Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

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 tbought. 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 okavSaltw, 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,

however, in the few cases in which he does not run the two syllables into one, always accents the first. And he uses both toward and towards.

53. Set Honour in one eye, etc.—This passage has occasioned some discussion. Johnson's explanation is :“ When Brutus first names Honour and Death, he calmly declares them indifferent; but, as the image kindles in his mind, he sets Honour above life.” It does not seem to be necessary to suppose any such change or growth either of the image or the sentiment. What Brutus means by saying that he will look upon Honour and Death indifferently, if they present themselves together, is merely that, for the sake of the honour, he will not mind the death, or the risk of death, by which it may

be accompanied; he will look as fearlessly and steadily upon the one as upon the other. He will think the honour to be cheaply purchased even by the loss of life; that price will never make him falter or hesitate in clutching at such a prize. He must be understood to set honour above life from the first; that he should ever have felt otherwise for a moment would have been the height of the unheroic.—The convenient elisions the and othe have been almost lost to our modern English verse, at least in composition of the ordinary regularity and dignity. Byron, however, has in a well-known passage ventured upon “ Hived in our bosoms like the bag o’the bee."

54. Your outward favour. -A man's favour is his aspect or appearance. “In beauty," says Bacon, in his 43rd Essay, “ that of favour is more than that of colour ; and that of decent and gracious motion more than that of favour.” The word is now lost to us in that sense; but we still use favoured with well, ill, and perhaps other qualifying terms, for featured or looking; as in Gen. xli. 4 :“ The ill-favoured and lean-fleshed kine did eat up the seven well-favoured and fat kine.” Favour seems to be used for face from the same confusion or natural trans

ference of meaning between the expressions for the feeling in the inind and the outward indication of it in the look that has led to the word countenance, which commonly denotes the latter, being sometimes employed, by a process the reverse of what we have in the case of favour, in the sense of at least one modification of the former; as when we speak of any one giving something his countenance, or countenancing it. In this case, however, it ought to be observed that countenance has the meaning, not simply of favourable feeling or approbation, but of its expression or avowal. The French terms from which we have borrowed our favour and countenance do not appear to have either of them undergone the transference of meaning which has befallen the English forins. But contenance, which is still also used by the French in the sense of material capacity, has drifted far away

from its original import in coming to signify one's aspect or physiognomy. It is really also the same word with the French and English continence and the Latin continentia.

54. For my single self.Here is a case in which we are still obliged to adhere to the old way of writing and printing my self. Vid. 56.

54. I had as lief.Lief (sometimes written leef, or leve), in the comparative liefer or lever, in the superlative liefest, is the Original English leof, of the same meaning with our modern dear. “ No modern author, I believe,” says Horne Tooke (D. of P. 261), “would now venture any of these words in a serious passage; and they seem to be cautiously shunned or ridiculed in common conversation, as a vulgarity. But they are good English words, and more frequently used by our old English writers than any other word of a corresponding signification.” The common modern substitute for lief is soòn, and for liefer, sooner or rather, which last is properly the comparative of rath, or rathe, signifying early, not found in Shakespeare, but used in one expression —“the rathe

primrose” (Lycidas, 142)—-by Milton, who altogether ignores lief. Lief, liefer, and liefest, are all common in Spenser. Shakespeare has lief pretty frequently, but never liefer; and liefest occurs only in the Second Part of King Henry VI., where, in iii. 1, we have "My liefest liege." In the same Play, too (i. 1), we have “ Mine alderliefest sovereign," meaning dearest of all.

“ This beautiful word,” says Mr Knight,“ is a Saxon compound. Alder, of all, is thus frequently joined with an adjective of the superlative degree,—as alderfirst, alderlast." But it cannot be meant that such combinations are frequent in the English of Shakespeare's day. They do occur, indeed, in a preceding stage of the language. Alder is a corrupted or at least modified form of the Original English genitive plural aller, or allre; it is that strengthened by the interposition of a supporting d (a common expedient). Aller, with the same signification, is still familiar in German compounds.--The effect and construction of lief in Middle English may be seen in the following examples from Chaucer :-"

“For him was lever han at his beddes head” (C. T. Pro. 295), that is, To him it was dearer to have (lever a monosyllable, beddes a dissyllable); “ Ne, though I say it, I n'am not lefe to gabbe” (C. T. 3510), that is, I am not given to prate; I hadde lever dien," that is, I should hold it preferable to die. And Chaucer has also “ Al be him loth or lefe" (C. T. 1839), that is, Whether it be to him agreeable or disagreeable ; and “For lefe ne loth” (C. T. 13062), that is, For love por loathing. We may remark the evidently intended connexion in sound between the lief and the live, or rather the attraction by which the one word has naturally produced or evoked the other.

54. Cæsar said to me, etc.—In the Second Folio it is “Cæsar saies to me.” And three lines lower down it is there “ Accounted as I was.” Other errors of that copy

[ocr errors]
« ПредишнаНапред »