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the Earl of Surrey charges Wolsey with having sent large supplies of substance to Rome "to the mere undoing of all the kingdom," he means to the complete undoing of all the kingdom, to nothing less than such undoing; but in our modern English the words would sound as if the speaker's meaning were, to nothing more than the undoing of the kingdom. The mere would lead us to think of something else, some possible aggravation of the undoing (such, for instance, as the disgrace or infamy), from which that was to be conceived as separated.
The use of merely here is in exact accordance with that of mere in Othello, ii. 2, where the Herald proclaims the tidings of what he calls "the mere perdition of the Turkish fleet" (that is, the entire perdition or destruction). In Helena's "Ay, surely, mere the truth," in All's Well that Ends Well, iii. 5, mere would seem to have the sense of merely (that is, simply, exactly), if there be no misprint.
Attention to such changes of import or effect, slight as they may seem, which many words have undergone, is indispensable for the correct understanding of our old writers. Their ignorance of the old sense of this same word merely has obscured a passage in Bacon to his modern editors. In his 58th Essay, entitled "Of Vicissitudes of Things," he says; "As for conflagrations and great droughts, they do not merely dispeople and destroy" -meaning, as the train of the reasoning clearly requires, that they do not altogether do so. Most of the editors (Mr Montague included) have changed "and destroy" into "but destroy;" others leave out the "not" before merely; either change being subversive of the meaning of the passage and inconsistent with the context. The reading of the old copies is confirmed by the Latin translation, done under Bacon's own superintendence:-" Illæ populum penitus non absorbent aut destruunt."
So in the 3rd Essay, "Of Unity in Religion," when we are told that extremes would be avoided "if the points
fundamental and of substance in religion were truly discerned and distinguished from points not merely of faith, but of opinion, order, or good intention," the meaning is, from points not altogether of faith,-not, were distinguished not only from points of faith, as a modern reader would be apt to understand it.
45. Passions of some difference.-The meaning seems to be, of some discordance, somewhat conflicting passions. So we have a few lines after, "poor Brutus, with himself at war."
45. Conceptions only proper to myself.-Thoughts and feelings relating exclusively to myself.
45. To my behaviours.—We have lost this plural. But we still say, though with some difference of meaning, both My manner" and "My manners."
45. Be you one.e.-There are various kinds of being, or of existing. What is here meant is, Be in your belief and assurance; equivalent to Rest assured that you are.
45. Nor construe any further my neglect. Further is the word in the old copies; but Mr Collier, I observe, in his one volume edition prints farther. Is this one of the corrections of his MS. annotator? It is sometimes supposed that, as farther answers to far, so further answers to forth. But far and forth, or fore, are really only different forms of the same word, different corruptions or modernizations of the old Original English feor or forth.
46. I have much mistook your passion.-That is, the feeling under which you are suffering. Patience and passion (both from the Latin patior) equally mean suffering; the notions of quiet and of agitation which they have severally acquired, and which have made the common signification of the one almost the opposite of that of the other, are merely accidental adjuncts. It may be seen, however, from the use of the word passion here and in the preceding speech, that its proper meaning was not so completely obscured and lost sight of in Shakespeare's
day as it has come to be in ours, when it retains the notion of suffering only in two or three antique expressions; such as the iliac passion, and the passion of our Saviour (with Passion Week).-Though it is no longer accounted correct to say I have mistook, or I have wrote, such forms were in common use even till far on in the last century. Nor has the analogy of the reformed manner of expression been yet completely carried out. In some cases we have even lost the more correct form after having once had it: we no longer, for instance, say I have stricken, as they did in Shakespeare's day, but only I have struck.
47. But by reflection, etc.-The "other things," must, apparently, if we interpret the words with reference to their connexion, be the reflectors or mirrors spoken of by Cassius. Taken by itself, however, the expression might rather seem to mean that the eye discovers its own existence by its power of seeing other things. The verse in the present speech is thus ingeniously broken up in the original edition:
For the eye sees not itself but by reflection,
It may still be suspected that all is not quite right, and possibly some words have dropped out. "By reflection, by some other things" is hardly Shakespeare's style. It is not customary with him to employ a word which he finds it necessary thus to attempt immediately to amend, or supplement or explain, by another.-It is remarkable that in the first line of this speech the three last Folios turn the itself into himself. Mr Collier, nevertheless, prints itself. Is this a restoration of his MS. annotator ?
There is a remarkable coincidence, both of thought and of expression, between what we have here and the following passage in Troilus and Cressida, iii. 3 ;—
"Nor doth the eye itself,
That most pure spirit of sense, behold itself."
And it may be worth noting that these lines appear only in the two original Quarto editions of the Play (1609), and are not in any of the Folios.
48. Many of the best respect.-A lost phrase, no longer permissible even in poetry, although our only modern equivalent is the utterly unpoetical "many persons of the highest respectability." So, again, in the present Play, we have in 780, "Thou art a fellow of a good respect."
50. Therefore, good Brutus, etc.-The eager, impatient temper of Cassius, absorbed in his own one idea, is vividly expressed by his thus continuing his argument as if without appearing to have even heard Brutus's interrupting question; for such is the only interpretation which his therefore would seem to admit of.
50. And be not jealous on me.—This is the reading of all the Folios; and it has been restored to the text by Mr Knight, who does not, however, produce any other example of the same syntax. The other modern editors generally, with the exception of Mr Collier, have changed the on into of. And everywhere else, I believe, Shakespeare writes jealous of. But there seems to be no natural reason, independently of usage, why the adjective might not take the one preposition as well as the other. They used to say enamoured on formerly. In the same manner, although the common form is to eat of, yet in Macbeth, i. 3, we have, as the words stand in the first three Folios, "Have we eaten on the insane root." So, although we commonly say "seized of" we have in Hamlet, i. 1, "All those his lands Which he stood seized on." And there is the familiar use of on for of in the popular speech, of which we have also an example in Hamlet in the Clown's "You lie out on't, Sir" (v. 1).
50. Were I a common laugher.-Pope made this correction, in which he has been followed by all subsequent editors. In all the editions before his the reading is laughter; and the necessity or propriety of the change is
perhaps not so unquestionable as it has been generally thought. Neither word seems to be perfectly satisfactory. “Were I a common laughter" might seem to derive some support from the expression of the same speaker in 562 : "Hath Cassius lived to be but mirth and laughter to his Brutus ?"
50. To stale with ordinary oaths my love.-Johnson, the only commentator who notices this expression, interprets it as meaning, "to invite every new protester to my affection by the stale, or allurement, of customary oaths." But surely the more common sense of the word stale, both the verb and the noun, involving the notion of insipid or of little worth or estimation, is far more natural here. Who forgets Enobarbus's phrase in his enthusiastic description of Cleopatra (Antony and Cleopatra, ii. 2); "Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale Her infinite variety"? So in 498, "Staled by other men.”. 50. And after scandal them.-We have lost the verb scandal altogether, and we scarcely use the other form to scandalize, except in the sense of the Hellenistic σkavdaliw, to shock, to give offence. Both had formerly also the sense of to defame or traduce.
51. What means this shouting? etc.-Here is the manner in which this passage is given in the original edition :
"Bru. What means this Showting ? I do feare, the People choose Cæsar For their King.
Cassi. I, do you feare it?"
53. If it be aught toward.-All that the prosody demands here is that the word toward be pronounced in two syllables; the accent may be either on the first or the second. Toward when an adjective has, I believe, always the accent on the first syllable in Shakespeare; but its customary pronunciation may have been otherwise in his day when it was a preposition, as it is here. Milton,