« 上一頁繼續 »
They say, that Shakspeare came to London without a plan, and finding himself at the door of a theatre, instinctively stopped there, and offered himself to be a holder of horses :—that he was remarkable for his excellent performance of the Ghost in Hamlet-that he borrowed nothing from preceding writers-that all on a sudden he left the stage, and returned without eclat into his native country :-that his monument at Stratford is of copper :-that the courtiers of James I. paid several compliments to him which are still preserved :-that he relieved a widow, who, together with her numerous family, was involved in a ruinous lawsuit :-that his editors have restored many passages in his plays, by the assistance of the manuscripts he left behind him, &c. &c.
Let me not, however, forget the justice due to these ingenious Frenchmen, whose skill and fidelity in the execution of their very difficult undertaking, is only exceeded by such a display of candour as would serve to cover the imperfections of much less elegant and judicious writers. STEEVENS.
P. 33. tragedies to-day, and comedies to-morrow.] Thus, says Downes the Prompter, p. 22: "The tragedy of Romeo and Juliet was made some time after  into a tragicomedy, by Mr. James Howard, he preserving Romeo and Juliet alive; so that when the tragedy was revived again, 'twas play'd alternately, tragical one day, and tragi-comical another, for several days together." STEEVENS.
P.34. his comedy to be instinct.] In the rank and order of geniuses it must, I think, be allowed, that the writer of good tragedy is superior. And therefore, I think the opinion, which I am sorry to perceive gains ground, that Shakspeare's chief and predominant talent lay in comedy, tends to lessen the unrivalled excellence of our divine bard.
P.37. with those of turbulence, violence, and adventure.] As a further extenuation of Shakspeare's error, it may be urged that he found the Gothic mythology of Fairies already incorporated with Greek and Roman story, by our early translators. Phaer and Golding, who first gave us Virgil and Ovid in an English dress, introduce Fairies almost as often as Nymphs are mentioned in these classic authors. Thus Homer, in his 24th Iliad:
"In Sypilus-in that place where 'tis said
"The goddesse Fairies use to dance about the funeral bed "Of Achelous :
Neither are our ancient versifiers less culpable on the score of anachronisms. Under their hands the balista becomes a cannon, and other modern instruments are perpetually substituted for such as were the produce of the remotest ages.
It may be added, that in Arthur Hall's version of the fourth Iliad, Juno says to Jupiter;
"-the time will come that Totnam French shall turn." And in the tenth Book we hear of "The Bastile," "Lemster wooll," and "The Byble." STE.
P. 40. —unities of time and place.] Mr. Twining, among his judicious remarks on the poetic of Aristotle, observes, that. "with respect to the strict unities of time and place, no such rules were imposed on the Greek poets by the critics, or by themselves; nor are imposed on any poet, either by the nature, or the end, of the dramatic imitation itself."
Aristotle does not express a single precept concerning unity of place. This supposed restraint originated from the hypercriticism of his French commentators. STE.
P.41. make the stage a field.] So, in the Epistle Dedicatory to Dryden's Love's Triumphant: "They who will not allow this liberty to a poet, make it a very ridiculous thing, for an audience to suppose themselves sometimes to be in a field, sometimes in a garden, and at other times in a chamber. There are not, indeed, so many absurdities in their supposition, as in ours; but 'tis an original absurdity for the audience to suppose themselves to be in any other place, than in the very theatre in which they sit; which is neither a chamber, nor garden, nor yet a public place of any business but that of the representation."
P.54. we make such prose in common conversation] Thus, also, Dryden, in the Epistle Dedicatory to his Rival Ladies: "Shakspeare who (with some errors not to be avoided in that age, had, undoubtedly, a larger soul of poesie than ever any of our nation) was the first, who, to shun the pains of continual rhyming, invented that kind of writing which we call blank verse, but the French more properly, prose mesurée; into which the English tongue so naturally slides, that in writing prose 'tis hardly to be avoided." STE.
P. 56. -printed without correction of the press.] Much deserved censure has been thrown out on the carelessness of our ancient printers, as well as on the wretched transcripts they obtained from contemporary theatres. Yet I cannot help observing that, even at this instant, should any one undertake to publish a play of Shakspeare from pages of no greater
fidelity than such as are issued out for the use of performers, the press would teem with as interpolated and inextricable nonsense as it produced above a century ago. Mr. Colman, who cannot be suspected of ignorance or misrepresentation, in his preface to the last edition of Beaumont and Fletcher, very forcibly styles the prompter's books "the most inaccurate and barbarous of all manuscripts." And well may they deserve that character: for verse, as I am informed, still continues to be transcribed as prose by a set of mercenaries, who in general have neither the advantage of literature or understanding. Foliis tantum ne carmina manda ne turbata volent ludibria, was the request of Virgil's Hero to the Sybil, and should also be the supplication of every dramatic poet to the agents of a prompter.
P. 73. from the bishop of Aleria] John Andreas. He was secretary to the Vatican Library during the papacies of Paul II. and Sixtus IV. By the former he was employed to superintend such works as were to be multiplied by the new art of printing, at that time brought into Rome. He published Herodotus, Strabo, Livy, Aulus Gellius, &c. His schoolfellow, Cardinal de Cusa, procured him the bishopric of Accia, a province in Corsica; and Paul II. afterwards appointed him to that of Aleria in the same island, where he died in 1498. STE.
P. 5. Play the men.] i. e. act with spirit, behave like men. So, Chapman's translation of the second Iliad:
"Which doing, thou shalt know what souldiers play
"And what the cowards."
Again, in scripture, 2 Sam. x. 12: and let us play the men for our people."
"Be of good courage,
P. 6. bring her to try with main course.] Probaby from Hackluyt's Voyages, 1598: "And when the barke had way, we cut the hauser, and so gate the sea to our friend, and tried out all that day with our main course." MAL.
This phrase occurs also in Smith's Sea Grammar, 1627, 4to. under the article How to handle a ship in a Storme: "Let us lie at Trie with our maine course; that is, to hale the tacke aboord, the sheat close aft, the boling set up, and the helme tied close aboord." STE.
P. 6. Lay her a-hold, a-hold;] To lay a ship a-hold, is to bring her to lie as near the wind as she can, in order to keep clear of the land, and get her out to sea.
P. 6-set her two courses; off to sea again,] The courses are the main sail and foresail.
P. 6. merely cheated of our lives] Merely in this place, signifies absolutely; in which sense it is used in Hamiet, Acti: -Things rank and gross in nature
"Possess it merely."
- full poor cell,] A cell in a great degree of poverty. So, in Antony and Cleopatra: "I am full sorry."
P. 8. that there is no soul-] Thus the old editions read: but this is apparently defective. Mr. Rowe, and after him Dr. Warburton, read-that there is no soul lost, without any notice of the variation. Mr. Theobald substitutes no foil, and Mr. Pope follows him. To come so near the right, and yet to miss it, is unlucky: the author probably wrote no soil, no stain, no spot; for so Ariel tells :
"Not a hair perish'd;
"On their sustaining garments not a blemish,
And Gonzalo, "The rarity of it is, that our garments being drenched in the sea, keep notwithstanding their freshness and glosses." Of this emendation I find that the author of notes on The Tempest had a glimpse, but could not keep it.
Such interruptions are not uncommon to Shakspeare. He sometimes begin a sentence, and, before he concludes it, entirely changes its construction, because another, more forcible, occurs. As this change frequently happens in conversation, it may be suffered to pass uncensured in the language of the stage. STE.
Who having unto truth by telling of it,
To credit his own lie] There is, perhaps, no correlative, to which the word it can with grammatical propriety belong. Lie, however, seems to have been the correlative to which the poet meant to refer, however ungrammatically.
There is a very singular coincidence between this passage and one in Bacon's History of King Henry VII. [Perkin Warbeck]" did in all things notably acquit himself; insomuch as "it was generally believed, that he was indeed duke Richard. “Nay, himself, with long and continual counterfeiting, and "with oft telling a lye, was turned by habit almost into the thing he seemed to be; and from a liar to be a believer."
P. 11. deck'd the sea,] To deck, I am told, signifies in the North, to sprinkle. See Ray's Dic1. of North Country words, in verb. to deg, and to deck; and his Dicт. of South Country words, in verb dag. The latter signifies dew upon the grass ;hence daggle-tailed.
A correspondent, who signs himself Eboracensis, proposses that this contested word should be printed degg'd, which, says he, signifies sprinkled, and is in daily use in the North of England. When clothes that have been washed are too much dried, it is necessary to moisten them before they can be ironed, which is always done by sprinkling; this operation the maidens universally call degging. REED.
P.12. Now I arise] Why does Prospero arise? Or, if he does it to ease himself by change of posture, why need he interrupt his narrative to tell his daughter of it? Perhaps these words belong to Miranda, and we should read :
"Mir. "Would I might
"But ever see that man ?-Now I arise.
"Pro. Sit still, and hear the last of our sea-sorrow.” Prospero in p. 8, had directed his daughter to "sit down," and learn the whole of this history; having previously by some magical charm disposed her to fall asleep. He is watching the progress of this charm; and in the mean time tells her a long story, often asking her whether her attention be still awake. The story being ended (as Miranda supposes) with their coming on shore, and partaking of the conveniences provided for them by the loyal humanity of Gonzalo, she therefore first expresses a wish to see the good old man, and then observes that she may 66 now arise," as the story is done. Prospero, surprised that his charm does not yet work, bids her "sit still;" and then enters on fresh matter to amuse the time, telling her (what she knew before) that he had been her tutor, &c. But soon perceiving her drowsiness coming on, he breaks off abruptly, and leaves her still sitting to her slumbers. BLACKSTONE.
As the words "now I arise"-may signify, "now I rise in my narration,' now my story heightens in its consequence,' I have left the passage in question undisturbed. We still say, that the interest of a drama rises or declines.
and all his quality] i. e. all his confederates, all who are of the same profession. So, in Hamlet :
“Come, give us a taste of your quality.”
P. 15. in Argier] Argier is the ancient English name for Algiers,