ePub 版

Why, cousin, wert thou regent of the world,
It were a shame, to let this land by lease:
But, for thy world, enjoying but this land,
Is it not more than shame, to shame it so ?
Landlord of England art thou now, not king:
Thy state of law is bondslave to the law1;
And thou-———

[ocr errors]


So, in The Comedy of Errors :- Both man and master is possess'd. STEEvens. Thy STATE OF LAW is bondslave to the law;] "State of law," i. e. legal sovereignty. But the Oxford editor alters it to “state o'er law,” i. e. absolute sovereignty. A doctrine, which, if ever our poet learnt at all, he learnt not in the reign when this play was written, Queen Elizabeth's, but in the reign after it, King James's. By "bondslave to the law," the poet means his being inslaved to his favourite subjects. WARBURton.

This sentiment, whatever it be, is obscurely expressed. I understand it differently from the learned commentator, being perhaps not quite so zealous for Shakspeare's political reputation. The reasoning of Gaunt, I think, is this: "By setting the royalties to farm thou hast reduced thyself to a state below sovereignty, thou art now no longer king but landlord of England, subject to the same restraint and limitations as other landlords: by making thy condition a state of law, a condition upon which the common rules of law can operate, thou art become a bondslave to the law; thou hast made thyself amenable to laws from which thou wert originally exempt."

Whether this explanation be true or no, it is plain that Dr. Warburton's explanation of "bondslave to the law," is not true. JOHNSON.

Warburton's explanation of this passage is too absurd to require confutation; and his political observation is equally ill-founded. The doctrine of absolute sovereignty might as well have been learned in the reign of Elizabeth, as in that of her successor. She was, in fact, as absolute as he wished to be.

Johnson's explanation is in general just; but I think that the words, of law, must mean, by law, or according to law, as we say, of course, and of right, instead of by right, or by course. -Gaunt's reasoning is this-" Having let your kingdom by lease, you are no longer the king of England, but the landlord only; and your state is by law, subject to the law." M. MASON.

Mr. Heath explains the words "state of law," somewhat dif ferently: "Thy royal estate is now, in virtue of thy having leased it out, subjected," &c.


Presuming on an ague's privilege,
Dar'st with thy frozen admonition

[ocr errors]

Make pale cur cheek; chasing the royal blood,
With fury, from his native residence.
Now by my seat's right royal majesty,
Wert thou not brother to great Edward's son,
This tongue that runs so roundly in thy head,
Should run thy head from thy unreverend shoul-

a lunatick lean-witted fool 3,


GAUNT. O, spare me not, my brother Edward's


For that I was his father Edward's son ;
That blood already, like the pelican,
Hast thou tapp'd out, and drunkenly carous'd:
My brother Gloster, plain well-meaning soul,
(Whom fair befal in heaven 'mongst happy souls!)
May be a precedent and witness good,

[ocr errors]


"Thy state of law," may be briefly interpreted "thy legal state; "that rank in the state and these large demesnes which the constitution has allotted to thee, are now bond-slave to the law; being subject to the same legal restrictions as every ordinary pelting farm that has been let on lease. MALONE.

3 Gaunt. And thou——

[ocr errors]

K. Rich. a lunatick LEAN-WITTED fool,] In the disposition of these lines I had followed the folio, in giving the word thou to the king; but the regulation of the first quarto, 1597, is perhaps preferable, being more in our poet's manner:

"Gaunt. And thou

"K. Rich.

a lunatick, lean-witted fool."

And thou a mere cypher in thy own kingdom, Gaunt was going to say. Richard interrupts him, and takes the word thou in a different sense, applying it to Gaunt, instead of himself. Of this kind of retort there are various instances in these plays.

The folio repeats the word And :

"Gaunt. And

[ocr errors]

"K. Rich. And thou," &c.


lean-witted-" Dr. Farmer observes to me that the same expression occurs in the 106th Psalm :

and sent leanness withal into their soul."


That thou respect'st not spilling Edward's blood:
Join with the present sickness that I have;
And thy unkindness be like crooked age,
To crop at once a too-long wither'd flower 1.

4 And thy unkindness be like CROOKED AGE,

To crop at once a too-long wither'd flower.] Thus stand these lines in all the copies, but I think there is an error. Why should Gaunt, already old, call on any thing like age to end him? How can age be said to crop at once? How is the idea of crookedness connected with that of cropping? I suppose the poet dictated


"And thy unkindness be time's crooked edge
"To crop at once ———.”


That is, let thy unkindness be time's scythe to crop.'

Edge was easily confounded by the ear with age, and one mistake once admitted made way for another. JOHNSON.

Shakspeare, I believe, took this idea from the figure of Time, who was represented as carrying a sickle as well as a scythe. A sickle was anciently called a crook, and sometimes, as in the following instances, crooked may mean armed with a crook. So, in Kendall's Epigrams, 1577:

"The regall king and crooked clowne "All one alike death driveth downe." Again, in the 100th Sonnet of Shakspeare:

"Give my love, fame, faster than time wastes life, "So thou prevent'st his scythe and crooked knife." Again, in the 119th:

"Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
"Within his bending sickle's compass come."

It may be mentioned, however, that crooked is an epithet bestowed on age in the tragedy of Locrine, 1595:

"Now yield to death o'erlaid by crooked age."

Locrine has been attributed to Shakspeare; and in this passage quoted from it, no allusion to a scythe can be supposed. Our poet's expressions are sometimes confused and abortive.


I do not believe that our author had the figure of Time in his thoughts; but merely gave to age the same epithet which is given to it by many of his contemporaries and predecessors. So, in A Flourish upon Fancie, by N. B. [Nicholas Breton,] 1577 :



Who, when that he awhile hath bin in fancies schoole, "Doth learne in his old crooked age to play the doting foole." Again, in Sylvester's translation of Dubartus, 4to, 1605, p. 251:


Live in thy shame, but die not shame with thee!These words hereafter thy tormentors be!Convey me to my bed, then to my grave: Love they to live, that love and honour have. [Exit, borne out by his Attendants. K. RICH. And let them die, that age and sullens have;

For both hast thou, and both become the grave. YORK. I do beseech your majesty, impute his words

To wayward sickliness and age in him:

He loves you, on my life, and holds you dear
As Harry duke of Hereford, were he here.

K. RICH. Right; you say true: as Hereford's love, so his :

As theirs, so mine; and all be as it is.


NORTH. My liege, old Gaunt commends him to your majesty.

"Fathers, if you desire your children


"Should by their blessings blesse your crooked age." Again, in Tuberville's Songs and Sonets, 8vo. 1567: "Would death would spare to spoyle,


"And crooked age to rase,

(As they are wont by course of kinde)
"P's beautie in this case." MALONE.

Shakspeare had probably two different but kindred ideas in his mind; the bend of age, and the sickle of time, which he confounded together. M. MASON.


5 Love they] That is, let them love.' JOHNSON.

6 'Beseech your majesty,] The old copies redundantly read"I do beseech," &c.

Mr. Ritson would regulate the passage differently (and perhaps rightly,) by omitting the words-in him:

"I do beseech your majesty, impute

"His words to wayward sickliness and age." STEEVENS. 7 Northumberland.] Was Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland. WALPOLE,


K. RICH. What says he ?

NORTH. Nay, nothing; all is said: His tongue is now a stringless instrument; Words, life, and all, old Lancaster hath spent. YORK. Be York the next that must be bankrupt so!

Though death be poor, it ends a mortal woe.
K. RICH. The ripest fruit first falls, and so doth

His time is spent, our pilgrimage must be 9:
So much for that.-Now for our Irish wars:
We must supplant those rough rug-headed kerns;
Which live like venom, where no venom else',
But only they, hath privilege to live.

And for these great affairs do ask some charge,
Towards our assistance, we do seize to us
The plate, coin, revenues, and moveables,
Whereof our uncle Gaunt did stand possess❜d.

YORK. How long shall I be patient? Ah, how long

Shall tender duty make me suffer wrong?
Not Gloster's death, nor Hereford's banishment,

8 What says he Now?] I have supplied the adverb-now, (which is wanting in the old copy,) to complete the measure.


Of these short addresses in prose, in the midst of a metrical dialogue, we have numberless instances in Shakspeare, particularly in this very play. MALONE.

9- our pilgrimage must be:] That is, our pilgrimage is yet to come.' M. MASON.


where no venom else,] This alludes to a tradition that St. Patrick freed the kingdom of Ireland from venomous reptiles of every kind. So, in Decker's Honest Whore, P. II. 1630:


that Irish Judas,

"Bred in a country where no venom prospers,
"But in his blood."

Again, in Fuimus Troes, 1633 :

"As Irish earth doth poison poisonous beasts." See also, Thomas Lupton's Fourth Book of Notable Things, 4to. bl. 1. STEEVENS.

« 上一頁繼續 »