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continually to their saint, the commonwealth ; or, rather, not pray to her, but prey on her; for they
sooner than pray." By which last words is meant, that “though perhaps they may now and then reflect on their crimes, they will never repent of them." The Oxford editor has dignified this currection by his adoption of it. WARBURTON.
I am in doubt about this passage. There is yet a part unexplained. What is the meaning of such as can hold in? It cannot mean such as can keep their own secret, for they will, he says, speak sooner than think : it cannot mean such as will go calmly to work without unnecessary violence, such as is used by long-staff strikers, for the following part will not suit with this meaning; and though we should read by transposition such as will speak sooner than strike, the climas will not proceed regularly. I must leave it as it is. JOHNSON
Such as can hold in, may mean such as can curb old father antick the law, or such as will not blab. STEEVENS.
Turbervile's Book on Hunting, 1575, p. 37, mentions huntsmen on horseback to make young hounds“ holil in and close" to the old ones: so Gadshill may mean, that he is joined with such companions as will hold in, or keep and stick close to one another, and such as are men of deeds, and not of words; and yet they love to talk and speak their mind freely better than to drink.
TOLLET. I think a gradation was intended, as Dr. Warburton supposes. To hold in, I believe, meant to keep their fellows' counsel and their own;' not to discover their rogueries by talking about them. So, in Twelfth Night: “ -- that you will not extort from me, what I am willing to keep in." Gadshill, therefore, I suppose, means to say, that he keeps company with steady robbers; such as will not in peach their comrades, or make any discovery by talking of what they have done ; men that will strike the traveller sooner than talk to him; that yet would sooner speak to him tham drink, which might intoxicate them, and put them off their guard ; and, notwithstanding, would prefer drinking, however dangerous, to prayer, which is the last thing they would think of. The words however will admit a different interpretation. We have often in these plays, “it were as good a deed as to drink." Perhaps therefore the meaning may be, --Men who will knock the traveller down sooner than speak to him; who yet will speak to him and bid him stand, sooner than drink; (to which they are sufficiently well inclined ;) and lastly, who will drink sooner than pray. Here indeed the climax is not regular. But perhaps our author did not intend it should be preserved. Malone.
ride up and down on her, and make her their boots.
CHAM, What, the commonwealth their boots ? will she hold out water in foul way?
Gads. She will, she will ; justice hath liquored her. We steal as in a castle, cock-sure; we have the receipt of fern-seeds, we walk invisible.
6 She will, she will ; justice hath Liquor'd her.] A satire on chicane in courts of justice; which supports ill men in their violations of the law, under the very cover of it. WARBURTON.
Alluding to boots mentioned in the preceding speech. “ They would melt me (says Falstaff, in The Merry Wives of Windsor,) out of my fat drop by drop, and liquor fishermen's boots with me.” See also Peacham's Complete Gentleman, 1627, p. 199 :
“ Item, a halfpenny for liquor for his boots.” MALONE. 7 — as in a castle,] This was once a proverbial phrase. So, Dante, (in Purgatorio):
Sicura quasi rocca in alto monte. Again, in The Little French Lawyer, by Beaumont and Fletcher
“ That noble courage we have seen, and we
“ Shall fight as in a castle." Perhaps Shakspeare means, we steal with as much security as the ancient inhabitants of castles, who had those strong holds to fly to for protection and defence against the laws. So, in King Henry VI, Part I. Act III. Sc. I. :
" Yes, as an outlaw in a castle keeps,
“And uses it to patronage his theft." Again, in Sidney's Arcadia, book ii.: “Among the rest, two brothers of huge both greatnesse and force, therfore called giants, who kept themselves in a castle seated upon the top of a rock, impregnable,” &c. STEEVENS.
8 — we have the receipt of PERN-SEED,] Fern is one of those plants which have their seed on the back of the leaf so small as to escape the sight. Those who perceived that fern was propagated by semination, and yet could never see the seed, were much at a loss for a solution of the difficulty; and as wonder always endeavours to augment itself, they ascribed to fern-seed many strange properties, some of which the rustick virgins have not yet forgotten or exploded. JOHNSON
This circumstance relative to fern-seed is alluded to in Beaumont and Fletcher's Fair Maid of the Inn :
Cham. Nay, by my faith; I think you are more beholden to the night, than to fern-seed, for your walking invisible.
Gads. Give me thy hand: thou shalt have a share in our purchase, as I am a true man.
Cham. Nay, rather let me have it, as you are a false thief.
Gads. Go to; Homo is a common name to all men'. Bid the ostler bring my gelding out of the stable. Farewell, you muddy knave.
“ had you Gyges' ring,
“ Or the herb that gives invisibility ? " Again, in Ben Jonson's New Inn :
" I had
“ No fern-seed in my pocket.” Again, in P. Holland's translation of Pliny, book xxvii. ch. ix. : “Of ferne be two kinds, and they beare neither floure nor seede."
STEEVENS. The ancients, who often paid more attention to received opinions than to the evidence of their senses, believed that fern bore no seed. Our ancestors imagined that this plant produced seed which was invisible. Hence, from an extraordinary mode of reasoning, founded on the fantastic doctrine of signatures, they concluded that they who possessed the secret of wearing this seed about them would become invisible. This superstition the good sense of the poet taught him to ridicule. It was also supposed to seed in the course of a single night, and is called in Browne's Britannia's Pastorals, 1613 :
“ The wond'rous one-night-seeding ferne." Absurd as these notions are, they were not wholly exploded in the time of Addison. He laughs at “a doctor who was arrived at the knowledge of the green and red dragon, and had discovered the female fern-seed." Tatler, No. 240. Holt White.
9 - purchase,] is the term used in law for any thing not inherited but acquired. Johnson. • Purchase was anciently the cant term for stolen goods. So, in Henry V. Act III. :
“ They will steal any thing, and call it purchase.” So, Chaucer :
“ And robbery is holde purchase." Steevens. |_ Homo is a common name, &c.] Gadshill had promised as he was a true man; the Chamberlain wills him to promise
The Road by Gadshill.
Enter Prince Henry, and Poins; BARDOLPH and
Pero, at some distance.
P. Hen. Peace, ye fat-kidneyed rascal; What a brawling dost thou keep?
FAL. Where's Poins, Hal ?
P. Hen. He is walked up to the top of the hill; I'll go seek him.
Pretends to seek Poins. FAL. I am accursed to rob in that thief's company: the rascal hath removed my horse, and tied him I know not where. If I travel but four foot by the squire o further afoot, I shall break my wind.
rather as a false thief; to which Gadshill answers, that though he might have reason to change the word true, he might have spared man, for homo is a name common to all men, and among others to thieves. Johnson.
This is a quotation from 'The Accidence, and I believe is not the only one from that book, which, therefore, Mr. Capell should have added to his Shaksperiana. Lort.
See vol. v. p. 391, n.3; and vol. vi. p. 106, n. 4. Malone.
2 like a gummed velvet.] This allusion we often meet with in the old comedies. So, in The Malcontent, 1604: “I'll come among you, like gum into taffata, to fret, fret." STEVENS,
3 four foot by the SQUIRE ] The thought is humorous, and alludes to his bulk : insinuating, that his legs being four foot asunder, when he advanced four foot, this put together made four feet square. WARBURTON.
Iam in doubt whether there is so much humour here as is sus
Well, I doubt not but to die a fair death for all
P. Hen. Peace, ye fat-guts! lie down; lay thine
pected : “ Four foot by the squire” is probably no more than i four foot by a rule.' JOHNSON.
Dr. Johnson is certainly right. Bishop Corbet says in one of his poems :
“Some twelve foot by the square." FARMER. All the old copies read" by the squire," which points out the etymology-esquierre, Fr. The same phrase occurs in The Winter's Tale : “ not the worst of the three, but jumps twelve foot and a half by the squire." Again, in Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy, Part II. sect. IV.:“- as for a workman not to know his axe, saw, squire, or any other toole,” &c. Steevens.
See vol. iv. p. 435, n. 5. Malone.
4 - medicines to make me love him,] Alluding to the vulgar
“ she is corrupted