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"Let's write good angel on the devil's horn,
Angelo's reasoning is-'O place! O form! though you wrench awe from fools, and tie even wiser souls to your false seeming, yet you make no alteration in the minds or constitutions of those who possess, or assume you. Though we should write good angel on the devil's horn, it will not change his nature, so as to give him a right to wear that crest.' It is well known that the crest was formerly chosen either as emblematical of some quality conspicuous in the person who bore it, or as alluding to some remarkable incident of his life; and on this circumstance depends the allusion.”—M. MASON.
"the ALL-BINDING law"-The old folios have"all-building law." This Collier retains, as "referring to the constructive and repairing power of law." But this has no application to the context, which agrees perfectly with the emendation of " all-binding," which all other editors have concurred in adopting.
"IGNOMY in ransom"-"Ignomy" was a frequent mode of writing ignominy. Davenant, in his alteration of this play, has given the sense of this somewhat obscure allusion in his paraphrase
Ignoble ransom no proportion bears
If not a FEODARY, but only he,
"The word 'this' (instead of thy, as in the old copies) is from an old MS. note in Lord Egerton's first folio. It is probably right; and the meaning of the whole passage seems to be-If we are not all frail, let my brother die, if he alone offend, and have no feodary (companion) in this weakness.' To 'owe' is here, as in many other instances, to own."-COLLIER.
"Feodary" meant, originally, vassal, and is sometimes taken for one who, as a vassal, assists his lord in any matter. The passage is, in any way, dark, and crowded with remote allusions. Nares ("Glossary")
has probably given the right explanation :-" If he is the only one who holds by the common tenure of human frailty, and who 'owes' and 'succeeds by'-(i. e. possesses and succeeds to)—an inheritance of this infirmity."
-SMELL of calumny"-" Your accusation will appear so gross, that it will stifle yourself, and be considered a calumny. Shakespeare has suffered from the love of the literal in his commentators. Stevens informs us that the above is a metaphor from a lamp or candle extinguished in its own grease!' He would have done better, in this way, to have said that it was taken from a cannon stifled in its own report, by the smell of gunpowder. The word 'smell' is, however, used here in a sense common with Shakespeare; as though he had said smacks of calumny."-Illust. Shak.
ACT III.-SCENE I.
"That DOST this habitation"-"Sir T. Hanmer changed 'dost' to do, without necessity or authority. The construction is not, the skyey influences that do,' but, a breath thou art, that dost,' etc. If Servile to all the skyey influences' be enclosed as a parenthesis, all the difficulty will vanish."-PORSON.
-thou art DEATH'S FOOL"-This allegorical imagery is not used in an abstract sense only, for such things were actually represented on the stage, in Shakespeare's time. In some of the pieces called "Moralities," or "Mysteries," a figure of Death, with a large mouth. would appear, and the Clown, or Fool of the piece, ran about in every direction to avoid him, and yet nearly fell into his jaws at almost every turn. In Stowe's
Survey," the initial letter contains a drawing of one of these struggles between Death and the Fool.
nurs'd by BASENESS"-The condensation of thought, in single words and phrases, which is so characteristic of this and all the later dramas of its author, cannot be better shown than by comparing these lines with Johnson's excellent note on them; yet the paraphrase would furnish the material for many a page, in a still more diluted exposition of the same humbling truth:
"A minute analysis of life at once destroys that splen dour which dazzles the imagination. Whatever gran deur can display, or luxury enjoy, is procured by 'baseness'-by offices of which the mind shrinks from the contemplation. All the delicacies of the table may be traced back to the shambles and the dunghill; all magnificence of building was hewn from the quarry; and all the pomp of ornament dug from among the damps and darkness of the mine."-JOHNSON.
"a poor WORM"-" Worm" is put for any creeping thing, or serpent. Shakespeare adopts the old notion, that a serpent wounds with his tongue, and that his tongue is forked. In old tapestry and paintings, the tongues of serpents and dragons always appear barbed, like the point of an arrow.
death, which is no more"-Johnson is indignant at this passage, as teaching that "death" is only sleep"a sentence which in the friar is impious, in the reasoner foolish, in the poet trite and vulgar." Surely the Poet is here misunderstood. The friar does not speak of the " something after death," but of the transit from life, which he compares to that into sleep. The great hereafter is a subject the Poet is not wont to treat with levity. Provok'st, in this passage, is another instance of his peculiar use of words of Latin derivation, employing them in their original sense, and not in the derivative one in more common use. Provoke is not to irritate, but to solicit, to invite.
- palsied ELD"-i. e. Old age, or old people. "—an everlasting LEIGER"-A "leiger" was a permanently resident ambassador. This is best explained by Lord Bacon:-"Leiger ambassadors, or agents, were sent to remain in or near the courts of those
princes, or states, to observe their motions, or to hold correspondence with them." The same association of ideas is carried forward in the word appointment, which Stevens explains as preparation for death. But the word especially belongs to an ambassador, as we find in Burnet:-" He had the appointments of an ambassador, but would not take the character."
"all the world's VASTIDITY"-i. e. Though you were the possessor of the vast world, the terms proposed will fetter you to a fixed limit.
"the poor beetle, that we tread upon"-These lines, taken apart from the context, would indicate that the bodily pain, such as is attended with death, is felt with equal severity by a giant and a beetle. The physiologists tell us that this is not true; and that the nervous system of a beetle does not allow it to feel pain so acutely as that of a man. We hope this is correct; but we are not sure that Shakespeare meant to refine quite so much as the entomologists are desirous to believe. "It is somewhat amusing, (says a writer in the Entomological Magazine,') that his words should, in this case, be entirely wrested from their original purpose. His purpose was to show how little a man feels in dy ing; that the sense of death is most in apprehension, not in the act; and that even a beetle, which feels so little, feels as much as a giant does. The less, therefore, the beetle is supposed to feel, the more force we give to the sentiment of Shakespeare."
-follies doth EMMEW"-Angelo makes follies mew up, or hide themselves; as the falcon compels the fowl to conceal himself. "Emmew" was a term in falconryto coop up.
The PRECISE Angelo"-The first folio has, "the prenzie Angelo" and the second substituted princely for prenzie. The word occurs again three lines lower, where Isabella talks of "prenzie guards." Warburton would read priestly in both places, and Tieck suggests precise; which last, strange as it may be that a critic, who has learned English as a foreign language, should have hit what so many ingenious Englishmen had missed, bears in itself strong presumption of being the true reading. We agree with Knight, that, "having to choose some word which would have the double merit of agreeing with the sense of the passage and being similar in the number and form of the letters, nothing can be more unfortunate than the correction of princely. Warburton's priestly is much nearer the meaning intended to be conveyed. Tieck's precise has a much closer resemblance to prenzie than either of the others
(Prenzie; precise; princelie; priestlie.)
Angelo has already been called precise; and the term, so familiar to Shakespeare's contemporaries, of precisian, for puritan, and precise in reference to strictness of morals and manners, would make Claudio's epithet appropriate and intelligible. Princely guards (understanding by guards the trimmings of a robe) certainly does not give us the meaning of the Poet: it only says, the worst man may wear a rich robe. Priestly is here again much better. But precise guards distinctly gives us the formal trimmings of the scholastic robe, to which Milton alludes in Comus:'
"And blown with restless violence round about The pendent world," etc.
This idea does not belong to any form of Christian doctrine or opinion, but comes from the ancient philosophy, taught by Cicero in his "Somnium Scipionis:""Eorum animi qui se corporis voluptatibus dediderunt, corporibus elapsi circum terram ipsam volutantur," etc. The metrical harmony of the spheres, so beautifully introduced in the MERCHANT OF VENICE, (act v. scene 1.,) is also one of the topics of Cicero, in this same philosophical fragment; so that it is probable that the Poet may have drawn that, as well as this poetic notion of the old philosophy, from the same source. If it is not allowed that he could read the original, yet he might have read Newton's translation, which was " turned into English" in 1577.
"-age, ache, PENURY"-The oldest copy has perjury. It was corrected in the second folio. In a previous line it has thought for "thoughts."
"What sin you do to save a brother's life,
Nature dispenses with the deed so far,” etc. "One of the most dramatic passages in the present play, (says Hazlitt, in his Characters of Shakespeare's Plays,') is the interview between Claudio and his sister, when she comes to inform him of the conditions on which Angelo will spare his life. What adds to the dramatic beauty of the scene, and the effect of Claudio's passionate attachment to life, is that it immediately follows the Duke's lecture to him, in the character of the Friar, recommending an absolute indifference to it." The attempt of Claudio to prove to his sister that the loss of her chastity, upon such an occasion, will be a virtue, is finely characteristic of the profound knowledge Shakespeare possessed of the intricate complexities of the human heart. "Shakespeare was, in one sense, the least moral of all writers, (says Hazlitt;) for morality (commonly so called) is made up of antipathies; and his talent consisted in sympathy with human nature, in all its shapes, degrees, depressions, and elevations. The object of the pedantic moralist is to find out the bad in every thing: his was to show that there is some soul of goodness in things evil.'" With reference to the representation of such scenes on the stage, Schlegel observes:-"It is certainly to be wished that decency should be observed on all public occasions, and consequently also on the stage; but even in this it is possible to go too far. That censorious spirit, which scents out impurity in every sally of a bold and vivacious description, is at best but an ambiguous criterion of purity of morals; and there is frequently concealed under this hypocrisy the consciousness of an impure imagination. The determination to tolerate nothing which has the least reference to the sensual relation between the two sexes may be carried to a pitch extremely oppressive to a dramatic poet, and injurious to the boldness and freedom of his composition. If considerations of such a nature were to be attended to, many of the happiest parts of the plays of Shakespeare, for example, in MEASURE FOR MEASURE, and ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL, which are handled with a due regard to decency, must be set aside for their impropriety.'
-a WARPED slip of WILDERNESS"-i. e. Wildness-a wild "slip," not proceeding from the grafted stock. Beaumont and Fletcher, Decker, and Milton, use "wilderness" in the same sense.
- the goodness that is cheap in beauty"-The quaint brevity of the sentence makes it obscure. He says "The goodness which, when associated with beauty, is held cheap, does not remain long so associated: but grace, being the very life of your features, must continue to preserve their beauty."
" he made trial of you only"-i. e. He will avoid your accusation by alleging that "he made trial of you only."
-COMBINATE husband"-i. e. Contracted husband
"DETECTED for women"-The use of this word, in the various extracts from old authors, collected by the commentators, show that its old meaning was (not suspected, as some of them say, but) charged, arraigned, accused. Thus, in Greenway's Tacitus," (1622,) the Roman senators, who informed against their kindred, are said "to have detected the dearest of their kindred.” "-in her CLACK-DISH"-"A wooden dish, with a moveable cover, formerly carried by beggars, which they clacked and clattered to show that they were empty. In this they received the alms. It was one mode of attracting attention. Lepers, and other paupers deemed infectious, originally used that the sound might give warning not to approach too near, and alms be given without touching the object. The custom of clacking at Easter is not yet quite disused, in some of the counties in England. Lucio's meaning is too evident to want explanation."-SINGER.
"-weed my vice, and let his grow"-Some commentators make this refer to the Duke's personal fault, which he confesses-"'twas my fault to give this people scope." I rather think most readers will agree with Malone, that "My does not relate to the Duke in particular, but to any indefinite person. The meaning seems to be, to destroy by extirpation (as it is expressed in another place) a fault that I have committed, and to suffer his own vices to grow to a rank and luxuriant height. The speaker puts himself in the case of an unoffending person.”
"Most pond'rous and substantial things"-I believe, with several of the best critics, that this passage, probably originally obscure from brevity of expression, has become more so from some misprint, the correction of which has not been discovered. "Likeness (says Collier) has been construed comeliness; but likeness made in crimes may refer to the resemblance, in vicious inclination, between Angelo and Claudio." Stevens gave up the lines as unintelligible, and the other commentators have not extracted much meaning out of them. We have printed the old text, as at least as good as any of the proposed emendations. The sense seems to be'How may persons, of similar criminality, by making practice on the times, draw to themselves, as it were with spiders' webs, the ponderous and substantial benefits of the world."
ACT IV.-SCENE 1.
"Take, O! take those lips away"-The earliest authority for assigning this song to Shakespeare, (excepting that one stanza of it is found here,) is the spurious edition of his Poems," printed in 1640. It is inserted in Beaumont and Fletcher's "Bloody Brother," (act v. scene 2,) with a second stanza, as follows:
Hide, O! hide those hills of snow, Which thy frozen bosom bears, On whose tops the pinks that grow Are of those that April wears; But first set my poor heart free, Bound in those icy chains by thee.
Critics differ as to the authorship. Coupling the two circumstances that one stanza of the song is found here, and that the whole was imputed to Shakespeare in 1640, his claim may be admitted, until better evidence is adduced to deprive him of it; unless, indeed, we admit Weber's very probable conjecture, that this stanza is Shakespeare's, and that Fletcher, having occasion for a similar song, borrowed the first, and added the second
"a PLANCHED gate"-i. e. A gate made of boards: (from the French planche.)
"There, have I made my promise, upon the Heavy middle of the night to call upon him."
I have here, like Knight, preferred retaining the original metrical regulation, harsh as it may be, to an arbi
trary change, which adds little melody to the linesand these, indeed, are not the worse for approaching to prose. By pointing and reading, as the sense directs, "have I made my promise" parenthetically, or between commas, the verse is more perceptible. Knight well remarks:-"There are many examples in Shakespeare's later plays, particularly in HENRY VIII., of metrical arrangements such as this, in which the freedom of versification is carried to the extremest limit. We believe it to be characteristic of a period of the Poet's life, and therefore cannot consent to remove these decided indications. The lines are ordinarily regulated as follows:There have I made my promise to call on him, Upon the heavy middle of the night."
"Our TILTH's to sow"-The older copies have, "our tythes to sow.' Warburton suggested it was a misprint for "tilth," which is, I think, the true reading, though not generally adopted. "Tilth" was a favourite old farming word, which is thus explained, by an old writer on husbandry—(Markham's "English Husbandry," 1635)-"Begin to sow your barley upon that ground which the year before did lye fallow, and is commonly called your tilth, or fallow-field." It is a confirmation of this correction that, in this very book, on another page," tilth" is misprinted, as here, tithe. The Duke then says "The harvest is so far from being ready to reap, that we have as yet not even sowed our field!"
every TRUE man's apparel fits your thief”— This is the old and more characteristic division of the dialogue, though the last speech of the Clown has been, after much learned discussion, in several editions, coupled with Abhorson's answer. The Clown asks Abhorson for proof that his occupation is a mystery, and receives for reply, merely, "Every true man's (i. e. honest man's) apparel fits your thief." The Clown, who is a quick fellow, catches at the reasoning passing in Abhorson's mind, and explains in what way "every true man's apparel fits your thief." The author has made Abhorson a person of a certain concise and silent gravity, as if, indeed, he painted from some individual of this class, whose peculiarities he thought worthy of being preserved in this representative of his profession. He, therefore, contents himself with the assertion upon which the Clown enlarges.
you shall find me YARE”—i. e. Handy; nimble in the execution of the office.
"it lies STARKLY"-i. e. Stiffly.
were he MEAL'D"-" Meal'd (says Blackstone, and Nares) means mingled, or compounded-(from the French méler.) Mell, for meddle, or mingle, is common." I doubt this, and prefer Johnson's explanation:"Were he meal'd; were he sprinkled, or defiled." A figure of the same kind our author uses in MACBETH:The blood-bolter'd Banquo.
"UNSISTING postern"-" Unsisting (says Blackstone) may signify never at rest, always opening." It may be a misprint for resisting, or unresting.
here comes Claudio's pardon"-We have no hesitation nere in adopting Tyrwhitt's suggestion as to
the assignment of these speeches. In the original, the Duke says, "This is his lordship's man ;" whereas it is not likely that the Provost, who has so strongly expressed his opinion that Angelo would be unrelenting. and who subsequently says "I told you," should, upon the very appearance of a messenger, exclaim-“And here comes Claudio's pardon."
young MR. RASH"-" This enumeration of the inhabitants of the prison affords a very striking view of the practices predominant in Shakespeare's age. Besides those whose follies are common to all times, we have four fighting-men and a traveller. It is not unlikely that the originals of the pictures were then known."-JOHNSON.
- a commodity of brown paper and old ginger"An amusing and instructive paper might be made up from the plays, novels, and essays of France and Eng land, for the last three centuries, describing the still familiar arts of the money-lenders, to whom men of des perate credit are driven for aid, in contriving to avoid the usury laws, by obliging the hapless customer to take a portion of their loan in some unsaleable commodities. such as "brown paper and old ginger." From Shakespeare, who, as he soon became (in his own phrase) “a rich fellow enough, and had every thing handsome about him," must have described only the experience of others, to Sheridan, who doubtless related his own experience in that of Charles Surface, there is hardly an English writer of comic fiction but has at least hinted at this fruitful topic. Le Sage, Molière, etc., down to the present novelists of Paris, have also found in this perpetual food for pleasantry; and their laughable satire would not require much alteration to make it very intelligible on this side of the Atlantic. The first notice of it, that has fallen in my way, was in Wilson's "Discourse on Usury," (1572;) and, as he speaks of it as be ing then no novelty, this establishes a very respectable antiquity for this time-honoured usage.
"— for the Lord's sake"-Alluding to the custom of prisoners begging for the Lord's sake"-a custom which lasted, in London, till the present generation. Thomas Nash thus mentions begging "for the Lord's sake," at the Fleet, in his "Pierce Penniless," (1592 :)— At that time that thy joys were in the fleeting, and thus crying, for the Lord's sake,' out of an iron window."
"YONDER generation"-" The original is yond, in which the printer no doubt followed the contraction of the writer. But in most modern editions, we have the under generation; which change (says Johnson) was made by Hanmer, with true judgment.' Shakespeare has, indeed, in RICHARD II., alluded to the antipodes in a poetical figure:—
when the searching eye of heaven is hid Behind the globe, and lights the lower world.
But what is gained in the passage before us by perplexing the time when the Duke assures the Provost he shall find his safety manifested? The scene takes place before the dawning: Claudio is to be executed by four of the clock. The Duke says—
As near the dawning, provost, as it is, You shall hear more ere morning.
Subsequently, when the morning is come, Isabella is told the Duke comes home to-morrow.' Speaking. then, in the dark prison, before sunrise, nothing can be more explicit than the Duke's statement that before the sun has twice made his daily greeting to 'yonder' generation-i. e. to the life without the walls-the Provost shall be assured of his safety. But at the time when he was speaking it would be evening at the antipodes: and if the Provost waited for his safety till the sun had twice risen upon the under generation, he would have to wait till a third day before he received that assurance: and this contradicts what is afterwards said of to-morrow."-KNIGHT.
"WEAL-BALANC'D form"-i. e. "Balanced," or weighed, for the public good; but the phrase is so unusual as to lead to the supposition that it is a misprint for well-balanced
"your BOSOM on this wretch"-i. e. (As the Duke just afterwards expresses it) "revenges to your heart."
"I am COMBINED"-i. e. Bound by agreement: in the same sense as Angelo is called the combinate husband of Mariana.
"BEHOLDING to your reports"-The active instead of the passive participle was in general use at the time, and there is no reason for altering it. It is what Shakespeare wrote.
the old fantastical Duke of dark corners"Schlegel has some very just remarks concerning the character of the Duke, and the way in which Shakespeare incidentally informs us of his peculiarities from the mouth of Lucio. The Duke loves justice and truth, but it is his "crotchet" to attain them by crooked ways, and by lurking in disguises. "The interest (says Schlegel) reposes altogether on the action: curiosity constitutes no part of our delight; for the Duke, in the disguise of a monk, is always present to watch over his dangerous representatives, and to avert every evil which could possibly be apprehended. The Duke acts the part of the monk naturally, even to deception; he unites in his person the wisdom of the priest and the prince. His wisdom is merely fond of too roundabout ways: his vanity is flattered by acting invisibly, like an earthly providence; he is more enter tained with overhearing his subjects than governing them in the ordinary manner. As he at last extends pardon to all the guilty, we do not see how his original purpose of restoring the strictness of the laws, by committing the execution of them to other hands, has in any wise been accomplished." Hazlitt thinks he was "more absorbed in his own plots and gravity than anxious for the welfare of the state; more tenacious of his own character than attentive to the feelings and apprehensions of others." All this seems true; and yet we feel that the Duke, however "fantastical," is an excellent man. He loves justice, but mercy still more.
"a better wOODMAN than thou takest him for"i. e. One who hunted after women as the woodman hunts after deer; from the double meaning of deer, and dear:
"Well, well, son John,
11 makes me UN PREGNANT"-Stevens remarks that in the first scene the Duke says that Escalus is pregnant-(i. e. ready in the forms of law.) "Unpregnant," therefore, in the instance before us, is unready, unprepared.
her? No." It is, after all, quite possible that the obscurity here, as in other passages of this play, arises from a typographical error, the true reading of which has not yet been discovered.
"Yet reason dares her No"-This very obscure line is printed, in our text, as it is in the first copies. Stevens and other editors have thought to make the sense plainer by pointing it thus:-" Yet reason dares her?— No." Dare was often used in the sense of terrify, overawe; as in Beaumont and Fletcher
These mad mischiefs
In this sense we understand the passage thus:-" She
"my authority bears or a credent bulk"-This is ordinarily printed, "bears off a credent bulk;" or else "of" is omitted. We follow the original. "Of" seems used, as often in Old-English, in a partitive or indefinite sense; as if he had said, "some credent bulk." In this way we find, in the MIDSUMMER-NIGHT'S DREAM"I desire you of more acquaintance." So, in a contemporary poet, Warner-"His ghost commandeth me of aid."
GENEROUS and gravest citizens"-" Generous" is here used in its Latin sense, for noble, of rank and birth. "Gravest," too, is in its less usual and Latin for weightiest, most respected.
HENT the gates"-i. e. Have taken possession of the gates. The word "hent" is derived from the Saxon hentan-to catch, or lay hold of. Shakespeare has it again in the WINTER'S TALE-"And merrily hent the stile-a." Hint has the same etymology, as Horne Tooke has observed. "Hent" was in use among the contemporaries of Spenser and Shakespeare.
ACT V.-SCENE I.
VAIL your regard”—i. e. Lower.
CHARACTS"-i. e Inscriptions; official designa
"For INEQUALITY"-Johnson thought that "inequality" refers to the unequal position of the accuser and the accused; but Isabella adverts to the Duke's previous speech, where the indications of madness are definedapparent inconsistency, surrounded by the oddest frame of sense."
"-hide the false SEEMS TRUE"-Malone interprets this "For ever hide-i. e. plunge into eternal darkness-the false one, Angelo, who now seems honest." Looking to the elliptical construction which prevails in this play, the meaning appears to be, clearly enoughDraw the truth from obscurity, and obscure the false which now seems true. The "seems true" is taken as one compounded word, and used substantively.
"— as LIKE, as it is TRUE"-The Duke says, in derision, "This is most likely;" and Isabella replies by a wish that it had as much the appearance of truth as it had of the reality.
"FOND wretch"-i. e. Foolish wretch. (See note. act ii. scene 2-" Fond shekels," etc.)
"In COUNTENANCE"-i. e. In the sanctified presence and face of Angelo.
"TEMPORARY meddler"-This seems to me plain enough, taking "temporary" for temporal, in opposition to the "man divine and holy." He is not a "meddler" in temporal matters.
"I'll be IMPARTIAL"-"Impartial," like several other words with the prefix im, bore, in Old-English, two senses, directly contradictory; and the use vibrated between them. Im is sometimes the negative, and sometimes merely intensive. Here it is taken literally. The Duke will take no part, whatever. He will leave it to the just judge to decide his own cause.
"short of coMPOSITION"-Her fortune, which was promised proportionate to mine, fell short of the " position"-i. e. contract, or bargain.
"poor INFORMAL women"-"Informal" signifies out of their senses. In the COMEDY OF ERRORS, (act v. scene 1,) "a formal man" means a man in his senses: also in TWELFTH NIGHT, (act ii. scene 5.) "Informal" is here used as the opposite of formal.