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Enter DOGBERRY, VERGES, and the Watch, with CONRADE and BORACHIO.
Claud. He is then a giant to an ape: but then is an ape a doctor to such a man.
D. Pedro. But, soft you, let be;9 pluck up, my heart, and be sad!1 Did he not say, my brother was fled?
Dogb. Come, you, sir; if justice cannot tame you, she shall ne'er weigh more reasons in her balance: 2 nay, an you be a cursing hypocrite once, you must be look'd to. D. Pedro. How now, two of my brother's men bound! Borachio, one!
Claud. Hearken after their offence, my lord!
D. Pedro. Officers, what offence have these men done? Dogb. Marry, sir, they have committed false report; moreover, they have spoken untruths; secondarily, they
he was going to fight.-I am aware that there was a particular species of single combat called Rapier and cloak; but I suppose, nevertheless, that when the small sword came into common use, the cloak was generally laid aside in duels, as tending to embarrass the combatants. Malone.
Perhaps the whole meaning of the passage is this:-What an inconsistent fool is man, when he covers his body with clothes, and at the same time divests himself of his understanding.
9 But, soft you, let be;] The quarto and first folio read corruptly-let me be, which the editor of the second folio, in order to obtain some sense, converted to-let me see. I was once idle enough to suppose that copy was of some authority; but a minute examination of it has shewn me that all the alterations made in it were merely arbitrary, and generally very injudicious. Let be were without doubt the author's words. The same expression occurs again in Antony and Cleopatra, Act IV, sc. iv:
"What's this for? Ah, let be, let be." Malone.
If let be is the true reading, it must mean, let things remain as they are. I have heard the phrase used by Dr. Johnson himself. Mr. Henley observes, that the same expression occurs in St. Matt. xxvii, 49. Steevens.
So, in Henry VIII, Act I, sc. i:
and they were ratify'd,
"As he cried, Thus, let be."
Again, in The Winter's Tale, Act V, sc. iii, Leontes says, be, let be." Reed.
·pluck up, my heart, and be sad!] i. e rouse thyself, my heart, and be prepared for serious consequences! Steevens.
2 — ne'er weigh more reasons in her balance:] A quibble between reasons and raisons.
are slanders; sixth and lastly, they have bely'd a lady; thirdly, they have verified unjust things: and to conclude, they are lying knaves.
D. Pedro. First, I ask thee what they have done; thirdly, I ask thee what's their offence; sixth and lastly, why they are committed; and to conclude, what you lay to their charge.
Claud. Rightly reasoned, and in his own division; and, by my troth, there's one meaning well suited.3
D. Pedro. Who have you offended, masters, that you are thus bound to your answer? this learned constable is too cunning to be understood: What's your offence?
Bora. Sweet prince, let me go no further to mine answer; do you hear me, and let this count kill me. I have deceived even your very eyes: what your wisdoms could not discover, these shallow fools have brought to light; who, in the night, overheard me confessing to this man, how Don John your brother incensed me to slander the lady Hero; how you were brought into the orchard, and saw me court Margaret in Hero's garments; how you disgraced her, when you should marry her: my villainy they have upon record; which I had rather seal with my death, than repeat over to my shame: the lady is dead upon mine and my master's false accusation; and, briefly, I desire nothing but the reward of a villain.
D. Pedro. Runs not this speech like iron through your blood?
Claud. I have drunk poison, whiles he utter'd it. D. Pedro. But did my brother set thee on to this? Bora. Yea, and paid me richly for the practice of it. D. Pedro. He is compos'd and fram'd of treachery:— And fled he is upon this villainy.
Claud. Sweet Hero! now thy image doth appear In the rare semblance that I lov'd it first.
one meaning well suited.] That is, one meaning is put into many different dresses; the prince having asked the same question in four modes of speech. Johnson.
4 incensed me to slander &c.] That is, incited me. word is used in the same sense in Richard III, and Henry VIII.
See Minsheu's Dict. in v. Malone.
Dogb. Come, bring away the plaintiffs; by this time our sexton hath reform'd signior Leonato of the matter: And masters, do not forget to specify, when time and place shall serve, that I am an ass.
Verg. Here, here comes master signior Leonato and the sexton too.
Re-enter LEONATO and ANTONIO, with the Sexton. Leon. Which is the villain? Let me see his eyes; That when I note another man like him,
may avoid him: Which of these is he?
Bora. If you would know your wronger, look on me. Leon. Art thou the slave, that with thy breath hast kill'd
Mine innocent child?
Yea, even I alone.
Leon. No, not so, villain; thou bely'st thyself; Here stand a pair of honourable men,
A third is fled, that had a hand in it:
I thank you, princes, for my daughter's death;
Claud. I know not how to pray your patience,
By my soul, nor I;
And yet, to satisfy this good old man,
I would bend under any heavy weight
That he 'll enjoin me to.
Leon. I cannot bid you bid my daughter live, That were impossible; but, I pray you both, Possess the people in Messina here
5 Impose me to what penance —] i. e. command me to undergo whatever penance, &c. A task or exercise prescribed by way of punishment for a fault committed at the Universities, is yet called (as Mr. Steevens has observed in a former note) an imposi
6 Possess the people &c.] To possess, in ancient language, signifies to inform, to make acquainted with.
So, in The Merchant of Venice:
"Is he yet possess'd how much you would ??
How innocent she died: and, if your
And she alone is heir to both of us;7
Give her the right you should have given her cousin, And so dies my revenge.
O, noble sir,
Your over-kindness doth wring tears from me!
I do embrace your offer: and dispose
For henceforth of poor Claudio.
Leon. To-morrow then I will expect your coming;
Who, I believe, was pack'd in all this wrong,
Bora. No, by my soul, she was not; Nor knew not what she did, when she spoke to me; But always hath been just and virtuous,
In any thing that I do know by her.
Dogb. Moreover, sir, (which, indeed, is not under white and black) this plaintiff here, the offender, did call me ass: I beseech you, let it be remembered in his
"I have possess'd your grace of what I purpose." Steevens. 7 And she alone is heir to both of us;] Shakspeare seems to have forgot what he had made Leonato say, in the fifth scene of the first Act to Antonio, "How now, brother; where is my cousin your son? hath he provided the musick?" Anonymous.
8 Who, I believe, was pack'd in all this wrong,] i. e. combined; an accomplice. So, in Lord Bacon's Works, Vol. IV, p. 269, edit. 1740: "If the issue shall be this, that whatever shall be done for him, shall be thought done for a number of persons that shall be laboured and packed – Malone.
So, in King Lear:
snuffs and packings of the dukes." Steevens. Again, in Melvill's Memoirs, p. 90: " - he was a special instrument of helping my Lord of Murray and Secretary Lidington to pack up the first friendship betwixt the two queens," &c.
punishment: And also, the watch heard them talk of one Deformed: they say, he wears a key in his ear, and a lock hanging by it;9 and borrows money in God's name : 1 the which he hath used so long, and never paid, that now men grow hard-hearted, and will lend nothing for God's sake: Pray you, examine him upon that point.
Leon. I thank thee for thy care and honest pains. Dogb. Your worship speaks like a most thankful and reverend youth; and I praise God for you.
9 he wears a key in his ear, and a lock hanging by it;] There could not be a pleasanter ridicule on the fashion, than the constable's descant on his own blunder. They heard the conspirators satirize the fashion; whom they took to be a man surnamed Deformed. This the constable applies with exquisite humour to the courtiers, in a description of one of the most fantastical fashions of that time, the men's wearing rings in their ears, and indulging a favourite lock of hair which was brought before, and tied with ribbons, and called a love-lock. Against this fashion William Prynne wrote his treatise, called, The Unlovelyness of Love-Locks. To this fantastick mode Fletcher alludes in his Cupid's Revenge: "This morning I brought him a new perriwig with a lock at it And yonder 's a fellow come has bored a hole in his ear." And again, in his W man Hater: "— If I could endure an ear with a hole in it, or a platted lock," &c. Warburton.
Dr. Warburton, I believe, has here (as he frequently does) refined a little too much. There is no allusion, I conceive, to the fashion of wearing rings in the ears, a fashion which our author himself followed. The pleasantry seems to consist in Dogberry's supposing that the lock which DEFORMED wore, must have a key to it.
Fynes Moryson in a very particular account that he has given of the dress of Lord Montjoy, (the rival, and afterwards the friend of Robert, Earl of Essex) says, that his hair was "thinne on the head, where he wore it short, except a lock under his left eare, which he nourished the time of this warre, [the Irish War, in 1599] and being woven up; hid it in his neck under his ruffe.” ITINERARY, P. II, p. 45. When he was not on service, he probably wore it in a different fashion. The portrait of Sir Edward Sackville, Earl of Dorset, painted by Vandyck, (now at Knowle) exhibits this lock with a large knotted ribband at the end of it. It hangs under the ear on the left side, and reaches as low as where the star is now worn by the knights of the garter. The same fashion is alluded to in an epigram already quoted: "Or what he doth with such a horse-tail-lock," &c. Malone. 1 and borrows money in God's name ;] i. e. is a common beggar. This alludes, with too much levity, to the 17th verse of the xixth chapter of Proverbs: "He that giveth to the poor, lend eth unto the Lord." Steevens.