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“ANT. S. There France ?
Dro. S. In her forehead; armed and reverted, making war against her hair."--Act III., Scene 2.
Allusion is here supposed to be made to the war of the Leaguè against Henry IV. of France, which was terminated, in 1593, by Henry's renunciation of the Protestant faith. In 1591, Elizabeth sent over four thousand men to his assistance, under the Earl of Essex. The present play was probably written about the same period.
" A fiend, a fairy, pitiless and rough."-Act IV., Scene 2.
There were faries, like hobgoblins, pitiless and rough, and described as malevolent and mischievous. As in Milton's “Comus:"
“No goblin, or swart fairy of the mine,
power o'er true virginity."
“And, I think, if my breast had not been made of faith, and
my heart of steel, She had transformed me to a curtail-dog, and made me turn
i' the wheel.”-Act III., Scene 2. It was a popular belief that a great share of faith was a protection from witchcraft. These lines are usually printed as prose; but we adopt the opinion of a contemporary, that they were intended for doggerel rhyme.
" A hound that runs counter, and yet draws dry-fnot well."
Act IV., Scene 2. To run counter, is to run backward, by mistaking the course of the animal pursued. To draw dry-foot, is when the dog pursues the game by the scent of the foot, for which the bloodhound is famed. The jest consists in the ambiguity of the word counter, which means the wrong way in the chase, and a prison in London. In “ EVERY MAN IN HIS HUMOUR,” Brainworm says, “Well, the truth is, my old master intends to follow my young master, dry-foot, over Moorfields to London this morning."
" Where Dowsabel did claim me for her husband."
Act IV., Scene 1. This name occurs in one of Drayton's Pastorals :
"He had, as antique stories tell,
"One that, before the judgment, carries poor souls
Act IV., Scene 2 The arrest here spoken of is that upon mesne process, now abolished. Hell appears to have been the cant term for a dungeon in any of our prisons. It is also said to have been the designation of a place of confinement under the Exchequer Chamber, for debtors of the crown.
" I do not know the matter; he is 'rested on the case."
Act IV., Scene 2. An action upon the case is a general action given for the redress of a wrong done any man without force, and not especially provided for by law.-GREY.
What observation mad'st thou in this case,
Act IV., Scene 2. This is an allusion to those meteors which, in more superstitious times, were sometimes thought to resemble armies meeting in the shock of battle. The same thought occurs in “HENRY IV.," Part I., speaking of civil wars :
“Which, like the meteors of a troubled heaven,
All of one nature, of one substance bred,
And furious close of civil butchery." Milton also finely employs similar imagery in the second book of “PARADISE Lost:"
“As when, to warn proud cities, war appears
“Tell me, was he arrested on a band?"-Act IV., Scene 2.
Band is here used in the sense of bond; it also signifies a neckcloth; hence the equivoque arises.
“ Stigmatical in making, worse in mind."— Act IV., Scene 2.
That is, marked or stigmatised by nature with deformity, as a token of his vicious disposition.
“What, have you got rid of the picture of old Adam new apparelled ?"-Act IV., Scene 3.
The two words “rid of" were inserted by Theobald, and on sufficient ground, as it seems to us. His reasons are thus stated by himself:—“A short word or two must have slipped out by some accident, in copying, or at press; otherwise I have no conception of the meaning of the passage. The case is this :-Dromio's master had been arrested, and sent his servant home for money to redeem him; he, running back with the money, meets the twin Antipholus, whom he mistakes for his master, and seeing him clear of the officer before the money was come, he cries, in a surprise, What, have you got rid of the picture of old Adam new apparelled !' for so I have ventured to supply by conjecture.
“But why is the officer called “old Adam new apparelled?' The allusion is to Adam in his state of innocence going naked, and immediately after the fall being clothed in
frock of skins. Thus he was new apparelled; and, in like manner, the sergeants of the Counter were formerly clad in buff, or call's-skin, as the author humorously a little lower calls it."
Similar allusions to Adam's primitive suit are frequent in the old writers.
" Far from her nest the lapwing cries away."
Act IV., Scene 2. This image is frequent in writers of the same period. Shakspere has it again in “MEASURE FOR MEASURE," Act I., Scene 5:
“With maids to seem the lapwing, and to jest
Tongue far from heart." In Lily's “CAMPASPE" (1584), we have, “You resemble the lapwing, who crieth most where her nest is not."
“A devil in an everlasting garment hath him."
Act IV., Scene 2. The buff or leather jerkin of the sergeant is called an everlasting garment, on account of its durability. As in “ HENRY IV.," Part I.:"And is not a buff jerkin a most sweet robe of durance?"
There is a particular kind of stuff, worn by the working classes, which is familiarly called "everlasting;" and this was probably the case also when Shakspere wrote.
"Mistress, respice finem, respect your end; or rather the prophecy, like the parrot, . Beware the rope's end.'"
Act IV., Scene 4. " These words," says Warburton, "seem to allude to a famous pamphlet of that time, wrote by Buchanan against the lord of Liddington, which ends with these words, respice finem, respice funem. As for prophesying like the parrot, this alludes to people's teaching that bird unlucky words;
Lo, in the vale of years beneath,
A grisly troop are seen, The painful family of Death,
More hideous than their queen."
"With wholesome syrups, drugs, and holy prayers,
Act V., Scene 1. That is, to bring him back to his senses, and the forms of sober behaviour. In “MEASURE POR MEASURE," the phrase " informal women" is used in the contrary sense.
“We came into the world like brother and brother; And now let's go hand in hand, not one before another."
Act V., Scene 1. These lines very pleasantly wind up the “COMEDY OP ERRORS," and leave a favourable impression of the good sense and good temper of the two slave brothers.-In re. ference to the loose kind of metre in which they are occasionally made to speak, a few similar specimens from old dramas may be found amusing. Malone introduces them with the subjoined observations :
"The long doggerel verses that Shakapere has attributed in this play to the two Dromios, are written in that kind of metre which was usually attributed by the dramatic poets before his time, in their comic pieces, to some of their inferior characters; and this circumstance is one of many that authorise us to place the preceding comedy, as well as • Love's Labour's Lost,' and 'THE TAMING OF THE SHREW' (where the same kind of versification is likewise found), among our author's earliest productions ; composed probably at a time when he was imperceptibly infected with the prevailing mode, and before he had completely learned 'to deviate boldly from the common track.' As these early pieces are now not easily met with, I shall subjoin a few extracts from some of them :
"The place of death and sorry execution.”-Act V., Scene 1.
The word "sorry" had anciently a stronger meaning than it has at present. Chaucer says, in the prologue to the "80XPXOURE'S TALE:
"This Frere, when he lookéd had his fill
Upon the torments of this sorry place."
And in the “* KNIGHT'S TALE," describing the Temple of Mars :
"All full of chirking was that sorry place."
“Whom I made lord of me and all I had,
at your important letters."-Act V., Scene 1. " Important" is here used in the sense of importunate. The allusion is probably to the Court of Wards, which was always considered a grievous oppression.
LIKE WILL TO LIKE' (1568). Royst. If your name to me you will declare and showe, You may in this matter my minde the sooner knowe.
Tos. Few wordes are best among frieods, this is true, Wherefore I shall briefly show my name unto you. Tom Tospot it is, it need not to be printed, Wherefore I with Raife Roister must needs be acquainted, &c.
COMMONS CONDITIONS' (about 1570).
"My master preaches patience to him, while His man with scissors nicks him like a fool."
Act V., Scene 1. Pools appear to have had their hair cut close and nicked in a particular manner. In the “ CHOICE OF CHANGE" (1598), we find :-" Three things used by monks, which provoke men to laugh at their follies: 1. They are shaved and Dotched on the head, like fools."
Mr. Tollet states that there is a penalty of ten shillings in one of King Alfred's ecclesiastical laws, if one opprobriously shave a common man like a fool.
Shist. By gogs bloud, my maisters, we were not best
longer here to staie, I thinke was never such a craftie knave before this daie.
[Exit AmBO. Cond. Are thei all gone? Ha, ha, well fare old Shift at a
neede : By his woundes had I not devised this, I had hanged indeed.
Tinkers (qd you), tinke me no tinkes; I'll meddle with them
pholuses; because, although there have been instances of almost indistinguishable likeness in two persons, yet these are mere individual accidents, casus ludentis nature ; and the verum will not excuse the inverisimile. But farce dares add the two Dromios, and is justified in so doing by the laws of its end and constitution. In a word, farces commence in a postulate which must be granted.-COLERIDGE.
I thinke was never knave so used by a companie of tinkers
before. By your leave I'll be so bolde as to looke about me and spie, Lest any knaves for my coming down in ambush do lie. By your licence I minde not to preache longer in this tree, My tinkerly slaves are packed hence, as farre as I maie see.
* PROMUS AND CASSANDRA' (1578). The wind is yl blows no man's gaine; for cold I neede not
care, Here is nine and twentie sutes of apparel for my share ; And some, berlady, very good, for so standeth the case, As neither gentleman nor other Lord Promos sheweth any
grace ; But I marvel much, poore slaves, that they are hanged so
soone, They were wont to staye a day or two, now scarce an after
*THE THREE LADIES OF LONDON' (1584). You think I am going to market to buy rost meate, do ye not? I thought so, but you are deceived, for I wot what I wot: I am neither going to the butcher's, to buy veale, mutton, or
beefe, But I am going to a bloodsucker, and who is it? faith Usurie,
THE COBLER'S PROPHECY' (1594). Quoth Niceness to Newfangle, thou art such a Jacke, That thou devisest fortie fashions for my ladie's backe. And thou, quoth he, art so possest with everie frantick toy, That following of my ladie's humour thou dost make her coy. For once a day for fashion-sake, my lady must be sicke, No meat but mutton, or at most the pinion of a chicke: To-day her owne haire best becomes, which yellow is as gold, A periwig is better for to-morrow, blacke to behold: To-day in pumps and cheveril gloves to walk she will be bold, To-morrow cuffes and countenance, for feare of catching cold; Now is she barefast to be seene, straight on her mufler goes; Now is she hufft up to the crowne, straight nusled to the nose.
“See also “GAMMER Gurton's NEEDLE,'DAMON AND PYTHIAS,' &c."
The general idea of this play is taken from the “MENÆCHMI” of Plautus, but the plot is entirely recast, and rendered much more diverting by the variety and quick succession of the incidents. To the twin brothers of Plautus are added twin servants; and though this increases the improbability, yet, as Schlegel observes, "when once we have lent ourselves to the first, which certainly borders on the incredible, we should not probably be disposed to cavil about the second ; and if the spectator is to be entertained with mere perplexities, they cannot be too much varied."
The clumsy and inartificial mode of informing the spectator, by a prologue, of events which it was necessary for him to be acquainted with in order to enter into the spirit of the piece, is well avoided, and shews the superior skill of the modern dramatist over his ancient prototype. With how much more propriety is it placed in the mouth of Ægeon, the father of the twin brothers, whose character is sketched with such skill as deeply to interest the reader in his griefs and misfortunes! Development of character, however, was not to be expected in a piece which consists of an uninterrupted series of mistakes and laughter-moving situations. • We may conclude with Schlegel's dictum that “This is the best of all written or possible Menæchmi; and if the piece is inferior in worth to other pieces of Shakspere, it is merely because nothing more could be made of the materials."-SINGEN.
On a careful revision of the foregoing scenes, I do not hesitate to pronounce them the composition of two very unequal writers. Shakspere had undoubtedly a share in them; but that the entire play was no work of his, is an opinion which (as Benedick says) "fire cannot melt out of me; I will die in it at the stake."-STEEVENS.
On the present occasion, Mr. Steevens appears to have merely followed the example of Maximin :
“ And all this I can do, because I dare." It were to be wished that the writer had assigned some reasons for his opinion. Not having done so, I can only oppose to this peremptory decision an opinion no less confidently entertained, that the whole of the present comedy was written by Shakspere.—MALONE.
A translation of the “MENÆCHMI" of Plautus appeared in 1595, by "W.W.," which letters are supposed to have been the initials of William Warner. There is not the slightest internal evidence in Shakspere's play to shew that he made any use of this version. Indeed, it is highly probable that the “ COMEDY OP ERRORS" was written at an earlier period.
The following is a specimen of Warner's translation. It is the commencement of the second Act; the dialogue being between Menæchmus Sosicles (Antipholus of Syracuse) and Messenio :
"Men. Surely, Messenio, I think seafarers never take so comfortable a joy in any thing as, when they have been long tost and turmoiled in the wide seas, they hap at last to ken land.
Mes. I'll be sworn, I should not be gladder to see a whole country of mine own, than I have been at such a sight. But I pray, wherefore are we now come to Epidamnum? Must we needs go to see every town that we hear of!
Men. Till I find my brother, all towns are alike to me: I must try in all places.
Mes. Why, then, let's even as long as we live seek your brother: six years now have we roamed about thus; Istria, Hispania, Massylia, Illyria, all the upper sea, all high Greece, all haven towns in Italy. I think if we had sought a needle all this time we must needs have found it, had it been above ground. It cannot be that he is alive; and to seek a dead man thus among the living, what folly is it?
Men. Yea, could I but once find any man that could certainly inform me of his death, I were satisfied; otherwise I can never desist seeking: little knowest thou, Messenio, how near my heart it goes.
Mes. This is washing of a blackamoor. Faith, let's go home, unless ye mean we should write a story of our travail.
Men. Sirrah, no more of these saucy speeches. I perceive I must teach you how to serve me, not to rule me.
Mes. Ay, so, now it appears what it is to be a servant."
The myriad-minded man, our and all men's Shakspere, has in this piece presented us with a legitimate farce, in exact consonance with the philosophical principles and character of farce, as distinguished from comedy and from entertainments. A proper farce is mainly distinguished from comedy by the licence allowed, and even required, in the fable, in order to produce strange and laughable situations. The story need not be probable; it is enough that it is possible. A comedy would scarcely allow even the two Anti