« PreviousContinue »
man falls into another, namely, 'cod' (baccaldj Cambrice 'cot' for coat.
Shal. The lace is the fresh fish—
'Luce is a fresh fish, and not a louse;' says Shal-
Fal. Now, the report goes, she has all the rule of her husband's purse; she hath a legion of angels.
Pist. As many devils entertain; and To her, hou, say I.
Perhaps it is—
As many devils enter (or enter'd) swine; an to her, boy, say I:—
a somewhat profane, but not un-Shakspearian, allusion to the ' legion ' in St. Luke's 'gospel.'
MEASURE FOR MEASURE.
THIS play, which is Shakspeare's throughout, is to me the most painful—say rather, the only painful—part of his genuine works. The comic and tragic parts equally border on the /xto-i/rov,— the one being disgusting, the other horrible; and the pardon and marriage of Angelo not merely baffles the strong indignant claim of justice—(for cruelty, with lust and damnable baseness, cannot be forgiven, because we cannot conceive them as being morally repented of;) but it is likewise degrading to the character of woman. Beaumont and Fletcher, who can follow Shakspeare in his errors only, have presented a still worse, because more loathsome and contradictory, instance of the same kind in the Night-Walker, in the marriage of Alathe to Algripe. Of the counter-balancing beauties of Measure for Measure, I need say nothing; for I have already remarked that the play is Shakspeare's throughout. Act iii. sc. 1.
Ay, but to die, and go we know not where, &c.
This natural fear of Claudio, from the antipathy we have to death, seems very little varied from that infamous wish of Maecenas, recorded in the 101st epistle of Seneca:
Debilem pede, coxa, Sfc. Warburton's note.
I cannot but think this rather an heroic resolve, than an infamous wish. It appears to me to be the grandest symptom of an immortal spirit, when even that bedimmed and overwhelmed spirit recked not of its own immortality, still to seek to be,—to be a mind, a will.
As fame is to reputation, so heaven is to an estate, or immediate advantage. The difference is, that the self-love of the former cannot exist but by a complete suppression and habitual supplantation of immediate selfishness. In one point of view, the
miser is more estimable than the spendthrift;—only
Pattern in himself to know,
Worse metre, indeed, but better English would be,—
Grace to stand, virtue to go.
You do not meet a man, but frowns: our bloods
THERE can be little doubt of Mr. Tyrwhitt's emendations of' courtiers' and ' king,' as to the sense;—only it is not impossible that Shakspeare's dramatic language may allow of the word,' brows' or 'faces' being understood after the word' courtiers',' which might then remain in the genitive case plural. But the nominative plural makes excellent sense, and is sufficiently elegant, and sounds to my ear Shakspearian. What, however, is meant by 'our bloods no more obey the heavens?' — Dr. Johnson's assertion that ' bloods' signify ' countenances,' is, I think, mistaken both in the thought conveyed—(for it was never a popular belief that the stars governed men's countenances,) and in the usage, which requires an antithesis of the blood,— or the temperament of the four humours, choler, melancholy, phlegm, and the red globules, or the sanguine portion, which was supposed not to be in our own power, but, to be dependent on the influences of the heavenly bodies,—and the countenances which are in our power really, though from flattery we bring them into a no less apparent dependeuce on the sovereign, than the former are in actual dependence on the constellations.
I have sometimes thought that the word ' courtiers' was a misprint for 'countenances,' arising from an anticipation, by foreglance of the compositor's eye, of the word ' courtier' a few lines below. The written r is easily and often confounded with the written n. The compositor read the first syllable court, and—his eye at the same time catching the word ' courtier' lower down—he completed the word without reconsulting the copy. It is not unlikely that Shakspeare intended first to express, generally the same thought, which a little afterwards he repeats with a particular application to the persons meant; — a common usage of the pronominal 'our,' where the speaker does not really mean to include himself; and the word ' you' is an additional confirmation of the ' our,' being used in this place, for 'men' generally and indefinitely, just as ' you do not meet,' is the same as, ' one does not meet.'
Act i. sc. 2. Imogen's speech:—
— My dearest husband,
Place the emphasis on ' me;' for ' rage' is a mere repetition of' wrath.'
Cym. O disloyal thing,
That should'st repair my youth, thou heapest
A year's age on me!