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"sad CYPRESS"-"There is a doubt whether a coffin of cypress-wood, or a shroud of cypress, be here meant. The sad cypress-tree' was anciently associated, as it is still, with funereal gloom, and was probably used for coffins. The stuff called 'cypress,' (our crape,) which derives its name either from the island of Cyprus, or from the French créspe, was also connected with mournful images. In a subsequent scene of this play, Olivia saysa cyprus, not a bosom, Hides my heart.
"A blank, my lord. She never told her love"-Coleridge says, "After the first line the actress ought to make a pause, and then start afresh, from the activity of thought, born of suppressed feelings, and which thought had accumulated during the brief interval, as vital heat under the skin during a dip in cold water."
like patience on a monument"-Every reader who is willing to take the obvious sense would take this to mean, that the lady sat smiling at her grief, as Patience is represented in monumental sculpture. But some of the critics have imagined that the comparison is with a figure of Patience smiling at another of Grief, on the same monument. There seems no foundation for this refinement, but if the passage were at all ambiguous it would be cleared up by the use of this figure elsewhere. Thus, in PERICLES, we have
Thou dost look Like Patience gazing on kings' graves, and smiling Extremity out of art.
Middleton, in the same age, has—
Like one that's forced to smile upon a grief. There is a passage in the beginning of the "Hippolytus" of Euripides, describing Phedra brooding over her secret love, which is singularly like this in thought, and in plaintive sweetness of melody and language. It is of course merely one of the coincidences of genius, for there is no reason to think that the "Hippolytus" could
have been known to Shakespeare: it was reserved for Racine to transfer its spirit into his "Phedre"-the most beautiful production of the modern classic drama. "-bide no DENAY"-i. e. Denial. 66 Denay" is often used as a verb, but there is no other instance in which it is converted into a substantive.
my METAL of India"-So the original foliomettle. The second folio has nettle, which is followed in many editions. My metal of India" is, obviously, my heart of gold, my precious girl. My nettle of India is said to be a "zoophyte, called the Urtica Marina, abounding in the Indian seas. We cannot but ask, with Knight, "Was Sir Toby likely to use a common figure, or one so far-fetched? If Shakespeare had wished to call Maria a stinging-nettle, he would have been satisfied with naming the indigenous plant-as he has been in RICHARD II. and HENRY IV.,-without going to the Indian seas."
"-how he JETS"-To "jet" is to strut, or swagger; one of the commonest words in writers of the time.
the lady of the STRACHY"-" There is, doubtless, an allusion here to some popular story not now known; 'Strachy' (printed, or misprinted, in Italic in the original edition) being the name of some noble family, of which one of the female branches had condescended to marry a menial. Possibly that family was the Strozzi of Florence; and the copyist of Shakespeare's MS., not being able to read the word, wrote 'Strachy' for Strozzi, or Strozzy. On the other hand, Knight suggested that 'Strachy' was the strategus, or governor, of some province, whose widow had married below her rank. Warburton's conjecture of Trachy, from Thrace, and Stevens's notion about the starchy, connected with the laundry, are equally untenable. The meaning of Malvolio merely is, that a great lady had married a servant; and whether 'Strachy' be a corruption, or the real name given in the old story to which Shakespeare referred, is a matter of little consequence."-COLLIER.
"a STONE-BOW"-A bow used for the purpose of discharging stones.
"—a DAY-BED"-"Day-beds," or couches, were a luxury among the rich in Shakespeare's time; and, according to a line of Spenser
Some for untimely ease, some for delight.
wind up my watch"-Pocket-watches were first brought from Germany about the year 1580, so that in Shakespeare's time they were very uncommon.
"-play with my-some rich jewel"-So the old copy, but omitting the dash. Stevens understands" 'my some rich jewel" to mean, "some rich jewel of my own;' but it is more natural to suppose that Malvolio, having mentioned his watch, then a rarity, wishes to enumerate some other valuable in his possession, and pauses after 'or play with my," following it up with the words 'some rich jewel;" not being able on the sudden to name any one in particular.
"her great P's."-" In the direction of the letter, which Malvolio reads, (says Stevens,) there is neither a C nor a P to be found." To this Ritson ingeniously answers, "From the usual custom of Shakespeare's age, we may easily suppose the whole direction to have run thus: To the Unknown belov'd, this, and my good wishes,' with Care Present."
"-wax-Soft"-Malone contends that the word "Soft" applies to the wax, and is not an exclamation; Stevens shows that the wax used for letters, at this period, was not commonly "soft." There can be no doubt that "soft!" here is to be taken exactly in the same sense as "softly!" and "soft!" used by Malvolio afterwards.
CONSTER"-With Knight, I have retained in the text the old mode of spelling this word as it was pronounced, instead of construe. All the old poets so spelled the word, when used in this sense; and it lasted thus till Pope's time, in whose letters it may be found. In colloquial use, this sound is still retained by schoolboys and their teachers.
"-like the HAGGARD”—A “haggard" is a wild or untrained hawk, which flies at all birds, without distinction.
"-wise men's folly fall'n quite taints their wit"This is the old reading, which Heath thus explains:"But wise men's folly, when once it is fallen into extravagance, overpowers their discretion." Malone, with others, reads
after. The meaning is-Daylight and open country do not discover more. 66 Champaign" (spelled champain in the old editions) was a common word for a wide expanse of country.
But wise men, folly-fallen, quite taint their wit. "the LIST of my voyage"-Viola follows up Sir Toby's figure of a trading-voyage, and says that she is
POINT-DEVICE"-i. e. Exactly, with the utmost nicety. "The phrase (says Douce) has been supplied from the labours of the needle. Poinct, in the French language, denotes a stitch; devisé, any thing invented, disposed, or arranged. Point-devisé was, therefore, a particular sort of patterned lace, worked with the needle; and the term point-lace is still familiar to every female." It is incorrect to write point-de-vice, as is usually done.
"-at TRAY-TRIP"-" Tray-trip," or trey-trip, seems, by various quotations, to have been a game at which dice were employed. By "play my freedom," Sir Toby means, stake his freedom.
"-kiss thy hand so oft"-This fantastical custom is taken notice of by Barnaby Rice, in "Faults, and Nothing but Faults," (1606:)—" And these 'Flowers of Courtesie,' as they are full of affectation, so are they no less formal in their speeches, full of fustian phrases, many times delivering such sentences as do betray and lay open their masters' ignorance; and they are so frequent with the kisse on the hand,' that word shall not passe their mouths till they have clapt their fingers over their lippes."
"— FELLOW"-"Fellow," at this period, was used for companion, as well as in its derogatory sense. actors constantly called each other "fellows." In the WINTER'S TALE, Antigonus speaks of the lords present as his "noble fellows."
"play at CHERRY-PIT"-The game of "cherry-pit" was played by pitching cherry-stones into a hole.
"—in a dark room, and bound"-Chains and darkness were the universal prescription for lunatics, in the time of Shakespeare. There was a third remedy, to which Rosalind alludes in AS YOU LIKE IT:-"Love is a madness, and deserves as well a dark house and a whip as madmen do."
"the belief that he's mad"-The excess of vanity is among the most ordinary moral phenomena of insaniplausible argument in favour of Olivia's judgment, and ty, so much so that it would not be difficult to make a to maintain that Malvolio was really out of his senses. It would form an amusing sequel to the Hamlet controversy, and might, if it did nothing more, be made fruitful in moral instruction.
"a FINDER of MADMEN"-"Finders of madmen' must have been those who acted under the writ De Lunatico Inquirendo; in virtue whereof they found the man mad."-RITSON.
"—a BUM-BAILIE"-This was the old jocose pronunciation, as it is printed in the old copies, and is so still. There is no reason for altering it to bum-bailiff, as has been done by Malone and others.
"too unchary ON'T"-i. e. On the heart of stone: "bestowed my honour too incautiously on a heart of stone."
"Dismount thy TUCK; be YARE"-"Tuck" is rapier, and "yare" nimble.
UNHATCH'D rapier, and on CARPET consideration"-According to most commentators, an "unhatched rapier" is an unhacked rapier, (from the French hacher.) But Mr. Dyce has proved that to hatch meant the decorating of weapons by inlaying them with gold or silver, and cannot have the sense given to it by most of the editors. He would, therefore, read "unhacked rapier." The words "carpet consideration" refer to the dubbing of what were called carpet-knights, as distinguished from knights who had the honour conferred upon them on the field of battle. Such knights, of whom King James made hundreds, were the constant subjects of ridicule by authors of the time.
"— Hob, nob"—" Hob nob" is a corruption of hap or ne hap-i. e. "let it happen or not happen;" and is equivalent to "come what may."
“—sir priest, than sir knight”-This expression was probably proverbial, and arose out of the habit in olden times of calling a priest "sir," as well as a knight. Thus, we have in this play "Sir Topas," and elsewhere Sir Hugh."
"such a FIRAGO"-"No doubt, (as Johnson observes) Sir Toby means to indicate by firago,' that though Viola looked like a woman, she possessed manly prowess. Virago is often used for a female warrior, but it is spelled firago' in the old editions, perhaps with allusion to the word devil, in the preceding part of the sentence." Thus Collier, and others; but may not the word be one of Shakespeare's coinage, to express what we now call a fire-eater?
ACT IV.-SCENE I.
"-this great lubber, the world, will prove a cockney"-The Clown is struck by the affected word vent; and, hearing it from Sebastian, expresses his fear lest the whole world, "this great lubber, the world," should "prove a cockney;" i. e. use such ridiculous terms as were employed by cockneys-or, in Johnson's phrase, "that affectation and foppery will overspread the world." This seems clear enough, though some annotators have not found it so, and propose to read, "this lubber the word (meaning the word vent) will turn out cockney dialect."
"-foolish GREEK"-A merry "Greek," or a "foolish Greek," were ancient proverbial expressions applied to boon companions, good fellows, as they were called, who spent their time in riotous mirth.
"-a good REPORT after fourteen years' purchase"The meaning obviously is-after the rate of fourteen years' purchase. Twelve years' purchase (as we learn from Sir Th. Childs, the father of the English political economists) was the current rate in England at that time, so this was a high rate; and any money given to fools for a good "report" was buying the commodity of reputation at a high rate-bringing in a poor return.
"DISSEMBLE myself"-i. e. Disguise, divest of likeness-a Latinism.
"That, that is, is' "-In this speech of the Clown is probably intended a fling" at the jargon of the schools, once so prevalent, in such phrases as "Whatsoever is, is," and "It is impossible for the same thing to be, and not to be," etc. The old hermit of Prague was, doubtless, a very admirable logician in his time, and family-physician to King Gorboduc.
"COMPETITORS enter"-Shakespeare uses the word "competitor" synonymously with confederate, not only
"I am for all waters"-A proverbial phrase not yet satisfactorily explained. The meaning, however. appears to be "I can turn my hand to any thing, or assume any character." Florio, in his translation of Montaigne, speaking of Aristotle, says "He hath an oar in every water, and meddleth with all things." In his "Second Frutes," there is an expression more re sembling the import of that in the text-"I am a knight for all saddles." Nash, in his "Lenten Stuffe," (1599.) has almost the language of the Clown:-"He is first broken to the sea in the Herring-man's skiffe or cock. boate, where having learned to brooke all waters, and drink as he can out of a tarrie can," etc.
PROPERTIED me"-i. e. Taken possession of me. as of a man unable to look to himself. The Dauphin, in KING JOHN, has the same use of the word:
I am too high born to be propertied, To be a secondary at control.
"SCATHFUL grapple"-i. e. Harmful, destructive. "-so bloody, and so DEAR"-"Dear" is here used as in HAMLET, (act ii. scene 2)-"my dearest foe." (See note.) It is, in its Old-English use, that which excites the strongest feeling of earnestness, whether it be a feeling of love or hate. It comes from the same root with dearth, or scarceness. The etymological learning of the subject has been discussed by Horne Tooke, in "Diversions of Purley," with much scorn of the Shakespearian editors of the last age.
"-the Egyptian thief at point of death"-An allusion to an affecting incident in the popular old Greek romance, the Ethiopics" of Heliodorus, which an English version, by Thomas Underdowne, had made familiar to the English public, long before this play; the second edition (the date of the first not being known) appearing in 1587. Thyamis, a native of Memphis, and captain of a band of robbers, being deeply enamoured of Chariclea, who had fallen into his hands, and being surprised by a company of banditti, caught her by her tresses with his left hand, and with his right plunged his sword into her heart, to prevent her becoming their victim after his inevitable death.
"The 'pavin' was a grave Spanish dance. Sir John Hawkins derives it from pavo, (a peacock,) and says that every 'pavin' had its galliard-a lighter kind of
air formed out of the former. Thus, in Middleton's 'More Dissemblers beside Women'
I can dance nothing but ill favour'dly,
A strain or two of passe measures galliard.
By which it appears that the passy-measure pavan, and the passy-measure galliard, were only two different measures of one dance. Sir Toby therefore means, by this quaint expression, that the surgeon is a rogue, and a grave solemn coxcomb. In the first act of the play, he has shown himself well acquainted with the various kinds of dance. Shakespeare's characters are always consistent, and even in drunkenness preserve the traits of character which distinguished them when sober."
It looks somewhat as if the character of Sir Toby was drawn from some individual, who stood for the whole class of roystering wags, so graphically embodied in the Knight. It is a touch of personal capricious peculiarity.
"-it SKILLS not much"-i. e. It signifies not much— a common old idiomatic expression.
- you must allow vox"-The Clown begins to read the letter as a madman; and for this violence of voice Olivia reproves him, and thus he justifies himself.
"notorious GECK"-To "geck" is to deride; and hence a geck is one made a subject of ridicule-a butt. This is more consistent with Shakespeare's use than Collier's derivation from the Saxon geue, a cuckoo, and thence a fool.
Dr. Johnson, after according to this comedy the merit of being "in the graver parts elegant and easy, and in some lighter scenes exquisitely humorous," and conceding both the comic and the moral effect of Malvolio's character, and the truth of that of Ague-cheek, yet protests against the latter, as being "one of natural fatuity," therefore not the proper prey of the satirist, concludes with the decision that the "marriage of Olivia, and the succeeding perplexity, though well enough contrived to divert on the stage, wants credibility, and fails to produce the proper instruction required in the drama, as it exhibits no just picture of life."
Mr. Hallam, too, speaks of this comedy in one of those colder and fastidious moods of judgment, or of feeling, which occasionally mix with the deep and philosophical admiration he elsewhere expresses for the great dramatist:
"TWELFTH NIGHT, notwithstanding some very beautiful passages, and the humorous absurdity of Malvolio, has not the corruscations of wit and spirit of character that distinguish the excellent comedy (MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING) it seems to have immediately followed, nor is the plot nearly so well constructed. Viola would be more interesting if she had not deliberately, as well as unfairly towards Olivia, determined to win the Duke's heart before she had seen him. The part of Sebastian has all that improbability which belongs to mistaken identity, without the comic effect, for the sake of which that is forgiven in the COMEDY OF ERRORS."-"History of Literature."
In all judgments of the relative merits of works of imagination or of humour, much must be allowed for the peculiar associations of the individual. The delicate
fancy, the subdued yet fine feeling of the poetic passages, do not fall within the range of Johnson's perception, or his tastes. Of character and humour he is a true and acute judge, and it is, therefore, surprising that he overlooked the true answer, and one lying deep in moral truth, to his objections to Sir Andrew Ague-cheek's character. Sir Andrew Ague-cheek is not ridiculous from mere fatuity, for such weakness of intellect, though a true picture of it might not be out of place in any representation of life, yet would, if connected with innocence and humility, create no feelings but those of kindness or pity. But when such weakness is associated, as it is here, with vanity and the ambition or affectation of fashionable vice, it becomes a most proper subject for the moral satirist, besides being rich in laughable suggestions.