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"Too much to know, is to know nought but same;
Act I., Scene 1. The consequence (says Biron) of too much knowledge, is not any real solution of doubts, but mere empty reputation. In other words, too much knowledge gives only fame,-a mere name, which every godfather can give likewise.
" A dangerous law against gentility."-Act I., Scene 1.
By gentility is here signified what the French express by gentilesse-i. e. elegantia, urbanitas. The meaning is--Such a law for banishing women from the court is dangerous to politeness, urbanity, and the more refined pleasures of life.
“ Necessily will make us all forsworn
Three thousand times, within this three years' space:
Act I., Scene 1. Biron, amidst his extravagancies, speaks with great justness against the folly of vows. They are made without sufficient regard to the variations of life, and are therefore broken by some unforeseen necessity. They proceed commonly from a presumptuous confidence, and a false estimate of human power.--Johnson.
his ear; would tell the just number of pence in any piece of silver coin newly shewed him by his master," &c. Many of his remarkable pranks are mentioned by contemporary writers. The fate of man and horse is not known with certainty; but it is supposed that they were both burnt at . Rome as magicians.
* Green, indeed, is the colour of lovers."--Act I., Scene 2.
I do not know whether our author alludes to the rare green eye" which in his time seems to have been thought a beauty, or to that frequent attendant on love, jealousy, to which, in the “MERCHANT OF VENICE," and in "OTHELLO," he has applied the epithet green-eyed.-MALONE.
Beauty is bought by judgment of the eye,
Act II., Scene 1. " Chapman" here seems to signify the seller, not, as now commonly, the buyer. The meaning is, that the estimation of beauty depends not on the uttering or proclamation of the seller, but on the eye of the buyer. There is a similar thought in Shakspere's 102nd Sonnet:
“That love is merchandised whose rich esteeming
The owner's tongue doth publish everywhere."
“MAR. My lips are no common, though several they be.
Boyet. Belonging to whom?
This is a play upon the word several, which, besides its ordinary siguification of separate or distinct, likewise signifies, in unenclosed lands, a certain portion of ground appropriated to either corn or meadow, adjoining the common field. An extract from Bacon's “ APOTHEG MS" (1625), will illustrate the point:-" There was a lord that was lean of visage, but immediately after his marriage he grew fat. One said to him, 'Your lordship doth contrary to other married men; for they first wax lean, and you wax fat.' Sir Walter Raleigh stood by, and said, “Why there is no beast that, if you take him from the common, and put him into the several, but he will wax fat.""
The word several in the text, is probably used in the sense of more than one. No explanation that we have previously seen removes the ambiguity arising from the phrase “ no common, though several." The number two is not commonly spoken of as several; but punsters like poets often seek to “snatch a grace beyond the reach of art.”
" His tongue, all impatient lo speak and not see,
Act II., Scene 1. That is, his tongue being impatiently desirous to see as well as speak.
" His face's own margent did quote such amazes,
Act II., Scene 1.
This is, probably, an allusion to the ungallant Italian proverb, “ Three women and a goose make a market."
In the old comedies, the songs are frequently omitted. On this occasion, the stage-direction is generally, "Here they sing,” or “ Cantant." Probably the performer was left to choose his own ditty, and therefore it could not with propriety be exhibited as part of a new performance: Sometimes yet more was left to the discretion of the ancient comedians, as I learn from the following circumstance in “ King EDWARD IV.," Part 2 (1619), “ Jockey is led whipping over the stage, speaking some words, but of no importance." Again, in Decker's “ Honest Wore" (1635), “He places all things in order, singing with the ends of old ballads as he does it."-STEEVENS.
“ Sole imperator and great general
Of trolling paritors."-Act III., Scene 1. An apparator, or pazitor, is an oflicer of the Bishop's court, who carries out citations.
"Master, will you
Act III., Scene 1. The brawl was a stately species of dance, formerly much in vogue. It appears that several persons united hands in a circle, and gave each other continual shakes, the steps changing with the tune. Gray has a pleasant allusion to this courtly exercitation (which was sometimes performed hy the highest and gravest characters), in his “ Long Story," in which he so graphically describes the ancient seat of the Hattons:
“ And I to be a corporal of his field,
Act Ill., Scene 1. It appears from Lord Stafford's Letters, that a corporal of the field was employed as an aide-de-camp is now, "in taking and carrying to and fro the directions of the genera!, or other higher officers of the field." From other sources, however, it seems that the functions of this officer were of a diversified nature.
A tumbler's hoop was usually dressed out with coloured ribands. To wear love's colours, means to wear his badge or cognomen, or to be his servant or retainer.
“ Full oft, within the spacious walls,
When he had fifty winters o'er him, My grave Lord-keeper led the brawls;
The seals and maces danced before him. His bushy beard, and shoestrings green,
His high-crowned hat and satin doublet, Moved the stout heart of England's Queen,
Though Pope and Spaniard could not trouble it."
“Your hands in your pocket, like a man after the old painting."---Act III., Scene 1.
It was a common trick among some of the most indolent of the ancient masters, to place the hands in the bosom or the pockets, or conceal them in some other part of the drapery, to avoid the labour of representing them, or to disguise their own want of skill to employ them with grace and propriety.-STEEVENS.
“ This Armado is a Spaniard that keeps here in court;
A phantasm, a Monarcho."- Act IV., Scene 1. Monarcho, or the Monarch, was a term applied to an insane Italian, who is mentioned by various authors of the period. His magnificent delusion consisted in thinking hiniself monarch of the world. “Popular applause (says Veres) doth nourish some, neither do they gape after anythi: g but vain praise and glory: as, in our age, Peter Shakerlye of Pauls, and Monarcho that lived about the court."
" ARM. Bul O! but !--
Act III., Scene 1. In the celebration of May-day, besides the sports now used of hanging a pole with garlands, and dancing round it, formerly a boy was dressed up representing Maid Marian; another like a friar; and another rode on a hobby-horse, with bells jingling, and painted streamers. After the Reformation took place, and precisians multiplied, these latter rites were looked upon to savour of paganism; and then Maid Marian, the friar, and the poor hobby-horse, were turned out of the games. Some who were not so wisely precise, but regretted the disuse of the hobby-horse, no doubt satirised this suspicion of idolatory, and archly wrote the epitaph above alluded to. Now Moth, hearing Armado groan ridiculously, and cry out "But 0! but O!" humorously pieces out his exclamation with the sequel of this epitaph.-THEOBALD.
" BoYET. Who is the suilor? who is the suitor ?
Ros. Shall I teach you to know !
Act IV., Scene I. It appears, from various instances cited by the commentators, that the word suitor was in Elizabeth's time pronounced with an h, as we now pronounce the words sure and sugar. Hence the equivoque in the text. Malone observes, on this point, “In Ireland, where I believe much of
the pronunciation of Queen Elizabeth's age is yet retained, the word suitor is at this time pronounced as if it were spelt shooter."
* Enter HOLOFERNES, SIR NATHANIEL, and Dull."
Act IV., Scene 2. The character of Holofernes is supposed to have had particular reference to Florio, the author of a small Italian dictionary, published in 1598, called " A World of Words;" but the point is altogether uncertain.
* But, sir, I assure ye it was a buck of the first head."
Act IV., Scene 2. In the "RETURN FROM PARNASSUS" (1006), there is an account of the different appellations of deer, at their different ages :—“Now, sir, a buck is the first year, a fawn; the second year, a pricket; the third year, a sorrel; the fourth year, a soare; the fifth, a buck of the first head; the sixth year, a complete buck. Likewise, your hart is the first year, a calf; the second year, a brocket; the third year, a spade ; the fourth year, a stag; the sixth year, a hart. A roebuck is the first year, a kid; the second year, a gird; the third year, a hemuse. And these are your special beasts for chace." Sir Nathaniel and Dull differ as to the age of the animal.
My eyes are then no eyes, nor I Birón.
Act IV., Scene 3. Here, and indeed throughout the play, the name of Birón is accented on the second syllable. In the first quarto (1598), and the folio (1623), he is always called Berowne. From the line before us, it appears that in our author's time the name was pronounced Biroon.--Malonk.
Mr. Boswell has remarked that this was the mode in which words of this termination were pronounced in English. Mr. Fox always said Touloon, when speaking of Toulon, in the House of Commons.
" And beauty's crest becomes the heavens well.
Act IV., Scene 3. That is, the very top, the height of beauty, or the utmost degree of fairness, becomes the heavens. In heraldry, a crest is a device placed above a coat of arms. In "King John," there is a similar figurative use of the word:
“This is the very top,
“ For valour, is not love a Hercules,
Act IV., Scene 3. The Hesperides were the daughters of Hesperus, and the fabled possessors of the golden apples carried away by Hercules. In the text, the term is used as though it were the name of the garden itself. Several of the poet's classical contemporaries have fallen into the same error.
" And when love speaks, the voice of all the gods
Act IV., Scene 3. Many efforts have been made to explain this difficult passage. The most probable interpretation appears to be,
Whenever Love speaks, all the gods join their voices with his in harmonious concert."
“ Your reasons at dinner have been sharp and sententious."- Act V., Scene 1.
I know not well what degree of respect Shakspere intends to obtain for this vicar, but he has here put into his mouth a finished representation of colloquial excellence. It is very difficult to add anything to this character of the schoolmaster's table-talk; and perhaps all the precepts of Castiglione will scarcely be found to comprehend a rule for conversation so justly delineated, so widely dilated, and so nicely limited.—Johnson.
Reason, in the text, and in many other places, signifies discourse ; audacious is used in a good sense, for spirited, animated, confident; opinion is equivalent to obstinacy, or the French opiniálreté.
" This is abhominable (which he would call abominable)."
Act V., Scene 1. The word in question is, according to Steevens, always spelt with an h in the old Moralities and other antiquated books.
** Thou art easier swallowed than a flap-dragon."
Act V,, Scene 1. A flap-dragon was some small combustible body, set on fire and put afloat in a glass of liquor. It was an act of dexterity in the toper to swallow it without burning his mouth.
"'Ware pencils!"-Act V., Scene 2. Rosaline here advises Katharine to beware of drawing likenesses, lest she should retaliate.
"O, that I knew he were but in by the week !"-Act V., Scene 2.
This is probably an expression taken from hiring servants; meaning, “I wish I was sure of his service for any time limited, as if I had hired him.” The phrase is common in old plays.
"And are apparelled thus,Like Muscovites, or Russians."- Act V., Scene 2. It appears that a masque of Muscovites was not an unusual court recreation. Hall the Chronicler states that, in the first year of Henry VIII., at a banquet made for the foreign ambassadors in the parliament chamber at Westminster, “came the lord Henry Earle of Wiltshire and the lord Fitzwater, in two long gowns of yellow satin, traversed with white satin, and in every bend of white was a bend of crimson satin, after the fashion of Russia or Russland, with furred hats of grey on their heads, either of them having a hatchet in their hands, and boots with pikes turned up."
Act V., Scene 2. The allusion in the last line is to the tafieta masks that the ladies wore to conceal themselves. Boyet sneers at the absurdity of complimenting them on those charms which were masked.
“ Veal, quoth the Dutchman :-is not veal a calf ?"
Act V., Scene 2. By veal is probably meant well, sounded as foreigners usually pronounce that word, and introduced merely for the sake of the subsequent question. In the play of "Dr. DODDY POLL," the same joke occurs :
" Doctor. Hans, my very special friend, fait and trot me be right glad for see you veale.
Hans. What do you make a calf of me, master doctor?"
“ Well, better wils have worn plain statute caps.”
Act V., Scene 2. In the 13th of Elizabeth (1571), an Act was passed “For the continuance of making and wearing woollen caps, in behalf of the trade of cappers," providing that all above the age of six years (except the nobility, and some others) should, on Sabbath-days and holidays, wear caps of wool, knit, thicked, and dressed in England, upon penalty of ten groats. These were probably the “ statute-caps" alluded to: and the meaning of the passage in the text is—"Better wits may be found among the plain citizens." In Marston's * Durcu COURTESAN,” Mrs. Mulligrub says-“Though my husband be a citizen, and his cap's made of wool, yet I have wit."
“ Write, 'Lord have mercy on us,' on those three;
Act V., Scene 2. This inscription was put upon the door of the houses infected with the plague, to which Biron compares the love of himself and his companions; and pursuing the metaphor, finds the tokens likewise on the ladies.
“Your oath once broke, you furce not to forswear."
Act V., Scene 2. “ You force not" is the same with "you make no difficulty.” This is a very just observation. The crime which has been once committed is committed again with less reluctance.-JOHNSON.
“ The pedant, the braggart, the hedge-priest, the fool, and the boy :
A bare throw at novum; and the whole world again
Act V., Scene 2. Novum was a game at dice, properly called novem quiroque, from the principal throws being nine and five.
If we were to part with any of the author's comedies, it should be this. Yet we should be loth to part with Don Adriano de Armado, that mighty potentate of nonsense; or his
page, that handful of wit; with Nathaniel the curate, or Holofernes the schoolmaster, and their dispute after dinner, on “the golden cadences of poetry;" with Costard the clown, or Dull the constable. Biron is too accomplished a character to be lost to the world, and yet he could not appear without his fellow-courtiers and the King; and if we were to leare out the ladies, the gentlemen would have no mistresses. So that we believe we must let the whole play stand as it is, and we shall hardly venture to "set a mark of reprobation on it." Still we have some objections to the style, which we thiok savours more of the pedantic spirit of Shakspere's time, than of his own genius,-more of controversial divinity, and the logic of Peter Lombard, than of the inspiration of the muse. It transports us quite as much to the manners of the court, and the quirks of courts of law, as to the scenes of nature, or the fairy land of his own imagination.
Shakspere has 'set himself to imitate the tone of polite conversation then prevailing among the fair, the witty, and the learned; and he has imitated it but too faithfully. It is as if the hand of Titian had been employed to give grace to the curls of a full-bottomed periwig, or Raphael had altempted to give expression to the tapestry figures in the House of Lords. Shakspere has put an excellent description of this fashionable jargon into the mouth of the critical Holofernes, “as too picked, too spruce, too affected, too odd, too peregrinate, as I may call it;" and nothing can be more marked than the difference when he breaks loose from the trammels he had imposed on himself, “ as light as bird from brake," and speaks in his own person.-Hazlitt.
In this play, which all the editors have concurred to censure, and some have rejected as unworthy of our poet, it must be confessed that there are many passages mean, childish, and vulgar; and some which ought not to have been exhibited, as we are told they were, to a maiden queen. But there are scattered through the whole many sparks of genius; nor is there any play that has more evident marks of the hand of Shakspere.—Johnsox.
This is one of Shakspere's early plays, and the author's youth is certainly perceivable, not only in the style and manner of the versification, but in the lavish superfluity displayed in the execution: the uninterrupted succession of quibbles, equivoques, and sallies of every description. "The sparks of wit fly about in such profusion that they form complete fireworks, and the dialogue for the most part te sembles the bustling collision and banter of passing masks at a carnival."—(Schlegel.) The scene in which the King and his companions detect each other's breach of their mutual vow, is capitally contrived. The discovery of Biron's love-letter while rallying his friends, and the manner in which he extricates hiniself, by ridiculing the folly of the vow, are admirable.-SINGER,