sick, and capable of fears ;] i. e. I have a strong sensibility; I am tremblingly alive to apprehension. So, in Hamlet :
“ His form and cause conjoin'd, preaching to stones,
“ Would make them capable." MALONE. 6 A widow,] This was not the fact. Constance was at this time married to a third husband, Guido, brother to the Viscount of Touars. She had been divorced from her second husband, Ranulph, Earl of Chester. Malone.
With my vex'd spirits I cannot take a truce,
Sal. As true, as, I believe, you think them false, That give you cause to prove my saying true. Const. O, if thou teach me to believe this sor
row, Teach thou this sorrow how to make me die And let belief and life encounter so, As doth the fury of two desperate men, Which, in the very meeting, fall, and die.Lewis marry Blanch! O, boy, then where art thou? France friend with England! what becomes of
me? Fellow, be gone; I cannot brook thy sight; This news hath made thee a most ugly man.
SAL. What other harm have I, good lady, done, But spoke the harm that is by others done?
Const. Which harm within itself so heinous is, As it makes harmful all that speak of it.
7 Like a proud river peering o'er his bounds ?] This seems to have been imitated by Marston, in his Insatiate Countess, 1603 :
“ Then how much more in me, whose youthful veins,
MALONE. 8 Be these SAD SIGNS-) The sad signs are, the shaking of his head, the laying his hand on his breast, &c. We have again the same words in our author's Venus and Adonis :
“ So she, at these sad signs exclaims on death." Mr. Pope and the subsequent editors read-Be these sad sighs &c. MALONE.
Arth. I do beseech, you, madam, be content. Const. If thou', that bid'st me be content, wert
grim, Ugly, and sland'rous to thy mother's womb, Full of unpleasing blots, and sightless stains, Lame, foolish, crooked, swart", prodigious *, Patch'd with foul moles, and eye-offending marks, I would not care, I then would be content; For then I should not love thee; no, nor thou Become thy great birth, nor deserve a crown.
9 If thou, &c.] Massinger appears to have copied this passage in The Unnatural Combat:
-If thou hadst been born
Thy body, as the manners of thy mind;
“ I had been blest.” STEEVENS.
Full of unpleasing blots,] So, in our author's Rape of Lucrece, 1594 :
“ The blemish that will never be forgot,
MALONE, sightless - ] The poet uses sightless for that which we now express by unsightly, disagreeable to the eyes. Johnson.
swart,] Swart is brown, inclining to black. So, in King Henry VI. Part I. Act I. Sc. II. :
“ And whereas I was black and swart before." Again, in The Comedy of Errors, vol. iv. p. 209 : “ Swart like my shoe, but her face nothing so clean kept."
STEEVENS. 4 - prodigious,] That is, portentous, so deformed as to be taken for a foretoken of evil. Johnson.
In this sense it is used by Decker, in the first part of The Honest Whore, 1604 :
yon comet shews his head again ;
“ Over whose roof hangs this prodigious comet.” Again, in The English Arcadia, by Jarvis Markham, 1607: « 0, yes, I was prodigious to thy birth right, and as a blazing star at thine unlook'd for funeral.” Steevens.
But thou art fair ; and at thy birth, dear boy!
Pardon me, madam,
with thee: I will instruct my sorrows to be proud ; For grief is proud, and makes its owner stoop .
- makes his owner stout.] The old editions have—“ makes its owner stoop.” The emendation is Sir T. Hanmer's.
Johnson. So, in Daniel's Civil Wars, b. vi. : “ Full with stout grief and with disdainful woe."
STEEVENS. Our author has rendered this passage obscure, by indulging himself in one of those conceits in which he too much delights, and by bounding rapidly, with his usual licence, from one idea to another. This obscurity induced Sir T. Hanmer, for stoop, to substitute stout ; a reading that has been too hastily adopted in the subsequent editions.
The confusion arises from the poet's having personified grief in the first part of the passage, and supposing the afflicted person to be bowed to the earth by that pride or haughtiness which Grief, which he personifies, is said to possess; and by making the afflicted person, in the latter part of the passage, actuated by this very pride, and exacting the same kind of obeisance from others, that Grief has exacted from her." I will not go (says
To me, and to the state of my great grief,
Constance) to these kings; I will teach my sorrows to be proud : for Grief is proud, and makes the afflicted stoop ; therefore here I throw myself, and let them come to me.' Here, had she stopped, and thrown herself on the ground, and had nothing more been added, however we might have disapproved of the conceit, we should have had no temptation to disturb the text. But the idea of throwing herself on the ground suggests a new image ; and because her stately grief is so great that nothing but the huge earth can support it, she considers the ground throne; and having thus invested herself with regal dignity, she, as queen in misery, as possessing (like Imogen) " the supreme crown of grief,” calls on the princes of the world to bow down before her, as she has herself been bowed down by afiliction.
Such, I think, was the process that passed in the poet's mind; which appears to me so clearly to explain the text, that I see no reason for departing from it. Malone.
I am really surprized that Mr. Malone should endeavour, by one elaborate argument, to support the old debasing reading. A pride which makes the owners stoop is a kind of pride I have never heard of; and though grief, in a weaker degree, and working in weaker minds, may depress the spirits, despair, such as the haughty Constance felt at this time, must naturally rouse them. This distinction is accurately pointed out by Johnson, in his observations on this passage. M. Mason. 6 To me, and to the state of my great grief,
Let kings assemble;] in Much Ado About Nothing, the father of Hero, depressed by her disgrace, declares himself so subdued by grief, that a thread may lead him. How is it that grief, in Leonato and Lady Constance, produces effects directly opposite, and yet both agreeable to nature ? Sorrow softens the mind while it is yet warmed by hope, but hardens it when it is congealed by despair. Distress, while there remains any prospect of relief, is weak and flexible, but when no succour remains, is fearless and stubborn : angry alike at those that injure, and at those that do not help; careless to please where nothing can be gained, and fearless to offend when there is nothing further to be dreaded. Such was this writer's knowledge of the passions.
Johnson. - here I and SORROWS sit;] Thus the old copy. Perhaps we should read~"Here I and sorrow' sit.” Our author might