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But she may learn; happier than this,
Commits itself to yours to be directed.“ The correctness of this passage, as far as I can ascertain, has never been questioned; and yet, it undoubtedly contains a serious error. The three adjectives, „happy,“ „happier,“ „happiest,“ clearly refer to the substantive „girl,“ to which they form simple attributes. But this attributive connexion is destroyed by the verb „is“ in the fifth line. This verb requires a subject to which it must be referred. If the grammatical laws of the language allowed us to supply the pronoun „she“ the difficulty would be at once removed, at least as far as the syntax of the sentence is concerned ; though the symmetry and regularity would still suffer. But that pronoun cannot be supplied, and therefore, the sentence, as it stands, is incorrect, and has been reprinted, in every edition of Shakspere, in bold defiance, or in happy ignorance, of good grammar. Let 'us do tardy justice to the poet, and by removing an ugly misprint, restore the genuine reading.
,,An unlessoned girl,
,,But now I was the lord
Portia contrasts the immediate past with the present time. To the former period she refers by saying „but now,“ to the latter in the words „and even now, but now. Here, it is
*) When the author wrote this, he was not aware of the fact that Collier's annotator bad proposed the same alteration. This was pointed out to him by Mr. Tinling, who also suggested a further very ingenious emendation, viz., to read (l. 3), „happier in this, “ for „happier than this,“
strange that the same expression, ,,but now,“ should be used
, in two senses entirely opposed to each other. That they can be used in this way there is no doubt. The ,,but" in the first expression would be used as an adverb, equivalent to „only,“ or „almost;" the „but“ in the second would be a conjunction, equivalent to „however. We may say –
„But now the mighty Cæsar was a god;
But now he is a lifeless clod of earth.“ It is, however, apparent that the adversative conjunction „but“ cannot be employed unless it heads that portion of the sentence to which it belongs. It can in no way be preceded by the conjunction „and. Therefore, the words, and even “
„ now, but now,“ cannot have the force of adversative particles. What, then, shall we do with them? How shall we explain them? I confess I see no remedy but an alteration of the text, and I take my cue from a passage in this identical play. We have a similar contrast of past and present in I., i., 4
„And in a word, but even now worth this,
And now worth nothing.“ We see from this passage that, whereas „but even now refers to the past, the present is indicated. not by „but now,“ but by „and now.“ Let us apply what this passage teaches to the passage under consideration, and we shall find that by the simple transposition of „and" and „hut“ we shall restore sense and grammar, as the verse will then read „Queen o'er myself, but even now;
and now This house, these servants, and this same myself, Are yours.“
As this passage is printed in our editions, it is really in a sad state. We have prose and verse jumbled together, and verses of all lengths. It is not difficult to restore it to perfect metre by a few slight alterations.
Yes faith, my lord.
No; we shall never win
The only alterations made are --- 1st. The omission of the unnecessary word Gratiano in the first verse. 2nd. The spelling of 'em,“ for „them,“ by which the two words, „with them,“ can be contracted into one (as in „Julius Cæsar,“ I., ü., 38, 12). 3rd. The omission of „for,“ which also is superfluous.
The dearest friend to me, the kindest man,
The ancient Roman honour more appears,
Than any that draws breath in Italy.“ In this glowing description of the high and noble qualities of his friend Antonio, it is clear, that Bassanio does not take the word „courtesys in the sense in which alone it is now current, and which makes it equivalent with civility and urbanity things pertaining not to a man's morals, but rather to his
The meaning Shakspere attaches to the word is more honourable to Antonio; it is evidently used as synonymous with kindness. This is borne out by another passage in the same play. III., i., 17
He was wont to lend money for a Christian courtesy.“ And by Lear, II., iv., 55 –
„O Regan, thou shalt never have my curse,
Thou better know'st
„Should lose a hair through Bassanio's fault.“ This verse lacks a syllable, which Symmons has supplied by reading -
„Should lose a hair through my Bassanio's fault.“ But there is no occasion to add a word. We need only spell and read „thorough“ instead of „through,“ and the rhythm is unexceptionable.
,To cut the forfeiture from that bankrupt there.“ This verse has one syllable too many; but Shakspere wrote
„To cut.the forfeit from that bankrupt there."
IV., i., 76, 9
From such misery doth she cut me off.“
From such a misery doth she cut me off.“
IV., i., 95, 7
„Of one poor scruple; nay, if the scale do turn.“ This lame verse can easily be cured by omitting the unnecessary auxiliary do.
The termination of the verse is then, if the scale turn. This termination looks faulty at first sight, at least, if we apply the laws of classical versification. For there it is a fundamental principle that the last foot of every verse should represent the pure rhythm. The rhythm of the blank verse is iambic; the last foot, therefore, we might think, should not consist of two such words as scale turn, which can only be considered a spondee, and not an iambus. What makes this apparent neglect of the true iambic rhythm still worse, is the circumstance that in the preceding foot, if the, the rhythmical accent (the arsis) is on the short, insignificant article. I must confess this kind of verse is not pleasant to my ear. But they are so frequent in Shakspere, that we must look upon them as perfectly legitimate, and need not hesitate to introduce them in an emendation. In the „Merchant of Venice,“ alone, we have the following examples: II., i., 3
„Pluck the young sucking cubs from the she-bear.“ III., ii., 37
„I have engaged myself to a dear friend.“
„I take this offer then: pay the bond thrice.“