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To gild refined gold, to paint the lily,
To throw a perfume on the violet,
To smooth the ice, or add another hue
Unto the rainbow, or with taper-light
To seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish,
Is wasteful, and ridiculous excess.

Pem. But that your royal pleasure must be done,
This act is as an ancient tale new told;2
And, in the last repeating, troublesome,
Being urged at a time unseasonable.

Sal. In this, the antique and well-noted face
Of plain old form is much disfigured:
And, like a shifted wind unto a sail,
It makes the course of thoughts to fetch about;
Startles and frights consideration;
Makes sound opinion sick, and truth suspected,
For putting on so new a fashion'd robe.

Pem. When workmen strive to do better than well,
They do confound their skill in covetousness :3
And, oftentimes, excusing of a fault,
Doth make the fault the worse by the excuse;
As patches, set upon a little breach,
Discredit more in hiding of the fault, *


1 To guard a title that was rich before,] To guard, is to fringe.

Fohnson. Rather, to lace. So, in The Merchant of Venice:

give him a livery
“ More guarded than his fellows.Steevens.

as an ancient tale new told;) Had Shakspeare been a dili. gent examiner of his own compositions, he would not so soon have repeated an idea which he had first put into the mouth of the Danphin:

“ Life is as tedious as a twice-told tale,

“Vexing the dull ear of a drowsy man." Mr. Malone has a remark to the same tendency. Steevens.

3 They do confound their skill in covetousness :) i.e. not by their avarice, but in an eager emulation, an intense desire of excelling, as in Henry V :

“ But if it be a sin to covet honour,

“I am the most offending soul alive." Theobald. So, in our author's 103d Sonnet:

“ Were it not sinful then, striving to mend,
“ To mar the subject that before was well?” Malone.
in hiding of the fault,] Fault means blemish. Steevens.

Than did the fault before it was so patch’d.

Sal. To this effect, before you were new-crown'd,
We breath'd our counsel: but it pleas'd your highness
To overbear it; and we are all well-pleas’d;
Since all and every part of what we would,5
Doth make a stand at what your highness will.

K. John. Some reasons of this double coronation
I have possess'd you with, and think them strong;
And more, more strong, (when lesser is my fear)
I shall indue you with :: Mean time, but ask
What you would have reform'd, that is not well;
And well shall you perceive, how willingly
I will both hear and grant you your requests.

Pem. Then I, (as one that am the tongue of these,
To sound the purposes? of all their hearts,)
Both for myself and them, (but, chief of all,
Your safety, for the which myself and them
Bend their best studies,) heartily request
The enfranchisement of Arthur; whose restraint
Doth move the murmuring lips of discontent
To break into this dangerous argument,-
If, what in rest you have, in right you hold,
Why then your fears, (which, as they say, attend
The steps of wrong,) should move you to mew up

5 Since all and every part of what we would,] Since the whole and each particular part of our wishes, &c. Malone. 6 Some reasons of this double coronation

I have possess'd you with, and think them strong;
And more, more strong, (when lesser is my fear,)

I shall indue you with:] Mr. Theobald reads-(the lesser is my fear) which, in the following note, Dr. Johnson has attempted to explain. Steevens.

I have told you some reasons, in my opinion strong, and shall tell more, yet stronger; for the stronger my reasons are, the less is my fear of your disapprobation. This seems to be the meaning.

Fohnson. And more, more strong, (when lesser is my fear,) I shall indue you with:] The first folio reads:

(then lesser is my fear). The true reading is obvious enough :

(when lesser is my fear). Tyrwhitt. I have done this emendation the justice to place it in the text.

Steevens. 7. To sound the purposes -] To declare, to publish the desires of all those. Johnson.

Your tender kinsman, and to choke his days
With barbarous ignorance, and deny his youth
The rich advantage of good exercise ? 9
That the time's enemies may not have this
To grace occasions, let it be our suit,
That you have bid us ask his liberty;
Which for our goods we do no further ask,
Than whereupon our weal, on you depending,
Counts it your weal, he have his liberty.
K. John. Let it be so; I do commit his youth

To your direction.-Hubert, what news with you?

Pem. This is the man should do the bloody deed;
He show'd his warrant to a friend of mine:
The image of a wicked heinous fault
Lives in his eye; that close aspect of his


If, what in rest you have, in right you hold,
Why then your fears, (which, as they say, attend
The steps of wrong) should move you to mew up
Your tender kinsman, &c.] Perhaps we should reads

If, what in wrest you have, in right you hold,
i.e. if what you possess by an act of seizure or violence, &c.
So again, in this play:

“ The imminent decay of wrested pomp." Wrest is a substantive used by Spenser, and by our author, in Troilus and Cressida. Steevens.

The emendation proposed by Mr. Steevens is its own voucher. If then and should change places, and a mark of interrogation be placed after exercise, the full sense of the passage will be restored.

Henley. Mr. Steevens's reading of wrest is better than his explanation. If adopted, the meaning must be-If what you possess, or have in your hand, or grusp. Ritson.

It is evident that the words should and then have changed their places. M. Mason.

The construction is-If you have a good title to what you now quietly possess, why then should your fears move you, &c.

Malone. Perhaps this question is elliptically expressed, and means

Why then is it that your fears should move you, &c. Steevens.

good exercise ?] In the middle ages, the whole education of princes and noble youths consisted in martial exercises, &c. These could not be easily had in a prison, where mental improvements might have been afforded as well as any where else; but this sort of education never entered into the thoughts of our active, warlike, but illiterate nobility. Percy.



Does show the mood of a much-troubled breast;
And I do fearfully believe, 'tis done,
What we so fear'd he had a charge to do.

Sal. The colour of the king doth come and go,
Between his purpose and his conscience,
Like heralds 'twixt two dreadful battles set:
His passion is so ripe, it needs must break.

Pem. And, when it breaks, 3 I fear, will issue thence The foul corruption of a sweet child's death.

K. John. We cannot hold mortality's strong hand:Good lords, although my will to give is living, The suit which you demand is gone and dead: He tells us, Arthur is deceas'd to-night.

Sal. Indeed, we fear'd, his sickness was past cure.

Pem. Indeed, we heard how near his death he was, Before the child himself felt he was sick: This must be answer'd, either here, or hence.

1 Between his purpose and his conscience,] Between his consciousness of guilt, and his design to conceal it by fair professions.

Johnson. The purpose of the King, which Salisbury alludes to, is that of putting Arthur to death, which he considers as not yet accomplished, and therefore supposes that there might still be a conflict in the King's mind

Between his purpose and his conscience.
So, when Salisbury sees the dead body of Arthur, he says-

“ It is the shameful work of Hubert's hand;

“The practice and the purpose of the king.". M. Mason. Rather, between the criminal act that he planned and commanded to be executed, and the reproaches of his conscience consequent on the execution of it. So, in Coriolanus:

“ It is a purpos'd thing, and grows by plot.” We have nearly the same expressions afterwards: “ Nay, in the body of this fleshly land, [in John's own

“Hostility, and civil tumult, reigns

Between my conscience and my cousin's death.Malone. 2 Like heralds 'twixt two dreadful battles set:] But heralds are not planted, I presume, in the midst betwixt two lines of battle; though they, and trumpets, are often sent over from party to party, to propose terms, demand a parley, &c. I have therefore ventured to read-sent. Theobald.

Set is not fixed, but only placed; heralds must be set between battles, in order to be sent between them. Johnson.

And, when it breaks,] This is but an indelicate metaphor, taken from an imposthumated tumour. Johnson.


K. John. Why do you bend such solemn brows on me?
Think you, I bear the shears of destiny?
Have I commandment on the pulse of life?

Sal. It is apparent foul play; and 'tis shame,
That greatness should so grossly offer it:-
So thrive it in your game! and so farewel.

Pem. Stay yet, lord Salisbury; I'll go with thee,
And find the inheritance of this poor child,
His little kingdom of a forced grave.
That blood, which ow'd the breadth of all this isle,
Three foot of it doth hold; Bad world the while!
This must not be thus borne: this will break out
To all our sorrows, and ere long, I doubt.

[Exeunt Lords.
K. John. They burn in indignation; I repent;
There is no sure foundation set on blood;
No certain life achiev'd by others' death.-

Enter a Messenger.
A fearful eye thou hast; Where is that blood,
That I have seen inhabit in those cheeks?
So foul a sky clears not without a storm:
Pour down thy weather: How goes all in France?

Mess. From France to England.4_Never such a power
For any foreign preparation,
Was levied in the body of a land!
The copy of your speed is learn’d by them;
For, when you should be told they do prepare,
The tidings come, that they are all'arriv'd.

K. John. 0, where hath our intelligence been drunk?
Where hath it slept?5 Where is my mother's care?
That such an army could be drawn in France,
And she not hear of it?

My liege, her ear
Is stopp'd with dust; the first of April, died
Your noble mother: And, as I hear, my lord,

4 From France to England.) The king asks how all goes

in France, the Messenger catches the word goes and answers, that whatever is in France goes now into England. Fohnson. 50, where hath our intelligence been drunk? Where hath it slept ?] So, in Macbeth:

Was the hope drunk
“ Wherein you drest yourself? hath it slept since ?"


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