Page images
PDF
EPUB

ACT V.

SCENE I.

THE

PALACE.

'T'S

Enter Theseus, Hippolita, Egeus, and his Lords.

HIPPOLITA.
IS strange, my Theseus, that these lovers

speak of.
The. More strange than true. I never may believe
These antique fables, nor these fairy toys;
Lovers, and madmen, have such seething brains,
Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend
More than cool reason ever comprehends.
The lunatick, the lover, and the poet,
Are of imagination all compact :
One fees more devils than vaft hell can hold ;
That is the madman: The lover, all as frantick,
Sees Helen's beauty in a brow of Egypt.
The poet's eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to

heaven;
And, as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen
Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation, and a naine.
Such tricks hath strong imagination,
That, if he would but apprehend some joy,
It comprehends some bringer of that joy;

4 These beautiful lines are in all the old editions thrown out of metre. They are very well reitored by the later editors.

JOHNSON s That is the madman : the lover, all as frantick.] Such is the reading of all the old copies ; instead of which, the modern edi, tors have given us,

16 The madman: while the lover all as franţick.”

Or,

Or, in the night, imagining some fear,
How easy is a bush suppos'd a bear?

Hip. But all the story of the night told over,
And all their minds transfigur’d fo together,
More witnesseth that fancy's images,
And grows to something of great constancy,s
But, howsoever, strange, and admirable.

Enter Lysander, Demetrius, Hermia and Helena. The. Here come the lovers, full of joy and mirth, Joy, gentle friends ! joy and fresh days of love Accompany your hearts !

Lys. More than to us,
Wait on your royal walks, your board, your bed!
Tbe. Come now, what malks, what dances shall

we have,
To wear away this long age of three hours,
Between our after-supper, and bed-time?
Where is our usual manager of mirth?
What revels are in hand ? Is there no play,
To ease the anguish of a torturing hour?
Call Philoftrate.

Enter Philoftrate.
Philoft. Here, mighty Theseus.'
Tbe. Say, what abridgment' have you for this

evening?

$ Conftancy. ] Confiftency; stability ; certainty. JOHNSON.

Call Pbilostrate.] In the folio, 1623, it is, Call Egers, and all the speeches afterwards spoken by Philoftrate, are there given to that character. But the modern editions, from the quarto 1600, have rightly given them to Philoftrate, who appears in the first scene as master of the revels to Theseus, and is there sent out on a fimilar kind of errand. STEEVENS.

Say wbat abridgmert, &c.] By abridgment our author means dramatick performance, which crowds the events of years into as many hours. So in Hamlet, act ii. sc. 7. he calls the players abridgments, abstrakls, and brief chronicles of the time. Steevens.

What

What mask? what musick ? How shall we beguile The lazy time, if not with some delight?

Philoft. There is a brief, how many sports are ripe:' Make choice of which your highness will see first.

[Giving a paper. The. reads. '] The battle of the Centaurs, to be sung

by an Athenian cunuch to the barp.
We'll none of that. That I have told my love,
In glory of my kinsman Hercules.
The Rol 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 tbree 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 bis love Thisby; very tragical mirih.

[ocr errors]

8 One of the quartos has ripe, the other old editions, rife.

JOHNSON. 9 The. reads.] This is printed as Mr. Theobald gave it from both the old quartos. In the first folio, and all the following edirions, Lysander reads the catalogue, and Theseus makes the remarks. JOHNSON

· The tirice three Muses mourning for the death

Of learning, &c.] I do not know whether it has been before observed, that Shake. speare 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 edi. tion 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 feems to bring the play below 1591. WARTON.

-keen and critical.] Critical here means criticizing, cinJuring. So in Othello : 0, I am nothing if not critical. STEEVENS.

Merry

2

Merry and tragical ? Tedious and brief?
That is, hot ice, and wonderous strange snow. 3
How shall we find the concord of this discord ?
Pbilost. A play there is, my lord, some ten words

long,
Which is as brief, as I have known a play;
But by ten words, my lord, it is too long;
Which makes it tedious: for in all the play
There is not one word apt, one player fitted.
And tragical, my noble lord, it is :
For Pyramus therein doth kill himself.
Which, when I saw rehears'd, I must confess,
Made mine eyes water ; but more merry tears
The passion of loud laughter never shed.
The. What are they, that do play it?
Philoft. Hard-handed men, that work in Athens

here,
Which never labour'd in their minds 'till now;
And now have toil'd their unbreath'd memories 4
With this fame play against your nuptial.

The. And we will hear it.

Pbilost. No, my noble lord,
It is not for you. I have heard it over,

3 Merry and tragical ? Tedious and brief?

That is, hot ice, and wondrous frange srow.] The nonsense of the last line should be corrected thus, That is, hot ice, a wondrous ftrange show.

WARBURTON. Mr. Upton reads, not improbably,

And wondrous Arange black snow. JOHNSON. Dr. Warburton reads, a wondrous strange show. Sir T. H. wondrous fcorching snow. Mr. Pope omits the line entirely. I think the passage needs no alteration, on account of the versification; for wonderous is as often used as three, as it is as two fyllables. The meaning of the line is “ That is, hot ice and “ snow of as strange a quality.” Steevens.

unbreath'd memories.] That is, unexercised, unpractised memories. STEEVENS.

And

And it is nothing, nothing in the world;
Unless you can find sport in their intents, 4
Extremely stretch'd, and conn'd with cruel pain,
To do you service.

Tbe. I will hear that play:
For never any thing can be amiss,
When simpleness and duty tender it.
Go, bring them in, and take your places, ladies.

(Exit Pbil.
Hip. I love not to see wretchedness o'ercharg'd,
And duty in his service perishing.
The. Why, gentle sweet, you shall see no such

thing
Our sport shall be, * to take what they mistake ;
And what poor duty cannot do,
Noble respect takes it in might, not merit.
Where I have come, great clerks have purposed
To greet me with premeditated welcomes;
Where I have seen them shiver and look pale,
Make periods in the midst of sentences,
Throttle their practis'd accent in their fears,

5

4 Unlfs you can find sport in their intents.] Thus all the copies. But as I know not what it is to firetch and con an intent, I suspe& a line to be loft. JOHNSON.

* Our Sport shall be, &c.] Voltaire says something like this of Louis XIV. who took a pleasure in seeing his courtiers in confusion when they spoke to him. STEEVENS.

5 And what poor duty cannot do,

Noble respect takes it in might, not merit.] The sense of this pasiage, as it now stands, if it has any sense, is this: Wbat the inabiluy of duty cannst perform, regardful generclity receives as an act of ability, though not of merit. The contrary is rather true : Whar dutifulness tries to perfirm without ability, regardful generosity receives as beving the merit, though not the power, of complete performance. We should therefore read,

And what poor duty cannot do,
Noble respect takes nor in migbt, but merit. JOHNSON.

And,

« PreviousContinue »