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K. John. Spoke like a spriteful noble gentle
man. Go after him; for he, perhaps, shall need Some messenger betwixt me and the peers ; And be thou he. Mess. With all my heart, my liege.
[Exit. K. John. My mother dead !
Hub. My lord, they say, five moons were seen
Four fixed; and the fifth did whirl about
The other four, in wond'rous motion.
K. John. Fiye moons ?
Old men, and beldams,
in the streets
Do prophecy upon it dangerously:
Young Arthur's death is common in their mouths:
And when they talk of him, they shake their heads,
And whisper one another in the ear;
And he, that speaks, doth gripe the hearer's wrist;
Whilft he, that hears, makes fearful action,
With wrinkled brows, with nods, with rolling eyes.
I saw a smith stand with his hammer, thus,
The whilft his iron did on the anvil cool,
With open mouth swallowing a tailor's news;
Who, with his shears and measure in his hand,
-five moons were seen to-night : &c.] This incident is mentioned by few of our historians: I have met with it no where but in Matthew of Weftminster and Polydore Virgil
, with a small alteration. These kind of appearances were more common about that time than either before or fince. GREY. This incident is likewise mentioned in the old King John.
Standing on Nippers, (which his nimble haste
Had falsely thrust upon contráry feet,) o
Nippers, (which his nimble haste
Had falsely thruft upon contrary feet,)] I know not how the
commentators underitand this important passage, which in Dr.
Warburton's edition is marked as eminently beautiful, and, on the
whole, not without justice. But Shakspeare seems to have con-
founded the man's shoes with his gloves. He that is frighted or
hurried may put his hand into the wrong glove, but either fhoe
will equally admit either foot. The author seems to be disturbed
by the disorder which he describes. Johnson.
Dr. Johnson forgets that ancient flippers might possibly be very
different from modern ones. Scott in his Discoverie of Witchcraft
tells us :
“ He that receiveth a mischance, will consider, whether
he put not on his shirt the wrong side outwards, or his left fboe on
his right foot.” One of the jeits of Scogan, by Andrew Borde, is
how he defrauded two shoemakers, one of a right foot boot, and
the other of a left foot one.
And Davies in one of his epigrams,
compares a man to
soft-knit hose that serves each leg."
In The Fleire, 1615, is the following passage: " This fel-
low is like your upright fore, he will serve either foot.” From this
we may infer that some shoes could only be worn on the foot for
which they were made. And Barrett in his Alvearie, 1580, as
an instance of the word wrong, says: to put on his shooes
wrong.” Again, in A merye Jest of a man that was called Howle-
glas, bl. 1. no date : " Howleglas had cut all the lether for the
lefte foute. Then when his master sawe all his lether cut for the
lefte foote, then asked he Howleglas if there belonged not to the
lefte foote a right foute. Then fayd Howleglas to his maifter, If
that he had tolde that to me before, I would have cut them; but
an it please you I shall cut as mani right skoone unto them.”
Again, in Frobijher's second l’oyage for the discoverie of Cataia, 4to.
bl. l. 1578: “ They also beheld (to their great maruaile) a dublet
of canuas made after the Englishe fashion, a shirt, a girdle, three
shoes for contrarie feet,” &c. p. 21.1
See Martin's Difeription of the Weftern Iflarids of Scotland, 1703,
p. 207 : “ The generality now only wear shoes having one thin
fole only, and shaped after the right and left foot, so that what is for
one foot will not serve the other.” The meaning seems to be,
that the extremities of the shoes were not round or square, but
were cut in an oblique angle, or allant from the great toe to the
See likewise, The Philofophical Transactions abridged,
vee also the gentlesnani Magazine for April 1799 1.280.g the late comeced, Fig.3.
-48). That were embatteled and rank'd in Kent:
[Told of a many thousand warlike French,
- Another lean unwash'd artificer
Cuts off his tale, and talks of Arthur's death.
K. John. Why seek'st thou to possess me with
Why urgest thou so oft young Arthur's death?
Thy hand hath murder'd him: I had mighty cause?
To with him dead, but thou hadst none to kill him.
Hub. Had none, my lord ! why, did you not pro-
K. John. It is the curse of kings,* to be attended
By llaves, that take their humours for a warrant
To break within the bloody house of life:
Vol. III. p. 432, and Vol. VII. p. 23, where are exhibited shoes
and sandals shaped to the feet, spreading more to the outside than
So, in Holland's translation of Suetonius, 1606: “
- if in a morning his shoes were put one (r. on) wrong, and namely the left for the right, he held it unlucky. Our author himself also furnishes an authority to the same point. Speed in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, speaks of a left shoe. It should be remembered that tailors generally work barefooted : a circumstance which Shakspeare probably had in his thoughts when he wrote this passage. I believe the word contrary in his time was frequently accented on the second syllable, and that it was intended to be so accented here. So Spenser, in his Faery Queen:
“ That with the wind contrary courses few.” MALONE.
I had mighty cause-] The old copy, more redundantly, I bad a mighty caují. Steevens.
Had none, my lord!] Old copy-No had. Corrected by Mr. Pope. MALONE.
It is the curse of kings, &c.] This plainly hints at Davison's case
, in the affair of Mary Queen of Scots, and so must have been inserted long after the first representation. WARBURTON.
It is extremely probable that our author meant to pay his court to Elizabeth by this covert apology for her conduct to Mary. The Queen of Scots was beheaded in 1987, fome years, I believe, before he had produced any play on the stage. MALONE.
And, on the winking of authority,
To understand a law; to know the meaning
Of dangerous majesty, when, perchance, it frowns
More upon humour than advis'd respect." *
Hub. Here is your hand and seal for what I did.
K. John. O, when the last account 'twixt heaven
Is to be made, then shall this hand and seal
Witness against us to damnation !
How oft the fight of means to do ill deeds,
Makes deeds ill done! Hadest not thou been by,
A fellow by the hand of nature mark’d,
Quoted,' and sign’d, to do a deed of shame,
This murder had not come into my mind :
But, taking note of thy abhorr'd aspect,
Finding thee fit for bloody villainy,
Apt, liable, to be employ'd in danger,
I faintly broke with thee of Arthur's death;
And thou, to be endeared to a king,
Made it no conscience to destroy a prince.
Hub. My lord,
K. John. Hadft thou but shook thy head, or
made a pause,
advis'd respect.] i. e. deliberate consideration, reflection. So, in Hamlet:
There's the respect “ That makes calamity of fo long life.” STEEVENS. s Quoted,] i. e. observed, distinguish'a. So, in Hamlet:
“ I am sorry, that with better heed and judgement
“ I had not quoted him." STEVENS. See Vol. V. p. 277, n. 8. MALONE.
Hadft thou but shook thy head, &c.] There are many touches of nature in this conference of John with Hubert. A man engaged in wickedness would keep the profit to himself, and transfer the guilt to his accomplice. These reproaches vented against Hubert are not the words of art or policy, but the eruptions of a mind
When I spake darkly what I purposed;
an eye of doubt upon my face,
As bid' me tell my tale in express words;
Deep shame had struck me dumb, made me break off,
And those thy fears might have wrought fears in me:
But thou didst understand me by my signs,
And didst in signs again parley with sin;
Yea, without stop, didft let thy heart consent,
And, confequently, thy rude hand to act
The deed, which both our tongues held vile to
Out of my sight, and never see me more!
My nobles leave me; and my state is brav'd,
swelling with consciousness of a crime, and desirous of discharging
its misery on another.
This account of the timidity of guilt is drawn ab ipfis receffibus
mentis, from the intimate knowledge of mankind, particularly that
line in which he fays, that to have bid him tell bis tale in express
words, would have struck him dumb: nothing is more certain, than
that bad men use all the arts of fallacy upon themselves, palliate
their actions to their own minds by gentle terms, and hide them-
felves from their own detection in ambiguities and subterfuges.
As bid -] Thus the old copy. Mr. Malone reads-And.
Mr. Pope reads-Or bid me, &c. but As is very unlikely to
have been printed for Or.
As we have here As printed instead of And, fo vice versa in King
Henry V. 4to. 1600, we find And misprinted for As:
“ And in this glorious and well foughten field
“ We kept together in our chivalry." Malone.
As, in ancient language, has sometimes the power of for
inftance. So, in Hamlet:
As, stars with trains of fire,” &c.
In the present instance it seems to mean, as if.
“ Had you, (says
the King, speaking elliptically,) turn'd an eye of doubt on my
face, as if to bid me tell my tale in express words," &c. So, in
Spenser's Faery Queen:
“ That with the noise it shook as it would fall;"
i. c.asif.--I have not therefore disturbed the old reading.
na tugrid an eye of doubluebox my fáce
ham til bid an eye off doubt me tell my tale din care ested,
mbid me tell my that is, such