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I remember. Obe. That very time I saw, (but thou could'It
not,) That the rude sea grew civil at her song ;] By the rude sea is meant Scotland encircled with the ocean ; which rose up in arms againft the regent, while she was in France. But her return home presently quieted those disorders: and had not her itrange ill conduct afterwards more violently inflarned them, the might have pailed her whole life in peace. There is the greater juftness and beauty in this image, as the vulgar opinion is, that the mermaid always fings in storms:
And certain stars shot madly from their spheres, To hear the jea-maid's mujik.] Thus concludes the description, with that remarkable circumitance of this unhappy lady's fate, the destruction she brought upon several of the English nobility, whom she drew in to support her cause. This, in the boldelt expression of the sublime, the poet images by certain fars booting madly from their spheres: By which he meant the earls of Northumberland and Westmoreland, who fell in her quarrel; and principally the great duke of Norfolk, whose projected marriage with her was attended with such fatal consequences. Here again the reader may observe a peculiar juftness in the imagery. The vulgar opinion being that the mermaid allured men to deftruction by her songs. To which opinion Shakspeare alludes in his Comedy of Errors :
“ O train me not, sweet mermaid, with thy note,
“ To drown me in thy fifter's flood of tears.'' On the whole, it is the nobleft and justeft allegory that was ever written. The laying it in fairy land, and out of nature, is in the character of the speaker. And on these occasions Shakspeare always excels himself. He is horne away by the magic of his enthusiasm, and hurries his reader along with him into these ancient regions of poetry, by that power of verse, which we may well fancy to be like what,
" Olim fauni vatesque canebant.” WARBURTON. And certain stars fhot madly from their jjheres,] So, in our author's Rape of Lucrece :
“And little stars foot from their fixed places." MALONE. Every reader may be induced to wish that the foregoing allusion, pointed out by fo acute a critic as Dr. Warburton, should remain uncontroverted; and yet I cannot difTemble my doubts concerning it.hy is the thrice-married Queen of Scotland ftiled a SeaMAID ? and is it probable that Shakfpeare (who undertöed his own political as well as poetical interest, thould have ventured fuch a panegyric on this ill-fated Princess, during the reign of her rival Elizabeth? If it was unintelligible to his audience, it was thrown away; if obvious, there was danger of offence to her Majeity.
Flying between the cold moon and the earth,
“ A star dif-orb’d,” however, (See Troilus and Cressida,) is one of our author's favourite images; and he has no where so happily expressed it as in Antony and Cleopatra :
the good stars, that were my former guides, “ Have empty left their orbs, and phot their fires
“ Into th' abysm of hell.” To these remarks may be added others of a like tendency, which I met with in the Edinburgh Magazine, Nov. 1786. “ That a compliment to Queen Elizabeth was intended in the expression of the fair Veftal throned in the Wift, seems to be generally allowed ; but how far Shakspeare designed, under the image of the Mermaid, to figure Mary Queen of Scots, is more doubtful. If by the rude Jen grew civil at her song, is meant, as Dr. Warburton supposes, that the tumults of Scotland were appeased by her address, the observation is not true; for that fea was in a storm during the whole of Mary's reign. Neither is the figure juft, if by the stars shooting madly from their spheres to hear the sea-maid's mufick, the poet alluded to the fate of the Earls of Northumberland and Westmoreland, and particularly of the Duke of Norfolk, whose projected marriage with Mary, was the occasion of his ruin. It would have been absurd and irreconcileable to the good sense of the poet, to have represented a nobleman aspiring to marry a Queen, by the image of a itar fhooting or descending from its sphere."
See also Mr. Ritson's observations on the same subject. On account of their length, they are given at the end of the play.
STEEVENS. Cupid all arm’d:] All arm’d, does not signify dressed in panoply, but only enforces the word armed, as we might say, all booted.
Johnson, So, in Greene's Never 109 Lati, 1616:
" Or where proud Cupid sat all arm’d with fire.” Again, in Lord Surrey's translation of the 4th book of the Æneid:
“ All utterly I could not seem forfaken.” Again, in K. Richard III:
“ His horse is slain, and all on foot he fights.” Shakspeare's compliment to queen Elizabeth has no small degree of propriety and elegance to boast of. The same can hardly be faid of the following, with which the tragedy of Soliman and Perseda, 1599, concludes. Death is the speaker, and vows he will spare
none but facred Cynthia's friend,
At a fair vestal, throned by the west ;3
“ That Death shall die, if he attempt her end
“ Whose life is heav'n's delight, and Cynthia's friend." If incense was thrown in cart-loads on the altar, this propitious deity was not disgusted by the smoke of it. STEVENS.
3 At a fair vestal, throned by the waft;] A compliment to queen Elizabeth. Pope.
It was no uncommon thing to introduce a compliment to her majesty in the body of a play. So, again in Tancred and Gifmunda, 1592 :
“ There lives a virgin, one without compare,
STEEVENS. fancy-free.] i.e. exempt from the power of love. Thus in Queen Elizabeth's Entertainment in Suffolke and Norfolke, written by Churchyard, Chastity deprives Cupid of his Bow, and presents it to her Majesty : " --and bycause that the Queene had chosen the best life, the gave the Queene Cupid's Bow, to learne to shoote at whome she pleased : since none coulde wounde her highnelle hurt, it was meete (said Chastitie) that the should do with Cupid's Bowe and arrowes what she pleased." Steevens.
s And maidens call it, love-in-idleness.] This is as fine a metamorphofis as any in Ovid. With a much better moral, intimating that irregular love has only power when people are idle, or not well employed. WARBURTON.
I believe the fingular beauty of this metamorphosis to have been quite accidental, as the poet is of another opinion, in The Taming of a Shrew, Act I. sc. iv:
Fetch me that flower; the herb I show'd thee once;
Puck. I'll put a girdle round about the earth
[Exit Puck. ОВЕ. .
Having once this juice,
“ But see, while idly I stood looking on,
“ If I atchieve not this young modest girl.” And Lucentio's was surely a regular and honest passion. It is scarce necessary to mention that love-in-idleness is a flower. Taylor, the water poet, quibbling on the names of plants, mentions it as follows:
" When passions are let loose without a bridle,
Steevens. The flower or violet, commonly called pansies, or heart's case, is named love-in-idleness in Warwickshire, and in Lyte's Herbal. There is a reason why Shakspeare says it is “ now purple with love's wound,” because one or two of its petals are of a purple colour. Tollet.
It is called in other counties the Three coloured violet, the Herb of Trinity, Three faces in a hood, Cuddle me to you, &c. Steevens.
6 I'll put a girdle round about the earth -] This expression also occurs in The Bird in a Cage, 1633 : Perhaps, it is proverbial :
“ And when I have put a girdle 'bout the world,
“ This purchase will reward me.” Again, in Bully d'Ambois, by Chapman, 1613 :
To put a girdle round about the world.” And in other plays. STEVENS.
She shall pursue it with the soul of love.
Enter DEMETRIUS, Helena following him.
? I am invisible ;] I thought proper here to observe, that, as Oberon and Puck his attendant, may be frequently observed to freak, when there is no mention of their entering, they are designed by the poet to be supposed on the itage during the greatest part of the remainder of the play; and to mix, as they please, as spirits, with the other actors; and embroil the plot, by their interpolition, without being seen, or heard, but when to their own purpose.
THEOBALD. See Tempo, page 41, note 5. STEEVENS. 8 The one I'll say, the other llayeth me.] The old copies read
“ The one I'll stay, the other stayeth me. STEEVENS. Dr. Thirlby ingeniously faw it muft be, as I have corrected in the text. THEOBALD. 9 — and wood within this wood,] Wood, or mad, wild, raving.
Pope. In the third part of the Counters of Pembroke's Irwy-Church, 1591, is the fame quibble on the word:
Daphne goes to the woods, and vowes herself to Diana ;
“ What íhulde he studie, and make himselven wood?" Spenser also uses it, Aglogne III. March:
“ The elf was so wanton, and so wode." “ The name Woden," says Verstegan in his Reftitution of Decayed Intelligence, & c. 1605 : “ signifies fierce or furious; and in like fenfe we tuill retain it, saying when one is in a great rage, that he is wood, or taketh on as if he were wood." STIEVENS,