« PreviousContinue »
Such is my love, to thee I so belong,
9 Speak of my lameness, &c.] See p. 261, n. 5. MALONE. il will acquaintance stRANGLE,-] I will put an end to our familiarity. This expression is again used by Shakspeare in Twelfth Night:
“ it is the baseness of thy fear
“ That makes thee strangle thy propriety." Again, in King Henry VIII.: "
he has strangled “ His language in his tears." Again, in The Winter's Tale :
“ Strangle such thoughts as these with any thing,
" That you behold the while." Again, more appositely in Antony and Cleopatra: “You shall find the band that seems to tie their friendship together, shall be the very strangler of their amity.” So also Daniel, in his Cleopatra, 1594:
“ Rocks strangle up thy waves,
“ Stop cataracts thy fall !” Malone. This uncouth phrase seems to have been a favourite with Shakspeare, who uses it again in Macbeth:
“ — night strangles the travelling lamp." Steevens. 2 Be absent from thy walkS;] So, in A Midsummer-Night's Dream :
“ Be kind and courteous to this gentleman ;
For thee, against myself I'll vow debate,
And other strains of woe, which now seem woe,
2 Come in the REARWARD of a conquerd woe ;] So, in Romeo and Juliet : “ But with a rearward following Tybalt's death,” &c.
STEEVENS. Again, in Much Ado About Nothing:
“ And in the rearward of reproaches," &c. Again, in King Henry IV. Part II. : “ He came ever in the rear. ward of the fashion.” Malone.
Thy love is better than high birth to me,
But what's so blessed-fair that fears no blot ?
3 Richer than wealth, prouder than garments' cost,] So, in Cymbeline:
“ Richer than doing nothing for a babe ;
“ Prouder than rustling in unpaid-for silk.” Steevens. 4 So shall I live, supposing thou art true,
Like a deceived husband ;-] Mr. Oldys observes in one of his manuscripts, that this and the preceding Sonnet “seem to have been addressed by Shakspeare to his beautiful wife on some suspicion of her infidelity." He must have read our author's poems with but little attention; otherwise he would have seen that these, as well as the preceding Sonnets, and many of those that follow, are not addressed to a female. I do not know whether this antiquary had any other authority than his misappre hen
May still seem love to me, though alter'd-new;
sion concerning these lines for the epithet by which he has described our great poet's wife. He had made very large collections for a life of our author, and perhaps in the course of his researches had learned this particular. However this may have been, the other part of his conjecture (that Shakspeare was jealous of her) may perhaps be thought to derive some probability from the following circumstances; at least, when connected with the well known story of the Oxford vintner's wife, they give some room to suppose that he was not very strongly attached to her. It is observable, that his daughter, and not his wife, is his executor; and in his will he bequeaths the latter only an old piece of furniture, and not even the most valuable of the kind of which he was possessed; (“his second best bed ; ") nor did he even think of her till the whole was finished, the clause relating to her being an interlineation. What provision was made for hier by settlement, does not appear. It may likewise be remarked, that jealousy is the principle hinge of four of his plays; and in his great performance (Othello) some of the passages are written with such exquisite feeling, as might lead us to suspect that the author, at some period of his life, had himself been perplexed with doubts, though not perhaps in the extreme.
By the same mode of reasoning, it may be said, he might be proved to have stabbed his friend, or to have had a thankless child; because he has so admirably described the horror consequent on murder, and the effects of filial ingratitude, in Macbeth, and King Lear. He could indeed assume all shapes ; and therefore it must be acknowledged that the present hypothesis is built on an uncertain foundation. All I mean to say is, that he appears to me to have written more immediately from the heart on the subject of jealousy, than on any other; and it is therefore not improbable he might have felt it. The whole is mere conjecture. MALONE.
As all that is known with any degree of certainty concerning Shakspeare, is—“ that he was born at Stratford upon Avon,married and had children there, -went to London, where he commenced actor, and wrote poems and plays, -returned to Stratford, made his will, died, and was buried, "-I must confess my readiness to combat every unfounded supposition respecting the particular occurrences of his life.
The misapprehension of Oldys may be naturally accounted for, and will appear venial to those who examine the two Sonnets before us. From the complaints of inconstancy, and the praises of beauty, contained in them, they should seem at first sight to be addressed by an inamorato to a mistress. Had our antiquarian
For there can live no hatred in thine eye,
informed himself of the tendency of such pieces as precede and follow, he could not have failed to discover his mistake.
Whether the wife of our author was beautifnl, or otherwise, was a circumstance beyond the investigation of Oldys, whose collections for his life I have perused : yet surely it was natural to impute charms to one who could engage and fix the heart of a young man of such uncommon elegance of fancy.
That our poet was jealous of this lady, is likewise an unwarrantable conjecture. Having in times of health and prosperity, provided for her by settlement, (or knowing that her father had already done so) he bequeathed to her at his death, not merely an old piece of furniture, but perhaps, as a mark of peculiar tender
the very bed
“The very bed that on his bridal night
“ Receiv'd him to the arms of Belvidera." His momentary forgetfulness as to this matter, must be imputed to disease. He has many times given support to the sentiments of others, let him speak for once in his own defence :
“ Infirmity doth still neglect all office
“ To suffer with the body." Mr. Malone therefore ceases to argue with his usual candour, when he
“ - takes the indispos'd and sickly fit
“ For the sound man.” The perfect health mentioned in the will, (on which Mr. Malone relies in a subsequent note) was introduced as a thing of course by the attorney who drew it up; and perhaps our author was not sufficiently recovered during the remaining two months of his life to attempt any alterations in this his last work. It was also natural for Shakspeare to have chosen his daughter and not his wife for an executrix, because the latter, for reasons already given, was the least interested of the two in the care of his effects.
That Shakspeare has written with his utmost power on the subject of jealousy, is no proof that he had ever felt it. Because he has, with equal vigour, expressed the varied arersions of Apemantus and Timon to the world, does it follow that he himself was a Cynic, or a wretch deserted by his friends ? Because he has, with proportionable strength of pencil, represented the vindictive cruelty of Shylock, are we to suppose he copied from a fiend-like original in his own bosom? Let me add (respecting the four plays alluded to by Mr.