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Gob. I cannot think, you are my son.
Laun. I know not what I shall think of that: but I am Launcelot, the Jew's man; and, I am sure, Margery, your wife, is my mother.
Gob. Her name is Margery, indeed: I'll be sworn, if thou be Launcelot, thou art mine own flesh and blood. Lord worshipp'd might he be! what a beard hast thou got! thou hast got more hair on thy chin, than Dobbin my thill-horse has on his tail.9
Laun. It should seem then, that Dobbin's tail grows backward; I am sure he had more hair on his tail, than I have on my face, when I last saw him.
Gob. Lord, how art thou changed! How dost thou and thy master agree? I have brought him a present; How 'gree you now?
dulges himself in talking nonsense. So, afterwards ::-"you may tell every finger I have with my ribs." An anonymous critick supposes: "he means to say, I was your child, I am your boy, and shall ever be your son." But son not being first mentioned, but placed in the middle member of the sentence, there is no ground for supposing such an inversion intended by our author Besides, if Launcelot is to be seriously defended, what would his father learn, by being told that he who was his child, shall be his son? Malone.
Launcelot may mean, that he shall hereafter prove his claim to the title of child, by his dutiful behaviour. Thus, says the Prince of Wales to King Henry IV: I will redeem my character: "And, in the closing of some glorious day, "Be bold to tell you, that I am your son."
my thill-horse-] Thill or fill, means the shafts of a cart or waggon. So, in A Woman never vex'd, 1632:
"Give you the fore-horse place, and I will be
Again, in Fortune by Land and Sea, 1655, by Thomas Heywood and W. Rowley: "acquaint you with Jock the fore-horse, and Fib the fil-horse," &c. Steevens.
All the ancient copies have phil-horse, but no dictionary that I have met with acknowledges the word. It is, I am informed, a corruption used in some counties for the proper term, thill-horse. Malone.
See Christie's Catalogue of the effects of F- P-, Esq. 1794, p. 6, lot. 50: "Chain-harness for two horses, and phill harness for two horses." Steevens.
Phil or fill is the term in all the midland counties,—thill, would not be understood. Harris.
Laun. Well, well; but, for mine own part, as I have set up my rest to run away, so I will not rest till I have run some ground: my master 's a very Jew; Give him a present! give him a halter: I am famish'd in his service; you may tell every finger I have with my ribs. Father, I am glad you are come; give me your present to one master Bassanio, who, indeed, gives rare new liveries; if I serve not him, I will run as far as God has any ground.-O rare fortune! here comes the man;to him, father; for I am a Jew, if I serve the Jew any longer.
Enter BASSANIO, with LEONARDO, and other Followers.
Bass. You may do so;-but let it be so hasted, that supper be ready at the farthest by five of the clock: See these letters deliver'd; put the liveries to making; and desire Gratiano to come anon to my lodging.
Laun. To him, father.
Gob. God bless your worship!
[Exit a Ser.
Bass. Gramercy; Would'st thou aught with me?
Laun. Not a poor boy, sir, but the rich Jew's man; that would, sir, as my father shall specify,
Gob. He hath a great infection, sir, as one would say,
Laun. Indeed, the short and the long is, I serve the Jew, and I have a desire, as my father shall specify,
Gob. His master and he, (saving your worship's reverence) are scarce cater-cousins:
Laun. To be brief, the very truth is, that the Jew having done me wrong, doth cause me, as my father, being I hope an old man, shall frutify unto you,
Gob. I have here a dish of doves, that I would bestow upon your worship; and my suit is,
Laun. In very brief, the suit is impertinent to myself, as your worship shall know by this honest old man; and, though I say it, though old man, yet, poor man, my father. Bass. One speak for both;-What would you? Laun. Serve you, sir.
Gob. This is the very defect of the matter, sir. Bass. I know thee well, thou hast obtain'd thy suit: Shylock, thy master, spoke with me this day,
And hath preferr'd thee, if it be preferment,
Laun. The old proverb is very well parted between my master Shylock and you, sir; you have the grace of God, sir, and he hath enough.
Bass. Thou speak'st it well: Go, father with thy son:-
My lodging out:-Give him a livery [To his followers.
Laun. Father, in:-I cannot get a service, no;-I have ne'er a tongue in my head.-Well; [looking on his palm] if any man in Italy have a fairer table, which doth offer to swear upon a book.2—I shall have good fortune;3
1 - more guarded-] i. e. more ornamented. So, in Soliman and Perseda, 1599:
"Piston. But is there no reward for my false dice? "Erastus. Yes, sir, a guarded suit from top to toe." Again, in Albumazar, 1615:
turn my ploughboy Dick to two guarded footmen."
2 Well; if any man in Italy have a fairer table, which doth offer to swear upon a book.] Table is the palm of the hand extended. Launcelot congratulates himself upon his dexterity and good fortune, and, in the height of his rapture, inspects his hand, and congratulates himself upon the felicities in his table. The act of expanding his hand puts him in mind of the action in which the palm is shown, by raising it to lay it on the book, in judicial attestations. Well, says he, if any man in Italy have a fairer table, that doth offer to swear upon a book.-Here he stops with an abruptness very common, and proceeds to particulars. Johnson.
Dr. Johnson's explanation thus far appears to me perfectly just. In support of it, it should be remembered, that which is frequently used by our author and his contemporaries, for the personal pronoun, who. It is still so used in our Liturgy. In The Merry Wives of Windsor, Mrs. Quickly addresses Fenton in the same language as is here used by Launcelot :-" I'll be sworn on a book she loves you:" a vulgarism that is now superseded by another of the same import-"I'll take my bible-oath of it." Malone.
Without examining the expositions of this passage, given by the three learned annotators, [Mr. T. Dr. W. and Dr. J.] I shall briefly set down what appears to me to be the whole meaning of it. Launcelot, applauding himself for his success with Bassanio, and looking into the palm of his hand, which by fortune-tellers is called the table, breaks out into the following reflection: Well; if any man in Italy have a fairer table; which doth offer to swear upon a book, I shall have good fortune-i. e. a table, which doth (not only
Go to, here's a simple line of life! here's a small trifle of wives: Alas, fifteen wives is nothing; eleven widows, and nine maids, is a simple coming-in for one man: and then, to 'scape drowning thrice; and to be in peril of my life with the edge of a feather-bed; 4-here are simple
promise, but) offer to swear (and to swear upon a book too) that I shall have good fortune. (He omits the conclusion of the sentence which might have been) I am much mistaken; or, I'll be hanged, &c. Tyrwhitt.
3 I shall have good fortune;] The whole difficulty of this passage (concerning which there is a great variety of opinion among the commentators) arose, as I conceive, from a word being omitted by the compositor or transcriber. I am persuaded the author wrote-I shall have no good fortune. These words, are not, I believe, connected with what goes before, but with what follows; and begin a new sentence. Shakspeare, I think, meant, that Launcelot, after this abrupt specch-Well; if any man that offers to swear upon a book, has a fairer table than mine- -[I am much mistaken:] should proceed in the same manner in which he began -I shall have no good fortune; go to; here's a simple line of life! &c. So, before: "I cannot get a service, no,-I have ne'er a tongue in my head." And afterwards: "Alas' fifteen wives is nothing." The Nurse, in Romeo and Juliet, expresses herself exactly in the same style: "Well, you have made a simple choice; you know not how to choose a man; Romeo? no, not he; -he is not the flower of courtesy," &c. So also, in King Henry IV: "Here's no fine villainy!" Again, more appositely, in the anonymous play of King Henr V: "Ha! me have no good luck." Again, in The Merry Wives of Windsor: “We are simple men; we do not know what's brought about under the profession of fortune-telling."
Almost every passage in these plays, in which the sense is abruptly broken off, as I have more than once observed, has been corrupted.
It is not without some reluctance that I have excluded this emendation from a place in the text. Had it been proposed by any former editor or commentator, I should certainly have adopted it; being convinced that it is just. But the danger of innovation is so great, and partiality to our own conceptions so delusive, that it becomes every editor to distrust his own emendations; and I am particularly inclined to do so in the present instance, in which I happen to differ from that most respectable and judicious critick, whose name is subjoined to the preceding note. According to his idea, the mark of an abrupt sentence should not be after the word book, but fortune. Malone.
4 in peril of my life with the edge of a feather-bed;] A cant phrase to signify the danger of marrying.-A certain French writer uses the same kind of figure: "O mon Ami, j'aimerois G g
'scapes! Well, if fortune be a woman, she's a good wench for this gear. Father, come; I'll take my leave of the Jew in the twinkling of an eye.
[Exeunt LAUN. and old GOB. Bass. I pray thee, good Leonardo, think on this; These things being bought, and orderly bestow'd, *Return in haste, for I do feast to-night
My best-esteem'd acquaintance: hie thee, go.
Gra. Where is your master?
Gra. Signior Bassanio,
Gra. I have a suit to you.
Yonder, sir, he walks. [Exit LEON.
You have obtain❜d it.
Gra. You must not deny me; I must go with you to Belmont.
Bass. Why, then you must;-But hear thee, Gratiano; Thou art too wild, too rude, and bold of voice;— Parts, that become thee happily enough,
And in such eyes as ours appear not faults;
But where thou art not known, why, there they show Something too liberal;5-pray thee, take pain
To allay with some cold drops of modesty
Thy skipping spirit; lest, through thy wild behaviour, I be misconstrued in the place I go to,
And lose my hopes.
Signior Bassanio, hear me:
If I do not put on a sober habit,
Talk with respect, and swear but now and then,
mieux étre tombée sur la point d'un Oreiller, & m'être rompû le Cou" Warburton.
5 Something too liberal;] Liberal I have already shown to be mean, gross, coarse, licentious. Johnson.
So, in Othello: "Is he not a most prophane and liberal counsellor?" Steevens.
allay with some cold drops of modesty
Thy skipping spirit;] So, in Hamlet:
"Upon the heat and flame of thy distemper