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Ther. Why, thou picture of what thou seemest, and idol of idiot-worshippers, here's a letter for thee.
Achil. From whence, fragment?
THER. The surgeon's box,* or the patient's wound.
PATR. Well said, Adversity!5 and what need these tricks ?
THER. Pr’ythee be silent, boy; I profit not by thy talk: thou art thought to be Achilles' male varlet.
PATR. Male varlet,o you rogue! what's that?
Again, in Decker's If this be not a good Play the Devil is in it, 1612: “ The best is, there are but two batches of people moulded in this world.”
Again, in Summer's Last Will and Testament, 1600: “ Hast thou made a good batch? I pray thee give me a new loaf.”
Again, in Every Man in his Humour: “Is all the rest of this batch?"
Thersites had already been called cobloaf. STEEVENS.
• The surgeon's bor,] In this answer Thersites only quibbles upon the word tent. HANMER.
* Well said, Adversity!] Adversity, I believe, in this instance, signifies contrariety. The reply of Thersites has been studiously adverse to the drift of the question urged by Patroclus. So, in Love's Labour's Lost, the Princess, addressing Boyet, (who had been capriciously employing himself to perplex the dialogue,) says"avaunt, Perplexity?” STEEVENS.
• Male varlet,] Sir T. Hanmer reads---Male harlot, plausibly enough, except that it seems too plain to require the explanation which Patroclus demands. Johnson.
This expression is met with in Decker's Honest Whore: “ —'tis a male varlet, sure, my lord !” FARMER.
The person spoken of in Decker's play is Bellafronte, a harlot, who is introduced in boy's clothes. "I have no doubt that the text is right. MALONE.
THER. Why, his masculine whore. Now the rotten diseases of the south, the guts-griping, ruptures, catarrhs, loads o’gravel i'the back, lethar. gies, cold palsies," raw eyes, dirt-rotten livers, wheezing lungs, bladders full of imposthume, sciaticas, limekilns i’the palm, incurable bone-ach, and the rivelled fee-simple of the tetter, take and take again such preposterous discoveries!
PATR. Why thou damnable box of envy, thou, what meanest thou to curse thus?
THER. Do I curse thee?
PATR. Why, no, you ruinous butt;you whoreson indistinguishable cur, no.
Ther. No? why art thou then exasperate, thou
There is nothing either criminal or extraordinary in a male varlet. The word preposterous is well adapted to express the idea of Thersites. The sense therefore requires that we should adopt Hanmer's amendment. M. Mason.
Man-mistress is a term of reproach thrown out by Dorax, in Dryden's Don Sebastian, King of Portugal. See, however, Professor Heyne's 17th Excursus on the first Book of the Æneid, edit. 1787, p. 161. STEEVENS.
cold palsies,] This catalogue of loathsome maladies ends in the folio at cold palsies. This passage, as it stands, is in the quarto : the retrenchment was, in my opinion, judicious. It may be remarked, though it proves nothing, that, of the few alterations made by Milton in the second edition of his wonderful poem, one was, an enlargement of the enumeration of dis
you ruinous butt ; &c.] Patroclus reproaches Thersites with deformity, with having one part crouded into another.
Johnson. The same idea occurs in The Second Part of King Henry IV: “ Croud us and crush us to this monstrous form."
STEEVENS. indistinguishable cur,] i. e. thou cur of an undeterminate shape. STEEVENS.
idle immaterial skein of sleive silk,' thou green sarcenet flap for a sore eye, thou tassel of a prodigal's purse, thou? Ah, how the poor world is pestered with such water-flies; diminutives of nature!3
PATR. Out, gall!
Achil. My sweet Patroclus, I am thwarted quite
- thou idle immaterial skein of sleive silk,] All the terms used by Thersites of Patroclus, are emblematically expressive of flexibility, compliance, and mean officiousness.
JOHNSON. Sleive silk has been already explained. See Vol. X. p. 112, n. 9. MALONE.
such water-flies;] So, Hamlet, speaking of Osrick: “ Dost know this water-fly?”
STEEVENS. diminutives of nature !] So, in Antony and Cleopatra :
be shown “ For poor'st diminutives, for dolts,” STEEVENS. • Out, gall!] Sir T. Hanmer reads-nut-gall, which answers well enough to finch-egg ; it has already appeared, that our author thought the nut-gall the bitter gall. He is called nut, from the conglobation of his form; but both the copies readOut gall! Johnson.
Finch egg!] Of this reproach I do not know the exact meaning. I suppose he means to call him singing bird, as implying an useless favourite, and yet more, something more worthless, a singing bird in the egg, or generally, a slight thing easily crushed. Johnson.
A finch's egg is remarkably gaudy; but of such terms of reproach it is difficult to pronounce the true signification.
STEEVENS. • A token from her daughter, &c.] This is a circumstance taken from the story book of The Three Destructions of Troy.
An oath that I have sworn. I will not break it:
[Exeunt ACHILLES and PATROCLUS. THER. With too much blood, and too little brain, these two may run mad; but if with too much brain, and too little blood, they do, I'll be a curer of madmen. Here's Agamemnon,-an honest fel. low enough, and one that loves quails; but he has not so much brain as ear-wax: And the goodly transformation of Jupiter there, his brother, the bull;—the primitive statue, and oblique memorial of cuckolds ;? a thrifty shoeing-horn in a chain, hanging at his brother's leg,—to what form, but that he is, should wit larded with malice, and malice forced with wit, turn him to? To an ass, were
? And the goodly transformation of Jupiter there, his brother, the bull,—the primitive statue, and oblique memorial of cuckolds ;] He calls Menelaus the transformation of Jupiter, that is, as himself explains it, the bull, on account of his horns, which he had as a cuckold. This cuckold he calls the primitive statue of cuckolds ; i. e. his story had made him so famous, that he stood as the great archetype of his character. WARBURTON.
Mr. Heath observes, that “the memorial is called oblique, because it was only indirectly such, upon the common supposition, that both bulls and cuckolds were furnished with horns.”
STEEVENS. Perhaps Shakspeare meant nothing more by this epithet than horned, the bull's horns being crooked or oblique. Dr. Warburton, I think, mistakes. It is the bull, not Menelaus, that is the primitive statue, &c. MALONE.
-forced with wit,] Stuffed with wit. A term of cookery. In this speech I do not well understand what is meant by loving quails. Johnson.
By loving quails the poet may mean loving the company of
nothing; he is both ass and ox: to an ox were nothing; he is both ox and ass. To be a dog, a mule, a cat, a fitchew,9 a toad, a lizard, an owl, a puttock, or a herring without a roe, I would not care: but to be Menelaus,-I would conspire against destiny. Ask me not what I would be, if I were not Thersites; for I care not to be the louse of a lazar, so I were not Menelaus.--Heyday! spirits and fires !
Enter Hector, Troilus, AJAX, AGAMEMNON,
ULYSSES, NESTOR, MENELAUS, and DIOMED, with Lights.
AGAM. We go wrong, we go wrong.
No, yonder 'tis; There, where we see the lights.
harlots. A quail is remarkably salacious. Mr. Upton says that Xenophon, in his memoirs of Socrates, has taken notice of this quality in the bird. A similar allusion occurs in The Hollander, a comedy, by Glapthorne, 1640:
the hot desire of quails, “ To yours is modest appetite." STEEVENS. In old French, caille was synonymous to fille de joie. In the Dict. Comique par le Roux, under the article caille, are these words :
66 Chaud comme une caille.
“ Caille coeffée,-Sobriquet qu'on donne aux femmes. Sige nifie femme eveillée, amoureuse.”
So, in Rabelais:-“Cailles coiffées mignonnement chantans;" which Motteux has thus rendered (probably from the old translation): “coated quails and laced mutton, waggishly singing.”
MALONE. a fitchew,] i. e. a polecat. So, in Othello : “ 'Tis such another fitchew, marry a perfum'd one-" STEEVENS. -spirits and fires! ] This Thersites speaks upon
the first sight of the distant lights. JOHNSON.