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other reason (breathing stones being not improbably, it has been thought, a misprint for unbreathing stones), has any decisive instance been produced either by Steevens, who refers at that passage to what he designates as Reed's "very decisive note," or by any of the other commentators anywhere, or by Nares, who also commences his account of the word in his Glossary by telling us that it "was long used in English as a trisyllable."
The only other lines in Shakespeare in which it has been conceived to be other than a word of two syllables are the one now under examination, and another which also occurs in the present Play, in 426:—
"Even at the base of Pompey's statue."
These two lines, it will be observed, are similarly constructed in so far as this word is concerned; in both the supposed trisyllable concludes the verse.
Now, we have many verses terminated in exactly the same manner by other words, and yet it is very far from being certain that such verses were intended to be accounted verses of ten syllables, or were ever so pronounced.
First, there is the whole class of those ending with words in tion or sion. This termination, it is true, usually makes two syllables in Chaucer, and it may do so sometimes, though it does not generally, in Spenser; it is frequently dissyllabic, in indisputable instances, even with some of the dramatists of the early part of the seventeenth century, and particularly with Beaumont and Fletcher; but it is only on the rarest occasions that it is other than monosyllabic in the middle of the line with Shakespeare. Is it, then, to be supposed that he employed it habitually as a dissyllable at the end of a line? It is of continual occurrence in both positions. For example, in the following line of the present speech,—
"But for your private satisfaction,"
can we think that the concluding word was intended to
have any different pronunciation from that which it has in the line of Romeo and Juliet (ii. 2),—
"What satisfaction canst thou have to-night?"
or in this other from Othello (iii. 3),—
"But for a satisfaction of my thought?
Is it probable that it was customary then, any more than it is now, to divide tion into two syllables in the one case more than in the other?
Secondly, there are numerous verses terminating with the verbal affix ed, the sign of the preterite indicative active or of the past participle passive. This termination is not circumstanced exactly as tion is: the utterance of it as a separate syllable is the rare exception in our modern pronunciation; but it evidently was not so in Shakespeare's day; the distinct syllabication of the ed would rather seem to have been almost as common then as its absorption in the preceding syllable. For instance, when Juliet, in Romeo and Juliet, iii. 2, repeating the Nurse's words, exclaims,
"Tybalt is dead, and Romeo banished:
That banished-that one word banished-
the ed in That banished clearly makes a distinct syllable; and, that being the case, it must be held to be equally such in the two other repetitions of the word. But in other cases its coalescence with the preceding syllable will only produce the same effect to which we are accustomed when we disregard the antiquated pronunciation of the tion at the end of a line, and read it as one syllable. In the present Play, for example, it might be so read in 305,
“Thy brother by decree is banished; as it was probably intended (in another prosodical position) to be read afterwards in 310,—
"That I was constant Cimber should be banished,"
and as it must be read in 306,——
"For the repealing of my banished brother."
Yet, although most readers in the present day would elide the e in all the three instances, it ought to be observed that in the original edition the word is printed in full in the first and with the apostrophe in the two others. And this distinction in the printing is employed to indicate the pronunciation throughout the volume. How such a line as
"Thy brother by decree is banished,”—
being a very common prosodical form in Shakespeare,— was intended by him to be read, or was commonly read in his day, must therefore remain somewhat doubtful. If, however, the e was elided in the pronunciation, such verses would be prosodically exactly of the same form or structure with those, also of very frequent occurrence, in which all that we have for a fifth foot is the affix or termination tion, on the assumption that that was pronounced only as one syllable.
One way of disposing of such lines would be to regard them as a species of hemistich or truncated line. Verses which, although not completed, are correctly constructed as far as they go, occur in every Play in great numbers and of all dimensions; and those in question would be such verses wanting the last syllable, as others do the two or three or four or five last. This explanation would take in the case of the lines, "She dreamt to-night she saw my statue," and "Even at the base of Pompey's statue,” and of others similarly constructed, supposing statue to be only a dissyllable, as well as all those having in the last foot only tion or ed. But most probably this particular kind of truncated line, consisting of nine syllables, would not occur so frequently as it does but for the influence
exerted by the memory of the old pronunciation of the two terminations just mentioned even after it had come to be universally or generally disused. For instance, although the word satisfaction had already come in the age of Shakespeare to be generally pronounced exactly as it is at the present day, the line " But for your private satisfaction" was the more readily accepted as a sufficient verse by reason of the old syllabication of the word, which, even by those who had abandoned it (as Shakespeare himself evidently had done), was not forgotten. Other lines having nothing more for their tenth syllable than the verbal affix ed, in which also an elision had become usual, would be acted upon in the same manner; the ed would still retain something of the effect of a separate syllable even when it had ceased to be generally so pronounced. But after the public ear had thus become reconciled and accustomed to such a form of verse, it might be expected to be sometimes indulged in by poetic writers when it had to be produced in another way than through the instrumentality of the half separable ed and the half dissyllabic tion. The line "But for your private satisfaction," pronounced as we have assumed it to have been, would make such a line as "She dreamt to-night she saw my statue" seem to have an equal right to be accounted legitimate, seeing that its effect upon the ear was precisely the same. Still the conservative principle in language would keep the later and more decided deviation from the normal form comparatively infrequent. Sometimes a singular effect of suddenness and abruptness is produced by such a form of verse; as in the sharp appeal of Menenius, in the opening scene of Coriolanus, to the loud and grandiloquent leader of the mutinous citizens,
"What do you think,
You, the great toe of this assembly?"
Unless, indeed, we are to assume the verse here to be
complete and regular, and that assembly is to be read as a word of four syllables, as-sem-bl-y. In the present Play, however, at 295, we have an instance to which that objec-. tion does not apply. The line there-"Look, how he makes to Cæsar: mark him "-is of precisely the same rhythm with "She dreamt to-night she saw my statue," and also with the one by which it is immediately preceded, "I fear our purpose is discovered" (in 294), as well as with "He says he does; being then most flattered" (in 195), and many others, read (as it is probable they were intended to be) without the distinct syllabication of the ed.
After all, Shakespeare's word may really have been statua, as Reed and Steevens suppose. This is decidedly the opinion of Mr Dyce, who, in his Remarks on Mr Collier's and Mr Knight's editions (p. 186), calls attention to the following line from a copy of verses by John Harris, prefixed to the 1647 Folio of the Plays of Beaumont and Fletcher ;
"Defaced statua and martyr'd book."
"I therefore have not," he adds, "the slightest doubt that wherever statue occurs, while the metre requires three syllables, it is a typographical error for statua." Perhaps the best way would be to print statua in all cases, and to assume that that was the form which Shakespeare always wrote. Statua would have the prosodical value either of a dissyllable or of a trisyllable according to circumstances, just as Mantua, for instance, has throughout Romeo and Juliet, where we have in one place such a line as
"For then thou canst not pass to Mantu-a" (iii. 3),
"But I will write again to Mantu-a” (v. 2),
and in another such as
"Sojourn in Mantua; I'll find out your man (iii. 3),
"So that my speed to Mantua there was stayed" (v. 2).