Page images

Be merry; and employ your chiefest thoughts
To courtship, and such fair ostents of love
As shall conveniently become you there:
And even there, his eye being big with tears,
Turning his face, he put his hand behind him,2
And with affection wondrous sensible
He wrung Bassanio's hand, and so they parted.

Salan. I think, he only loves the world for him.

thee, let us go, and find him out,
And quicken his embraced heaviness 3
With some delight or other.

Do we so.



Belmont. A Room in Portia's House.

Enter NERISSA, with a Servant. Ner. Quick, quick, I pray thee, draw the curtain*


“Those that speak freely, have no mind of treason.Steevens. If the phrase is to be understood in the former sense, there should be a comma after mind, as Mr. Langton and Mr. Heath have observed. Malone. 2 And even there, his eye being big with tears,

Turning his face, he put his hand behind him, &c.] So curious an observer of nature was our author, and so minūtely had he traced the operation of the passions, that many passages of his works might furnish hints to painters. It is indeed surprizing that they do not study his plays with this view. In the passage before us, we have the outline of a beautiful picture. Malone.

3 — embraced heaviness'—] The heaviness which he indulges and is fond of. Edwards.

When I thought the passage corrupted, it seemed to me not improbable that Shakspeare had written—entranced heaviness, musing, abstracted, moping melancholy. But I know not why any great efforts should be made to change a word which has no incommodious or unusual sense. We say of a man now, that he bugs his sorrows, and why might not Antonio einbrace heaviness?

Johnson. So, in Much Ado aboui Nothing, sc. i:

“ You embrace your charge too willingly.” Again, in this play of The Merchant of Venice, Act III, sc. ii: doubtful thoughts, and rash-embrac'd despair."

Steevens, -draw the curtain - ] i. e. draw it open. So, in an old


The prince of Arragon hath ta'en his oath,
And comes to his election presently.
Flourish of Cornets. Enter the Prince of Arragon,

Portia, and their Trains.
Por. Behold, there stand the caskets, noble prince:
If you choose that wherein I am contain’d,
Straight shall our nuptial rites be solemniz'd;
But if you fail, without more speech, my lord,
You must be gone from hence immediately.

Ar. I am enjoin'd by oath to observe three things:
First, never to unfold to any one
Which casket 'twas I chose; next, if I fail
Of the right casket, never in my life
To woo a maid in way of marriage; lastly,
If I do fail in fortune of my choice,
Immediately to leave you and be gone.

Por. To these injunctions every one doth swear,
That comes to hazard for my worthless self.

Ar. And so have I address'd me:5 Fortune now To my heart's hope !—Gold, silver, and base lead. Who chooseth me, must give and hazard all he hath: You shall look fairer, ere I give, or hazard. What says the golden chest? ha! let me see:Who chooseth me, shall gain what many men desire. What many men desire.—That many may be meant By the fool multitude, that choose by show,

stage-direction in King Henry VIII: The king draws the cur. tain, and sits reading pensively.Steevens.

5 And so have I addressid me:) To address is to prepare. The meaning is, I have prepared myself by the same ceremonies. So, in All’s well that ends well: Do you think he will make no deed of all this, that so seriously he doth address himself unto?”

Steevens. I believe we should read:

“ And so have I. Address me, Fortune, now,

“ To my heart's hope !" So, in The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act III, scene the last, Falstaff says: “ – I will then address me to my appointment.”

Tyrwhitt. That many may be meant -) The repetition of many is a mere blunder. It is unnecessary to the sense, and destroys the


That many may be meant
By the fool multitude,] i. e. By that many may be meant the


Not learning more than the fond eye doth teach;
Which pries not to the interior, but, like the martlet,
Builds in the weather on the outward wall,
Even in the forces and road of casualty.
I will not choose what many men desire,
Because I will not jump' with common spirits,
And rank me with the barbarous multitudes.
Why, then to thee, thou silver treasure-house ;
Tell me once more what title thou dost bear:
Who chooseth me, shall get as much as he deserves;
And well said too; For who shall go about
To cozen fortune, and be honourable
Without the stamp of merit! Let none presume
To wear an undeserved dignity.
O, that estates, degrees, and offices,
Were not deriv'd corruptly! and that clear honour
Were purchas'd by the merit of the wearer!
How many then should cover, that stand bare?

foolish multitude, &c. The fourth folio first introduced a phraseology more agreeable to our ears at present,~"Of the fool mul. titude," - which has been adopted by all the subsequent editors ; -but change merely for the sake of elegance is always dangerous. Many modes of speech were familiar in Shakspeare's age, that are now no longer used.

So, in Plutarch's Life of Cæsar, as translated by North, 1575: “- he aunswered, that these fat long-heared men made him not affrayed, but the lean and whitely-faced fellows; meaning that by Brutus and Cassius.” i. e. meaning by that, &c. Again, in Sir Thomas More's Life of Edward the Fifth ;-Holinshed, p. 1374: " — that meant he by the lordes of the queenes kindred that were taken before," i. e. by that he meant the lords, &c. Again, ibidem, p. 1371: “My lord, quoth lord Hastings, on my life, never doubt


for while one man is tbere,-never can there be, &c. This meant he by Catesby, which was of his near secrete counsaile,” i. e. by this he meant Catesby, &c.

Again, Puttenham in his Arte of English Poesie, 1589, p. 157, after citing some enigmatical verses, adds,“ –

- the good old gentleman would tell us that were children, how it was meant by a furr'd glove.”.i. e. a furr'd glove was meant by it,-i. e. by the enigma. Again, ibidem, p. 161: “ Any simple judgement might easily perceive by whom it was meant, that is, by lady Elizabeth, Queene of England.” Malone.

in the force — ] i. e. the power. So, in Much Ado about Nothing: “ — in the force of his will.” Steevens.

- jump - ] i. e. agree with. So, in K. Henry IV, P. I: - and in some sort it jumps with my humour.” Steevens.



How many be commanded, that command?
How much low. peasantry would then be glean'd
From the true seed of honour?1 and how much honour
Pick'd from the chaff and ruin of the times,
To be new varnish’d?? Well, but to my choice:
Who chooseth me, shall get as much as he deserves:
I will assume desert ;-Give me a key for this, 3


1 How much low peasantry would then be glean'd

From the true seed of honour ?] The meaning is, How much meanness would be found among the great, and how much greatness among the mean. But since men are always said to glean corn though they may pick chaff, the sentence had been more agreeable to the common manner of speech if it had been written thus:

How much low peasantry would then be pick'd
From the true seed of honour ? how much honour
Glean’d from the chaff? Johnson.

- how much honour
Pick'd from the chaff and ruin of the times,

To be new varnish’d?] This confusion and mixture of the metaphors, makes me think that Shakspeare wrote:

To be new vanned i. e. winnow'd, purged, from the French word, vanner; which is

derived from the Latin vannus, ventilabrum, the fan used for wini- nowing the chaff from the corn. This alteration restores the metaphor to its integrity: and our poet frequently uses the same thought. So, in The Second Part of King Henry IV:

“ We shall be winnow'd with so rough a wind,
“ That even our corn shall seem as light as chaff.

Warburton. Shakspeare is perpetually violating the integrity of his metaphors, and the emendation proposed seems to me to be as faulty as unnecessary; for what is already selected from the chaff needs not be new vanned. I wonder Dr. Warburton did not think of changing the word ruin into rowing, which in some counties of England, is used to signify the second and inferior crop of grass which is cut in autumn.

So, in one of our old pieces, of which I forgot to set down the name, when I transcribed the following passage:

- when we had taken the first crop, you might have then been bold to eat the rowens." The word occurs, however, both in the notes on Tusser, and in Mortimer. Steevens.

Steevens justly observes, that honour when picked from the chaff, could not require to be new vanned; but honour, mixed with the chaff and ruin of the times, might require to be new varnished. M. Mason.

3 I will assume desert ;-Give me a key for this,] The wordsfor this, which (as Mr. Ritson observes) destroy the measure, should be omitted. Steevens.

And instantly unlock my fortunes here.

Por. Too long a pause for that which you find there.

Ar. What's here? the portrait of a blinking idiot,
Presenting me a schedule? I will read it.
How much unlike art thou to Portia?
How much unlike my hopes, and my deservings?
Who chooseth me, shall have as much as he deserves.
Did I deserve no more than a fool's head?
Is that my prize? are my deserts no better?

Por. To offend, and judge, are distinct offices,
And of opposed natures.

What is here?
The fire seven times tried this ;
Seven times tried that judgment is,
That did never choose amiss :
Some there be, that shadows kiss ;
Such have but å shadow's bliss :
There be fools alive, I wis,*
Silver'd o'er; and 80 was this.
Take what wife you will to beds
I will ever be your head:
So begone, sir, 6 you are sped.
Still more fool I shall appear
By the time I linger here:
With one fool's head I came to woò,
But I go away with two.-
Sweet, adieu! I'll keep my oath,
Patiently to bear my wroth."

[Exeunt AR. and Train.

I wis,] I know. Wissen, German. So, in R. Henry VI:

"I wis your grandame had no worser match.” Again, in the comedy of King Cambyses :

“ Yea, I wis, shall you, and that with all speed.” Sidney, Ascham, and Waller, use the word. Steevens.

5 Take what wife you will to bed,] Perhaps the poet had forgotten that he who missed Portia was never to marry any woman.

Fohnson. 6 So begone, sir,] Sir, which is not in the old copies, was supplied by the editor of the second folio, for the sake of the metre.

Malone. to bear my wroth.] The old editions read—“to bear my wroath." Wroath is used

in some of the old books for misfortune';


« PreviousContinue »