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Laun. Certainly, my conscience will serve me 2 to run from this Jew my master : The fiend is at mine elbow; and tempts me, saying to me, Gobbo, Launcelot Gobbo; good Launcelot, or good Gobbo, or good Launcelot Gobbo, use your legs, take the start, run away: My conscience says,-no; take heed honest Launcelot; take heed, honest Gobbo; or, as aforesaid, honest Launcelot Gobbo; do not run ; scorn running with thy heels. Well, the most cou
* Scene I. In former editions, Scene 2 of this Act. The particular time of the day is undetermined; Bassanio, however, upon his entrance, desires that "
supper may be ready by five of the « clock,” the usual hour, it is probable, of supping, in Shakspeare's days. E.
I The old copies read-Enter the Clown alone; and throughout the play this character is called the Clown at most of his entrances or exits. STEEVENS.
2 Certainly, my conscience will serve me, &c.] He must be understood to mean that his conscience will finally be induced to acquiesce in, or even be assistant to his purpose of running away from the Jew; for hitherto, according to all the following tenor of his speech, the advice of his conscience has been not to run away from him. E.
rageous fiend bids me pack: via! says the fiend; away! says the fiend, for the heavens ;3 rouse up a brave mind, says the fiend, and run. Well, my conscience, hanging about the neck of my heart, says very wisely to me,-my
-away! says the fiend, for the heavens :) for the heavens, is in all prior copies connected with rouse, &c. having no point between them; and some modern editors mark their connexion still stronger, by changing the commia after fiend into a semicolon; pointed as they are at this present, the words have no difficulty. “ But what impropriety," says some objector," in making the fiend speak them !» True; and in that very impropriety lies the wit: blunders and false conclusions of all sorts, joined with numberless oddities and an innate honesty, make up
the character of Launcelot. CAPELL.
-away! for the heavens;] i.e. Begone to the heavens. So again, in Much ado about Nothing : “ So I deliver up my apes, [to the devil] and away « to St. Peter, for the heavens.” MALONE.
As it is not likely that Shakspeare should make the devil conjure Launcelot to do any thing for heaven's sake, I have no doubt but this passage is corrupt, and that we ought to read, “ Away, says the “ fiend, for the haven.”
By which Launcelot was to make his escape, if he was determined to run away.
J. M. Mason. I am still in much doubt whether Launcelot does not, in a somewhat fantastical and imperfect manner, suppose the fiend to address him in the common form of adjuration ; « For the heavens' sake! rouse up a brave mind,” &c. This is quite conformable to the latter part of Mr. Capell's remark, though he is himself an advocate for a different interpretation, E.
honest friend Launcelot, being an honest man's son,-or rather an honest woman's son ;--for, indeed, my father did something smack,4 something grow to, he had a kind of taste ;well, my conscience says,-Launcelot, budge not ; budge, says the fiend; budge not, says my conscience: Conscience, say I, you counsel well ;5 fiend, say I, you counsel well : to
4 - did something smack, &c.] Of a knave,
be understood to mean ; smack, as a neuter verb, according to Dr. Johnson's definition in his Dictionary, signifies
“ To be tinctured with any particular taste; to have a tincture, or quality in“ fused.” It is also- “ To make a noise by se“ paration of the lips strongly pressed together, as « after a taste,” and which is commonly imagined, I believe, to denote approbation: with either acceptation what follows," he had a kind of taste,” may agree; the difference will not be great respecting the morality of old Gobbo. To grow to I suppose to have been a cant phrase, but which it seems not very easy precisely to define; it may be designed to express a pretty strong natural bias to knavish tricks, cheating practices; or all taken together may imply nothing more than the old man's original propensity to certain conjugal infidelities as opposed to his wife's honesty. E.
5 Conscience, say I, you counsel well, &c.] One of the quartos and Sir T. Hanmer make him say to his conscience that it counsels well and to the fiend that he counsels ill ; some other modern editors have ill, in both places; and the reading of the other old copies, which is that of the text above, has been followed by Mr. Capell, Mr. Steevens, and Mr. Mabe ruled by my conscience, I should stay with the Jew my master, who, (God bless the mark!) is a kind of devil; and, to run away from the Jew, I should be ruled by the fiend, who, saving your reverence, is the devil himself: Certainly, the Jew is the very devil incarnal ;6 and in my conscience, my conscience is but a kind of hard conscience, to offer to counsel me to stay with the Jew : the fiend gives the more friendly counsel ; I will run, fiend ; my heels are at your commandment, I will run. Enter old Gobbo,7 his father, with a basket. Gob. Master, young man, you,
pray you; which is the way to master Jew's!
lone. In staying with the Jew, he stays with a kind of a devil; therefore he says to the fiend, you counsel well ; in running away from the Jew, he is ruled by the fiend, who is the devil himself; for that reason, he tells his conscience, you counsel well. E.
-the Jew is the very devil incarnal ;] Launcelot in this contradicts himself; but having just now mentioned the Jew as a kind of devil, he seems to recur to that idea with peculiar satisfaction, and then, in his blundering manner, unmindful of what he had the instant before declared, pronounces hin to be the very devil incarnal. E.
7 Enter old Gobbo,] It may be inferred from the name of Gobbo, that Shakspeare designed this character to be represented with a humpback. STEEVENS.
It is much more likely that Launcelot is called Gobbo from his continual prating, and for which he is reproved by his master in a subsequent scene. A
Laun. (Aside.) heavens, this is my true begotten father! who, being more than sandblind,8 high gravel-blind, knows me not :-I will try conclusions with him.
Gob. Master young gentleman, I pray you, which is the way to master Jew's?
gob, in the Northern counties, is a large open mouth.
CONCORDANCE TO SHAKSP. 8 being more than sand-blind,] Sand-blind, mentioned twice in this dialogue, is--purblind; a vulgar phrase for it, as stone-blind is for those who are quite so: Launcelot finds a degree of blindness between these, which he calls-gravel-blind. CAPELL.
try conclusions] So the old quarto. The first folio, by a mere blunder, reads, try confusions, which, because it makes a kind of paltry jest, has been copied by all the editors. JOHNSON. So quarto R. quarto H. and folio read-confusions,
MALONE. To try conclusions is to try experiments. So, in Heywood's Golden Age, 1611:
-since favour “ Cannot attain thy love, I'll try conclusions." Again, in the Lancashire Witches, 1634 :
Nay then I'll try concluions :
STEEVENS. This expression occurs in Massinger's Duke of Milan, where Graccho says,
- This 'tis for a puny “ In Policy's Protean school, to try conclusions « With one that hath commenced Doctor."
J. M. Mason.