Page images
PDF
EPUB

ILLUSTRATIVE COMMENTS.

ACT I.

(1) SCENE II.--Enter POMPEY.) The original stage direction is “Enter Clown.” Of this character Mr. Douce remarks,-“The clown in this play officiates as the tapster of a brothel ; whence it has been concluded that he is not a domestic fool, nor ought to appear in the dress of that character. A little consideration will serve to shew that the opinion is erroneous, that this clown is altogether a domestic fool, and that he should be habited accordingly. In Act II. Sc. 1, Escalus calls him a tedious fool, and Iniquity, a name for one of the old stage buffoons. He tells him that he will have him whipt, a punishment that was very often inflicted on fools. In Timon of Athens, we have a strumpet's fool, and a similar character is mentioned in the first speech in Antony and Cleopatra. But if any one should still entertain a doubt on the subject, he may receive the most complete satisfaction by an attentive examination of ancient prints, many of which will furnish instances of the common use of the domestic fool in brothels."Nlustrations of Shakespeare, I. 151. (2) SCENE II.

this ure came not to,
Only for propagation of a dower
Remaining in the coffer of her friends,
From whom we thought it meet to hide our love

Till time had made them for us.] If propagation be the poet's word, its most literal meaning, that is, to increase or multiply, seems to furnish the real and natural sense of this much-disputed passage. The dowry of Julietta was "at use" in the coffer of her friends until her authorised marriage should require it to be paid.

The principal, therefore, was a fixed sum, but the “propagation” of the “dower" expressed the increase of it as added to that principal by the extension of the time in which it lay at interest in the hands of the lady's friends. It is very probable that, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, this was not an uncommon contrivance for improving the portions of unmarried women; and, wherever it could be safely and legally

ACT III.

adopted, it was a great protection to their property against the feudal claims of wardship. With respect to the sense of the word propagation, as implying the increase of money by interest, there is a pertinent illustration in “Twelfth Night,” Act III. Sc. 1, where the Clown says to Viola,

"Would not a pair of these have bred, sir?" and she replies, –

Yes, being kept together, and put to use." Sometimes, however, the improvement of the dowry was not assured by the accumulation of periodical interest; but was left altogether dependent on the good will of a relation. There is an instance of this power being given, in the will of Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford and Essex, 1361 ; one of the bequests of which is to “ Thomasine Belle, xl marks, [61. 138. 4d.) for her marriage, or more, if she be well married.But, in the testament of Henry, the last Lord Grey of Codnor, dated Sept. 10th, 1492, there occurs an instance, perhaps still more to the purpose. The testator is directing the payment of several bequests to his illegitimate children, and he orders that his cousin, Sir Thomas Barrow, should pay 1001. to two of them, named Richard Grey, and “the Greater Harry ;' or else, that the land of his part stand still in Jeoffees' hands,“ till Two Hundred Marks (331. 6s. 8d.) be raised and paid to the marriage of the said two children.”

Still, after all the endeavours to impart a meaning to the word "propagation” in this passage, the expression is so peculiar that it will be suspected. Malone proposed to read, " for prorogation ;” and Mr. Collier's annotator, for procuration.". Query, is the disputed word a misprint for propugnation ?“Only for propu znation (that is, defence, or preservation) of a

dower," – Shakespeare uses the word in this sense elsewhere :“What propugnation is in one man's valour."

Troilus and Cressida, Act II. Sc. 2.

(1) SCENE I.

merely, thou art death's fool.] Here, as in a passage of “Pericles,” Act III. Sc. 2,-

" A more content in course of true delight

Than to be thirsty after tottering honour,
Or tie my treasure up in silken bags

To please the fool and death,"--
Steevens and Douce conceive the general idea was sug.
gested by the ancient dance of Machabre, or, as it is
commonly called, Dance of Death ; "that curious pa-
geant of mortality which, during the middle ages, was so
great a favourite as to be perpetually exhibited to the

people either in the sculpture and painting of ecclesiastical buildings, or in the books adapted to the service of the church." * But, notwithstanding such eminent authority, it may well be questioned whether Shakespeare's allusion is not rather to some old stage representation, familiar to his auditory, where the Devil and the Fool; Death and the Fool; and Time and the Fool,

and Life, Time's fool "- First Part of Henry IV. Act V.

Sc. 4. were in turn brought into ludicrous collision for the entertainment of the spectators. * Douce's Ilustrations of Shakespeare, I. 130.

ACT IV.

(1) SCENE 1.

Take, 0, take those lips away,

That so srceetly were forsvorn ;
And those eyes, the break of day,

Lights that do mislead the morn :
But my kisses bring again, bring again,

Seals of love, but seald in vain, seald in vain.] In the edition of our poet's poems, printed in 1640, this beautiful song, with a second stanza,

“ Hide, oh, hide those hills of snow,

Which thy frozen bosom bear3,
On whose tops the pinks that grow
Are of those that April wears;
But first set my poor heart free,

Bound in those icy chains by thee"is assigned to Shakespeare. Both stanzas, however, are given in Fletcher's play of “The Bloody Brother ;” and as the first is evidently intended to be sung by a female, and the second as plainly designed for a man, it has been conjectured that the one was written by Shakespeare for the present scene, and the other added in “ The Bloody Brother," by Fletcher. “The first,” Mr. R. G. White remarks," is animated purely by sentiment; the second, delicately beautiful as it is, is the expression of a man carried captive solely through his sense of beauty. The first breathes woman's wasted love; the second, man's disappointed passion. The first could not have been written by Fletcher; the second would not have been written by Shakespeare, as a companion to the first."

(2) SCENE III.-First, here's young master Rash; he's in for a commodity of brown paper and old ginger.] It was the custom of money-lenders in Shakespeare's time, as now, in making advances to improvident young men, to compel them to take a part of the loan in goods, frequently of the most worthless kind. The practice, no doubt, originated in a desire to evade the penalties for usury, and must have reached an alarming height, as the old writers make it a perpetual mark for satire. In Lodge's and Greene's “ Looking Glasse for London and Englande," 1598, an unhappy victim who is urged by the usurer for repayment of his debt remonstrates thus, “I pray you sir consider that my losse was great by the commoditie I tooke up; you know sir I borrowed of you forty pounds, whereof í had ten pounds in money, and thirtie pounds in Lute strings, which when I came to sell againe, I could get but five

* Shakespeare's Scholar, p. 165-6.

ACT V.

(1) Scene I.

Stand like the forfeits in a barber's shop,

As much in mock as mark.] In his review of Dr. Johnson's edition of Shakespeare, Kenrick introduced a metrical list of these forfeits, which he professed to quote from recollection of a table he had seen hung up in a barber's shop either at Malton, or Thirsk, in Yorkshire. Steevens boldly pronounced the version to be a forgery; but, although Dr. Kenrick's memory probably betrayed him in two or three particulars, there are some grounds for believing his list to be in the main a veritable relic of old times. It runs thus:

RULES POR SEEM LY BEHAVIOUR.
First come, first serve.- Then come not late;
And, when arrived, keep your state ;
For he, who from these rules shall swerve,
Must pay the forfeits.-So, observe.

pounds for them, so had I sir, but fifteene pounds for my fortie : In consideration of this ill bargaine, I pray you sir give me a month longer.” That the commodity sometimes consisted partly or entirely of brown paper, is established by a profusion of passages from writers of the period ; thus, in Greene's “Quip for an Upstart Courtier, 1592 :--“For the Marchant delivered the Yron, Tin, Lead, hops, Sugars, Spices, Oiles, browne paper, or whatsoever else, from sixe moneths to sixe moneths : whiche when the poore Gentleman came to sell againe, hee coulde not make threescore and ten in the hundred beside the usury."

Again, in his “ Defence of Coney-catching," 1592 :-" If he borrow a hundred pound, he shall have forty in silver, and three score in wares; as lute strings, hobby horses, or brown paper."

So, also, in Davenport's comedy, “A New Tricke to cheat the Divell," 1639:

"Th' have bin so bit already
With taking up Commodities of broune paper,
Buttons past fashion, silkes, and Sattins,
Babies, and Childrens Fiddles, with like trash

Tooke up at a deare rate, and sold for trifies." (3) SCENE III.- And are now for the Lord's sake.] “Charity for the Lord's sake" was the form of supplication used by imprisoned debtors to the passers-by :* Good gentle writers, for the Lord's sake, for the Lord's sake,

Like Ludgate prisoner, lo, I begging, make
My mone."

Davies's Epigrams, 1611. In illustration of the custom and the language used, Mr. Singer adduces a curious passage from Baret's.“ Alvearie,” 1573, under the word Interest, or the borrowing of usurie money wherewith to pay my debt :"-"And therefore methinke it is prettily sayd in Grammar that Interest will be joyned with Mea, Tua, Sua, Nostra, Vestra, and Cuia, only in the ablative case, because they are pronouns possessives. For how great soever his possessions, goodes, or lands be that haunteth the company of this impersonall, if now perchance he be able to kepe three persons, at length he shall not be able to kepe one: yea he himselfe shall shortly become such an impersonall, that he shall be counted as nobody, without any countenance, credit, person, or estimation among men. And when he hath thus filched, and fleeced his possessi ve so long till he hath made him as rich as a new shorn sheepe, then will he turn him to commons into Ludgate : where for his ablative case he shall have a dative cage, craving and crying at the grate, your worships' charitie FOR THE LORDS SAKĖ."

And gives, with armed heel, a kick,
A pint he pays for every prick.

II.
Who rudely takes another's turn,
A forfeit mug may manners learn.

III.
Who reverentless shall swear or curse,
Must lug seven farthings from his purse.

IV.
Who checks the barber in his tale
Must pay for each a pot of ale.

Who will, or can, not miss his hat
While trimming, pays a pint for that.

VI.
And he who can, or will, not pay,
Shall hence be sent half trimm'd away;
For, will-he, nill-he, if in fault,
He forfeit must, in meal or malt.
But mark,—who is already in drink,
The cannikin must never clink.

Who enters here with boots and spurs, Must keep his nook; for, if he stirs,

CRITICAL OPINIONS

ON

MEASURE FOR

MEASURE.

“In ‘Measure for Measure' Shakspeare was compelled, by the nature of the subject, to make his poetry more familiar with criminal justice than is usual with him. All kinds of proceedings connected with the subject, all sorts of active or passive persons, pass in review before us : the hypocritical Lord Deputy, the compassionate Provost, and the hard-hearted Hangman; a young man of quality who is to suffer for the seduction of his mistress before marriage, loose wretches brought in by the police, nay, even a hardened criminal, whom even the preparations for his execution cannot awaken out of his callousness. But yet, notwithstanding this agitating truthfulness, how tender and mild is the pervading tone of the picture! The piece takes improperly its name from punishment; the true significance of the whole is the triumph of mercy over strict justice; no man being himself so free from errors as to be entitled to deal it out to his equals. The most beautiful embellishment of the composition is the character of Isabella, who, on the point of taking the veil, is yet prevailed upon by sisterly affection to tread again the perplexing ways of the world, while, amid the general corruption, the heavenly purity of her mind is not even stained with one unholy thought: in the humble robes of the novice she is a very angel of light. When the cold and stern Augelo, heretofore of unblemished reputation, whom the Duke has commissioned, during his pretended absence, to restrain, by a rigid administration of the laws, the excesses of dissolute immorality, is even himself tempted by the virgin charms of Isabella, supplicating for the pardon of her brother Claudio, condemned to death for a youthful indiscretion ; when at first, in timid and obscure language, he insinuates, but at last impudently avouches his readiness to grant Claudio's life to the sacrifice of her honour; when Isabella repulses his offer with a noble scorn; in her account of the interview to her brother, when the latter at first applauds her conduct, but at length, overcome by the fear of death, strives to persuade her to consent to dishonour ;-in these masterly scenes, Shakspeare has sounded the depths of the human heart. The interest here reposes altogether on the represented action; curiosity contributes nothing to our delight, for the Duke, in the disguise of a Monk, is always present to watch over his dangerous representative, and to avert every evil which could possibly be apprehended; we look to him with confidence for a happy result. The Duke acts the part of the Monk naturally, even to deception ; he unites in his person the wisdom of the priest and the prince. Only in his wisdom he is too fond of round-about ways; his vanity is flattered with acting invisibly like an earthly providence; he takes more pleasure in overhearing his subjects than governing them in the customary way of princes. As he ultimately extends a free pardon to all the guilty, we do not see how his original purpose, in committing the execution of the laws to other hands, of restoring their strictness, has in any wise been accomplished. The poet might have had this irony in view, that of the numberless slanders of the Duke, told him by the petulant Lucio, in ignorance of the person whom he is addressing, that at least which regarded his singularities and whims was not wholly without foundation. It is deserving of remark, that Shakspeare, amidst the rancour of religious parties, takes a delight in painting the condition of a monk, and always represents his influence as beneficial. We find in him none of the black and knavish monks, which an enthusiasm for Protestantism, rather than poetical inspiration, has suggested to some of our modern poets. Shakspeare merely gives his monks an inclination to busy themselves in the affairs of others, after renouncing the world for themselves ; with respect, however, to pious frauds, he does not represent them as very conscientious. Such are the parts acted by the monk in ‘Romeo and Juliet,' and another in ‘Much Ado about Nothing,' and even by the Duke, whom, contrary to the well-known proverb, the cowl seems really to make a monk."-SCHLEGEL.

“Of • Measure for Measure,' independent of the comic characters, which afford a rich fund of entertainment, the great charm springs from the lovely example of female excellence in the person of Isabella. Piety, spotless purity, tenderness combined with firmness, and an eloquence the most persuasive, unite to render her singularly interesting and attractive. To save the life of her brother, she hastens to quit the peaceful seclusion of her convent, and moves amid the votaries of corruption and hypocrisy, amid the sensual, the vulgar, and the profligate, as a being of a higher order, as a ministering spirit from the throne of grace. Her first interview with Angelo, and the immediately subsequent one with Claudio, exhibit, along with the most engaging feminine diffidence and modesty, an extraordinary display of intellectual energy, of dexterous argument, and of indignant contempt. Her pleadings before the lord deputy are directed with a strong appeal both to his understanding and his heart, while her sagacity and address in the communication of the result of her appointment with him to her brother, of whose weakness and irresolution she is justly apprehensive, are, if possible, still more skilfully marked, and add another to the multitude of instances which have established for Shakspeare an unrivalled intimacy with the finest feelings of our nature.

“ The page of poetry, indeed, has not two nobler passages to produce, than those which paint the suspicions of Isabella, as to the fortitude of her brother, her encouragement of his nascent resolution, and the fears which he subsequently entertains of the consequences of dissolution.

"On learning the terms which would effect his liberation, his astonishment and indignation are extreme, and he exclaims with vehemence to his sister,

Thou shalt not do't;

but no sooner does this burst of moral anger subside, than the natural love of existence returns, and he endeavours to impress Isabella, under the wish of exciting her to the sacrifice demanded for his preservation, with the horrible possibilities which may follow the extinction of this state of being, an enumeration which makes the blood run chill.”—DRAKE.

[graphic][subsumed][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »