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Up to the ears.—Come, we burn day-light, ho * 4.
Rom. Nay, that's not so.
* Quarto A, Leave this talk, we burn day-light here. Mercutio may allude 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 sinfull 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.” Holt White.
These passages serve to prove that Dr. Warburton's explanation 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. We are indebted to Mr. Gifford for a description of the game alluded to. See his note on A Masque of Christmas, Gifford's Jonson, vol. vii. p. 282. Boswell.
3 Of this (save reverence) love,] The folio-Or save your reverence, &c. 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:
“O! save your reverence, love." Johnson. This passage is not worth a contest; and yet if the conjunction or 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 Mercutio 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 surreverence, 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. sareverence.
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."
I mean, sir, in delay We waste our lights in vain, like lamps by day *5. Take our good meaning, for our judgment sits Five times in thato, ere once in our five wits.
* Quarto A, “We barn our lights by night like lamps by day.”
Folio and the other quartos, “ We waste our lights in vain
lights, lights by day.” The printer of the quarto 1599, exhibited the line thus unintelli
“ 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.
4 – We BURN DAY-LIGHT, ho.] To burn day-light is a proverbial expression, used when candles, &c. are lighted in the day time. See Merry Wives of Windsor, Act II. Sc. I.
Chapman has not very intelligibly employed this phrase in his translation of the twentieth Iliad :
“ And all their strength -
no more shall burn in vain the day.” Steevens. s – like Lamps hy day.] Lamps is the reading of the oldest quarto. The folio and subsequent quartos read-lights, lights by day. STEEVENS.
Five times in that, &c.] The quarto 1597, reads : Three times a day;” and right wits, instead of fine wits. Steevens.
“ - 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 exhibited 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, where we find in all the old copies—“ of these fine the sense,” instead of “ —these five.” Again, in King Henry VI. P. I. : “ Deck'd with fine flower-de-luces," instead of—"five,” &c. In Coriolanus, 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 there
Rom. And we mean well, in going to this mask ; But 'tis no wit to go. - MER.
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, I see, queen Mab hath been
with you. She is the fairies' midwife 8; and she comes
* Quarto A, inserts Romeo. fore that ignorant transcribers should have confounded them. In the modern editions these errors have all been properly amended.
Shakspeare has again mentioned the five wits in Much Ado about Nothing, in King Lear, and in one of his Sonnets. Again, in the play before us : “ Thou hast more of the wild-goose in one of thy wits, than, 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. 70, 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.
Mr. Steevens is not quite accurate. It is to Benvolio, not Romeo, that this speech is given in the quarto 1597. Malone. 8 O, 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 apppointed by him to judge his subjects. Steevens
I apprehend, and with no violence of interpretation, that by “ the fairies' midwife,” the poet means, the midwife among the
In shape no bigger than an agate-stone
fairies, because it was her peculiar employment to steal the newborn 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 allusions 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, alludes at large to her midnight pranks performed on sleepers ; but denominates her from the most notorions 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. Warburton reads the fancy's midwife. Boswell.
9 On the fore-finger of an alderman,] The quarto 1597 reads --of 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 fore-finger; 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.
1- of little ATOMIES – Atomy is no more than an obsolete substitute for atom. So, in The Two Merry Milkmaids, 1620 :
"- I can tear thee
“ Like dust before the wind.”
“ I'll tear thy limbs into more atomies
“ Than in the summer play before the sun." In Drayton's Nymphidia there is likewise a description of Queen Mab's chariot:
“ Four nimble gnats the horses were,
“Upon the coach-box getting :
Athwart * men's noses as they lie asleep:
straight: (DO'er lawyers' fingers, who straight dream on
fees :(11) O'er ladies' lips, who straight on kisses dream; Which oft the angry Mab with blisters plagues, Because their breaths with sweet-meats? tainted are. Sometime she gallops o'er a courtier's nose ,
* Folio, over.
So quarto A; folio, man.
+ Quarto A, The collers. § A lawyer's lap.
“ The fair Queen Mab becoming well,
“ So lively was the limning :
“ I trow, 'twas simple trimming :
“ With thistle-down they shod it." Steevens. Drayton's Nymphidia was written several years after this tragedy. See vol. v. p. 206, n. 8. Malone.
2 — with sweeT-MEATS-] i. e. kissing-comfits. These artificial aids to perfume the breath, are mentioned by Falstafl, in the last Act of The Merry Wives of Windsor. Malone.