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Give him allowance for the better man,
introduced, concerning his eloquence and adoring learning. See Mr. Steevens's note.
Perhaps, however, The Destruction of Troy led Shakspeare to give this representation ; for the author of that book, describing these two persons, improperly calls Ajax Oileus, simply Ajax, as the more eminent of the two :
“ Ajax was of a huge stature, great and large in the shoulders, great armes, and always was well clothed, and very richly; and was of no great enterprise, and spake very quické. Thelamon Ajax-was a marvellous faire knight; he had black hayres, and he hadde great pleasure in musicke, and he sang him selfe very well: he was of greate prowesse, and a valiant man of warre, and without pompe.” Malone.
Mr. Malone observes, that “there is not the smallest ground, &c. concerning his eloquence and adoring learning.” But may we ask what interpretation this gentleman would give to the epithets
diserte and virtuous ?" By the first word, (formed from the Latin disertus,) eloquence must have been designed ; and by the latter, the artes ingenue, which in the age of Lydgate were often called the virtuous arts.
STEEVENS. . The sort-] i.e. the lot. STEEVENS. So, in Lydgate's Auncient Historie, &c:
“ Calchas had experience
Especially of calculation ;
under our opinion] Here again opinion means character. MALONE.
Nest. Ulysses, Now I begin to relish thy advice;* And I will give a taste of it forthwith To Agamemnon: go we to him straight. Two curs shall tame each other; Pride alone Must tarre the mastiffs on, as 'twere their bone.
ACT II.G SCENE I.
Another Part of the Grecian Camp.
Enter AJAX and THERSITES.
AJAX. Thersites, THER. Agamemnon-how if he had boils? full, all over, generally?
Ther. And those boils did run ?-Say so,--did not the general run then? were not that a botchy core ? :
Ulysses, Now I begin &c.] The quarto and folio haveNow, Ulysses, I begin, &c. The transposition was made by Mr. Steevens. MALONE.
5 Must tarre the mastiffs on,] Tarre, an old English word, signifying to provoke or urge on. See King John, Act IV. sc. i:
-like a dog, “ Snatch at his master that doth tarre him on." POPE. Act II.] This play is not divided into Acts in any of the original editions. Johnson.
THER. Then would come some matter from him; I see none now.
AJAX. Thou bitch-wolf's son, canst thou not hear? Feel then.
[Strikes him. THER. The plague of Greece upon thee,” thou mongrel beef-witted lord!8
AJAX. Speak then, thou unsalted leaven, speak:' I will beat thee into handsomeness.
? The plague of Greece upon thee,] Alluding perhaps to the plague sent by Apollo on the Grecian army. JOHNSON.
The following lines of Lydgate's Auncient Historie of the Warres between the Trojans and the Grecians, 1555, were probably here in our author's thoughts :
“ And in this whyle a great mortalyte,
“ Without abode graunted his axynge." MALONE. Our author may as well be supposed to have caught this circumstance, relative to the plague, from the first Book of Hall's or Chapman's version of the Iliad. STEEVENS.
thou mongrel beef-witted lord!] So, in TwelfthNight : “-I am a great eater of beef, and I believe that does harm to my wit." STEEVENS.
He calls Ajax mongrel on account of his father's being a Grecian and his mother a Trojan. See Hector's speech to Ajax, in Act IV. sc. v: “ Thou art, great lord, my father's sister's son,” &c.
MALONE. Speak then, thou unsalted leaven, speak:] Unsalted leaven means sour without salt, malignity without wits Shakspeare
THER. I shall sooner rail thee into wit and holi. ness : but, I think, thy horse will sooner con an oration, than thou learn a prayer without book. Thou canst strike, canst thou? a red murrain o’thy jade's tricks!
AJAX. Toads-stool, learn me the proclamation.
THER. Dost thou think, I have no sense, thou strikest me thus ?
AJAX. The proclamation,-
AJAX. Do not, porcupine, do not; my fingers itch.
THER. I would, thou didst itch from head to foot, and I had the scratching of thee; I would
wrote first unsalted; but recollecting that want of salt was no fault in leaven, changed it to vinew'd. Johnson.
The want of salt is no fault in leaven; but leaven without the addition of salt will not make good bread: hence Shakspeare used it as a term of reproach. MALONE.
Unsalted is the reading of both the quartos. Francis Beaumont, in his letter to Speght on his edition of Chaucer's works, 1602, says:
“ Many of Chaucer's words are become as it were vinew'd and hoarie with over long lying.” Again, in Tho. Newton's Herbal to the Bible, 8vo. 1587: “ For being long kept they grow hore and vinewed.”
STEEVENS. In the Preface to James the First's Bible, the translators speak of fenowed (i. e. vinewed or mouldy) traditions.
BLACKSTONE. The folio has—thou whinid'st leaven; a corraption undoubtedly of vinnewdst, or vinniedst: that is, thou most mouldy leaven. In Dorsetshire they at this day call cheese that is become mouldy, vinny cheese. Malonė.
a red murrain &c.] A similar imprecation is found in The Tempest : “ --The red plague rid you!” STEEVENS. I make thee the loathsomest scab in Greece. When thou art forth in the incursions, thou strikest as slow as another.
AJAX. I say, the proclamation,
THER. Thou grumblest and railest every hour on Achilles; and thou art as full of envy at his greatness, as Cerberus is at Proserpina's beauty, ay, that thou barkest at him.3 AJAX. Mistress Thersites! THER. Thou shouldest strike him. AJAX. Cobloaf!4
THÉR. He would pun thee into shivers with his fist, as a sailor breaks a biscuit.
: - in Greece.] [Thus far the folio.] The quarto adds when thou art forth in the incursions, thou strikest as slow as another. JOHNSON.
ay, that thou barkest at him.] I read, that thou barkedst at him. Johnson.
The old reading is 1, which, if changed at all, should have been changed into ay. TYRWHITT.
• Cobloaf!] A crusty, uneven, gibbous loaf, is in some counties called by this name. STEEVENS. : A cob-loaf, says Minsheu, in his Dictionary, 1616, is 66 bunne. It is a little loaf made with a round head, such as cobirons which support the fire. G. Bignet, a bigne, a knob or lump risen after a knock or blow.” The word Bignets Cotgrave, in his Dictionary, 1611, renders thus : “ Little round loaves or lumps, made of fine meale, oyle, or butter, and reasons: bunnes, lenten loaves." Cob-loaf ought, perhaps, to be rather written cop-loaf.
MALONE. pun thee into shivers-] Pun is in the midland counties the vulgar and colloquial word for-pound. Johnson.
It is used by P. Holland, in his translation of Pliny's Natural History, Book XXVIII. ch. xii: “ - punned altogether and