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A certain pro
“He rises on the toe: that spirit of his
In aspiration lifts him from the earth.” Two things are observable with regard to Shakespeare's employment of this peculiar construction of verse:
1. It will be found upon an examination of his Plays that there are some of them in which it occurs very rarely, or perhaps scarcely at all, and others in which it is abundant. It was certainly a habit of writing which grew upon him after he once gave in to it. Among the Plays in which there is little or none of it are some of those known to be amongst his earliest; and some that were undoubtedly the product of the latest period of his life are among those that have the most of it. It is probable that the different es in the frequency with which it is indulged in correspond generally to the order of succession in which the Plays were written. gress of style may be traced more or less distinctly in every writer; and there is no point of style which more marks a poetic writer than the character of his versification. It is this, for instance, which furnishes us with the most conclusive or at least the clearest evidence that the play of King Henry the Eighth cannot have been written throughout by Shakespeare. It is a point of style which admits of precise appreciation to a degree much beyond most others; and there is no other single indication which can be compared with it as an element in determining the chronology of the Plays. It is therefore extremely difficult to believe that the three Roman plays, Julius Cæsar, Antony and Cleopatra, and Coriolanus, can all belong to the same period (Malone assigns them severally to the years 1607, 1608, and 1610), seeing that the second and third are among the plays in which verses having in the tenth place an unemphatic monosyllable of the kind in question are of most frequent occurrence, while the only instances of anything of the sort in the first are, I believe, the following:
54. "I had as lief not be as live to be
“ And Cassius is
So get the start of the majestic world.”
For some new honours that are heaped on Cæsar.
" All the interim is
Have an immediate freedom of repeal.”
Produce his body to the market-place.” 358. "And that we are contented Cæsar shall
Have all true rites and awful ceremonies.” 406. “But yesterday the word of Cæsar might
Have stood against the world.” 494.
“ Or here, or at
The Capitol.” Not only does so comparatively rare an indulgence in it show that the habit of this kind of versification was as yet not fully formed, but in one only of these ten instances have we it carried nearly so far as it repeatedly is in some other Plays : be, and is, and should, and may, and shall, and might, and are, all verbs, though certainly not emphatic, will yet any of them allow the voice to rest upon it with a considerably stronger pressure than such lightest and slightest of "winged words” as and, or, but, if, that (the relative or conjunction), who, which, than, as, of, to, with, for, etc. The only decided or true and perfect instance of the peculiarity is the last in the list.
2. In some of the Plays at least the prosody of many of the verses constructed upon the principle under consideration has been misconceived by every editor, including the most recent. Let us take, for example, the play of
Coriolanus, in which, as has just been observed, such verses are very numerous. Here, in the first place, we have a good many instances in which the versification is correctly exhibited in the First Folio, and, of course, as might be expected, in all subsequent editions, such as
“Only in strokes, but with thy grim looks and
The thunder-like percussion of thy sounds.”-i. 4. “I got them in my country's service, when
Some certain of your brethren roared and ran.”-ii. 3. “The thwartings of your dispositions, if
You had not showed them how you were disposed.”—ii. 2. “Come, my sweet wife, my dearest mother, and
My friends of noble touch, when I am forth.”-iv. 2.,
Have all forsook me.”-iv. 5.
I had feared death, of all the men i’ the world.”—iv. 5.
* The reading of all the copies is “No other quarrel else;" but it is evident that other is merely the author's first word, which he must be supposed to have intended to strike out, if he did not actually do so, when he resolved to substitute else. The prosody and the sense agree in admonishing us that both words cannot stand. So in Antony and Cleopatra, iv. 10, in the line “To the young Roman boy she hath sold me, and I fall;" young is evidently only the word first intended to be used, and never could be meant to be retained after the expression Roman boy was adopted. Another case of the same kind is unquestionably that of the word old in the line (As You Like It, iv. 3),
“Under an (old) oak, whose boughs were mossed with age.” Nor can I have any doubt that another text, equally familiar to the modern ear, has suffered a similar corruption,--Bassanio's—
“In my school-days, when I had lost one shaft,
I shot his fellow of the self-same flight
" You have holp to ravish your own daughters, and
To melt the city leads upon your pates.”_iv. 6.
The breath of garlic-eaters.”-iv. 6.
Your soldiers use him as the grace 'fore meat.”—iv. 7. .
Your gates against my force.”—v. 3.
In supplication nod.”—v. 3.
Great Nature cries, Deny not.”—v. 3.
Hear nought from Rome in private.”- --V. 3.
To a mother's part belongs.”—v. 3.
The Roman ladies bring not comfort home.”—v. 4.
Intends to appear before the people, hoping.”—v. 5. “I seemed his follower, not partner; and
He waged me with his countenance, as if
I had been mercenary.”—v. 5.
As cheap as lies.”—7. 5.
There was a yielding.' 5.
With bloody passage led your wars, even to
To find forth may, I apprehend, be safely pronounced to be neither English nor sense. The forth has apparently been transferred from the preceding line, which was either originally written “The same way forth,” or, more probably, was so corrected after having been originally written “ The self-same way."
Brecking his oath and resolution, like
“Though in this city he Hath widowed and unchilded many a one.”—». 5. These instances are abundantly sufficient to prove the prevalence in the Play of the peculiarity under consideration, and also its recognition, whether consciously and deliberately or otherwise does not matter, by the editors. But further, we have also some instances in which the editors most attached to the original printed text have ventured to go the length of rearranging the verse upon this principle where it stands otherwise in the First Folio. Such are the following:
“ Commit the war of white and damask in
Their nicely gauded cheeks.”—ii. 1.
“ A kinder value of the people than
He hath hereto prized them at.”—ii. 2. The Folio gives this as prose. “ To allay my rages
revenges with Your colder reasons.”—v. 3. The Folio gives from “My rages " inclusive as a line.
After this it is surely very strange to find in our modern editions such manifest and gross misconceptions of the versification as the following arrangements exhibit:
“My gentle Marcius, worthy Caius,
And-By deed-achieving honour duly named.”—ii. 1.
And—The blind to hear him speak.”-ii. 1.