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If thou art dun, we 'll draw thee from the mire8
scure stuff should have an explanation in mere charity. It is an answer to these two lines of Romeo:
“For I am proverb'd with a grandsire phrase ;-and
“ The game was ne'er so fair, and I am done." Mercutio, in his reply, answers the last line first. The thought of which, and of the preceding, is taken from gaming. I'll be a candle-holder (says Romeo) and look on. It is true, if I could play myself, I could never expect a fairer chance than in the company we are going to: but, alas! I am done. I have nothing to play with: I have lost my heart already. Mercutio catches at the word done, and quibbles with it, as if Romeo had said, The ladies indeed are fair, but I am dun, i. e. of a dark complexion. And so replies, Tut! dun's the mouse ; a proverbial expression of the same import with the French, La nuit tous les chats son gris: as much as to say, You need not fear, night will make all your complexions alike. And because Romeo had introduced his observations with
I am proverb’d with a grandsire phrase, Mercutio adds to his reply, the constable's own word: as much as to say, If you are for old proverbs, I'll fit you with one; 'tis the constable's own word; whose custom was, when he summoned his watch, and assigned them their several stations, to give them what the soldiers call, the word. But this night-guard being distinguished for their pacifick character, the constable, as an emblem of their harmless disposition, chose that domestic animal for his word, which, in time, might become proverbial. Warburtons
8 If thou art dun, we 'll draw thee from the mire -). A proverbial saying, used by Mr. Thomas Heywood, (Drue) in his play, entitled The Dutchess of Suffolk, Act III:
“ A rope for Bishop Bonner, Clunce run,
“ Draw dun out of the ditch.” Dr. Grey. Draw dun (a common name, as Mr. Douce observes, for a carthorse) out of the mire, seems to have been a game. In an old collection of Satyres, Epigrams, &c. I find it enumerated among other pastimes:
“ At shove-groate, venter point, or crosse and pile,
“Or at the drawing dun out of the myer." Dun's the mouse is a proverbial phrase, which I have likewise met with frequently in the old comedies. So, in Every Woman in her Humour, 1609:
“ If my host say the word, the mouse shall be dun.” It is also found among Ray's proverbial similies. Again, in The Two Merry Milkmaids, 1620 :
Why then 'tis done, and dun's the mouse, and undone all the courtiers.” VOL. XII.
Up to the ears.-Come, we burn day-light, ho.
Rom. Nay, that's not so.
Of this cant expression I cannot determine the precise meaning. It is used again in West ard Hue, by Decker and Webster, 1607, but apparently in a sense dulerent from that which Dr. Warburton would affix to it. Steevens
Dun out of the mire was the name of a tune, and to this sense Mercutio may allucie when Romeo declines dancing. Taylor in A Navy of Land Ships, says, “Nimble-heeled mariners (like so many dancers) capring in the pumpes and vanities of this sinful! world, sometimes a Morisca or Trenchmore of forty miles long, to the tune of dusty my deare, dirty come thou to me. Dun out of the mire, or I wayle in woe and plunge in paine: all these dances have no other musicke. H. White.
These passages serve to prove that Dr. Warburton's explana. tion is ill founded, without tending to explain the real sense of the phrase, or showing why it should be the constable's own word.
M. Mason. “ The cat is grey," a cant phrase, somewhat similar to “ Dun's the mouse,
occurs in King Lear. But the present application of Mercutio's words will, I fear, remain in hopeless obscurity.
Steevens. 9 Of this (save reverence) love,] [The folio-Or save your reverence sc.) The word or obscures the sentence; we should read -0! for or love. Mercutio having called the affection with which Romeo was entangled by so disrespectful a word as mire, cries Out:
0! save your reverence, love. Fohnson. This passage is not worth a contest; and yet if the conjunction of were retained, the meaning appears to be :-"We'll draw thee from the mire, (says he) or rather from this love wherein thou stick'st.”
Dr. Johnson has imputed a greater share of politeness to Mer. cutio than he is found to be possessed of in the quarto, 1597. Mercutio, as he passes through different editions,
“Works himself clear, and as he runs refines.” Steevens. I have followed the first quarto, 1597, except that it has sur. reverence, instead of save-reverence. It was only a different mode of spelling the same word; which was derived from the Latin, salva reverentia. See Blount's Glossograph, 8vo. 1681, in v. sa-teSo, in Massinger's Very Woman:
“ The beastilest man,
"(Sir-reverence of the company) a rank whore-master." Again, in The Puritan, 1607: “-ungartered, unbuttoned, nay, (sir-reverence) untrusted."
In Cymbeline we have the same thing more delicately expressed: “Why should his mistress not be fit too? The rather, sading reverence of the word, for 'tis said a woman's fitness comes by fits.”
I mean, sir, in delay We waste our lights in vain, like lamps by day. Take our good meaning; for our judgment sits Five times in that,2 ere once in our five wits.
In The Comedy of Errors, the word is written as in the first copy of this play, and is used in the same sense: “ – such a one as a man may not speak of, without he say sir-reverence," --. And in Much Ado about Nothing, it occurs as now printed in the text: “ I think you will have me say (save reverence) a husband ” The printer of the quarto, 1599, exhibited the line thus unintelligibly:
Or, save you reverence, love which was followed by the next quarto, of 1609, and by the folio with a slight variation. The editor of the folio, whenever he found an error in a later quarto, seems to have corrected it by caprice, without examining the preceding copy. He reads-Or, save your reverence, &c. Malone.
1-we burn day-light, ho.] To burn day-light is a proverbial expression, used when candles, &c. are lighted in the day time. See Vol. III, p. 51, n. 1.
Chapman has not very intelligibly employed this phrase in his translation of the twentieth Iliad:
66 And all their strength
----no more shall burn in vain the day.” Steevens. 2 Five times in that, &c.] The quarto, 1597, reads: “ Three times a day;” and right wits, instead of fine wits. Steedens.
- for our judgment sits Five times in that, ere once in our five wits.] The quarto, 1599, and the folio, have our fine wits. Shakspeare is on all occasions so fond of antithesis, that I have no doubt he wrote five, not fine. The error has happened so often in these plays, and the emendation is so strongly confirmed by comparing these lines as exhi. bited in the enlarged copy of this play, with the passage as it stood originally, that I have not hesitated to give the reading which I proposed some time ago, a place in the text.
The same mistake has happened in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Vol. II, p. 341, n. 7, where we find in all the old copies
of these fine the sense,” instead of “ - these five.” Again, in King Henry VI, P I, Vol. X, p. 22, n. 1: “Deck'd with fine flower-de-luces," instead of_" five,” &c. In Coriolanus, (see Vol. XIII, the only authentick ancient copy has "the five strains of honour,” for “ the fine strains of honour.” Indeed in the writing of Shakspeare's age, the u and n were formed exactly in the same manner : we are not to wonder therefore that ignorant transcribers should have confounded them. In the modern editions these errors have all been properly amended. See also on the same point, Vol. III, p. 140, n. 5; Vol. VI, p. 318, n. 1; and in Timon of Athens, Vol. XV.
Shakspeare has again mentioned the five wits in Much Ado about Nothing, (see Vol. IV,) in King Lear, and in one of his Son.
Rom. And we mean well, in going to this mask;
Why, may one ask?
And so did I.
That dreamers often lie. Rom. In bed, asleep, while they do dream things true.
Mer. O, then, 3 I see, queen Mab hath been with you. She is the fairies' midwife ;4 and she comes
nets. Again, in the play before us: “ Thou hast more of the wildgoose in one of thy wits, iban, I am sure I have in my whole five." Mercutio is here also the speaker. In the first quarto the line stands thus:
“ Three times in that, ere once in our right wits.” When the poet altered " three times” to“ five times,” he, without doubt, for the sake of the jingle, discarded the word right, and substituted five in its place. The alteration, indeed, seems to have been made merely to obtain the antithesis. Malone.
30, then, &c.] In the quarto, 1597, after the first line of Mercutio's speech, Romeo says, Queen Mab, what's she? and the printer, by a blunder, has given all the rest of the speech to the same character. Steevens. 40, then, I see, Queen Mab hath been with you.
She is the fairies' midwife ;] The fairies' midwife does not mean the midwife to the fairies, but that she was the person among the fairies, whose department it was to deliver the fancies of sleeping men of their dreams, those children of an idle brain. When we say the king's judges, we do not mean persons who are to judge the king, but persons appointed by him to judge his subjects. Steevens.
I apprehend, and with no violence of interpretation, that by o the fairies' midwife,” the poet means, the midwife among the fairies, because it was her peculiar employment to steal the new. born babe in the night, and to leave another in its place. The poet here uses her general appellation, and character, which yet has so far a proper reference to the present train of fiction, as that her illusions were practised on persons in bed or asleep; for she not only haunted women in childbed, but was likewise the incubus or night-mare: Shakspeare, by employing her here, al. ludes at large to her midnight pranks performed on sleepers; but denominates her from the most notorious one, of her personating the drowsy midwife, who was insensibly carried away into some distant water, and substituting a new birth in the bed or .cradle. It would clear the appellation to read the fairy midwife. The poet avails himself of Mab's appropriate province, by giving her this nocturnal agency. T. Warton.
In shape no bigger than an agate-stone
5 On the fore-finger of an alderman,] The quarto, 1597, readsof a burgo-master. The alteration was probably made by the poet himself, as we find it in the succeeding copy, 1599: but in order to familiarize the idea, he has diminished its propriety. In the pictures of burgo-masters, the ring is generally placed on the forefinger; and from a passage in The First Part of Henry IV, we may suppose the citizens, in Shakspeare's time, to have worn this ornament on the thumb. So again, Glapthorne, in his comedy of Wit in a Constable, 1639: “. - and an alderman, as I may say to you, he has no more wit than the rest o'the bench; and that lies in his thumb-ring." Steevens.
of little atomies —] Atomy is no more than an obsolete substitute for atom.
In Drayton's Nimphidia there is likewise a description of Queen Mab's chariot:
“ Four nimble gnats the horses were,
Upon the coach-box getting:
“ So lively was the limning:
“I trow, 'twas simple trimming:
" With thistle-down they shod it." Steevens. Drayton's Nimphidia was written several years after this tre gedy. See Vol. II, p. 266, n. 8. Malone.