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THE FIRST PART OF
KING HENRY IV.
ACT I. SCENE I.
LINE 2. Find we a time for frighted peace to pant,
And breathe short-winded accents of new broils—] That
is, let us soften peace to rest a while without disturbance, that she JOHNSON.
may recover breath to propose new wars.
Line 5. No more the thirsty Erinnys of this soil
Shall daub her lips with her own children's blood;] If there be no corruption in the text, I believe Shakspeare meant, however licentiously, to say, No more shall this soil have the lips of her thirsty entrance, or mouth, daubed with the blood of her own children. MALONE.
By Erinnys is meant the fury of discord.
Line 19. As far as to the sepulcher, &c.] The lawfulness and justice of the holy wars have been much disputed; but perhaps there is a principle on which the question may be easily determined. If it be part of the religion of the Mahometans to extirpate by the sword all other religions, it is, by the laws of selfdefence, lawful for men of every other religion, and for Christians among others, to make war upon Mahometans, simply as Maho
metans, as men obliged by their own principles to make war upon Christians, and only lying in wait till opportunity shall promise
them success. Line 33.
-this dear expedience.] For expedition. WARB. And many limits-] Limits for estimates. WARB. By those Welshwomen done,] See Holinshed, p. 528: "-such shameful villanie executed upon the carcasses of the dead men by the Welshwomen; as the like (I doo believe) hath never or sildome beene practised." STEEVENS. Line 104. Which makes him prune himself,] The metaphor is taken from a cock, who in his pride prunes himself; that is, picks off the loose feathers to smooth the rest. To prune and to plume, spoken of a bird, is the same. JOHNSON.
Line 113. Than out of anger can be uttered.] That is, "More is to be said than anger will suffer me to say: more than can issue from a mind disturbed like mine." JOHNSON.
ACT I. SCENE II.
Line 119. -to demand that truly which thou wouldst truly know.] The prince's objection to the question seems to be, that Falstaff had asked in the night what was the time of the day. JOHNS.
Line 138. -let not us, that are squires of the night's body, be called thieves of the day's beauty;] This conveys no manner of idea to me. How could they be called thieves of the day's beauty? They robbed by moonshine; they could not steal the fair day-light. I have ventured to substitute booty: and this I take to be the meaning. Let us not be called thieves, the purloiners of that booty, which, to the proprietors, was the purchase of honest labour and industry by day. THEOBALD. Line 151.
got with swearing-lay by ;] i. e. swearing at the passengers they robbed, lay by your arms; or rather, lay by was a phrase that then signified stand still, addressed to those who were preparing to rush forward. WARBURTON.
Line 151. —and spent with crying-bring in :] i. e. more MALONE.
Line 158. And is not a buff jerkin a most sweet robe of durance?] To understand the propriety of the Prince's answer, it must be remarked that the sheriff's officers were formerly clad in
buff. So that when Falstaff asks, whether his hostess is not a sweet wench, the prince asks in return whether it will not be a sweet thing to go to prison by running in debt to this sweet wench. JOHNSON. Line 189. For obtaining of suits?] Suit, spoken of one that attends at court, means a petition; used with respect to the hangman, means the clothes of the offender. JOHNSON.
an old cat.
-a gib cat,] A gib cat means, I know not why, JOHNSON.
A gib'd cat is most probably a he-cat; and the meaning here must be a cat mutilated.
Line 196.a hare,] A hare may be considered as melancholy, because she is upon her form always solitary; and, according to the physick of the times, the flesh of it was supposed to generate melancholy. JOHNSON.
Line 197. the melancholy of Moor-ditch?] It appears from Stowe, that there was a broad ditch, known by the name of Deepditch, which formerly separated the Hospital from the Moor-fields.
So, in Taylor's Pennylesse Pilgrimage, quarto, 1618: "-my body being tired with travel, and my mind attired with moody, muddy, Moore-ditch melancholy." MALONE.
the most comparative,] Comparative here means quick at comparisons, or fruitful in similes, and is properly introduced.
Line 210. 0, thou hast damnable iteration ;] For iteration Sir T. Hanmer and Dr. Warburton read attraction, of which the meaning is certainly more apparent; but an editor is not always to change what he does not understand. In the last speech a text is very indecently and abusively applied, to which Falstaff answers, thou hast damnable iteration, or a wicked trick of repeating and applying holy texts. This, I think, is the meaning. JOHNSON. Line 263. —if thou darest not stand, &c.] The modern reading [cry stand] may perhaps be right; but I think it necessary to remark, that all the old editions read-if thou darest not stand for ten shillings. JOHNSON.
Line 286. Falstaff, Bardolph, Peto, and Gadshill,] In former editions-Falstaff, Harvey, Rossil, and Gadshill. Thus have we two persons named, as characters in this play, that were never among the dramatis persona. But let us see who they were that
committed this robbery. In the second Act we come to a scene of the highway. Falstaff, wanting his horse, calls out on Hal, Poins, Bardolph, and Peto. Presently Gadshill joins them, with intelligence of travellers being at hand; upon which the Prince says, -"You four shall front 'em in a narrow lane, Ned Poins and I will walk lower." So that the four to be concerned are Falstaff, Bardolph, Peto, and Gadshill. Accordingly, the robbery is committed; and the Prince and Poins afterwards rob them four. In the Boar's-head tavern, the Prince rallies Peto and Bardolph for their running away, who confess the charge. Is it not plain now that Bardolph and Peto were two of the four robbers? And who then can doubt, but Harvey and Rossil were the names of the actors? THEOBALD.
Line 305. for the nonce,] That is, as I conceive, for the occasion. This phrase, which was very frequently, though not always very precisely, used by our old writers, I suppose to have been originally a corruption of corrupt Latin. From pro-nunc, I suppose, came for the nunc, and so for the nonce; just as from adnunc came a-non. The Spanish entonces has been formed in the same manner from in-tunc. TYRWHITT. -reproof-] Reproof is confutation. JOHNSON. -shall I falsify men's hopes;] To falsify hope is to exceed hope, to give much where men hope for little.
This speech is very artfully introduced to keep the Prince from appearing vile in the opinion of the audience; it prepares them for his future reformation; and, what is yet more valuable, exhibits a natural picture of a great mind offering excuses to itself, and pal liating those follies which it can neither justify nor forsake.
ACT I. SCENE III.
Line 349. I will from henceforth rather be myself,
Mighty, and to be fear'd, than my condition;] i. e. I
will from henceforth rather put on the character that becomes me, and exert the resentment of an injured king, than still continue in the inactivity and mildness of my natural disposition.
Line 364. And majesty might never yet endure
The moody frontier of a servant brow.] Frontier