Page images
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

So, in Antony and Cleopatra:

our dungy earth alike

" Feeds man as beast." Again :

“ Which sleeps, and never palątes more, the dung;

The beggar's nurse, and Cæsar's.” Steevens. 16. the soft and tender fork

Of a poor worm: -] Worm is put for any creeping thing or serpent. Shakspere supposes falsely, but according to the vulgar notion, that a serpent wounds with his tongue, and that his tongue is forked. He confounds reality and fiction, a serpent's tongue is soft but not forked nor hurtful. If it could hurt, it could not be soft. In the Midsummer Night's Dream he has the same notion :

With doubler tongue “ Than thine, O serpent, never adder stung.'

JOHNSON, Shakspere might have caught this idea from old tapestries or paintings, in which the tongues of serpents and dragons always appear barbed like the point of an arrow.

STEEVENS. 17 -Thy best of rest is sleep,

And that thou oft provok’st; yet grossly fear'st

Thy death, which is no more. -] Evidently from the following passage of Cicero: Habes somnum imaginem mortis, eamque quotidie indues, & dubitas quin sensus in morte nullus sit cum in ejus simulacro videas esse nullum sensum." But the Epicurean insinuation is, Fiij


[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

36 tetter


imagi in for


of wh

the eve signs !

with great judgment, omitted in the imitation.

WARBURTON. Here Dr. Warburton might have found a sentiment worthy of his animadversion. I cannot without indignation find Shakspere saying, that death is only sleep, lengthening out his exhortation by a sentence which in the friar is impious, in the reasoner is foolish, and in the poet trite and vulgar,

JOHNSON. This was an oversight in Shakspere ; for in the second scene of the fourth act, the Provost speaks of the desperate Barnardine, as one who regards death only as a drunken sleep.

STEEVENS. The indignation of Dr. Johnson against Shakspere is both intemperate and ill-placed, as must appear to any one who will consider the Scripture account of death. The Duke's argument adverts to the relinquishment of life, and not the consequences after death of a life mispent. In respect to these, Claudio had before told him, he " was prepared.

"-If Shakspere in this instance stood in need of 'apology, I fear the one suggested by Mr. Steevens would leave him in the larch.

Henley. 19. Thou art not thyself;] Thou art perpetually repaired and renovated by external assistance, thou subsistest upon foreign matter, and hast no power

of producing or continuing thy own being. JOHNSON.

24. -strange effects,] For effects read affects ; that is, affections, passions of mind, or disorders of body variously affected. So, in Othello : « The young affects.”



declare south

what !

must be

like an


Health excite

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

31. serpigo-] The serpigo is a kind of tetter.


- Thou hast nor youth, nor age ;
But, as it were, an after-dinner's sleep,

Dreaming on both :-] This is exquisitely imagined. When we are young, we busy ourselves in forming schemes for succeeding time, and miss the gratifications that are before us; when we are old, we amuse the languor of age with the recollection of youthful pleasures or performances ; so that our life, of which no part is filled with the business of the present time, resembles our dreams after dinner, when the events of the morning are mingled with the designs of the evening.

JOHNSON 34. --for all thy blessed youth

Becomes as aged, and doth beg the alms
Of palsied eld; and when thou’rt old, and rich,

Thou hast neither heat, &c.] Shakspere here declares that man has neither youth, nor age; for in youth, which is the happiest time, or which might be the happiest, he commonly wants means to obtain what he could enjoy; he is dependent on palsied eld : must beg alms from the coffers of hoary avarice; and being very niggardly supplied, becomes as aged, looks, like an old man, on happiness which is beyond his reach. And, when he is old and rich, when he has wealth enough for the purchase of all that formerly excited his desires, he has no longer the powers of enjoyment;


[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

4€ Han


I beli

SC. 2.

-has neither heat, affection, limb, nor beauty,

To make his riches pleasant.
I have explained this passage according to the present
reading, which may stand without much inconveni,
ence; yet I am willing to persuade my reader, be-
cause I have almost persuaded myself, that our author

--for all thy blasted youth
Becomes as aged.

The sentiment contained in these lines, which Dr.
Johnson has explained with his usual precision, oc-
curs again in the forged letter that Edmund delivers
to his father, as written by Edgar; King Lear, act i.

“ This policy, and reverence of age, makes: the world bitter to the best of our times; keeps our for. tunes from us till our oldness cannot relish them."

The above words printed in Italicks support, I think, the reading of the old copy," blessed youth," and show that any emendation is unnecessary.

86. -palsied eld;] Eld is generally used:
for old age, decrepitude. It is here put for old people,
persons worn out with

So, in Marston's Dutch Courtezan, 1604:

“ Let colder eld their strong objections move."
Gower uses it for age as opposed to youth:
“ His elde had turned into youth."
De Confessione Amantis, Lib. V. fol. 106.





[ocr errors]
[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

40. more thousand deaths :-] For this Sir T. Hanmer reads :

-& thousand deaths :The meaning is not only a thousand deaths, but a thoue' sand deaths besides what have been mentioned.

Bring them to speak where I may be concealed,

Yet hear them.] Thus the modern editions.
The old copy, published by the players, gives the
passage thus :
Bring them to hear me speak, where I may be com-

I believe we should read,
Bring me to hear them speak, where I may be

STEEVENS. The second folio authorizes the reading of the modern editions.

TYRWHITT. 56. mas all comforts are ; most good in deed:] If this reading be right, Isabella must mean that she brings something better than words of comfort, she brings an assurance of deeds.

JOHNSON. The old copy

reads : Why, " As all comforts are: most good, most good

indeede." I believe the old reading, as explained by Dr. John. son, is the true one. So, in Macbeth :

“We're yet but young in deed.” STEEVENS. I would read the lines thus: Claud. Now, sister, what's the comfort?

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »