Page images

Enter Romeo.
Ben. Here comes Romeo, here comes Romeo.

Mer. Without his roe, like a dried herring :-( flesh, flesh, how art thou fishified !--Now is he for the numbers that Petrarch flowed in : Laura, to his lady, was but a kitchen-wench ;-marry, she had a better love to berhyme her : Dido, a dowdy; Cleopatra, a gipsy; Helen, and Hero, hildings and harlots; Thisbé, a grey eye or so,8 but not to the purpose.-Signior Romeo, bon jour! there's a French salutation to your French slop.. You gave us the counterfeit fairly last night.

Rom. Good morrow to you both. What counterfeit did I give you?

Mer. The slip, sir, the slip;1 Can you not conceive?


Thisbé a grey eye or so,] He means to allow that Thisbé had a very fine eye; for from various passages it appears that a grey eye was in our author's time thought eminently beautiful. This may seem strange to those who are not conversant with ancient phraseology; but a grey eye undoubtedly meant what we now denominate a blue eye. Thus, in Venus and Adonis :

“ Her two blue windows faintly she upheaveth,”i. e, the windows or lids of her blue eyes. In the very same poem the eyes of Venus are terined grey:

“Mine eyes are grey and bright, and quick in turning.” Again, in Cymbeline:

“ To see the inclosed lights, now canopy'd
- Under these windows: white and azure lac'd;

6. With blue of heaven's own tinct.”
In Twelfth Night, Olivia says, “ I will give out divers schedules
of my beauty ;-

;-as item, two lips, indifferent red; item, two grey eyes, with lids to them,” &c. So Julia, in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, speaking of her rival's eyes, as eminently beautiful, says-

“ Her eyes are grey as glass, and so are mine.” And Chaucer has the same comparison:

hire eyes gray as glas." This comparison proves decisively what I have asserted; for clear and transparent glass is not what we call grey, but blue or

Malone. If grey eyes signified blue eyes, how happened it that our author, in The Tempest, should have styled Sycorax a-blue-eyed hag, instead of a grey-eyed one? See Vol. II, p. 31 ; and note in Titus Andronicus, Act II, sc. ii, Vol. XVII. Sieevens.

- your French slop.] Slops are large loose breeches or trorusers, worn at present only by sailors. Steevens.

See Vol. IV, p. 78, n. 1. Malone.
1 What counterfeit Gc.?
Mer. The slip, sir, the slip;] To understand this play upon

[ocr errors]


Rom. Pardon, good Mercutio, my business was great ; and, in such a case as mine, a man may strain courtesy.

Mer. That's as much as to say—such a case as yours constrains a man to bow in the hams.

Rom. Meaning-to court'sy.
Mer. Thou hast most kindly hit it.
Rom. A most courteous exposition.
Mer. Nay, I am the very pink of courtesy.2
Rom. Pink for flower.
Mer. Right.
Rom. Why, then is my pump well flower'd.3
Mer. Well said:4 Follow me this jest now, till thou

the words counterfeit and slip, it should be observed that in our author's time there was a counterfeit piece of money distin. guished by the name of a slip. This will appear in the following instances: “And therefore he went and got bim certain slips, which are counterfeit pieces of money, being brasse, and covered over with silver, which the common people call slips.Thieves falling out, True Men come by their Goods, by Robert Greene. Again :

“ I had like t'bave been
“ Abus'd i' the business, had the slip slur'd on me,

“ A counterfeit.Magnetick Lady, Act III, sc. vi. Other instances may be seen in Dodsley's Old Plays, Vol. V, p. 396, edit. 1780. Reed. Again, in Skialetheia, a collection of epigrams, satires, &c. 1598:

“Is not he fond then which a slip receives
“For current money? She which thee deceaves

“ With copper guilt, is but a slip. It appears from a passage in Gascoigne's Adventures of Master F. I. no date, that a slip was “a piece of money which was then fallen to three halfpence, and they called them slippes." P. 281.

Steevens. - pink of courtesy,] This appears to have been an ancient formulary mode of encomium; for in a ballad written in the time of Edward II, (MS. Harl. No. 2253,) we have the following lines:

Heo is lilie of largesse,
“Heo is baruenke of proiesse,
“ Heo is solsecle of suetnesse.” &c. Steevens.

then is my pump well flower'd.] Here is a vein of wit too thin to be easily found. The fundamental idea is, that Romeo wore pinked pumps, that is, punched with holes in figures. Johnson.

It was the custom to wear ribbon's in the shoes formed into the shape of roses, or of any other fiowers. So, in The Masque of Flowers, acted by the Gentlemen of Gray's-Inn, 1614;--"Every masker's pump was fastened with a flower suitable to his cap.” Steedens.

4 Well said:] So the original copy. The quarto of 1599, and



hast worn out thy pump; that, when the single sole of it is worn, the jest may remain, after the wearing, solely singular.

Rom. O single-soled jest,5 solely singular for the singleness!

Mer. Come between us, good Benvolio; my wits fail.s

Rom. Switch and spurs, switch and spurs; or I 'll cry a match.

Mer. Nay, if thy wits run the wild-goose chace, I have done ;7 for thou hast more of the wild-goose in one


the other ancient copies, have-Sure wit, follow, &c. What was meant, I suppose, was-Sheer wit! follow, &c. and this corruption may serve to justify an emendation that I have proposed in a pas. sage in Antony and Cleopatra, where I am confident sure was a printer's blunder. See Vol. XIII. Malone.

By sure wit might be meant, wit that hits its mark. Steevens.

5 O single-soled jest,] i. e. slight, unsolid, feeble. This compound epithet occurs likewise in Hall's second Book of Satires:

“And scorne contempt itselfe that doth excite

“Each single-sold squire to set you at so light.” Steevens. This epithet is here used equivocally. It formerly signified mean or contemptible; and that is one of the senses in which it is used here. So, in Holinshed's Description of Ireland, p. 23: “ which was not unlikely, considering that a meane tower might serve such single soale kings as were at those daies in Ireland.”

Malone. my wits fail.] Thus the quarto, 1597. The quarto, 1599, and the folio-my wits faints. Steevens.

if thy wits run the wild-goose chace, I have done ;] One kind of horse-race, which resembled the flight of wild-geese, was formerly known by this name. Two horses were started together; and which ever rider could get the lead, the other was obliged to follow him over whatever ground the foremost jockey chose to go. That horse which could distance the other, won the race. See more concerning this diversion in Chambers's Dictionary, last edition, under the article CHACE.

This barbarous sport is enumerated by Burton, in his Anatomy of Melancholy, as a recreation much in vogue in his time among gentlemen: “ Riding of great horses, running at ring, tilts and tournaments, horse races, wild-goose chases, are disports of great men.” P. 226, edit. 1632, fol.

This account explains the pleasantry kept up between Romeo and his gay companion. “My wits fail,” says Mercutio. Romeo exclaims briskly ---Switch and spurs, switch and spurs." To which Mercutio rejoins-“ Nay, if thy wits run the wild-goose chace," &c. H. White.

of thy wits, than, I am sure, I have in my whole five: Was I with you there for the goose?

Rom. Thou wast never with me for any thing, when thou wast not there for the geose.

Mer. I will bite thee by the ear8 for that jest.
Rom. Nay, good goose, bite not.9

Mer. Thy wit is a very bitter sweeting;' it is a most sharp sauce.

Rom. And is it not well served in to a sweet goose?

Mer. (), here's a wit of cheverel,a that stretches from an inch narrow to an ell broad!

Rom. I stretch it out for that word-broad: which added to the goose, proves thee far and wide a broad goose.3

Mer. Why, is not this better now than groaning for love? now art thou sociable, now art thou Romeo; now art thou what thou art, by art as well as by nature: for this driveling love is like a great natural, that runs lolling up and down to hide his bauble in a hole.**

8 I will bite thee by the ear ---) So, Sir Epicure Mammon to Face, in Ben Jonson's Alchemist :

“ Slave, I could bite thine ear." Steevens.

good goose, bite not.] Is a proverbial expression, to be found in Ray's Collection; and is used in The Two Angry Women of Abington, 1599. Steevens.

1- a very bitter sweeting;] A bitter sweeting, is an apple of that name.

So, in Summer's Last Will and Testament, 1600:

as well crabs as sweetings for his summer fruits.” Again, in Fair Em, 1631:

what, in displeasure gone! “ And left me such a bitter sweet to knaw upon?” Steevens. 2 a wit of cheverel,] Cheverel is soft leather for gloves.

Fohnson. Cheveril is from chevreuil, roebuck. Musgrave.

- proves thee far and wide a broad goose.) To afford some meaning to this poor but intended witticism, Dr. Farmer would read—“proves thee far and wide abroad, goose.” Steevens.

- to hide his bauble in a hole.) It has been already observed by Sir J. Hawkins, in a note on All's Well that Ends Well, Vol. V, p. 283, n. 8, that a bauble was one of the accoutrements of a licensed fool or jester. So again, in Sir William D'Avenant's Albovine, 1629: “For such rich widows there love court fools, and use to play with their baubles." Again, in The longer thou livest, the more Fool thou art, 1570:

" And as stark an idiot as ever bare a bable." Steevens. * The quotation from Sir Wm. D'Avenant's Albovine, throws


Ben. Stop there, stop there.

Mer. Thou desirest me to stop in my tale against the hair. 5

Ben. Thou would'st else have made thy tale large.

Mer. O, thou art deceived, I would have made it short: for I was come to the whole depth of my tale: and meant, indeed, to occupy the argument no longer.6 Rom. Here's goodly geer!

Enter Nurse and PETER.
Mer. A sail, a sail,7 a sail !
Ben. Two two; a shirt, and a smock.
Nurse. Peter!
Peter. Anon?
Nurse. My fan, Peter.8
Mer. Pr’ythee, do, good Peter, to hide her face;

for her fan 's the fairer of the two.

Nurse. God ye good morrow, gentlemen.
Mer. God ye good den, fair gentlewoman.

[ocr errors]

a gleam of light, however dubious, upon this rencontre of wan. ton wits, that the meaning stands or fully exposed as if illumined by the broad glare of Johnson's reprehension. Am. Ed.

against the hair.] A contrepoil: Fr. An expression equi. valent to one which we now use_" against the grain.” See Vol. III, p. 77, n. 5; and Vol. VIII, p. 297, n. 6.

Steevens. I opine, that the commentators, in the present instance, have eschewed to seek the bottom of the poet's meaning: but tuta silentio merces, saith the Roman adage. Amner.

6- to occupy the argument no longer. Here we have another, wanton allusion. See Vol. IX, p. 67, n. 4. Malone.

7 Mer. A sail, a sail,] Thus the quarto, 1597. In the subsequent ancient copies these words are erroneously given to Ro

Malone 8 My fan, Peter,] The business of Peter carrying the Nurse's fan, seems ridiculous according to modern manners; but I find such was formerly the practice. In an old pamphlet called The Serving Man's Comfort, 1598, we are informed, “ The mistress must have one to carry her cloake and hood, another her fanne."

Farmer. Again, in Love's Labour 's Lost :

“To see him walk before a lady, and to bear her fan." Again, in Every Man out of his Humour: If any lady, &c. wants an upright gentleman in the nature of a gentleman-usher, &c. who can hide his face with her fan,” &c. Stecvens.

9 God ye good den,] i. e. God give you a good even. The first of


« PreviousContinue »