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Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
Hip. But all the story of the night told over,
More than to us
shall we have,
- constancy :) Consistency, stability, certainty. Johnson.
Call Philostrate.] In the folio, 1623, it is, "Call Egeus," and all the speeches afterwards spoken by Philostrate, except that beginning, No, my noble lord,” &c. are there given to that character. But the modern editions, from the quarto 1600, have rightly given them to Philostrate, who appears in the first scene as master of the revels to Theseus, and is there sent out on a similar kind of errand.
In The Knight's Tale of Chaucer, Arcite, under the name of Philostrate, is squire of the chamber to Theseus. STEEVENS.
Philost. Here, mighty Theseus.
ripe'; Make choice of which your highness will see first.
[Giving a paper. The. [reads 6.] The battle with the Centaurs, to
3 Say, what ABRIDGMENT, &c.] By abridgment our author may mean a dramatick performance, which crowds the events of years into a few hours. So, in Hamlet, Act II. Sc. VII. he calls the players “ abridgments, abstracts, and brief chronicles of the time.” Again, in K. Henry V.:
“ Then brook abridgment; and your eyes advance
“ After your thoughts —" It may be worth while, however, to observe, that in the North the word abatement had the same meaning as diversion or amusement. So, in the Prologue to the 5th book of G. Douglas's version of the Æneid :
• Ful mony mery abaitmentis followis here.” Steevens. Does not abridgment in the present instance, signify amusement to beguile the tediousness of the evening? or, in one word, pastime? HENLEY.
a BRIEF,] i. e. a short account or enumeration. So, in Gascoigne’s Dulce Bellum Inexpertis :
“ She sent a brief unto me by her mayd.” Again, in King John:
the hand of time
Steevens. are ripe;] One of the quartos has—ripe ; the other old editions-rife. Johnson.
Ripe is the reading of Fisher's quarto. Rife, however, is a word used both by Sidney and Spenser. It means abounding, but is now almost obsolete. Thus, in the Arcadia, lib. ii.:,
“ A shop of shame, a booke where blots be rife." Again, in Stephen Gosson's School of Abuse, 1579: “ — you shall find the theatres of the one, and the abuses of the other, to be rife among us." Steevens.
6° The. reads.] This is printed as Mr. Theobald gave it from
By an Athenian eunuch to the harp?.
The riot of the tipsy Bacchanals,
Tearing the Thracian singer in their rage. That is an old device; and it was play'd When I from Thebes came last a conqueror.
The thrice three Muses mourning for the death
Of learning ®, late deceas'd in beggary. That is some satire, keen, and critical", Not sorting with a nuptial ceremony.
A tedious brief scene of young Pyramus,
And his love Thisbe ; very tragical mirth. Merry and tragical'? Tedious and brief? That is, hot ice, and wonderous strange snow ?.
both the old quartos. In the first folio, and all the following editions, Lysander reads the catalogue, and Theseus makes the remarks. JOHNSON.
? By an Athenian eunuch to the harp.] This seems to imply a more ancient practice of castration for the voice, than can be found in opera annals. Burney.
So, in Whetstone's Heptameron, 1582: “Which done, the eunuch, with a well-tuned voice to the lute, sung this following, -Care, away." Malone. 8 The thrice three Muses mourning for the death
Of learning, &c.] I do not know whether it has been before observed, that Shakspeare here, perhaps, alluded to Spenser's poem, entitled The Tears of the Muses, on the Neglect and Contempt of Learning. This piece first appeared in quarto, with others, 1591. The oldest edition of this play now known is dated 1600. If Spenser's poem be here intended, may we not presume that there is some earlier edition of this? But, however, if the allusion be allowed, at least it seems to bring the play below 1591.
T. WARTON. 9 - keen, and CRITICAL) Critical here means criticising, censuring. So, in Othello :
O, I am nothing if not critical." STEEVENS. 'Merry and tragical?] Our poet is still harping on Cambyses, of which the first edition might have appeared in 1569-70; when “an Enterlude, a lamentable Tragedy full of pleasant Myrth," was licensed to John Alde, Regist. Stat. fol. 184, b. Steevens.
2 That is, hot ice, and wonderous strange snow.] The nonsense of this line should be corrected thus :
How shall we find the concord of this discord ?
The. What are they, that do play it ?
“ That is, hot ice, a wonderous strange show.”
WARBURTON. Mr. Upton reads, and not improbably :
And wonderous strange black snow." Johnson. Sir Thomas Hanmer reads – wonderous scorching snow.” Mr. Pope omits the line entirely. I think the passage needs no change, on account of the versification ; for wonderous is as often used as three, as it is as two syllables. The meaning of the line is—
hot ice, and snow of as strange a quality. There is, however, an ancient pamphlet entitled, “ Tarlton's Devise upon this unlooked for grete Snowe.” And perhaps the passage before us may contain some allusion to it. This work is entered on the books of the Stationers' Company; as also, * Α Ballet of a Northerne Man's Report of the wonderful great Snowe in the Southerne Parts," &c. STEEVENS.
As there is no antithesis between strange and snow, as there is between hot and ice, I believe we should readand wonderous strong snow. M. Mason.
In support of Mr. Mason's conjecture it may be observed that the words strong and strange are often confounded in our old plays.
Mr. Upton's emendation also may derive some support from a passage in Macbeth :
when they shall be opened, black Macbeth “ Shall seem as pure as snow.” Malone.
And now have toild their unbreath'd memories
THE. And we will hear it.
No, my noble lord,
3 — unbreath'd memories - ] That is, unexercised, unpractised memories. STEEVENS.
In 1575, when Queen Elizabeth visited Kenilworth, and was entertained with every sport which either the refinement or rusticity of the times could furnish, among those of the latter kind, “ certain good harted men of Coventree understanding how carefull his honour (the Earl of Leicester] waz that by all pleazaunt recreations her Highnes might best fynd her self well commade petition that they mought renue their old storial shew.” As the whole country for many miles round no doubt flocked to see the queen and her magnificent entertainment, nothing can, I think, be more probable than that young Shakspeare, then in the twelfth
year of his age, was taken there by some of his relations. If this were the case, we may easily suppose how much his native genius for the stage would rivet his attention to the Coventry play, and how soon his quick perception of the ludicrous would enable him to discern the absurdities of these “good harted men,” who are probably the “hard handed men that work in Athens here,” introduced in the Midsummer's-Night's Dream to act before Theseus. This is only conjecture: but it is scarcely so, that when the Duke says of himself,
“ Where I have come, great clerks have purposed
“Where I have seen them shiver and look pale, -" Shakspeare alludes to what happened (I think) at Warwick; where the recorder being to address the queen was so confounded by the dignity of her presence, as to be unable to proceed with his speech. I think it was in Nicholls's Progresses of Queen Elizabeth, that I read this circumstance, and I have also read that her majesty was very well pleased when such a thing happened. It was therefore a very delicate way of flattering her to introduce it as Shakspeare has done here. BlakewAY.
4 Unless you can find sport in their intents,] Thus all the copies. But as I know not what it is to stretch and con an intent, I suspect a line to be lost. Johnson. To intend and to attend were anciently synonymous.