« PreviousContinue »
13 to your chamber.] Camera regia, from it»
being the city of royal residence.
14 Thus, like the formal vice, Iniquity,
I moralize two meanings in one word.] By vice, the author means not a quality, but a person. There was hardly an old pluy, till the period of the Reformation, which had not in it a dnil, and a droll character, a jester; (who was to play upon the devil;) and this buffoon went by the name of a Vice. This buffoon was at first accoutred with a long jerkin, a cap with a pair of ass's ears, and a wooden dagger, with which (like another Harlequin) he was to make sport in belabouring the devil. This was the constant entertainment in the times of popery, whilst spirits, and witchcraft, and exorcising held their own. When the Reformation took place, the stage shook off some grossities, and encreased in refinements. The masterdevil then was soon dismissed from the scene; and this buffoon was changed into a subordinate fiend, whose business was to range on earth, and seduce poor mortals into that personated vicious quality, which he occasionally supported; as, iniquity in general, hypocrisy, usury, vanity, prodigality, gluttony, &c. Now, as the fiend (or vice), who personated Iniquity (or Hypocrisy, for instance) could never hope to play his game to the purpose but by hiding his cloven foot, and assuming a semblance quite different from his real character; he must certainly put on a formal demeanour, moralize and prevaricate in his words, and pretend a meaning directly opposite to his genuine and primitive intention. If this does not explain the passage in question, 'tis all that I can at present suggest upon it. Theobald.
Dr. Warburton and Mr. Upton have also written long notes to illustrate the character of vice; but they do not give a more satisfactory account of that personage, than what is contained in the above remarks of Theobald. Dr. Johnson is, I believe, right in attributing to him something of the character of our modern Punch.
"I have nothing to add to the observations of these learned critics, but that some traces of this antiquated exhibition are still retained in the rustic puppetplays, in which I have seen the Devil very lustily belaboured by Punch, whom I hold to be the legitimate successor of the old Fief."
15 Because that I am little, like an ape,] The reproach seems to consist in this: at country shews it was common to set the monkey on the back of some other animal, as a bear. The duke, therefore, in calling himself ape, calls his uncle bear. Johnson.
18 come upon your cue ] This expression is
borrowed from the theatre. The cue, queue, or tail of a speech, consists of the last words, which are the token for an entrance or answer. To come on the cue, therefore, is to come at the proper time.
17 Three times to-day my foot-cloth horse did stumble, &c.] So in the Legend of Lord Hastings by M. D. My palfrey, in the plainest paved street, Thrice bowed his bones, thrice kneeled on the floor, Thrice shunn'd (as Balaam't ass) the dreaded Tow'r.
The housings of a horse, and sometimes a horse himself, were anciently called the foot-cloth. So in Ben Jonson's play called 7 he Case is altered,
"I'll go on my foot-cloth, I'll turn gentleman." So in the tragedy of Muleasses the Turk, IfitO,
"I have seen, since my coming to Florence, the
"son of a pedlar mounted on afoot-cloth." Again, in A fair Quarrel, by Middleton, 1617,
"thou shalt have a physician,
"The best that gold can fetch upon \i\sfoot-clotk."
16 to engross ] To fatten or pamper.
19 Who meets us here?—my niece Plantagenet,
Led in the hand of her kind aunt of Gloster?] Herei is a manifest intimation, that the duchess of Gloster leads in somebody in her hand; but there is no direction marked in any of the copies, from which we can learn who it is. I have ventured to guess it must be Clarence's young daughter. The old duchess of York calls her niece, i. e. grand-daughter; as grandchildren are frequently called nephews. Theobald.
80 A king! perhaps ] From hence to the words,
Thou troublest me, I am not in the vein—have been left out ever since the first editions, but I like them well enough to replace them. Pope.
The allusions to the plays of Henry VI. are no weak proofs of the authenticity of these disputed pieces. Johnson.
81 Because that like a Jack thou keqist the stroke.] An image, like those of St. Dunstan's church in Fleetstreet, which strike on the bell to mark the hour, was called a Jack of the clock.
M pew-fellow ] That is companion. Sir J.
Hawkins says the word is yet in use.
23 Humphrey Hour,—] This may probably be
an allusion to some affair of gallantry of which the duchess had been suspected. I cannot find the name in Holinshed. Surely the poet's fondness for a quibble has not induced him at once to personify and christen that hour of the day which summon'd his mother to breakfast? Steevens.
24 Till it vas whetted on thy stone-hard heart] Shaskpeare is very fond of this broken metaphor. It occurs several times in his plays. In the Merchant of Venice the extravagance is carried still father
Not on thy sole, but Oh thy soul, harsh Jew,
85 Some light-foot Jriend post to the duke ]
Richard's precipitation and confusion is in this scene very happily represented by inconsistent orders, and sudden variations of opinion.
26 blame the due of blame.} This scene should,
in my opinion, be added to the foregoing act, so the fourth act will have a more full and striking conclusion, and the fifth act will comprise the business of the important day, which put an end to the competition of York and Lancaster. Some of the quarto editions are not divided into acts, and it is probable, that this and many other plays were left by the author in one unbroken continuity, and afterwards dis
tributed by chance, or what seems to have been a guide very little better, by the judgment or caprice of the first editors. Johnson.
27 In your embo-weU'd bosoms.] Exenterated; ripped up: alluding, perhaps, to the Promethean vulture; or, more probably, to the sentence pronounced in the English courts against traitors, by which they are condemned to be hanged, drawn, that is, embowcUed, and quartered.
83 Give me a watch:] A watch has mnny
significations, but I should believe that it means in this place not a sentinel, which would be regularly placed at the king's tent; nor an instrument to measure time, which was not used in that age; but a watch-light, a candle to burn by him; the light that afterwards burnt blue; yet a few lines after, he says,
Bid my guard watch.
which leaves it doubtful whether watch is not here a sentinel. Johnson.
I believe that particular kind of candle is here meant, which was anciently called a watch, because, being marked out into sections, each of which was a certain portion of time in burning, it supplied the place of what we now call a watch. I have seen these candles represented with great nicety in some of the pictures of Albert Durer. Steeyens.
99 Look that my staves be sound,—] Staves mean the shafts, or wooden handles of the lances.
39 0 coward conscience,—] This is extremely fine. The speaker had entirely got the better of his