Imágenes de páginas

D. Pedro. How dost thou, Benedick the mar

ried man? Bene. I'll tell thee what, Prince; a college of wit-crackers cannot fout me out of my humour. Dost thou think I care for a satire, or an epigram? No: if a man will be beaten with brains, he shall wear nothing handsome about him. In brief, since I do purpose to marry, I will think nothing to any purpose that the world can say against it; and therefore never flout at me for what I have said against it; for man is a giddy thing, and this is my conclusion.—For thy part, Claudio, I did think to have beaten thee; but in that thou art like to be my kinsman, live unbruised, and love

my cousin.

Bene. Do not you love me?
Beat. Why no, no more than reason.
Bene. Why, then your uncle, and the Prince,

and Claudio,
Have been deceived; they swore you did.

Beat. Do not you love me?
Bene. Troth, no, no more than reason.
Beat. Why, then my cousin, Margaret, and

Are much deceived; for they did swear you did.
Bene. They swore that you were almost sick

for me. Beat. They swore that you were well-nigh dead

for me. Bene. "Tis no such matter.—Then you do not

love me? Beat. No, truly, but in friendly recompense. Leon. Come, cousin, I am sure you love the

gentleman. Claud. And I'll be sworn upon't that he loves her; For here's a paper, written in his hand, A halting sonnet of his own pure brain, Fashioned to Beatrice.

Hero. And here's another, Writ in my cousin's hand, stolen from her pocket, Containing her affection unto Benedick.

Bene. A miracle! here's our own hands against our hearts !—Come, I will have thee; but, by this light, I take thee for pity.

Beat. I would not deny you; but, by this good day, I yield upon great persuasion; and partly to save your life, for I was told you were in a consumption. Bene. Peace, I will stop your mouth.

[Kissing her.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Claud. I had well hoped thou wouldst have denied Beatrice, that I might have cudgelled thee out of thy single life, to make thee a double dealer; which, out of question, thou wilt be, if my cousin do not look exceeding narrowly to thee.

Bene. Come, come, we are friends :-let's have a dance ere we are married, that we may lighten our own hearts and our wives' heels.

Leon. We'll have dancing afterwards.

Bene. First, o’my word; therefore play, music. -Prince, thou art sad; get thee a wife, get thee a wife: there is no staff more reverend than one tipped with horn.

Enter a Messenger. Mess. My lord, your brother John is ta’en in flight, And brought with arméd men back to Messina.

Bene. Think not on him till to-morrow; I'll devise thee brave punishments for him.--Strike up, pipers.




"Joy could not shew itself modest enough, without a badge of bitterness."-Act I., Scene 1.

In Shakspere's time, badges were worn on the arm by the servants of noblemen; he therefore uses the term to signify a mark or token in general. As in “MACBETH," (act ii.):

“Their hands and faces were all badged with blood." In reference to the passage above cited, Warburton judiciously observes, that "of all the transports of joy, that which is attended with tears is least offensive; because, carrying with it this mark of pain, it allays the envy that usually attends another's happiness. This Shakspere finely calls a modest joy; such a one as did not insult the observer by an indication of happiness unmixed with pain."

To tell us Cupid is a good hare-finder, and Vulcan a rare carpenter."--Act I., Scene 1.

The meaning of this passage probably is, "do you mean to amuse or mislead us, with improbable stories ?"

Hath not the world one man but he will wear his cap with suspicion ?"-Act I., Scene 1.

The cap alluded to, is the nightcap. lago says, in the same sense, “I fear Cassio with my nightcap, too."

Is Signior Montanto returned from the wars ?"

Act I., Scene 1. The large two-handed sword was called, in Spanish, “Montante." The term is applied in ridicule to Benedick, as an imputed boaster. Montanto was one of the ancient terms in the fencing-school.

He set up his bills."-Act I., Scene 1. It was formerly the custom for professional fencers to post up bills, or placards, containing a general challenge.

Challenged Cupid at the flight.—Act I., Scene 1.

“ Flights," says Mr. Gifford, were long and feathered arrows, that went directly to the mark; “rovers" were arrows shot compass-wise, or with a certain degree of elevation; these were the all-dreaded war weapons of the English ; “butt-shafts," as the name sufficiently intimates, were the strong unbarbed arrows used in the field exercises and amusements of the day.

Like the old tale, my lord, 'It is not 80, nor 't was not so; but, indeed, God forbid it should be so.'"-Act I., Scene 1.

The interesting "old tale" here referred to, was brought to light by Mr. Blakeway, who states that he had often heard it related in his childhood; and supposes it may still be extant in some old collection to which Shakspere referred. The legend runs briefly thus:-A certain noble damsel, called Lady Mary in the story, retires with her two brothers to a country seat of the family. Here they are visited by the neighbouring gentry, among whom Mr. Fox, a bachelor, makes himself especially agreeable to his young friends. He had often pressed the young lady to favour him with a visit at his house; and one day, her brothers being absent, she sets out alone for the purpose. No answer being made to her repeated applications at the door, she at last goes in. Over the portal of the hall she finds written, "Be bold, be bold, but not too bold." At the top of the staircase, and again over the entrance to a gallery, the same advice and caution are repeated. At length she arrives at a chamber, over which the inscription assumes a more threatening character—"Be bold, be bold, but not too bold, lest that your heart's blood should run cold." Although terrified, she yet ventures to open the door, and finds the room occupied with skeletons, tubs of blood, &c. Retreating down stairs in haste, she happens to cast a glance out of a window, whence she sees the mysterious owner of the house advancing with his drawn sword in one hand, and with the other dragging a young lady by her hair. Lady Mary has just time to slip under the staircase, when Fox enters with his victim; the unhappy creature seizes the bannister with one of her hands, which has on it a rich bracelet : the hand is immediately severed from the arm by the sword of the murderer, and falls into the lap of Lady Mary; who immediately seeks her own house, and happily arrives unmolested, bearing with her the severed and jewelled hand of the victim.

In a few days, Fox comes on a visit to Lady Mary and her brothers. After dinner, the company, by way of amusement, fall to relating anecdotes, &c. And now arrives the moment for the murderer's detection and punishment. Lady Mary tells him that she had dreamed she paid him a visit; and then proceeds to recount the circumstances that she had actually witnessed; mentioning the inscriptions over the various doors, and so forth ; turning, however, to the culprit at each change of the narrative, she adds, "But it is not so, nor it was not so, and God forbid it should be so.” When the lady arrives at the incident of the skeletons and tubs of blood, Fox takes up the burden, “ It is not so," &c. After he has in this manner denied his barbarity in cutting off the hand, the lady immediately retorts upon him, “ But it is so, and it was so, and here the hand I have to shew,"-producing it. On which the brothers and the male guests rise, draw their swords, and cut Fox to pieces on the spot.

" At the bird-bolt."-Act I., Scene 1. Short, thick arrows, without points, were called birdbolts; they had a flat surface at the extremity, and are said to be still used in some places for killing rooks. Only such comparatively- harmless weapons were entrusted to fools ; hence the challenge mentioned in the text, and hence, also, the phrase " a fool's bolt is soon shot." The point of this satirical passage is not very obvious; but the meaning of Beatrice probably is, that Benedick having committed a gross act of folly in his conceited defiance of Cupid, her uncle's fool justly thought himself the gentleman's equal, and challenged him in return to contend with a more appropriate weapon.

"Four of his five wits went halling off."-Act I., Scene 1.

Wit was formerly the general term for intellectual power. "The wits," says Johnson, "seem to have been reckoned fire, by analogy to the five senses, or the five inlets of ideas."

The lady fathers herself."-Act I., Scene 1. Resembles her father. The phrase, Steevens tells us, is still common in some parts of the country,

" A recheat winded in my forehead."--Act I., Scene 1.

A recheat is the species of sound on the bugle by which hounds are called back. Benedick means to say, he will not wear the instrument (a horn) on his forehead, by which such an operation may be performed. “Shakspere," says Johnson, "had no mercy on the poor cuckold : his horn is an inexhaustible subject of merriment."

Good lord, for alliance! Thus goes every one to the world but I, and I am sun-burned."-Act II., Scene 1.

The former part of this extract is probably spoken in answer to Claudio, on his calling her cousin. By saying she is sun-burned, Beatrice insinuates that she has lost her beauty, and is no longer likely to find a husband.

Hang me in a bottle, like a cat."-Act I., Scene 1.

It was formerly the custom to shoot at what Shylock truly calls “the harmless, necessary cat," closed up with a quantity of soot in a wooden bottle, suspended on a line. "He," says Steevens, "who beat out the bottom as he ran under it, and was nimble enough to escape its contents, was regarded as the hero of this inhuman diversion." There were probably, however, various modes of pursuing this delectable sport; for Benedick adds, " and shoot at me."

There's little of the melancholy element in her."

Act II., Scene 1. This is an allusion to the old notion of man being a compound of the four elements. In “HENRY V.," the Dauphin says of his horse, “ He is pure air and fire, and the dull elements of earth and water never appear in him.”

She hath often dreamed of unhappiness.”—Act II., Scene 1.

Unhappiness here means some ludicrous accident; pleasant enough to the spectators, but vexatious to the object of it.

Let him be clapped on the shoulder, and called Adam.”

Act I., Scene 1. This passage is supposed to refer to Adam Bell, one of three noted outlaws (Clym of the Clough, and William of Cloudeslee, being the others) who were formerly as famous in the north of England, as Robin Hood and his fellows in the midland counties.

In time the savage bull doth bear the yoke."

Act I., Scene 1. This line is from the old tragedy of “ HIERONYMO," which was long a favourite subject of ridicule.

Hear me call Margarel, Hero; hear Margaret term me Claudio."-Act II., Scene 2.

Theobald altered the name in this passage to "Borachio," and assigns plausible reasons for the change. " Claudio," however, is the original reading; and it appears evident that, at the time of speaking, Borachio intended there should be a change of his appellation, as well as in that of Margaret ; for where would be the wonder that Claudio should hear him called by his own name? It is probable that he prevailed upon Margaret (whom he expressly states to have had no ill intention towards her mistress) to take part in the plot, under the impression that she and Borachio were merely amusing themselves with a masquerade representation of the courtship of her lady and Claudio. It has also been suggested, that Claudio might very well be made to believe that the perfidious Hero received a clandestine lover, whom she called Claudio, in order to deceive her attendants, should any be within sight or hearing; and this, of course, in Claudio's estimation, would be a great aggravation of her offence.

Ere you fout old ends." -Act I., Scene 1. By "old ends," is probably meant the formal conclusion of letters in the olden time; such as quoted by Claudio and Don Pedro, immediately previous to Benedick's reproof of them.

" The fairest grant is the necessity.—Act I., Scene 1.

Warburton conceives the speaker here to mean, that no one can have a better reason for granting a request than the necessity of its being granted.

"'T is once, thou lov'st."-Act I., Scene 1. The word once has here the force of " at once," or for all." It is used in the same sense in “ CORIOLANUS :" “ Once, if he do require our voices, we ought not to deny him."


Her hair shall be of what colour it please God."

Act II., Scene 3. The meaning here may be, "she shall not, by dyeing her hair, give it a colour contrary to what it received from nature,”--this practice being common in Elizabeth's time. But we think it not improbable that Benedick means to imply, that if he can get a wife with all the excellences, bodily and mental, that he has just enumerated, he will not be fastidious about so comparatively trifling a matter as the colour of her hair.

Cousins, you know what you have to do."-Act I., Scene 2.

It was anciently common to enrol distant relations among the dependents, and even domestics, of a great family.

I had rather be a canker in a hedge, than a rose in his grace."—Act I., Scene 3.

The allusion is to the canker-rose, now commonly called the dog-rose. The speaker means to say, he would rather live in obscurity, than owe dignity or estimation to his hated brother.


Act II., Scene 3. For “ Balthazar," in this instance, the first folio gives “Jacke Wilson,” the name of the performer. Other mistakes of the same kind occur in this play. A carelessness almost incredible characterises most of the printing of Shakspere's time, and long after.

My visor is Philemon's roof."-Act II., Scene 1. The allusion is to the story of Baucis and Philemon, two obscure persons, who received Jove and Mercury beneath their humble roof.

"Stalk on, stalk on; the fowl sits."—Act II., Scene 3.

An allusion to the stalking-horse, by the assistance of which the fowler was enabled to conceal himself, and approach near enough to shoot the game.

" As melancholy as a lodge in a warren."—Act II., Scene 1.

This passage may be illustrated by a similar one in Isaiah (chap. i. 8), where, describing the desolation of Judah, it is said, “The daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers." In the neighbourhood of Aleppo these lonely buildings are still used while the fruit is in the ground, and then abandoned.

"She tore the letter into a thousand halfpence."

Act II., Scene 3. Into a thousand pieces. The word farthing was also used to signify any small particle or division. Chaucer says of his Prioress

"In hirre cuppe was no ferthing sene
of grese, when she dronken hadde hirre draught."

"The man, as you know all, hath a contemptible spirit."

Act II., Scene 3. Contemptuous. The difference of these two words was not yet accurately settled. In the argument to “ DARIUS," a tragedy, by Lord Sterline (1603), it is said, that Darius wrote to Alexander “in a proud and contemptible manner."

"Have a care that your bills be not stolen.

Act III., Scene 3. The bill was a formidable weapon in the hands of the old English infantry. “It gave," says Temple, “the most ghastly and deplorable wounds." Dr. Johnson states that, when he wrote, the bill was still carried by the watchmen of Litchfield, his native town. It was a long weapon, with a point shaped somewhat like an axe.

" If black, why Nature, drawing of an antic, made a foul blol."--Act III., Scene 1.

The "antic" was the fool or buffoon of the old farces. By the word black is meant only (as in the “Two GENTLEMEN OF VERONA") a man of a dark or swarthy complexion, and sometimes one with merely a black beard.

" Press me to death with wil."- Act III., Scene 1. By a barbarous law, the punishment called “ peine fort et dure" was inflicted on those persons who refused to plead to their indictment. They were pressed to death by weights placed upon their stomachs.

If you hear a child cry in the night.—Act III., Scene 3.

This part of the sapient Dogberry's charge may have been suggested by some of the amusing provisions contained in “THE STATUTES OF THE STREETS," imprinted by Wolfe, in 1595. For instance :-“22. No man shall, blowe any horne in the night, within the citie, or whistle after the houre of nyne of the clock in the night, under paine of imprisonment. -30. No man shall, after the houre of nyne at night, keep any rule, whereby any such suddaine outcry be made in the still of the night; as making any affray, or beating his wife or servant, or singing or revyling (revelling) in his house, to the disturbance of his neighbours, under paine of iiis. iiiid." &c. &c.

" What fire is in mine ears ?"-Act III., Scene 1. It is a proverbial saying, that our ears burn when others are talking about us. This notion is of great antiquity. In Philemon Holland's Translation of “ PLINY" (b. 27), we find this passage : " Moreover, is not this an opinion generally received, that when our ears do glow and tingle, some there be that in our absence do talk of us?"

"As to shew a child his new coal, and forbid him to wear it."

Act III., Scene 2. Shakspere very seldom repeats himself; but we do occasionally meet with a contrary instance, which may be noted merely as a curiosity. In “ ROMEO AND JULIET," there is a passage very similar to the above:

"As is the night before some festival,

To an impatient child that bath new robes
And may not wear them."

I know that Deformed.—Act III., Scene 3. In the Induction to his “BARTHOLOMEW Fair," we find Ben Jonson aiming a satirical stroke at this humorous scene :---“And then a substantial watch to have stole in upon 'em, and taken them away, with mistaking words, as the fashion is in the stage practice." Johnson himself, however, in his "TALE OF A TUB," makes his wise men of Finsbury blunder in the same manner. Mr. Boswell, in his edition of Malone's "SHAKSPERE," observes, that mistaking words was a source of merriment before Shakspere's time. Nash, in his " ANATOMY OF ABSURDITIE" (1589), speaks of "a misterming clowne in a comedie;" and in “SELIMUS, EMPEROR OF THE Turks” (1594), this speech is put into the mouth of Bullithrumble, a shepherd :-"Well, if you will keepe my sheepe truly and honestly, keeping your hands from lying and slandering, and your tongue from picking and stealing, you shall be Maister Bullithrumble's servitures."

The little hangman dare not shoot at him."

Act III., Scene 2. The term “ little hangman," applied to Cupid, is used, probably, in a general sense, to signify executioner. The same ignominious office is ascribed to the blind god in Sidney's “ ARCADIA" (b. ii., chap. 14):

"Millions of years this old drivel Cupid lives; Where still more wretch, more wicked, he doth prove:

Till now at length, that Jove him office gives
(At Juno's suit, who much did Argus love),

In this our world a hangman for to be,
Of all those fools that will have all they see."

" I know him, he wears a lock.”— Act III., Scene 3.

It was one of the fantastic fashions of Shakspere's day, for men to cultivate a favourite lock of hair, which was brought before, tied with ribbons, and called a love-lock. It was against this practice that Prynne wrote his treatise on “THE UNLOVELYNESS OF LOVE-LOCKS.” The portrait of Edward Sackville, Earl of Dorset, painted by Vandyck, and now at Knowle, exhibits this lock with a large knotted ribbon at the end of it.

"You must hang il first, and draw it afterwards."

Act III., Scene 2. This is an allusion to the sentence passed upon traitors, to be "hung, drawn, and quartered."

"If the hair were a thought browner."-Act III., Scene 4. Meaning the false hair attached to the cap.

" The old ornament of his cheek hath already stuffed tennis-balls."-Act III., Scene 2.

This is said in ridicule of great beards. In Nashe's WONDERFUL, STRANGE, AND MIRACULOUS ASTROLOGICAL PROGNOSTICATIONS" (1591), he says, " they may sell their hair by the pound, to stuff tennis-balls.”

"BEAT. By my troth, I am exceeding ill :-hey ho !

MARG. For a hawk, a horse, or a husband ?
Beat. For the letter that begins them all-H."

Act III., Scene 4. This conceit shews that the word which we now pronounce ake, was, in Shakspere's time, pronounced aitch. Beatrice says, she is ill for an H (aitch), the letter that begins each of the three words-hawk, horse, and husband. John Kemble had a long contention with the public on this point. When playing Prospero, he always persisted in saying, “ Fill all thy bones with aitches;" and the public (particularly those of the upper regions, who are always most intolerant of singularity) as pertinaciously hissed him for presuming to be right out of season.

“ The Gods and Cato did in this divide.”

"Enter DOGBERRY and VERGES." -Act III., Scene 3.

The name of the first of this immortal pair is probably derived from the dog-berry-the female cornel, a shrub that grows wild all over England. Verges is the vulgar or provincial version of verjuice. A cognomen less indicative of sourness, would possibly have better suited this amusing specimen of harmless imbecility.

Another instance in the actor's favour may be derived from Heyward's “EPIGRAMS" (1566), among which is one on the letter H:

" H is worst among letters in the cross-row;

For if thou find him, either in thine elbow,
In thine arm or leg, in any degree;
In thine head, or teeth, or toe, or knee ;-
Into what place soever H may pike him,
Wherever thou find ache, thou shalt not like him."

An you be not turned Turk."-Act III., Scene 4.

This phrase was commonly applied to express a change of condition or opinion. Hamlet talks of his fortune turning Turk.

Get you some of this distilled Carduus Benedictus."

Act III., Scene 4. An allusion, of course, to Benedick. Cogan says, in his “ HAVEN OF HEALTH" (1595), “ This herbe may worthily be called Benedictus, or Omnimorbia; this is a salve for every sore," &c.

Well, God's a good man."-Act III., Scene 5. “Man” is here used in the general sense of "being." The term has a strange and irreverent effect at present, but was not uncommon in the old writers. In the morality or interlude of “ LUSTY JUVENTUS," we have“ He wyl say, that God is a good man ;

He can make him no better, and say the best he can."

It will be observed, that many of the weak and ignorant but well-meaning comic characters of Shakspere (such as Dogberry, Mrs. Quickly, &c.), use the sacred name with a frequency and levity that is anything but agreeable to better instructed notions of the reverence due to it. Yet the author is, in some measure, justified by what we observe to be the practice with such persons even at present. He doubtless copied their diotion in the same simple and innocent spirit that they used it. Cervantes, a congenial spirit in every sense of the word, makes Sancho speak continually in the same strain of ultra-religious feeling.

" The story that is printed in her blood.—Act IV., Scene 1.

The story that her blushing discovers to be true.

Being that I flow in grief,

The smallest twine may lead me."-Act IV., Scene 1. “This," says Johnson “is one of our author's observations upon life. Men, overpowered with distress, eagerly listen to the first offers of relief, close with every scheme, and believe every promise."

was once

Cry, 'Sorrow, wag;' and hem, when he should groan."

Act V., Scene 1. If he will jocosely cry, “Sorrow, begone." customary to exclaim, “Care, away,” in a similar sense. To wag, is in various places used by Shakspere in the sense of, to go, or move. “Hem," was also an exclamation of a comic description.

-"Make misfortune drunk

With candle-wasters."--Act V., Scene 1. By the term “candle-wasters" in this place, is probably meant drunkards, or midnight revellers. There is, however, a passage in Ben Jonson's "Cynthia's Revels" (act ii., scene 2), which seems to shew that the epithet was applied in ridicule to students:—"Spoiled by a whoreson bookworm, a candle-waster." Leonato may mean to say, that a misfortune like his is not to be drugged or made drunk by the book philosophy of mere theorists. The whole tenor of his speech is directed against comforters of this description.

If he be, he knows how to turn his girdle."-Act V., Scene 1.

Steevens says that the Irish have an expression corresponding to that quoted:-"If he is angry, let him tie up his brogues.” He supposes both phrases merely to mean, that the angry man should employ himself till he is in a better humour. Instances are quoted to shew that it was a common expression of defiance. Mr. Holt White plausibly accounts for the origin of the term, by saying that the buckle was usually worn in front of the belt; but, for wrestling, it was turned behind, in order to give the adversary a fairer grasp at the girdle.

Shall I not find a woodcock too ?"-Act V., Scene 1.

The woodcock was used to typify a foolish fellow, on account of its being supposed to have no brains. " And she alone heir to both of us.”—Act V., Scene 1.

This appears to be a lapse of memory in the author, as mention is made, in Act I., Scene 2, of a son of Antonio.

God save the foundation."--Act V., Scene 1. This was a customary phrase with those who received alms at the gates of religious houses.

I give thee the bucklers."-Act V., Scene 2. To give up the shield or buckler, was equivalent to surrendering.

"Get thee a wife; there is no staff more recerend than one tipped with horn."—Act V., Scene 4.

The staff here alluded to is marriage. Benedick supposes it to be a welcome and respectable support to so " giddy a thing as man," although he cannot avoid a final flout at the horn which forms the handle of the staff, and forms an emblem of the destiny which he has all along attributed to married men. Witness the “recheat in the forehead," &c. To this day, it is common to see old-fashioned sticks or canes surmounted with horn handles, probably from the facility with which the material can be moulded to a convenient shape for the hand to lean upon. It has been supposed that the allusion in the text is to the "baston," used by combatants in the wager of battle; but we are not informed how the passage in the text is at all explained by the use of these weapons on such occasions.

A stool and a cushion for the sexton."-Act IV., Scene 2.

This "sexton” would more properly be called, the sacristan. In the original Italian the word is probably sagristano, rendered "sexton" in the novel on which the play is founded. This officer was an ecclesiastic of one of the inferior orders. In the folio edition, throughout the greater part of this scene, the name of the actor (Kempe) is prefixed to the speeches of Dogberry; and Cowley, to those of Verges.

« AnteriorContinuar »