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Line 205. Enter a Messenger.
Duke. This is his lordship's man.
Prov. And here comes Claudio's pardon.] When, immediately after the Duke had hinted his expectation of a pardon, the Provost sees the Messenger, he supposes the Duke to have known something, and changes his mind. Either reading may serve equally well. JOHNSON.
Line 236. -a prisoner nine years old.] i. e. Having been nine years in confinement.
Line 250. --desperately mortal.] This expression is obscure. Sir Thomas Hanmer reads, mortally desperate. Mortally is in low conversation used in this sense, but I know not whether it was ever written. I am inclined to believe, that desperately mortal means desperately mischievous. Or desperately mortal may mean a man likely to die in a desperate state, without reflection or repentance. JOHNSON.
Line 282. and tie the beard;] The Revisal recommends Mr. Simpson's emendation, die the beard, but the present reading may stand. I believe it was usual to tie up the beard before decollation, that it might escape the blow. Sir T. More is said to have been very careful about this ornament of his face. It should however be remembered, that it was the custom to die beards. In the Midsummer-Night's Dream, Bottom says,
"I will discharge it either in your straw-colour'd beard, "your orange-tawny beard, your purple in grain," &c.
A beard tied would give a very new air to that face, which had never been seen but with the beard loose, long, and squalid.
nothing of what is writ.] We should read
here writ-the Duke pointing to the letter in his hand.
WARBURTON. Line 311. the unfolding star calls up the shepherd:] "The star, that bids the shepherd fold,
"Now to the top of heav'n doth hold." Milton's Comus.
ACT IV. SCENE III.
Line 323. First, here's young master Rash, &c.] This enumeration of the inhabitants of the prison affords a very striking view of the practices predominant in Shakspeare's age. Besides those whose follies are common to all times, we have four fighting men and a traveller. It is not unlikely that the originals of the pictures were .then known. JOHNSON.
Line 324. -a commodity of brown paper and old ginger,] Thus the old copy. The modern editors read, brown pepper. The following passage in Michaelmas Term, Com. 1607, will justify the original reading.
"I know some gentlemen in town have been glad, and are "glad at this time, to take up commodities in hawk's-hoods "and brown paper." STEEVENS.
-master Forthright-] Forthright, alluding to
the line in which the thrust is made?
Line 336. and brave master Shoe-tie the great traveller,] As most of these are compound names, I suspect that this was originally written, master Shoe-tye (not Shooty). As he was a traveller, it is not unlikely that he might be solicitous about the minutiæ of dress, and the epithet brave seems to countenance the supposition. STEEVENS.
Line 338. all great doers in our trade,] This phrase bears an indecent application. See note in Act 1. Sc. 2.
-for the Lord's sake.] i. e. To beg for the rest WARBURTON.
of their lives. I rather think this expression intended to ridicule the puritans, whose turbulence and indecency often brought them to prison, and who considered themselves as suffering for religion.
It is not unlikely that men imprisoned for other crimes, might represent themselves, to casual enquirers, as suffering for puritanism, and that this might be the common cant of the prisons. In Donne's time, every prisoner was brought to jail by suretiship. JOHNSON.
Line 390. -to transport him- -] To remove him from one world to another. The French trepas affords a kindred sense.
weal balanced- -] i. e. Well balanced.
When it is least expected.] A better reason might
have been given. It was necessary to keep Isabella in ignorance, that she might with more keenness accuse the deputy.
Line 468. sire.
JOHNSON. -] Your wish; your heart's deJOHNSON.
Line 479. I am combined by a sacred vow.] I once thought this should be confined, but Shakspeare uses combine for to bind by a pact or agreement, so he calls Angelo the combinate husband of Mariana. JOHNSON.
Line 480. Wend you- -] i. e. Go you.
-If the old, &c.] Sir Thomas Hanmer reads, the odd fantastical Duke, but old is a common word of aggravation in ludicrous language, as, there was old revelling. JOHNSON. Line 499. woodman- -] That is, huntsman, here taken for a hunter of girls.
So also in The Merry Wives of Windsor :
Fal. "Am I a woodman? Ha!"
ACT IV. SCENE IV. -sort and suit,] Figure and rank. -Yet reason dares her?-no:] And this is right.
The meaning is, the circumstances of our case are such, that she will never venture to contradict me: dares her to reply No to me, whatever I say. WARBURTON.
-my authority bears a credent bulk,
That no particular scandal, &c.] Credent is creditable, inforcing credit, not questionable. The old English writers often confound the active and passive adjectives. So Shakspeare, and Milton after him, use inexpressive from inexpressible.
Particular is private, a French sense. No scandal from any private mouth can reach a man in my authority.
Line 557. -we would, and we would not.] Here undoubtedly the act should end, and was ended by the poet; for here is properly a cessation of action, and a night intervenes, and the place is changed, between the passages of this scene, and those
of the next. The next act, beginning with the following scene, proceeds without any interruption of time or change of place.
ACT IV. SCENE V.
These letters- -] Peter never delivers the letters,
but tells his story without any credentials. The poet forgot the
plot which he had formed.
to shrink from.
-you do blench] To blench, is to fly off;
ACT IV. SCENE VI.
Line 576. He says, to veil full purpose.] To veil full purpose, may, with very little force on the words, mean to hide the whole extent of our design. JOHNSON.
Line 584. Enter Friar Peter.] This play has two Friars, either of whom might singly have served. I should therefore imagine, that Friar Thomas, in the first act, might be changed, without any harm, to Friar Peter; for why should the Duke unnecessarily trust two in an affair which required only one. The name of Friar Thomas is never mentioned in the dialogue, and therefore seems arbitrarily placed at the head of the scene. JOHNSON.
ACT V. SCENE I.
Line 24. vail your regard] That is, withdraw your thoughts from higher things, let your notice descend upon a wronged woTo vail, is to lower. Line 54.
-truth is truth
To the end of the reckoning.] That is, truth has no gradations; nothing which admits of encrease can be so much what it is, as truth is truth. There may be a strange thing, and a thing more strange, but if a proposition be true, there can be none more
-as shy, as grave, as just, as absolute,] As shy;
as reserved, as abstracted: as just; as nice, as exact: as absolute; -as complete in all the round of duty.
Line 67. In all his dressings, &c.] In all his semblance of vir
tue, in all his habiliments of office.
-characts,] i. e. Characters. See Dugdale, Orig.
Jurid, p. 81.-" That he use ne hide, no charme, 'ne carecte."
-do not banish reason
For inequality:] Let not the high quality of my ad
versary prejudice you against me.
Cicero pro Ligario.
Line 116. How he refell'd me,] To refel is to refute.
Refellere et coarguere mendacium.
Ben Jonson uses the word:
"Friends, not to refel you,
"Or any way quell you.”
Line 120. To his concupiscible, &c.] Such is the old reading. The modern editors unauthoritatively substitute concupiscent.
Line 127. Oh, that it were as like, as it is true!] Like is not here used for probable, but for seemly. She catches at the Duke's word, and turns it to another sense; of which there are a great many examples in Shakspeare, and the writers of that time.
1 do not see why like may not stand here for probable, or why .the lady should not wish, that since her tale is true, it may obtain belief. If Dr. Warburton's explication be right, we should read, O! that it were as likely, as 'tis true! Like I have never found for seemly.
-fond wretch,] i. e. Foolish wretch. 131. In hateful practice.] Practice was used by the old writers for any unlawful or insidious stratagem. Line 143. In countenance!] i. e. In partial favour.
-nor a temporary medler,] It is hard to know what is meant by a temporary medler. In its usual sense, as op.posed to perpetual, it cannot be used here. It may stand for temporal: the sense will then be, I know him for a holy man, one that meddles not with secular affairs. It may mean temporising: I know him to be a holy man, one who would not temporise, or take the opportunity of your absence to defame you. Or we may read, Not scurvy, nor a tamperer and medler: