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471. —the lady shall, &c.] The lady shall have no obstruction, unless from the lameness of the verse.
JOHNSON. I think the meaning is,--the lady shall mar the measure of the verse, rather than not express herself freely or fully.
HENDERSON. 478. I think, their inhibition-) I fancy this is transposed : Hamlet inquires not about an inhibition, but an innovation ; the answer therefore probably was, I think, their innovation, that is, their new practice of strolling, comes by means of the late inhibition.
JOHNSON. The drift of Hamlet's question appears to be this ; -How chances it they travel -i. e. How happens it. that they are become strollers ? — Their residence, both in reputation and profit, was better both ways.-i. e. to have remained in a settled theatre, was the more honour. able as well as the more lucrative situation. To this, Rosencrantz replies—Their inhibition comes by means of the late innovation.--. e. their permission to act any longer at an established house is taken away, in consequence of the new custom of introducing personal abuse into their comedies. Several companies of actors in the time of our author were silenced on account of this lientious practice. See a dialogue between Comedy and Envy at the conclusion of Mucedorus, 1598, as well as the preludium to Aristippus, or the Jovial Philosopher, 1630, from whence the following passage is taken: " Shews having been long intermitted and forbidden by authority, for their abuses, could not be raised but by
conjuring," Shew enters, whipped by two furies, and the prologue says to her :
"_with tears wash off that guilty sin,
-spare the persons,” &c. Alterating in the order of the words seems to be quite unnecessary.
STEEVENS. There will still, however, remain some difficulty. The statute 39 Eliz. ch. 4. which seems to be alluded to by the words--their inhibition, was not made to inhibit the players from acting any longer at an established theatre, but to prohibit them from strolling. “ All fencers (says the act), bearwards, common players of interludes and minstrels, wandering abroad, (other than players of enterludes, belonging to any baron of this realm or any other honourable personage of greater degree, to be authorized to play under the hand and seal of arms of such baron or personage) shall be taken, adjudged and deemed, rogues, vagabonds, and sturdy beggars, and shall sustain such pain and punishments as by this act is in that behalf appointed.”
This circumstance is equally repugnant to Dr. Johnson's transposition of the text, and to Mr. Steevens's explanation of it as it now stands.
MALONE. 483. The lines enclosed in crotchets are in the
folio of 1623, but not in the quarto of 1637, nor, I suppose, in any of the quartos.
JOHNSON. 485. an aiery of children, &c.] This relates to the young singing men of St. Paul's, concerning whose performances and success in attracting the best company, I find the following passage in Jack Drum's Entertainment, or Pasquil and Katherine, 1601 :
“ I saw the children of Powles last night;
man shall not be
“ 'Tis a good gentle audience,” &c. It is said in Richard Flecknoe's Short Discourse of the English Stage, 1674, that, “ both the children of the chappel and St. Paul's, aćted playes, the one in White-Friers, the other behinde the Convocation. house in Paul's; till people growing more precise, and playes more licentious, the theatre of Paul's was quite supprest, and that of the children of the chappel converted to the use of the children of the revels."
STEEVENS. 486. -cry out on the top of question,–] The meaning seems to be, they ask a common question in the higher notes of the voice.
JOHNSON. I believe question, in this place, as in many others,
signifies conversation, dialogue. So, in The Merchant of Venice: “
- Think you question with a Jew." The meaning of the passage may therefore be-Children that perpctually recite in the highest notes of voice that can be uttered.
STEEVENS. 492. -escoted ?-] Paid. From the French escot, a shot or reckoning.
JOHNSON, Will they pursue the quality no longer than they can sing ?} Will they follow the profession of players no longer than they keep the voices of boys, and sing in the choir ? So afterwards he says to the player, Come, give us a taste of your quality; come, a passionate speech.
JOHNSON. So, in the players' Dedication, prefixed to the first edition of Fletcher's plays in folio, 1647:"-directed by the example of some who once steered in our quality, and so fortunately aspired to chuse your honour joined with your now glorified brother, patrons to the flowing compositions of the then expired sweet swan of Avon, Shakspere.”
Again, in Gosson's School of Abuse, 1579: “I speak not of this as though every one [of the players] that professed the qualitie, so abused himself.”.
MALONE, 495. most like,-] The old copy reads,-like most.
ȘTE EVENS. 496. --their writers do them wrong, &c.] I should have been very much surprised if I had not found Ben Jonson among the writers here alluded to.
499. -o tarre them on to controversy :provoke any animal to rage, is to tarre him.
JOHNSON. 507. —Hercules and his load too.] i. e. They not only carry away the world, but the world-bearer too: alluding to the story of Hercules's relieving Atlas. This is humorous.
WARBURTON. The allusion may be to the Globe playhouse, on the Bankside, the signe of which was Hercules carrying the Globe.
STEVENS. 309. It is not very strange: for mine uncle-] I do not wonder that the new players have so suddenly risen to reputation, my uncle supplies another example of the facility with which honour is conferred upon new claimants.
JOHNSON. 512. -in little. -] i, e. in miniature. So, in Massinger's New Way to pay old Debts :
“ His father's picture in little.” STEEVENS. 513. There is something-] The old editions read, --'sblood, there is, &c.
STEEVENS. 526. - when the wind is southerly, &c.] So, in Damon and Pythias, 1982 : “ But I perceive now, either the winde is at the
south, “ Or else your tunge cleaveth to the rooffe of your mouth."
STEEVENS: 527. -I know a hawk from a hand-saw. ] This was a common proverbial speech. The Oxford Editor alters it to, I know a hawk from an hernshaw, as if the other had been a corruption of the players; whereas