« PreviousContinue »
How comes it then, that thou art call'd a king,
K. John. Alack, thou dost usurp authority.
Eli. Out, insolent! thy bastard shall be king;
6 To look into the blots and stains of right.] Mr. Theobald reads, with the first folio, blots, which being so early authorized, and so much better understood, needed not to have been changed by Dr. Warburton to bolts, though bolts might be used in that time for spots : so Shakspeare calls Banquo * spotted with blood, the blood-bolter'd Banquo.". The verb to blot is used figuratively for to disgrace, a few lines lower. And, perhaps, after all, bolts was only a typographical mistake. Johnson.
Blots is certainly right. The illegitimate branch of a family always carried the arms of it with what, in ancient heraldry, was called a blot or difference. So, in Drayton's Epistle from Queen Isabel to King Richard II:
“No bastard's mark doth blot his conquering shield.” Blots and stains occur again together in the first scene of the third Act. Steevens. Blot had certainly the heraldical sense mentioned by Mr. Stee.
But it here, I think, means only blemishes. So again, in Act III. Malone.
7 That thou may'st be a queen, and check the world!] “ Surely (says Holinshed) Queen Eleanor, the kyng's mother, was sore against her nephew Arthur, rather moved thereto by envye conceyved against his mother, than upon any just occasion, given in the behalfe of the childe; for that she saw, if he were king, how his mother Constance would looke to beare the most rule within the realme of Englande, till her sonne should come to a law full age to governe of himselfe. So hard a thing it is, to bring women to agree in one minde, their natures commonly being so contrary.”
Const. My bed was ever to thy son as true,
Eli. There's a good mother, boy, that blots thy father.
thee. Aust. Peace! Bast.
Hear the crier.9 Aust.
What the devil art thou? Bast. One that will play the devil, sir, with you, An 'a may catch your hide and you alone." You are the hare2 of whom the proverb goes,
8 an if thou wert his mother;] Constance alludes to Elinor's infidelity to her husband, Lewis the Seventh, when they were in the Holy Land; on account of which he was divorced from her. She afterwards (1151) married our King Henry II.
Malones 9 Hear the crier.] Alluding to the usual proclamation for silence, made by criers in courts of justice, beginning Oyez, corruptly pronounced O-Yes. Austria has just said Peace! Malone. 1 One that will play the devil, sir, with you,
An 'a may catch your hide and you alone. ] The ground of the qnarrel of the Bastard to Austria is no where specified in the present play. But the story is, that Austria, who killed King Richard Cæur-de-lion, wore, as the spoil of that prince, a lion's hide, which had belonged to him. This circumstance renders the anger of the Bastard very natural, and ought not to have been omitted. Pope.
See p. 301, n. 7, and p. 302, n. 8. Malone.
The omission of this incident was natural. Shakspeare having familiarized the story to his own imagination, forgot that it was obscure to his audience; or, what is equally probable, the story was then so popular, that a hint was sufficient, at that time, to bring it to mind; and these plays were written with very little care for the approbation of posterity. Johnson. * You are the hare -) So, in The Spanish Tragedy:
“ He hunted well that was a lion's death;
“ So hares may pull dead lions by the beard.” Steevens. The proverb alluded to is, “Mortuo leoni et lepores insultant." Erasmi Adag. Malone.
Whose valour plucks dead lions by the beard;
Blanch. O, well did he become that lion's robe,
Bast. It lies as sightly on the back of him,
Aust. What cracker is this same, that deafs our ears With this abundance of superfluous breath?
K. Phi. Lewis, determine what we shall do straight.
3 It lies as sightly on the back of him, As great Alciues' shoes upon un ass:
::] But why his shoes, in the name of propriety? For lei Hercules and his shoes have been really as big as they were ever supposed to be, yet they (I mean the shoes) would not have been an overload for an ass. I am persuaded I have retrieved the true reading; and let us observe the justness of the comparison now. Faulconbridge, in his resentment, would say this to Austria: “That lion's skin, which my great father King Richard once wore, looks as uncouthly on thy back, as that other noble hide, which was borne by Hercules, would look on the back of an ass.” A double allusion was intended; first, to the fable of the ass in the lion's skin; then Richard I, is finely set in competition with Alcides, as Austria is satirically coupled with the ass. Theobald.
The shoes of Hercules are more than once introduced in the old comedies, on much the same occasions. So, in The Isle of Gulls, by J. Day, 1606: “ — are as fit, as Hercules's shoe for the foot of a pigmy.” Again, in Greene's Epistle Dedicatory to Perimedes the Blacksmith, 1588: “. and so, lest I should shape Hercules' shoe for a child's foot, I commend your worship to the Almighty.". Again, in Greene's Penelope's Web, 1601: “I will not make a long harvest for a small crop, nor go about to pull a Hercules' shoe on Achilles' foot.” Again, ibid: “ Hercules' shoe will never serve a child's foot.” Again, in Stephen Gosson's School of Abuse, 1579: “ – to draw the lion's skin upon Æsop's asse, or Hercules' shoes on a childes feete.” Again, in the second of William Rankins's Seven Satyres, &c. 1598:
" Yet in Alcides' buskins will he stalke.” Steevens.
• upon an ass:) i. e. upon the hoofs of an ass. Mr. Theobald thought the shoes must be placed on the back of the ass; and, therefore, to avoid this incongruity, reads-Alcides' shows.
Malone. * K. Phi. Lewis, determine &c.] Thus Mr. Malone, and perhaps rightly; for the next speech is given, in the old copy, (as it stands in the present text) to Lewis the Dauphin, who was afterwards Lewis VIII. The speech itself, however, seems suffi.
Lew. Women and fools, break off your conference. King John, this is the very sum of all, England, and Ireland, Anjou,5 Touraine, Maine, In right of Arthur do I claim of thee: Wilt thou resign them, and lay down thy arms?
K. John. My life as soon:-I do defy thee, France.
Come to thy grandam, child.
Good my mother, peace!
Eli. His mother shames him so, poor boy, he weeps. Const. Now shame upon you, whe'r she does, or no!6
siently appropriated to the King; and nothing can be inferred from the folio, with any certainty, but that the editors of it were careless and ignorant. Steevens. In the old copy this line stands thus:
King Lewis, determine what we shall do straight. To the first three speeches spoken in this scene by King Phi. lip, the word King only is prefixed. I have therefore given this line to him. The transcriber or compositor having, I imagine, forgotten to distinguish the word King by Italicks, and to put a full point after it, these words have been printed as part of Austria's speech: “King Lewis,” &c. but such an arrangement must be erroneous, for Lewis was not king. Some of our author's edi. tors have left Austria in possession of the line, and corrected the error by reading here, “ King Philip, determine,” &c. and giving the next speech to him, instead of Lewis.
I once thought that the line before us might stand as part of Austria's speech, and that he might have addressed Philip and the Dauphin by the words King,-Lewis, &c. but the addressing Philip by the title of King, without any addition, seems too familiar, and I therefore think it more probable that the error happen. ed in the way above stated. Malone.
Anjou,] Old copy-Angiers. Corrected by Mr. Theobald. Malone.
Now shame upon you, whe'r she does, or no!] Whe'r for whether. So, in an Epigram, by Ben Jonson:
His grandam's wrongs, and not his mother's shames,
Eli. Thou monstrous slanderer of heaven and earth!
Const. Thou monstrous injurer of heaven and earth!
K. John. Bedlam, have done.
I have but this to say,
“ Who shall doubt, Donne, whe'r I a poet be,
“ When I dare send my epigrams to thee?" Again, in Gower's De Confessione Amantis, 1532: “That maugre where she woulde or not —
Malone. Read: whe’r he does, or no!--i. e. whether he weeps, or not. Constance, so far from admitting, expressly denies that she shames him. Ritson.
? Of this oppressed boy: This is thy eldest son's son,] Mr. Ritson would omit the redundant words—This is, and read:
Of this oppressed boy: thy eldest son's son. Steevens. 8 I have but this to say,
That he's not only plagued for her sin,
But God hath made her sin and her the plague &c.] This passage appears to me very obscure. The chief difficulty arises from this, that Constance having told Elinor of her sin-conceiving womb, pursues the thought, and uses sin through the next lines in an ambiguous sense, sometimes for crime, and sometimes for offspring:
He's not only plagued for her sin, &c. He is not only made miserable by vengeance for her sin or crime; but her sin, her offspring, and she, are made the instruments of that vengeance, on this descendant; who, though of the second generation, is plagued for her and with her; to whom she is not only the cause but the instrument of evil. The next clause is more perplexed. All the editions read:
- plagu'd for her,