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Hamlet, act ii. he calls the players, “ abridgments, abe
“ Then brook abridgment; and your eyes advance
STEEVENS. 44. a brief, ---] i. e. a short account or enumeration. So, in Gascoigne's Dulce Bellum Inexpertis : “ She sent a brief unto me by her mayd."
STEEVENS. 44. One of the quartos has ripe, the other old editions, rife.
JOHNSON, Rife is a word used both by Sidney and Spenser. It means abounding, but it is now almost obsolete. Again, in Stephen Gosson's School of Abuse, 1579:
-you shall find the theaters of the one, the abuses of the other, to be rife among us.”
STEEVENS. 46. The. reads.] This is printed as Mr. Theobald gave it from both the old quartos. In the first folio, and all the following editions, Lysander reads the catalogue, and Theseus makes the remarks.
JOHNSON. 54. The thrice three Muses mourning for the death
Of learning, &c.] I do not know whether it has been before observed, that Shakspere here, perhaps, alluded to Spenser's poem, entitled The
Tears of the Muses, on the neglect and contempt of learning. This piece first appeared in quarto, with others, 1591. The oldest edition of this play now known is dated 1600. If Spenser's poem be here in.
tended, may we not presume that there is some eař. lier edition of this? But however, if the allusion be allowed, at least it seems to bring the play below 1591.
WARTON. This pretended title of a dramatick performance might be designed as a covert stroke of satire on those who had permitted Spenser to die through absolute want of bread in the year 1598:--late deceas'd in beggary-seems to refer to this circumstance.
STEEVENS. 56. keen, and critical] Critical here means criticizing, censuring. So, in Othello :
“0, I am nothing if not critical." STBEVENS. 60. Merry and tragical ?- -] Our poet is still harping on Cambyses.
STEEVENS. 76. unbreath'd memories] That is, unex. ercised, unpractised memories.
STEEVENS. 82. Unless you can find sport in their intents,] Thus all the copies. But as I know not what it is to stretch and con an intent, I suspect a line to be lost.
JOHNSON To intend and to attend were anciently synonymous. Of this use several instances are given in a note on the third scene of the first act of Othello. Intents therefore may be put for the object of their attention, We still say a person is intent on his business,
STEEVENS. 86. -never any thing can be amiss, When simpleness and duty attend it.] Ben Jone
son, in Cynthia's Revels, has employed this sentiment of
Nothing which duty and desire to please,
Steevens. 94. Our sport shall be, &c.] Voltaire says something like this of Louis XIV. who took a pleasure in seeing his courtiers in confusion when they spoke to him.
STEEVENS. 95. And what poor duty cannot do,
Noble respect takes it in might, not merit.] In might, is perhaps an elliptical expression for what might have been.
STEEVENS. 97. Where I have come, great clerks, have purposed, &c.] So, in Pericles:
" She sings like one immortal, and she dances “ As goddess like to her admired lays;
“ Deep clerks she dumbs." It should be observed, periods in the text is used in the sense of full stops.
MALONE. -addrest.] That is, ready. So, in King Henry V. “ To-morrow for our march we are addrest."
STEEVENS. 111. [Flourish of trumpets.] It appears from the Gull's Hornbook, by Decker, 1609, that the prologue was anciently usher'd in by trumpets:
- Present not yourselfe on the stage (especially at a new play) untill the quaking prologue hath (by rubbing) got
cullor into his cheekes, and is ready to give the trumpets their cue that hees upon point to enter."
STEEVENS. 127. -on a recorder; -] Lord Bacon in his natural history, cent. iii. sect. 221, speaks of recorders and flutes at the same instant, and says, that the recorder hath a less bore, and a greater, above and below; and elsewhere, cent. ii. sect. 187, he speaks of it as having six holes, in which respect it answers to the Tibia minor or Flajolet of Mersennus. From all which particulars, it should seem that the flute and the recorder were different instruments, and that the latter, in propriety of speech, was no other than the Aagolet. Hawkins's History of Musick, Vol. IV. p. 479.
Reed. Shakspere introduces it in Hamlet; and Milton says:
" To the sound of soft recorders." This intrument is mentioned in many of the old plays.
STEEVENS. -but not in government.] That is, not regularly, according to the tune.
STEEVENS. 131. In this place the folio, 1623, exhibits the following prompter's direction. Tawyer with a trumpet before them.
STÉEVENS, 142. To meet at Ninus' tomb, &c.] So, in Chaucer's Legend of Thisbe of Babylon :
“ Thei settin markes their metingis should be,
“ There king Ninus was graven undir a tre.'! Again: " And as she ran her wimple she let fall,” &c.
146. her mantle she did fall;] Thus all the old copies. The modern editions read :-" she det fall,” unnecessarily. To fall in this instance is a verb active, and occurs in The Tempest, &c.
STEEVENS. 150. Whereat, with blade, with bloody blameful blade,] Mr. Upton rightly observes, that Shakspere in this line ridicules the affectation of beginning many words with the same letter. He might have remarked the same of
The raging rocks
And shivering shocks. Gascoigne, contemporary with our poet, remarks and blames the same affectation.
JOHNSON This alliteration seems to have reached the height of its fashion in the reign of king Henry VIII. The following stanza is quoted from a poem On the Fall and evil Success of Rebellion, written in 1537, by Wilfride Holme.
“ Loe, leprous lurdeins, lubricke in loquacitie,
" Repriving your Roy so renowned and radiant." In Tusser's Husbandry, p. 104, there is a poem of which every woru begins with a T; and the old play entitled,