Page images

Hath feard the valiant;2 by my love, I swear,
The best-regarded virgins of our clime
Hlave lov'd it too: would not change this hue,
Except to steal your thoughts, my gentle queen.

Por. In terms of choice I am not solely led
By nice direction of a maiden's eyes:
Besides, the lottery of my destiny
Bars me the right of voluntary choosing:
But, if my father had not scanted me,
And hedg'd me by his wit, 3 to yield myself
His wife, who wins me by that means I told you,
Yourself, renowned prince, then stood as fair,
As any comer I have look'd on yet,
For my affection.

Even for that I thank you ;
Therefore, I pray you, lead me to the caskets,
To try my fortune. By this scimitar,
That slew the Sophy,4 and a Persian prince,
That won three fields of Sultan Solyman,--
I would out-stare the sternest eyes that look,
Out-brave the heart most daring on the earth,
Pluck the young sucking cubs from the she bear,
Yea, mock the lion when he roars for prey,
To win thee, lady: But, alas the while!
If Hercules, and Lichas, play at dice
Which is the better man, the greater throw
May turn by fortune from the weaker hand:

2 Hath fear'd the valiant;] i. e. terrify'd. To fear is often used by our old writers, in this sense. So, in K. Henry VI, P. III:

“For Warwick was a bug that fear'd us all.” Steevens. 3 And hedg’d me by his wit,] I suppose we may safely readand helg’d me by his will. Confined me by his will. Johnson.

As the ancient signification of wit, was sagacity, or power of mind, I have not displaced the original reading. See our author, passim. Steevens.

That slew the Sophy, &c.] Shakspeare seldom escapes well when he is entangled with geography. The Prince of Morocco must have travelled far to kill the Sophy of Persia. Johnson.

It were well if Shakspeare had never entangled himself with geography worse than in the present case. If the Prince of Mo. rocco be supposed to bave served in the army of Sultan Solyman, (the second, for instance) I see no geographical objection to his having killed the Sophi of Persia. See D'Herbelot, in Solyman Ben Selim. Tyrwhitt.

So is Alcides beaten by his page;'
And so may I, blind fortune leading me,
Miss that which one unworthier may attain,
And die with grieving.

You must take your chance;
And either not attempt to choose at all,
Or swear, before you choose,—if you choose wrong,
Never to speak to lady afterward
In way of marriage; therefore be advis’d.

Mor. Nor will not; come, bring me unto my chance.

Por. First, forward to the temple; after dinner
Your hazard shall be made.

Good fortune then! [Cornets. To make me bless't, or cursed’st among men. [Exeunt.

Venice. A Street.

Laun. Certainly my conscience will serve me to run

5 So is Alcides beaten by his page ;] The ancient copies read his rage. Steevens.

Though the whole set of editions concur in this reading, it is corrupt at bottom. Let us look into the poet's drift, and the history of the persons mentioned in the context. If Hercules, (says he) and Lichas were to play at dice for the decision of their superiority, Lichas, the weaker man, might have the better cast of the two. But how then is Alcides beaten by his rage? The poet means no more, than, if Lichas had the better throw, so might Hercules himself be beaten by Lichas. And who was he, but a poor unfortunate servant of Hercules, that unknowingly brought his master the envenomed shirt, dipt in the blood of the Centaur Nessus, and was thrown headlong into the sea for his pains; this one circumstance of Lichas's quality known, sufficiently ascertains the emendation I have substituted, page instead of rage.

Theobald. therefore be advis’d.). Therefore be not precipitant; consider well what you are to do. Advis’d is the word opposite to rash. Johnson So, in King Richard III:

who in my wrath “ Kneeld at my feet, and bade me be advis’d?Steevens.

bless't,] i. e. blessed'st. So, in King Richard III: “ – harmless't creature ;” a frequent vulgar contraction in Warwickshire. Steevens.



from this Jew, my master: The fiend is at mine elbow; and tempts me, saying to me, Gobbo, Launcelot Gobbo, good Launcelot, or good Gobbo, or good Launcelot, Gobbo, use your legs, take the start, run away: My conscience says,-no; take heed honest Launcelot; take heed honest Gobbo;

; or, as aforesaid, honest Launcelot Gobbo; do not run; scorn running with thy heels:9 Well, the most courageous fiend bids me pack: via! says the fiend; away! says the fiend, for the heavens ;l rouse up a brave mind,


[ocr errors]

8 The old copies read-Enter the Clown alone ; and throughout the play this character is called the Clown at most of his entrances or exits. Steevens.

scorn running with thy heels :] Launcelot was designed for a wag, but perhaps not for an absurd one. We may therefore suppose, no such expression would have been put in his mouth, às our author had censured in another character. When Pistol says, “ he hears with ears,” Sir Hugh Evans very properly is made to exclaim, “ The tevil and his tam! what phrase is this, he hears with ear? why it is affectations.” To talk of running with one's heels, has scarce less of absurdity. It has been suggested that we should read and point the passage as follows: “Do not run; scorn running; withe thy heels:" i. e. connect them with a withe, (a band made of osiers) as the legs of cattle are hampered in some countries, to prevent their straggling far from home. The Irishman in Sir John Olılcastle petitions to be hanged in a withe ; and Chapman, in his version of the tenth Odyssey, has the following passage:

There let him lie
“ Till I, of cut-up osiers, did imply
A with, a fathom long, with which his feete

“ I made together in a sure league meete.”
I think myself bound, however, to add, that in Much Ado about
Nothing, the very phrase, that in the present instance is disputed,

“O illegitimate construction! I scorn that with my heels;" i. e. I recalcitrate, kick up contemptuously at the idea, as animals throw up their hind legs. Such also may be Launcelot's meaning. Steevens.

I perceive no need of alteration. The pleonasm appears to me consistent with the general tenour of Launcelot's speech. He had just before expressed the same thing in three different ways: -"Use your legs; take the start; run away.Malone

-away! says the fiend, for the heavens ;] As it is not likely that Shakspeare should make the Devil conjure Launcelot to do any thing for Heaven's sake, I have no doubt but this passage is corrupt, and that we ought to read :

Away! says the fiend, for the haven.

occurs :



says the fiend, and run. Well, my conscience, hanging about the neck of my heart, says very wisely to me,

- my honest friend Launcelot, being an honest man's son, -or rather an honest woman's son:—for, indeed, my father did something smack, something grow to, he had a kind of taste;-well, my conscience says, Launcelot, budge not; budge, says the fiend; budge not, says my conscience: Conscience, say I, you counsel well; fiend, say I, you counsel well: to be ruled by my conscience, I should stay with the Jew my master, who, (God bless the mark!) is a kind of devil; and, to run away from the Jew, I should be ruled by the fiend, who, saving your reverence, is the devil himself: Certainly, the Jew is the very devil incarnation; and, in my conscience, my conscience is but a kind of hard conscience, to offer to counsel me to stay with the Jew: The fiend gives the more friendly counsel: I will run, fiend; my heels are at your commandment, I will run.

Enter old GOBBO,2 with a basket. Gob. Master, young man, you, I pray you; which is the way to master Jew's?

Laun. [ Aside] O heavens, this is my true begotten father! who, being more than sand-blind, high-gravel

By which Launcelot was to make his escape, if he was determined to run away. M. Mason.

away! says the fiend, for the heavens;] i. e. Begone to the heavens. So again, in Much Ado about Nothing : So I deliver up my apes, [to the devil) and away to St. Peter, for the heavens.

Malone. Away! says the fiend, for the heavens ;] I cannot agree with Mr. Malone in his explanation of this passage. Why does he suppose it not likely the devil should conjure Launcelot to do any thing for heaven's sake? does our author commit any impropriety in representing the devil as a deceiver? and why not represent him tempting Launcelot from his duty in the name of heaven? Why not except on the same ground to what follows ? Conscience, say I, you counsel well; fiend, say I, you counsel well.” Mr. Mason and Mr. Malone appear desirous to attach a meaning to this passage never designed by the author. As it stands I can see no impropriety in the passage, whether the counsel is. attributed to a fiend or an angel. Amer. Edit.

2 Enter old Gobbo,] It may be inferred from the name of Gobbo, that Shakspeare designed this character to be represented with a hump-back. Steevens.

blind, knows me not:-I will try conclusions 3 with him.

Gob. Master young gentleman, I pray you, which is the way to master Jew's?

Laun. Turn up on your right hand, at the next turning, but, at the next turning of all, on your left; marry, at the very next turning, turn of no hand, but turn down indirectly to the Jew's house.

Gob. By God's sonties, 5 'twill be a hard way to hit. Can you tell me whether one Launcelot, that dwells with him, dwell with him, or no?

Laun. Talk you of young master Launcelot?–Mark me now; [aside] now will I raise the waters:- Talk you of young master Launcelot?

Gob. No master, sir, but a poor man's son; his father, though I say it, is an honest exceeding poor man, and, God be thanked, well to live.


try conclusions - ] To try conclusions is to try experi. ments. So, in Heywood's Golden Age, 1611 :

since favour
“ Cannot attain thy love, I'll try conclusions."
Again, in The Lancashire Witches, 1634:

“Nay then I'll try conclusions :
“ Mare, Mare, see thou be,

“ And where I point thee, carry me.” Steevens. So quarto R.-Quarto H. and folio read-confusions. Malone.

Turn up on your right hand, &c.] This arch and perplexed direction to puzzle the enquirer seems to imitate that of Syrus to Demea in the Brothers of Terence:

- ubi eas præterieris, “ Ad sinistram hac rectá plateâ : ubi ad Dianæ veneris, “ Ito ad dextram: prius quam ad portam venias, &c.

Theobald. God's sonties,] I know not exactly of what oath this is a corruption. I meet with God's santy in Decker's Honest Whore, 1635:

Again, in The longer thou livest the more Fool thou art, a comedy, bl. 1. without date:

God's santie, this is a goodly book indeed. Perkops it was customary to swear by the santé, i. e. health, of the Supreme Being, or by his saints; or, as Mr. Ritson observes to me, by his sanctity. Oaths of such a turn are not unfrequent among our ancient writers. All, however, seem to have been so thoroughly convinced of the crime of prophane swearing, that they were content to disguise their meaning by abbreviations which were permitted silently to terminate in irremediable carruptions. Steevens.


« PreviousContinue »