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Here's a flaw,
That shakes the rotten carcass of old death.
That is, here is a gust of bravery, a blast of menace. This suits well with the spirit of the speech. Stay and flaw, in a careless hand, are not easily distinguished; and if the writing was obscure, flaw being a word less usual was easily missed. JOHNSON.
Line 543. Lest zeal, now melted, &c.] We have here a very unusual, and, I think, not very just image of zeal, which, in its highest degree, is represented by others as a flame, but by Shakspeare as a frost. To repress zeal, in the language of others, is to cool, in Shakspeare's to melt it; when it exerts its utmost power it is commonly said to flame, but by Shakspeare to be congealed. JOHNS. Line 643. departed with a part:] To part and to depart were formerly synonimous. STEEVENS. Line 646. -rounded in the ear- -] i. e. whispered in the ear. The word is frequently used by Chaucer, as well as later writers. STEEVENS.
ACT III. SCENE I.
Line 15. For I am sick, and capable of fears;] i. e. I am tremblingly alive to apprehension. MALONE.
sightless] The poet uses sightless for that which we now express by unsightly, disagreeable to the eyes.
-swart,] To swart means to blacken.
to be taken for a foretoken of evil.
Line 77. —makes his owner stout.] The old editions have,
makes its owner stoop: the emendation is Hanmer's.
Line 78. To me, and to the state of my great grief,
Let kings assemble ;] In Much Ado about Nothing, the father of Hero, depressed by her disgrace, declares himself so subdued by grief that a thread may lead him. How is it that grief in Leonato and lady Constance produces effects directly opposite, and yet both agreeable to nature? Sorrow softens the mind while it is yet warmed by hope, but hardens it when it is congealed by despair. Distress, while there remains any prospect of relief, is weak and flexible, but when 'no succour remains, is fearless and stubborn; angry alike at those that injure, and at those that do not
help; careless to please where nothing can be gained, and fearless to offend when there is nothing further to be dreaded. Such was this writer's knowledge of the passions.
Line 86. To solemnize this day, &c.] From this passage Rowe seems to have borrowed the first lines of his Fair Penitent. JOHNS. Line 100. prodigiously be cross'd:] Probably means be
crossed by the production of a monster.
But on this day, &c.] That is, except on this day.
You have beguil'd me with a counterfeit, Resembling majesty;] i. e. a false coin. You came in arms to spill mine enemies' blood, But now in arms you strengthen it with yours:] I am afraid here is a clinch intended; You came in war to destroy my enemies, but now you strengthen them in embraces.
Line 122. Set armed discord, &c.] Shakspeare makes this bitter curse effectual. Line 127. 0 Lymoges! O Austria! &c.] The commentators have throughout understood Lymoges to have been an appendage to the title of Austria.
Line 142. -doff it for shame,] To doff is to put off.
143. And hang a calf's-skin on those recreant limbs.] When fools were kept for diversion in great families, they were distinguished by a calf'-skin coat, which had the buttons down the back; and this they wore that they might be known for fools, and escape the resentment of those whom they provoked with their waggeries. HAWKINS.
Line 165. What earthly name to interrogatories,] This must have been at the time when it was written, in our struggles with popery, a very captivating scene.
So many passages remain in which Shakspeare evidently takes his advantage of the facts then recent, and of the passions then in motion, that I cannot but suspect that time has obscured much of his art, and that many allusions yet remain undiscovered, which perhaps may be gradually retrieved by succeeding commentators. JOHNSON.
Line 198. That takes away by any secret course
Thy hateful life.] This may allude to the bull pub
lished against queen Elizabeth. Or we may suppose, since we
have no proof that this play appeared in its present state before thé reign of King James, that it was exhibited soon after the popish plot. I have seen a Spanish book in which Garnet, Faux, and their accomplices are registered as saints." JOHNSON.
Line 233. Is, purchase of a heavy curse from Rome,] It is a political maxim, that kingdoms are never married. Lewis, upon the wedding, is for making war upon his new relations. JOHNSON. Line 281. -so strong in both,] I believe the meaning is,
love so strong in both parties. Line 322. But thou hast sworn against religion; &c.] The sense, after I had considered it, appeared to me only this: In swearing by religion against religion, to which thou hast already sworn, thou makest an oath the security for thy faith against an oath already taken. I will give, says he, a rule for conscience in these cases. Thou mayst be in doubt about the matter of an oath; when thou swearest thou mayst not be always sure to swear rightly, but let this be thy settled principle, swear only not to be forsworn; let not the latter oaths be at variance with the former.
Truth, through this whole speech, means rectitude of conduct.
ACT III. SCENE II.
Line 406. Some airy devil-] We must read, Some fiery devil, if we will have the cause equal to the effect. WARBURTON.
There is no end of such alterations; every page of a vehement and negligent writer will afford opportunities for changes of terms, if mere propriety will justify them. JOHNSON.
Shakspeare here probably alludes to the distinctions and divisions of some of the demonologists, so much read and regarded in his time. They distributed the devils into different tribes and classes, each of which had its peculiar properties, attributes, &c.
These are described at length in Burton's Anatomie of Melancholy, part i. sect. 2. p. 45. 1632. PERCY.
ACT III. SCENE III.
Line 431. Bell, book, and candle-] In an account of the Romish curse given by Dr. Grey, it appears that three candles
were extinguished, one by one, in different parts of the execration. JOHNSON.
Line 473. using conceit alone,] Conceit here, as in many other places, signifies conception, thought. MALONE,
Line 498. Remember.] This is one of the scenes to which may be promised a lasting commendation. Art could add little to its perfection, and time itself can take nothing from its beauties. STEEVENS.
ACT III. SCENE IV.
Line 505. ing a fleet of war. distinction. Line 543. Misery's love, &c.] Thou, death, who art courted by Misery to come to his relief, O come to me.
Armado-] Armado is a Spanish word signify-
Line 552. modern invocation.] It is hard to say what Shakspeare means by modern: it is not opposed to ancient. In All's Well that ends Well, speaking of a girl in contempt, he uses this word, her modern grace. It apparently means something slight and inconsiderable. JOHNSON.
Line 571. Bind up those tresses:] It was necessary that Constance should be interrupted, because a passion so violent cannot be borne long. I wish the following speeches had been equally happy; but they only serve to shew, how difficult it is to maintain the pathetic long. JOHNSON. —a gracious creature born.] Gracious means graceful. —had you such a loss as I,
Line 594. -613.
I could give better comfort- -] This is a sentiment which great sorrow always dictates. Whoever cannot help himself casts his eyes on others for assistance, and often mistakes their inability for coldness. JOHNSON.
Line 621. There's nothing in this, &c.] The young prince feels his defeat with more sensibility than his father. Shame operates most strongly in the earlier years; and when can disgrace be less welcome than when a man is going to his bride? JOHNSON. Line 665. -true blood,] The blood of him that has the just JOHNSON.
Line 672. No 'scape of nature,] monstrous birth, an escape of nature.
The author very finely calls a
she was busy elsewhere, or intent on some other thing. WARB. - Line 696. Or, as a little snow,] Bacon, in his History of Henry VII. speaking of Perkin's march, observes that their snow-ball did not gather as it rolled. JOHNSON.
ACT IV. SCENE I.
Northampton.] Mr. Malone has observed, that Shakspeare deviated from historical fact in bringing Arthur to England; this young prince was first confined at Falaise, and afterwards at Rouen in Normandy, where he was put to death.
Line 117. Or, Hubert, if you will, cut out my tongue,] This is according to nature. We imagine no evil so great as that which
is near us.
-The fire is dead with grief, &c.] The sense is:
the fire, being created not to hurt but to comfort, is dead with grief for finding itself used in acts of cruelty, which, being innocent, I have not deserved.
-tarre him on.] To tarre means to provoke or
ACT IV. SCENE II.
Line 159. This once again—
Was once superfluous:] This one time more was one
time more than enough.
Line 167. To guard a title that was rich before;] To guard, is to fringe. JOHNSON. Line 187. They do confound their skill in covetousness :] i. e. Not by their avarice, but in an eager emulation, an intense desire of excelling. THEOBALD.
Line 199. Some reasons of this double coronation
I have possess'd you with, and think them strong ;