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King Henry the Fourth.
Thomas Percy, Earl of Worcester.
Lady Percy, wife to Hotspur, and sister to Mortimer.
Lords, Officers, Sheriff, Vintner, Chamberlain, Drawers, two Carriers, Travellers, and Attendants.
SCENE, England. · Prince John of Lancaster.] The persons of the drama were originally collected by Mr. Rowe, who has given the title of Duke of Lancaster to Prince John, a mistake which Shakspeare has been no where guilty of in the firft part of this play, though in the second he has fallen into the same error. King Henry IV. was hinself the last person that ever bore the title of Duke of Lancaster. But all his sons (till they had peerages, as Clarence, Bedford, Gloucester,) were distinguished by the name of the royal house, as John of Lancaster, Humphrey of Lancaster, &c, and in that proper style, the present John (who became afterwards so illustrious by the title of Duke of Bedford,) is always mentioned in the play before us. STEEVENS.
KING HENRY IV.
ACT I. SCENE I.
London. A Room in the Palace. Enter King Henry, WestmoreLAND, Sir Walter
BLUNT, and Others.
K. Hen. So shaken as we are, so wąn with care, Find we a time for frighted peace to pant, And breathe short-winded accents of new broils a To be commenc'd in stronds afar remote, No more the thirsty Erinnys of this soil Shall daub her lips with her own children's blood;
2 Find we a time for frighted peace to pant,
And breathe short-winded accents of new broils -] 'That is, let us soften peace to rest a while without disturbance, that she may recover breath to propose new wars. JOHNSON, 3 No more the thirsty Erinnys of this foil
Shall daub her lips with her own children's blood;] See Mr. M. Mason's note, p. 359. The old copies readentrance.
Perhaps the following conjecture may be thought very far fetch'd, and yet I am willing to venture it, because it often happens that a wrong reading has affinity to the right. We might read :
- the thirsty entrants of this foil; i. e. those who set foot on this kingdom through the thirst of power or conquest, as the speaker himself had done, on his return to England after banishment.
Whoever is accustomed to the old copies of this author, will ge. nerally find the words consequents, occurrents, ingredients, spelt con. sequence, occurrence, ingredience; and thus, perhaps, the French word entrants, anglicized by Shakspeare, might have been corrupted into entrance, which affords no very apparent meaning,
No more shall trenching war channel her fields,
By her lips Shakspeare may mean the lips of peace, who is men. tioned in the second line; or may use the thirsty entrance of the foil, for the porous surface of the earth, through which all moisture enters, and is thirstily drank, or foaked up.
So, in an Ode inserted by Gascoigne in his and Francis Kinwelmerlh's translation of the Phoenissæ of Euripides :
“ And make the greedy ground a drinking cup,
“ To sup the blood of murdered bodies up.” SteeveNS. If there be no corruption in the text, I believe Shakspeare meant, however licentiously, to say, No more shall this foil have the lips of her thirsty entrance, or mouth, daubed with the blood of her own children.
Her lips, in my apprehension, refers to foil in the preceding line, and not to peace, as has been suggested. Shakspeare seldom attends to the integrity of his metaphors. In the second of these lines he considers the soil or earth of England as a person ; (So, in King Richard II:
“ Tells them, he does bestride a bleeding land,
“ Gasping for life under great Bolingbroke.)" and yet in the first line the foil must be understood in its ordinary material iense, as also in a subsequent line in which its fields are faid to be channelled with war. Of this kind of incongruity our author's plays furnish innumerable instances.
Daub, the reading of the earliest copy, is confirmed by a passage in K. Richard II. where we again meet with the image presented here:
« For that our kingdom's earth shall not be foild ** “ With that dear blood which it hath foftered.” The same kind of imagery is found in K. Henry VI. P. III:
" Thy brother's blood the thirsty earth hath drunk :" In which passage, as well as in that before us, the poet had perhaps the sacred writings in his thoughts : “ And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand.” Gen. iv. 2. This last observation has been made by an anonymous writer. Again, in K. Richard II :
• Reft thy unrest on England's lawful earth,
“ Unlawfully made drunk with innocent blood." The earth may with equal propriety be said to daub her lips with blood, as to be made drunk with blood.
A passage in the old play of King John, 1591, may throw some light on that before us :
“ Is all the blood y-spilt on either part,
Nor bruise her flowrets with the armed hoofs
The thirsty entrance of the soil is nothing more or less, than the face of the earth parch'd and crack'd as it always appears in a dry suminer. As to its being personified, it is certainly no such unusual practice with Shakspeare. Every one talks familiarly of Mother Earth; and they who live upon her face, may without much impropriety be called her children. Our author only confines the image to his own country. The allusion is to the Barons' wars.
RITSON. The amendment which I should propose, is to read Erinnys, initead of entrance. By Eri.inys is meant the fury of discord. The Erinnys of the soil, may possibly be considered as an uncommon mode of expression, as in truth it is; but it is justified by a passage in the second Æneid of Virgil, where Æneas calls Helen
- Trojæ & patriæ communis Erinnys. And an expression somewhat similar occurs in the first part of King Henry VI. where Sir William Lucy says:
“ Is Talbot Nain ? the Frenchman's only scourge,
" Your kingdom's terror, and black Nemefis?' It is evident that the words, her own children, ber fields, her flowrets, must all necessarily refer to this foil; and that Shakspeare in this place, as in many others, uses the personal pronoun instead of the impersonal; her instead of its; unless we suppose he means to personify the soil, as he does in Richard II, where Bolingbroke departing on his exile says:
“ - sweet foil, adieu !
“ My mother, and my nurse, that bears me yet.” M.Mason. Mr. M. Mason's conjecture (which I prefer to any explanation hitherto offered respecting this difficult passage) may receive support from N. Ling's Epistle prefixed to Wit's Commonwealth, 1598: “ - I knowe there is nothing in this worlde but is subject to the Erynnis of ill-disposed persons.”—The same phrase also occurs in the tenth book of Lucan:
Dedecus Ægypti, Latio feralis Erinnys. Amidst these uncertainties of opinion, however, let me present our readers with a single fact on which they may implicitly rely ; viz. that Shakspeare could not have designed to open his play with a speech, the fifth line of which is obscure enough to demand a series of comments shrice as long as the dialogue to which it is appended. All that is wanted, on this emergency, seems to be a juft and striking personification, or, rather, a proper name. The former of these is not discoverable in the old reading entrance; but the latter, furnished by Mr. M. Mason, may, I think, be safely admitted, as it affords a natural unembarrassed introduction to the train of imagery that succeeds.
Of hoftile paces: those opposed eves.
Let us likewise recollect, that, by the first editors of our author, Hyperion had been changed into Epton; and that Marston's Insatiate Countess, 1613, concludes with a speech so darkened by corruptions, that the comparison in the fourth line of it is absolutely unintelligible. It stands as follows:
“ Night, like a masque, is entred heaven's great hall,
“ Weele make this night the day," &c. Is it impossible, therefore, that Erinnys may have been blundered into entrance, a transformation almost as perverse and mysterious as the foregoing in Marston's tragedy?
Being nevertheless aware that Mr. M. Mason's gallant effort to produce an easy sense, will provoke the light objections and petty cavils of such as restrain themselves within the bounds of timid conjecture, it is necessary I should subjoin, that his present emendation was not inserted in our text on merely my own judgement, but with the deliberate approbation of Dr. Farmer,--Having now prepared for controversy-signa canant! Steevens.
4 like the meteors of a troubled heaven,] Namely, long streaks of red, which represent the lines of armies; the appearance of which, and their likeness to such lines, gave occasion to all the superstition of the common people concerning armies in the air, &c.
WARBURTON. 5 As far as to the fepulcher &c.] The lawfulness and justice of the holy wars have been much disputed ; but perhaps there is a principle on which the question may be easily determined. If it be part of the religion of the Mahometans to extirpate by the
fword all other religions, it is, by the laws of self-defence, lawful . for men of every other religion, and for Christians among others,