Page images
PDF
EPUB

The incessant care and labour of his mind
Hath wrought the mure”, that should confine it in,

66

66

s Hath WROUGHT the MURE, &c.] i. e. the wall. Pope.

Wrought it thin, is made it thin by gradual detriment. Wrought is the preterite of work. Mure is a word used by Heywood, in his Brazen Age, 1613 :

“ "Till I have scaľd these mures, invaded Troy." Again, in his Golden Age, 1611:

“ Girt with a triple mure of shining brass." Again, in his Iron Age, 2d Part, 1632 :

Through mures and counter-mures of men and steel.” Again, in Dyonese Settle's Last Voyage of Capteine Frobisher, 12mo. bl. 1. 1577 : the streightes seemed to be shut up with a long mure of yce-"

The same thought occurs in Daniel's Civil Wars, &c. book iv. Daniel is likewise speaking of the sickness of King Henry IV.:

As that the walls worn thin, permit the mind

To look out thorow, and his frailtie find.” The first edition of Daniel's poem is dated earlier than this play of Shakspeare. Waller has the same thought:

“ The soul's dark cottage, batter'd and decay'd,
“ Let's in new light thro' chinks that time has made."

STEEVENS. On this passage the elegant and learned Bishop of Worcester has the following criticism : “ At times we find him (the imitator) practising a different art; not merely spreading as it were and laying open the same sentiment, but adding to it, and by a new and studied device improving upon it. In this case we naturally conclude that the refinement had not been made, if the plain and simple thought had not preceded and given rise to it. You will apprehend my meaning by what follows. Shakspeare had said of Henry the Fourth :

'he incessant care and labour of his mind
Hath wrought the mure, that should confine it in,

. So thin, that life looks through, and will break out.' “ You have here the thought in its first simplicity. It was not unnatural, after speaking of the body as a case or tenement of the soul, the mure that confines it, to say, that as that case wears away and grows thin, life looks through, and is ready to break out.”

After quoting the lines of Daniel, who, it is observed,) " by refining on this sentiment, if by nothing else, shews himself to be the copyist,” the very learned writer adds,—“here we see, not simply that life is going to break through the infirm and muchworn habitation, but that the mind looks through, and finds his frailty, that it discovers that life will soon make his escape.

[ocr errors]

So thin, that life looks through, and will break out. P. Humph. The people fear me°; for they do

observe Unfather'd heirs?, and loathly birds of nature: The seasons change their manners, as the year'

Daniel's improvement then looks like the artifice of a man that would outdo his master. Though he fails in the attempt; for his ingenuity betrays him into a false thought. The mind, looking through, does not find its own frailty, but the frailty of the building it inhabits.” Hurd's Dissertation on the Marks of Imitation.

This ingenious criticism, the general principles of which cannot be controverted, shows, however, how dangerous it is to suffer the mind to be led too far by an hypothesis :--for after all, there is very good reason to believe that Shakspeare, and not Daniel, was the imitator. The Dissention between the Houses of Yorke and Lancaster, in verse, penned by Samuel Daniel, was entered on the Stationers' books, by Simon Waterson, in October, 1594, and four books of his work were printed in 1595. The lines quoted by Mr. Steevens are from the edition of The Civil Wars, in 1609.' Daniel made many changes in his poems in every new edition. In the original edition in 1595, the verses run thus ; book iii. st. 116 :

“ Wearing the wall so thin, that now the mind

“ Might well look thorough, and his frailty find." His is used for its, and refers not to mind, (as is supposed above,) but to wall. There is no reason to believe that this play was written before 1594, and it is highly probable that Shakspeare had read Daniel's poem before he sat down to compose these historical dramas. MALONE.

6 The people FEAR me;] i. e, make me afraid. WARBURTON. So, in The Merchant of Venice:

this aspéct of mine “ Hath fear'd the valiant.” STEEVENS. ? Unfather'd heirs,} That is, equivocal births : animals that had no animal progenitors ; productions not brought forth according to the stated laws of generation. Johnson.

8 The seasons change their manners,] This is finely expressed; alluding to the terms of rough and harsh, mild and soft, applied to weather. WARBURTON.

9- as the year-] i. e. as if the year, &c. So, in Cymbe

66

line:

“He spake of her, as Dian had hot dreams,

“ And she alone were cold.” In the subsequent line our author seems to have been thinking of leap-year. MALONE.

Had found some months asleep, and leap'd them

over.

Cla. The river hath thrice flow'd', no ebb be

tween :
And the old folk, time's doting chronicles,
Say, it did so, a little time before
That our great grandsire, Edward, sick'd and died.

WAR. Speak lower, princes, for the king recovers.
P. Humph. This apoplex will, certain, be his end.
K. Hen. I pray you, take me up, and bear me

hence
Into some other chamber: softly, 'pray.

[They convey the King into an inner part of

the room, and place him on a Bed.
Let there be no noise made, my gentle friends;
Unless some dull and favourable hand
Will whisper musick to my weary spirit ?.

1 The river hath thrice flow'd.] This is historically true. It happened on the 12th of October, 1411. Steevens. 2 Unless some DULL and favourable hand

Will whisper musick to my weary spirit.] So, in the old anonymous King Henry V.:

Depart my chamber, “ And cause some musick to rock me asleep." STEEVENS. “ Unless some dull and favourable hand," Dull signifies melancholy, gentle, soothing. Johnson.

I believe it rather means producing dullness or heaviness ; and consequently sleep. It appears from various parts of our author's works, that he thought musick contributed to produce sleep. So, in A Midsummer-Night's Dream:

musick call, and strike more dead Than common sleep, of all these five the sense.” Again, in Love's Labour's Lost :

“ And when love speaks, the voice of all the gods

“ Makes heaven drowsy with the harmony." So also in The Tempest, Act I. when Alonzo, Gonzalo, &c. are to be overpowered by sleep, Ariel, to produce this effect, enters, “playing solemn musick." Malone.

This notion is not peculiar to Shakspeare. So, in the exquisite lines by Strode in Commendation of Musick:

66

WAR. Call for the musick in the other room.
K. Hen. Set me the crown upon my pillow

here Cla. His eye is hollow, and he changes much. WAR. Less noise, less noise.

Enter Prince HENRY. P. Hen.

Who saw the duke of Clarence ? Cla. I am here, brother, full of heaviness.

[ocr errors]

“ Oh, lull me, lull me, charming air,

My senses rocked with wonder sweet !
“ Like snow on wool thy fallings are,
Soft, like a spirit, are thy feet.

“ Grief who need fear,
“ That hath an ear ?
“ Down let him lie,

“ And slumbering die, “ And change his soul for harmony.” Boswell. 3 Set me the crown upon my pillow here.] It is still the custom in France to place the crown on the King's pillow, when he is dying.

Holinshed, p. 541, speaking of the death of King Henry IV. says : During this his last sicknesse, he caused his crowne, (as some write,) to be set on a pillow at his bed's head, and suddenlie his pangs so sore troubled him, that he laie as though all his vitall spirits had beene from him departed. Such as were about him, thinking verelie that he had beene departed, covered his face with a linnen cloth.

“ The prince his sonne being hereof advertised, entered into the chamber, tooke awaie the crowne and departed. The father being suddenlie revived out of that trance, quicklie perceived the lacke of his crowne; and having knowledge that the prince his sonne had taken it awaie, caused him to come before his presence, requiring of him what he meant so to misuse himselfe. The prince with a good audacitie answered ; Sir, to mine and all men's judgements you seemed dead in this world, and therefore I as your next heire apparant tooke that as mine owne, and not as yours. Well, faire sonne, (said the kinge with a great sigh,) what right I had to it, God knoweth. Well (said the prince) if you die king, I will have the garland, and trust to keepe it with the sword against all mine enemies, as you have doone,” &c.

STEEVENS.

P. Hen. How now! rain within doors, and none

abroad! How doth the king ?

P. Humph. Exceeding ill.
P. Hen.

Heard he the good news yet ? Tell it him.

P. Humph. He alter'd much upon the hearing it*.

P. HEN. If he be sick With joy, he will recover without physick. War. Not so much noise, my lords :-sweet

prince, speak low;
The king your father is dispos’d to sleep.

Cla. Let us withdraw into the other room.
War. Will’t please your grace to go along with

us ?

P. Hen. No; I will sit and watch here by the

king. [Ereunt all but P. HENRY. Why doth the crown lie there upon his pillow, Being so troublesome a bedfellow? O polished perturbation ! golden care ! That keep'st the ports of slumbers open wide To many a watchful night !-sleep with it now ! Yet not so sound, and half so deeply sweet, As he, whose brow, with homely biggin boundo,

[ocr errors]

4 Tell it him,

He alter'd much UPON The hearing it,] For the sake of metre, I would read

r. Tell 't him.

He alter'd much in hearing it.” Steevens. the Ports of slumber-] Are the gates of slumber. So, in Timon of Athens : "— Our uncharged ports." Again, in Ben Jonson's 80th Epigram : - The ports of death are sins —" Ports is the ancient military term for gates. STEEVENS. The word is yet used in this sense in Scotland. Malone.

homely Biggin bound,] A kind of cap, at present worn only by children; but so called from the cap worn by the Beguines, an order of nuns. So, in Monsieur Thomas, by Beaumont and Fletcher, 1639 :

were the devil sick now, “ His horns saw'd off, and his head bound with a biggin."

6

« PreviousContinue »