ePub 版


Enter PUCK.

Puck. Now the hungry lion roars,
And the wolf behowls the moon;
Whilst the heavy ploughman snores,

All with weary task fordone.
Now the wasted brands do glow,

Whilst the screech-owl, screeching loud, Puts the wretch, that lies in woe,

In remembrance of a shroud. Now it is the time of night,

That the graves, all gaping wide, Every one lets forth his sprite,

In the church-way paths to glide: And we fairies, that do run

By the triple Hecate's team, From the presence of the sun,

Following darkness like a dream, Now are frolic; not a mouse Shall disturb this hallow'd house:

I am sent with broom before,
To sweep the dust behind the door.

Enter OBERON, and TITANIA, with all their train.
Obe. Through the house give glimmering light,
By the dead and drowsy fire;
Every elf, and fairy sprite,

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors][graphic]
[graphic][merged small][merged small]


"NEW bent in heaven"-The old copies, quarto and folio, are uniform in reading "new" now, which all the editors, except Collier, have agreed with Rowe in considering as an early error of the press. The old reading of now, preferred by Collier, gives indeed an intelligible sense, but far less probable and less poetical, and more harshly expressed, than that preferred in all other editions.


"Hippolyta, I woo'd thee with my sword"-" The ingenious writer of 'A Letter on Shakespeare's Authorship of the Two Noble Kinsmen' remarks, that the characters in a MIDSUMMER-NIGHT'S DREAM are classical, but the costume is strictly Gothic, and shows that it was through the medium of romance that he drew the knowledge of them.' It was in Chaucer's 'Knight's Tale' that our Poet found the Duke of Athens, and Hip polyta, and Philostrate; in the same way that the author of the Two Noble Kinsmen,' and subsequently Dry. den, found there the story of Palamon and Arcite.' Hercules and Theseus have been called, by Godwin, 'the knight-errants of antiquity;" and truly the mode in which the fabulous histories of the ancient world blended themselves with the literature of the chivalrous ages fully justifies this seemingly anomalous designation. It is not difficult to trace Shakespeare in passages of the 'Knight's Tale.' The opening lines of that beautiful poem offer an example:


Whilom, as olde stories tellen us,
Ther was a duk that highte Theseus.
Of Athenes he was lord and governour,
And in his time swiche a conquerour,
That greter was ther non under the sonne
Full many a riche contree had he wonne.
What with his wisdom and his chevalrie,
He conquerd all the regne of Feminie,
That whilom was ycleped Scythia;
And wedded the fresshe quene Ipolita,
And brought hire home with him to his contree
With mochel glorie and gret solempnitee.
And eke hire yonge suster Emilie.
And thus with victorie and with melodie
Let I this worthy duk to Athenes ride,
And all his host, in armes him beside.

And certes, if it n'ere to long to here, I wolde have tolde you fully the manere, How wonnen was the regne of Feminie. By Theseus, and by his chevalrie: And of the grete bataille for the nones Betwix Athenes and the Amasones: And how asseged was Ipolita The faire hardy quene of Scythia; And of the feste, that was at hire wedding, And of the temple at hire home coming. But all this thing I most as now forbere; I have, God wot, a large field to ere."



- our renowned DUKE"-Gibbon, ("Decline and Fall," chap. xvii.,) speaking of the title of Duke, as applied to the military commander of princes in the reign of Constantine, says that "it is only a corruption of the Latin word Dux, which was indiscriminately applied to any chief." In this sense it was early adopted in Old-English, and used in the first translations of the Bible, including that of King James. Thus, in the fif teenth chapter of "Genesis," the word in Greek and in Hebrew, answering to leader, is thus rendered. Again, in the first chapter of the first book of "Chronicles,' we find a list of the "dukes of Edom." Chaucer has Duke Theseus-Gower, Duke Spartacus-Stonyhurst, Duke Æneas.

[ocr errors]

"-according to our law"-By a law of Solon, parents had an absolute power of life and death over their children. It suited the Poet's purpose to suppose that the Athenians had it before.

[ocr errors]

-EARTHLY happier"-More happy in an earthly sense. The reading of all the old copies is "earthlier happy," and this is retained in the majority of editions, although Pope and Johnson proposed earlier happy, and Stevens earthly happy. We agree, with Knight and Collier, that Capell's reading, which we have adopted, is the true one; and that the old reading arose out of a common typographical error. The orthography of the folio is earthlier happie-if the comparative had not been used, it would have been ; and it is easy to see that the r has been transposed.

"Unto his lordship, whose UNWISHED yoke"-Collier follows the second folio-" to whose unwish'd yoke;" but to give any thing sovereignty is still good English, without inserting to. The metre is more impressive as it stood in the three earlier editions, without this insertion. 66 Lordship" is used as it was anciently, where we should now use dominion-an instance, among many, where the word of later derivation, of the same primitive sense, had displaced the former Anglo-Saxon one, or confined it to a more limited sense. In Wickliffe's "New Testament," "lordship" is used where the translators of King James's "Bible" have preferred dominion.

"BETEEM them"-To "beteem," in its common acceptation, is to bestow, as often used by Spenser and others, and which gives a clear sense; but Stevens suggests that it here means pour out, as he says it is used in the North of England.

"Ah me! for aught that I could ever read"-The curious observer of Shakespearian rhythm will note here a variation from most of the editions, affecting only the melody of the passage. This is the reading of the

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

"Your eyes are LODE-STARS"—"This was a compliment not unfrequent among the old poets. The 'lodestar' is the leading, or guiding star-i. e. the pole-star.

[blocks in formation]


what graces in my love do dwell, That he hath turn'd a heaven into a hell!" "Hermia is willing to comfort Helena, and to avoid all appearance of triumph over her. She, therefore, bids her not to consider the power of pleasing as an advantage, to be much envied or much desired; since Hermia, whom she considers as possessing it in the su preme degree, has found no other effect of it than the loss of happiness."-JOHNSON.

"STRANGE COMPANIES"-In the original editions we have the following reading:

And in the wood, where often you and I Upon faint primrose beds were wont to lie, Emptying our bosoms, of their counsel swell'd, There my Lysander and myself shall meet, And thence from Athens turn away our eyes To seek new friends and strange companions. The scene is in rhyme; and the introduction of four lines of blank verse has a harsh effect. Swell'd, too, is a harsh and obscure epithet. The emendations were made by Theobald; and they are certainly ingenious and unforced. Companies," for companions, has an example in HENRY V.:


His companies unletter'd, rude, and shallow.

"-base and VIL'D"-i. e. Vile. The word occurs repeatedly in SHAKESPEARE, as in Spenser; and when it does occur, we are scarcely justified in substituting the modern vile.


"Enter QUINCE, SNUG, BOTTOM, FLUTE, SNOUT, and STARVELING"-The old stage-direction gives their dif ferent trades-"Enter Quince, the carpenter; and Snug, the joiner; and Bottom, the weaver; and Flute, the bellows-mender; and Starveling, the tailor."

"In this scene, Shakespeare takes advantage of his knowledge of the theatre to ridicule the prejudices and competitions of the players. Bottom, who is generally acknowledged the principal actor, declares his inclination to be for a tyrant, for a part of fury, tumult, and noise, such as every young man wants to perform, when he first steps upon the stage. The same Bottom, who seems bred in a 'tiring-room, has another histrionical passion. He is for engrossing every part, and would exclude his inferiors from all possibility of distinction. He is, therefore, desirous to play Pyramus, Thisby, and the Lion, at the same time."-JOHNSON.


according to the SCRIP"-i. e. Script-a written paper. Bills of exchange are called, by Locke, "scrips of paper;" and the term is still known upon the Stock Exchange.

"—most LAMENTABLE COMEDY"-Probably a bur lesque upon the titles of some of the old dramas; thus:A lamentable Tragedie, mixed full of pleasant mirth, containing the Life of Cambises, king of Percia," etc.; by Thomas Preston, (no date.) So, Skelton's "Magnificence" is called "a goodly interlude and a mery."

"A very good PIECE OF WORK"-Bottom and Sly both speak of a theatrical representation as they would of a piece of cloth, or a pair of shoes. Sly says of the play, ""Tis a very excellent piece of work."

"ERCLES' vein”—i. e. Hercules. He was one of the roaring heroes of the rude drama which preceded

Shakespeare. In Greene's "Groat's-worth of Wit," (1592,) a player says, "The twelve labours of Hercules have I terribly thundered on the stage."

46- — play it in a mask"-"This passage shows how the want of women, on the old stage, was supplied. If they had not a young man who could perform the part with a face that might pass for feminine, the character was acted in a mask; which was at that time a part of a lady's dress so much in use, that it did not give any unusual appearance to the scene; and he that could modulate his voice in a female tone might play the woman very successfully. Some of the catastrophes of the old comedies, which make lovers marry the wrong women, are, by recollection of the common use of masks, brought nearer to probability. Prynne, in his Histriomatix," exclaims with great vehemence through several pages, because a woman acted a part in a play at Blackfriars, in the year 1628.”—Illust. `Shak.

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

"Swifter than the moon's sphere"-We learn from Mr. Collier, that Coleridge, in his lectures, in 1818, was very emphatic in his praises of the beauty of these lines: "the measure (he said) had been invented and employed by Shakespeare, for the sake of its appropriateness to the rapid and airy motion of the Fairy by whom the passage is delivered." In his "Literary Remains," he dwells upon the subject with more particularity, and dissects the lines according to the Greek measures, observing upon "the delightful effect on the ear in the sweet transition," from the eight amphimacers of the first four lines to the trochees of the concluding verses. Stevens and Collier print "moon's" mone's, as being the Old-Saxon genitive; and Mr. Guest (“History of English Rhythm") is right in saying that this line accords with the peculiar rhythm the Poet has devoted to his fairies," which he well describes as "abrupt verses of two, three, or four accents."

"her ORBS upon the green"-"The 'orbs' here mentioned are those circles in the herbage commonly

called fairy-rings, the cause of which is not yet certainly known. Thus, also, Drayton

They in courses make that round. In meadows and in marshes found, Of them so called fairy ground.

Olaus Magnus says that these dancers parched up the grass; and, therefore, it is properly made the office of the fairy to refresh it."-JOHNSON and STEVENS.

"The cowslips tall her PENSIONERS be"-i. e. Her guards. The golden-coated cowslips are selected as pensioners to the fairy queen, the dress of Queen Elizabeth's band of gentlemen-pensioners being very splendid, and the tallest and handsomest men being generally chosen for the office. These glittering attendants on royalty are alluded to by Dame Quickly, in the MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR.


thou LOB of spirits"-i. e. Lubber, or clown. "Lob," lobcock, looby, and lubber, all denote inactivity of body and dullness of mind. The reader will remember Milton, in "L'Allegro"

Then lay him down the lubber fiend.

“— a CHANGELING”—i. e. A child procured in exchange.


- starlight SHEEN"-i. e. Bright, shining.

"they do SQUARE"-i. e. Quarrel. "It is difficult to understand how to square, which, in the ordinary sense, is to agree, should mean to disagree. And yet there is no doubt that the word was used in this sense. Hollingshed has- Falling at square with her husband.' In MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, Beatrice says-' Is there no young squarer now, that will make a voyage with him to the devil?' Mr. Richardson, after explaining the usual meaning of this verb, adds To square is also, consequently, to broaden; to set out broadly, in a position or attitude of offence or defence-(se quarrer.)' The word is thus used in the language of pugilism. There is more of our old dialect in flash terms than is generally supposed."-KNIGHT.


that shrewd and knavish sprite, Called Robin Good-fellow."

"The account given of this 'knavish sprite' in these lines, corresponds with what is said of him in Harsenet's 'Declaration,' (1603 :)" And if that the bowl of curds and cream were not duly set out for Robin Good-fellow, the friar, and Sisse, the dairymaid, why then either the pottage was burnt next day in the pot, or the cheeses would not curdle, or the butter would not come, or the ale in the vat never would have good head.' Scott also' speaks of him, in his Discovery of Witchcraft:'Your grandams' maids were wont to set a bowl of milk for him, for his pains in grinding of malt and mustard, and sweeping the house at midnight. This white bread, and bread and milk, was his standing fee.'"—T. WARTON.

[ocr errors]

In his "Nymphidia," (1619,) Drayton thus speaks of Puck, "the merry wanderer of the night:"

This Puck seems but a dreaming dolt;
Still walking like a ragged colt,
And oft out of a bush doth bolt,
Of purpose to deceive us;
And leading us, makes us to stray
Long winter nights, out of the way,
And when we stick in mire and clay.
He doth with laughter leave us.

"—in the QUERN"-i. e. Handmill; from the AngloSaxon, cwyrn.

"to bear no BARM"-i. e. Not to work: "barm" is yeast.

"sweet PUCK"-" The epithet is by no means superfluous; as 'Puck' alone was far from being an endearing appellation. It signified nothing better than fiend, or devil. So, the author of 'Pierce Ploughman' puts the pouk for the devil-none helle powke.' It seems to have been an old Gothic word. Puke, puken; Satha nas, Gudm. And. Lexicon Island."-TYRWHITT.

« 上一頁繼續 »