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Hel. How might one do, sir, to lose it to her own liking?
Par. Let me see: Marry, ill, to like him that ne'er it likes. 9 'Tis a commodity will lose the gloss with lying; the longer kept, the less worth: off with ’t, while 'tis vendible: answer the time of request. Virginity, like an old courtier, wears her cap out of fashion; richly suited, but unsuitable: just like the brooch and toothpick, which wear not now:1 Your date is better in your pie and your porridge, than in your cheek: And your virginity, your old virginity, is like one of our French withered pears; it looks ill, it eats dryly; mar
ry, 'tis a withered pear; it was formerly better; marry, do yet, 'tis a withered pear: Will you any thing with it?
Hel. Not my virginity yet.s with
With this noble earl's notorious remark, I am quite unacquainted. But perhaps the critick (with a flippancy in which he has sometimes indulged himself at my expense) will reply, like Pistol, “ Why then lament therefore;” or observe, like Hamlet, that “a knavish speech sleeps in a foolish ear.” Steevens.
Marry, ill, to like him that ne'er it likes.] Parolles, in answer to the question, “How one shall lose virginity to her own liking ?" plays upon the word liking, and says, she must do ill, for virginity, to be so lost, must like him that likes not virginity.
Fohnson. - which wear not now ;] Thus the old copy, and rightly. Shakspeare often uses the active for the passive. The modern editors read, “which we wear not now." Tyrwhitt. The old copy has were.
Mr. Rowe corrected it. Malone.
They call for dates and quinces in the pastry.”
- and then to be bak'd with no date in the pie, for then the man's date is out.”
Steevens. 3 Not my virginity yet.] The whole speech is abrupt, unconnectech, and obscure. Dr. Warburton thinks much of it suppositious. I would be glad to think so of the whole, for a commentator naturally wishes to reject what he cannot understand. Something, which should connect Helena's words with those of Parolles, seems to be wanting. Hanmer has made a fair at. tempt, by reading:
Not my virginity yet.-You ’re for the court,
There shall your master, &c.
There shall your master have a thousand loves,
words want connection. Perhaps Parolles, going away from his harangue, said, will you any thing with me? to which Helen may reply. I know not what to do with the passage. Fohnson.
I do not perceive so great a want of connection as my prede. cessors have apprehended; nor is that connection always to be sought for, in so careless a writer as ours, from the thought im. mediately preceding the reply of the speaker. Parolles has been laughing at the unprofitableness of virginity, especially when it grows ancient, and compares it to withered fruit. Helena, properly enough, replies, that hers is not yet in that state ; but that in the enjoyment of her, his master should find the gratification of all his most romantic wishes. What Dr. Warburton says afterwards is said at random, as all positive declarations of the same kind must of necessity be. Were I to propose any change, I would read should instead of shall. It does not, however, appear that this rapturous effusion of Helena was designed to be intelligible to Parolles. Its obscurity, therefore, may be its merit. It sufficiently explains what is passing in the mind of the speaker, to every one but him to whom she does not mean to explain it. Steevens.
Perhaps we should read: “Will you any thing with us?” i.e. will you send any thing with us to court? to which Helena's answer would be proper enough
“ Not my virginity yet.” A similar phrase occurs in Twelfth Night, Act III, sc. i:
“You'll nothing, madam, to my lord by me?” Tyrwhitt. Perhaps something has been omitted in Parolles's speech. “I am now bound for the court; will you any thing with it? i. e. with the court?” So, in The Winter's Tale :
“ Tell me what you have to the king.” I do not agree with Mr. Steevens in the latter part of his note ;
- that in the enjoyment of her,” &c. Malone. I am satisfied the passage is as Shakspeare left it. Parolles, after having cried down, with all his eloquence, old virginity in reference to what he had before said, “That virginity is a commodity the longer kept, the less worth: off with 't, while 'tis vendible. Answer THE TIME of request.” asks Helena,– “Will you any thing with it?"—to which she replies--“Not My virginity YET.” Henley.
4 A phænix, &c.] The eight lines following friend, I am persuaded, is the nonsense of some foolish conceited player. What put it into his head was Helen's saying, as it should be read for the future:
There shall your master have a thousand loves;
A guide, a goddess, and a sovereign,
Where the fellow, finding a thousand loves spoken of, and only three reckoned up, namely, a mother's a mistress's, and a friend's, (which, by the way, were all a judicious writer could mention; for there are but these three species of love in nature) he would help out the number, by the intermediate nonsense : and, because they were yet too few, he pieces out his loves with enmities, and makes of the whole such finished nonsense, as is never heard out of Bedlam. Warburton.
captain,] Our author often uses this word for a head or chief. So, in one of his Sonnets :
“Or captain jewels in the carkanet.” Again, in Timon of Athens : “ the ass more captain than the lion."
Again, more appositely, in Othello, where it is applied to Desdemona :
“— our great captain's captain.” We find some of these terms of endearment again used in The Winter's Tale. Leontes says to the young Mamillius,
“ Come, captain, we must be neat,” &c. Again, in the same scene, Polixenes, speaking of his son says:
“ He's all my exercise, my mirth, my matter;
My parasite, my soldier, statesman, all.” Malone. 6 — a traitress,] It seems that traitress was in that age a term of endearment, for when Lafeu introduces Helena to the king, he says, “ You are like a traytor, but such traytors his majesty does not much fear.” Johnson.
I cannot conceive that traitress (spoken seriously) was in any age a term of endearment. From the present passage, we might as well suppose enemy (in the last line but one) to be a term of endearment. In the other passage quoted, Lafeu is plainly speaking ironically. Tyrwhitt.
Traditora, a traitress, in the Italian language, is generally used as a term of endearment. The meaning of Helena is, that she shall prove every thing to Bertram. Our ancient writers delighted in catalogues, and always characterize love by contrarieties.
Steevens. Falstaff, in The Merry Wives of Windsor, says to Mrs. Ford: “ Thou art a traitor to say so.' In his interview with her, he certainly meant to use the language of love.
Helena, however, I think, does not mean to say that she shall prove every thing to Bertram, but to express her apprehension that he will find at the court some lady or ladies who shall prove every thing to him ; " a phænix, captain, counsellor, traitress ;” &c.) to whom he will give all the fond names that “blinking Cupid gossips.” Malone.
His humble ambition, proud humility,
Par. What one, i' faith?
Hel. That wishing well had not a body in 't,
I believe it would not be difficult to find in the love poetry of those times an authority for most, if not for every one, of these whimsical titles. At least I can affirm it from knowledge, that far the greater part of them are to be found in the Italian lyrick poetry, which was the model from which our poets chiefly copied.
Heath. christendoms,] This word, which signifies the collective body of christianity, every place where the christian religion is embraced, is surely used with much license on the present occa. sion. It is also employed with a similar sense in an Epitaph “on an only Child,” which the reader will find at the end of Wit's Recreations, 1640:
“ As here a name and christendome to obtain,
“ And to his Maker then return again.” Steevens. It is used by another ancient writer in the same sense ; so that the word probably bore, in our author's time, the signification which he has affixed to it. So, in A Royal Arbor of Loyal Poesie, by Thomas Jordan, no date, but printed about 1661:
“She is baptiz'd in Christendom,
[i.e. by a christian name]
“The Jew cries out he's undone -.” These lines are found in a ballad formed on part of the story of The Merchant of Venice, in which it is remarkable that it is the Jew's daughter, and not Portia, that saves the merchant's life by pleading his cause. There should seem therefore to have been some novel on this subject that has hitherto escaped the researches of the commentators. In the same book are ballads founded on the fables of Much Ado about Nothing, and The Winter's Tale. Malone.
8 And show what we alone must think;] And show by realities what we now must only think. Fohnson.
Enter a Page
[Exit Page. Par. Little Helen, farewel : if I can remember thee, I will think of thee at court.
Hel. Monsieur Parolles, you were born under a charitable star.
Par. Under Mars, I.
Hel. The wars have so kept you under, that needs be born under Mars.
Par. When he was predominant.
Hel. So is running away, when fear proposes the safety: But the composition, that your valour and fear makes in you, is a virtue of a good wing,' and I like the wear well.
is a virtue of a good wing,] Mr. Edwards is of opinion, that a virtue of a good wing refers to his nimbleness or feetness in running away. The phrase, however, is taken from falconry, as may appear from the
following passage in Marston's Fawne, 1606 : “I love my horse after a journeying easiness, as he is easy in journeying; my hawk, for the goodness of his wing," &c. Or it may be taken from dress. So, in Every Man out of his Humour : “ I would have mine such a suit without a difference; such stuff, such a wing, such a sleeve,” &c. Mr. Tollet observes, that a good wing signifies a strong wing in Lord Bacon's Natural History, experiment 866:--"Certainly many birds of a good wing (as kites and the like) would bear up a good weight as they fiy." The same phrase, however, anciently belonged to archery. So Ascham, in his Toxophilus, edit. 1589, p. 57: “- another shafibecause it is lower feathered, or else because it is of a better wing.” &c. Steevens.
The reading of the old copy (which Dr. Warburton changed to ming) is supported by a passage in King Henry V, in which we meet with a similar expression: Though his affections are higher mounted than ours, yet when they stoop, they stoop with the like wing." Again, in King Henry IV, P. I:
“ Yet let me wonder Harry,
Quite from the flight of all thy ancestors.” Malone,