Page images

That, in a spleen, unfoldso both heaven and earth,
And ere a man hath power to say,-Behold!
The jaws of darkness do devour it up :
So quick bright things come to confusion.

Her. If then true lovers have been ever crossid,
It stands as an edíct in destiny :
Then let us teach our trial patience,
Because it is a customary cross ;
As due to love, as thoughts, and dreams, and sighs,
Wishes, and tears, poor fancy's followers.

Lys. A good persuasion; therefore, hear me, Hermia.
I have a widow aunt, a dowager
Of great revenue, and she hath no child :
From Athens is her house remote seven leagues ;
And she respects me as her only son.
There, gentle Hermia, may I marry thee ;
And to that place the sharp Athenian law
Cannot pursue us : If thou lov’st me then,
Steal forth thy father's house to-morrow night ;
And in the wood, a league without the town,
Where I did meet thee once with Helena,
To do observance to a morn of May,
There will I stay for thee.

Her. My good Lysander !
I swear to thee, by Cupid's strongest bow ;
By his best arrow with the golden head;
By the simplicity of Venus' doves;
By that which knitteth souls, and prospers loves :
And by that fire which burn'd the Carthage queen,
When the false Trojan under sail was seen;
By all the vows that ever men have broke,
In number more than ever women spoke ;-
In that same place thou hast appointed me,
To-morrow, truly will I meet with thee.

Lys. Keep promise, love: Look, here comes Helena.

[6] Though the word spleen be here employed oddly enough, yet I right. Shakespeare, always hurried on by the grandeur and multitude of his ideas, assumes every now and then an uncommon license in the use of his words. Particularly in complex moral modes it is usual with him to employ one, only to express a very few ideas of that number of which it is composed. Thus, wanting here to express the ideas-of a sudden, or-in a trice, he uses the word spleen; which, partially considered, signifying a hasty sudden fit, is enough for him, and he never troubles himself about the further or fuller signification of the word. Here, he Uses the word spleen for a sudden hasty fit ; so just the contrary, in The Two Gertleren of Verona, he uses sudden for splenetic: sudden quips. And it must be owned this sort of conversation adds a force to the diction. WARBURTON.

Enter HELENA. -
Her. God speed fair Helena! Whither away?

Hel. Call you me fair? that fair again unsay.
Demetrius loves your fair: O happy fair!
Your eyes are load-stars; and your tongue's sweet air
More túneable than lark to shepherd's ear,
When whèat is green, when hawthorn buds appear.
Sickness is catching ; 0, were favour so !8
Yours would I catch, fair Hermia, ere I

go ;
My ear should catch your voice, my eye your eye,
My tongue should catch your tongue's sweet melody.
Were the world mine, Demetrius being bated,
The rest I'll give to be to you translated.
0, teach me how you look; and with what art

sway the motion of Demetrius' heart. Her. I frown upon him, yet he loves me still. Hel. O, that your frowns would teach my smiles such

skill ! Her. I give him curses, yet he gives me love. Heli O, that my prayers could such affection move! Her. The more I hate, the more he follows me. llel. The more I love, the more he hateth me. Iler. His folly, Helena, is no fault of mine. Hel. None, but your beauty; Would that fault were

Her. Take comfort ; he no more shall see my face ;
Lysander and myself will fly this place.--
Before the time I did Lysander see,'
Seem'd Athens as a paradise to me:
( then, what graces in my love do dwell,
That he hath turn’d a heaven unto hell!

Lys. Helen, to you our minds we will unfold :
To-morrow-night, when Phoebe doth behold
Her 'silver visage in the watry glass,

17] This was a compliment pot unfrequent among the old poets. The lode-star is the leading or guiding star, ihat is, the pole-star. The magnet is, for the same reason, called the lode-stone, either because it leads iron, or because it leads the sailor. Davies calls Queen Elizabeth:

Lode-stone to hearts, and lode-stone to all eyes." JOHNSON [8] Favour is feature, countenance, (9) To translate, here signifies to change, to transform. STEEVENS. [11

Perhaps every reader may not discover the propriety of these lines. Hermia is willing to comfort Helena, and to avoid all appearance of triumph over her. She therefore bids her not to consider the power of pleasing, as an advantage to be mucb envied or much desired, since Hermia, whom she considers as possessing it in the supreme degree, bas found go other effect of it than the loss of happiness.


[ocr errors]


Decking with liquid pearl the bladed grass,
(A time that lovers' Hights doth still conceal)
Through Athens' gates have we devis’d to steal.

Her. And in the wood, where often you and I
Upon faint primrose-beds were wont to lie,
Emptying our bosoms of their counsel sweet ::
There my Lysander and myself shall meet:
And thence, from Athens, turn away our eyes,
To seek new friends and stranger companies.
Farewell, sweet playfellow ; pray thou for us,
And good luck grant thee thy Demetrius !
-Keep word, Lysander: we must starve our sight
From lovers' food, till morrow deep midnight.

[Exit. Lys. I will, my Hermia.—Helena, adieu : As you on him, Demetrius dote on you !

[Exit. Hel. How happy some, o'er other some can be ! Through Athens I am thought as fair as she. But what of that? Demetrius thinks not so; He will not know what all but he do know. And as he errs, doting on Hermia's eyes, So I, admiring of his qualities. Things base and vile, holding no quantity, Love can transpose to form and dignity. Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind; And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind : Nor hath love's mind of any judgment taste ; Wings, and no eyes, figure unheedy haste: And therefore is love said to be a child, Because in choice he is so oft beguild. As waggish boys in game themselves forswear, So the boy love is perjur'd every where : For ere Demetrius look'd on Hermia's eyne, He hail'd down oaths, that he was only mine ; And when this hail some heat from Hermia felt, So he dissolv'd, and showers of oaths did melt. I will go tell him of fair Hermia's flight: Then to the wood will he, to-morrow night, Pursue her; and for this intelligence If I have thanks, it is a dear expense :


[2] Mr. Heath observes, that our author seems to have had the following passage in the 55th Psalm, (v. 14, 15,) in his thoughts : “But it was even thou, my companion, my guide, and mine own familiar friend. We took sweet counsel together, and walked in the house of God as friends." MALONE.

13) Fune-- This plural is common both in Chaucer and Spenser. STEEVENS

But herein mean I to enrich my pain,
To have his sight thither, and back again.


The same.


A Room in a Cottage. Enter Snug, BOTTOM,

Quin. Is all your company here?

Bot. You were best to call them generally; man by man, according to the scrip. Quin. Here is the scroll of


which is thought fit, through all Athens, to play in our interlude before the duke and duchess, on his wedding-day at night.

Bot. First, good Peter Quince, say what the play treats on ; then read the names of the actors; and so grow to a point.

Quin. Marry, our play is—The most lamentable comedy, and most cruel death of Pyramus and Thisby.

Bot. A very good piece of work, I assure you, and a merry. Now, good Peter Quince, call forth your actors by the scroll :--Masters, spread yourselves.

Quin. Answer, as I call you.--Nick Bottom, the weaver.
Bot. Ready: Name what part i am for, and proceed.
Quin. You, Nick Bottom, are set down for Pyramus.
Bot. What is Pyramus ? a lover, or a tyrant ?
Quin. A lover, that kills himself most gallantly for love.

Bot. That will ask some tears in the true performing of it: If I do it, let the audience look to their eyes ;

I will move storms, I will condole in some measure. To the rest :--Yet my chief humour is for a tyrant: I could play Ercles rarely, or a part to tear a cat in, to make all split.

[4] In this scene Shakespeare takes advantage of his knowledge of the theatre, to ridicule the prejudices and competitions of the players. Bottom, who is generally acknowledged the principal actor, declares his inclination to be for a tyrant, for a part of fury, tumult, and noise, such as every young man pants to perform when he first steps upon the stage. The same Bottom, who seems bred in the tiringroom, has another histrionical passion. He is for engrossing every part, and would esclude his inferiors from all possibility of distinction. He is therefore desirous to play Pyramus, Thisby, and the Lion, at the same time. JOHNSON.

{5} A scrip, Fr. escript, now written ecrit. STEEVENS.

[6] This is very probably a burlesque on the title-page of Cambyses : “ A lamentable Tragedie, mixed full of pleasant Mirth," &c. STEEVENS.

(7) When we use this verb at present, we put with before the person for whose misfortune we profess concern. Anciently it seems to have been employed with out it. STEEVENS.

" The raging rocks,
“ With shivering shocks,

Shall break the locks

“ Of prison-gates :
16 And Phibbus' car
66 Shall shine from far,
or And make and mar

66 The foolish fates." This was lofty !--Now náme the rest of the players.This is Ercles' vein, a tyrant's vein ; a lover is more condoling

Quin. Francis Flute, the bellows-mender.
Flu. Here, Peter Quince.
Quin. You must take Thisby on you.
Flu. What is Thisby? a wandering knight?
Quin. It is the lady that Pyramus must love.

Flu. Nay, faith, let me not play a woman ; I have a beard a coming.

Quin. That's all one ; you shall play it in a mask, and you may speak as small as you will.s

Bot. An I may hide my face, let me play Thisby too: I'll speak in a monstrous little voice ;--Thisne, Thisne,Ah, Pyramus, my lover dear; thy Thisby dear! and lady dear!

Quin. No, no; you must play Pyramus ;-and, Flute, you Thisby.

Bot. Well, proceed.
Quin. Robin Starveling, the tailor.
Star. Here, Peter Quince.

Quin. Robin Starveling, you must play Thisby's mother.- Tom Snout, the tinker.

Snout. Here, Peter Quince.

[8] This passage shows how the want of women on the old stage was supplied. If they had not a young man who could perform the part with a face that might pass for feminine, the character was acted in a mask, wbich was at that time a part of a lady's dress so much in use, that it did not give any unusual appearance to the scene : and he that could modulate his voice in a female tone, might play the woman very successfully. It is observed in Downes's Roscius Anglicanus, that Kynaston, one of these counterfeit heroines, moved the passions more strongly tban the women that nave since been brought upon the stage. Some of the catastrophes of the old comedies, which make lovers marry the wrong women, are, by recoltection of the common use of masks, brought nearer to probability. JOHNSON.

Dr. Jobnson here seems to have quoted from memory. Downes does not speak of Kynaston's performance in such unqualified terms. His words are : “ It has since been disputable, whether any women that succeeded him, (Kynaston,) so seostbly touched the audience as he." REED. 2

Vol. III.

« PreviousContinue »