« PreviousContinue »
Line 658. —yet a true-born Englishman.] Here the first act ought to end, that between the first and second acts there may be time for John of Gaunt to accompany his son, return, and fall sick. Then the first scene of the second act begins with a natural conversation, interrupted by a message from John of Gaunt, by which the king is called to visit him, which visit is paid in the following scene. As the play is now divided, more time passes between the two last scenes of the first act, than between the first act and the second.
JOHNSON. ACT II. SCENE I. Line 29. Report of fashions in proud Italy;] Our author, gives to all nations the customs of England, and to all ages the manners of his own, has charged the times of Richard with a folly not perhaps known then, but very frequent in Shakspeare's time, and much lamented by the wisest and best of our ancestors.
JOHNSON. Line 36. Where will doth mutiny with wit's regard.] Where the will rebels against the notices of the understanding. Johns.
Line 37 -whose way himself will choose ;] Do not attempt to guide him who, whatever thou shalt say, will take his own course.
JOHNSON. Line 42.
-rash -] That is, hasty, violent. Johnson. So in King Henry IV. Part I.;
“ Like aconitum, or rash gunpowder.” MALONE. Line 54. Against infection,) I once suspected that for infection we might read invasion ; but the copies all agree, and I suppose Shakspeare meant to say, that islanders are secured by their situation both from war and pestilence. .
Line 59. less happier lands;] So read all the editions, except Hanmer's, which has less happy. I believe Shakspeare, from the habit of saying more happier according to the custom of his time, inadvertently writ less happier.
JOHNSON. Line 63. Feard by their breed,] i. e, by means of their breed.
MALONE. 137. Thy state of law is bondslade to the law ;] I think the reasoning of Gaunt is this: By setting thy royalties to farm thou hast reduced thyself to a state below sovereignty, thou art now no longer king but landlord of England, subject to the same restraint and limitations as other landlords ; by making thy condition a state
of law, a condition upon which the common rules of law can operate, thou art become a bond-slave to the law; thou hast made thyself amenable to laws from which thou wert originally exempt. JOHNS. Line 158. And thy unkindness be like crooked age,
To crop at once a too-long wither'd flower.] Thus stand these lines in all the copies, but I think there is an error. Why should Gaunt, already old, call any thing like age to end him? How can age be said to crop at once? How is the idea of crookedness connected with that of cropping? I suppose the poet dictated thus :
And thy unkindness be time's crooked edge
To crop at once-
Edge was easily confounded by the ear with age, and one mistake once admitted made way for another.
JOHNSON. Line 163. Love they—] That is, let them love. JOHNSON.
188. -where no venom else,] This alludes to the tradition that St. Patrick freed the kingdom of Ireland from venomous reptiles of every kind.
STEEVENS. Line 199. Nor the prevention of poor Bolingbroke,
About his marriage, &c.] When the duke of Hereford, after his banishment, went into France, he was honourably entertained at that court, and would have obtained in marriage the only daughter of the duke of Berry, uncle to the French king, had not Richard prevented the match.
STEEVENS. Line 209. Accomplish'd with the number of thy hours;] i. e. when he was of thy age.
MALONE. Line 237. -deny his offer'd homage,] That is, refuse to admit the homage by which he is to hold his lands. JOHNSON.
Line 312. And yet we strike not,] To strike the sails, is, to contract them when there is too much wind.
Johnson, Line 312. but securely perish.] We perish by too great confidence in our security.
MALONE. Line 314. And unavoided is the danger-] Unavoided is, I believe, here used for unavoidable.
MALONE. Line 342. Imp out-] As this expression frequently occurs in our author, it may not be amiss to explain the original meaning of it. When the wing-feathers of a bawk were dropped, or forced
out by any accident, it was usual to supply as many as were deficient. This operation was called, to imp a hawk. STEEVENS.
ACT II, SCENE II.
Shew nothing but confusion; ey'd awry,
Distinguish form :-] This is a fine similitude, and the thing meant is this ; amongst mathematical recreations, there is one in optics, in which a figure is drawn, wherein all the rules of perspective are inverted : so that, if held in the same position with those pictures which are drawn according to the rules of perspective, it can present nothing but confusion : and to be seen in form, and under a regular appearance, it must be looked upon from a contrary station; or, as Shakspeare says, ey'd awry. WARB.
Line 386. As though, in thinking, on no thought I think,] That is, though musing I have no distinct idea of calamity. The involuntary and unaccountable depression of the mind, which every one has sometime felt, is here very forcibly described. JOHNSON. Line 388. 'Tis nothing but conceit,] i. e. fanciful conception.
MALONE. -404. might have retir'd his power,] Might have drawn it back. A French sense.
JOHNSON. Line 428. -my sorrow's dismal heir :) The author seems to have used heir in an improper sense ; an heir being one that inherits by succession, is here put for one that succeeds, though he succeeds but in order of time, not in order of descent.
JOHNSON. Line 460. Get thee to Plashy,] The lordship of Plashy was a town of the duchess of Gloster's in Essex. See Hall's Chronicle,
THEOBALD. Line 472. untruth—] That is, disloyalty, treachery.
JOHNSON. -476. Come, sister, cousin, I would say :] This is one of Shakspeare's touches of nature. York is talking to the queen his cousin, but the recent death of his sister is uppermost in his mind.
STEEVENS. ACT II. SCENE III. Line 625. the absent time,] i. e. the time of the king's absence,
Line 644. And ostentation of despised arms ?] Perhaps the old duke means to treat him with contempt as well as with severity, and to insinuate that he despises his power, as being able to master it.
JOHNSON. Line 657. On what condition—] It should be, in what condition, i. e, in what degree of guilt. The particles in the old editions are of little credit.
JOHNSON. Line 667. Look on my wrongs with an indifferent eye:] i.e. with an impartial eye.
MALONE. Line 673. —wherefore was I born?] To what purpose birth and lineal succession ? I am duke of Lancaster by the same right of birth as the king is king of England.
ACT II. SCENE IV.
Here is a scene so unartfully and irregularly thrust into an improper place, that I cannot but suspect it accidentally transposed; which, when the scenes were written on single pages, might easily happen in the wildness of Shakspeare's drama. This dialogue was, in the author's draught, probably the second scene in the ensuing act, and there I would advise the reader to insert it, though I have not ventured on so bold a change. My conjecture is not so presumptuous as may be thought. The play was not, in Shakspeare's time, broken into acts; the two editions published before his death exhibit only a sequence of scenes from the beginning to the end, without any hint of a pause of action. In a drama so desultory and erratic, left in such a state, transpositions might easily be made.
JOHNSON. Line 740. The bay-trees, &c.] This enumeration of prodigies is in the highest degree poetical and striking.
JOHNSON, Some of these prodigies are found in T. Haywarde's Life and Raigne of Henry IV. 1599, “ This yeare the laurel trees withered “almost throughout the realm," &c.
ACT III. SCENE I.
Line 25. From my own windows toin my household coat,] It , was the practice, when coloured glass was in use, of which there are still some remains in old seats and churches, to anneal the arms of the family in the windows of the house.
Line 26. Raz'd out my impress, &c.] The' impress was a device or motto. Ferne, in his Blazon of Gentry, 1585, observes, “ the arms, &c. of traitors and rebels may be defaced and removed, “ wheresoever they are fixed, or set.”
ACT III, SCENE II.
Here may properly be inserted the last scene of the second act.
JOHNSON. Line 73. Guard it, I pray thee,] Guard it, signifies here, as in many other places, border it.
MALONE. Line 80. Fear not, my lord, &c.] Of this speech the four last lines were restored from the first edition by Mr. Pope. They were, I suppose, omitted by the players only to shorten the scenes, for they are worthy of the author and suitable to the personage.
JOHNSON. Line 92. -and lights the lower world,] By the lower world we must understand, a world lower than this of ours; I suppose our antipodes.
MALONE. Line 96. He fires the proud tops of the eastern pines,] This is an image exquisitely beautiful.
Line 110. The breath of worldly men, &c.] Here is the doctrine of indefeasible right expressed in the strongest terms; but our poet did not learn it in the reign of K. James, to which it is now the practice of all writers, whose opinions are regulated by fashion or interest, to impute the original of every tenet which they have been taught to think false or foolish.
Johnson. Line 153. Mine ear is open, &c.] It seems to be the design of the poet to raise Richard to esteem in his fall, and consequently to interest the reader in his favour. He gives him only passive fortitude, the virtue of a confessor rather than of a king. In his prosperity we saw him imperious and oppressive; but in his distress he is wise, patient, and pious.
JOHNSON. Line 179. Thy very beadsmen learn to bend their bows-] “ As “ boys strive to speak big, and clasp their effeminate joints in stiff “ unwieldy arms," &c. “ so his very beadsmen learn to bend their '" bows against him." Their does not absolutely denote that the bow was their usual or proper weapon ; but only taken up and appropriated by them on this occasion.