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CORN. Thou art a strange fellow: a tailor make a man?
KENT. Ay, a tailor, sir: a stone-cutter, or a painter, could not have made him so ill, though they had been but two hours at the trade.
CORN. Speak yet, how grew your quarrel?
STEW. This ancient ruffian, sir, whose life I have spar'd,
At suit of his grey beard,
KENT. Thou whorson zed! thou unnecessary letter!'-My lord, if you will give me leave, I will tread this unbolted villain2 into mortar,3 and
Again, in The Case is Alter'd, by Ben Jonson, 1609:
"No, I disclaim in her, I spit at her."
Again, in Warner's Albion's England, 1602, B. III. chap. xvi: "Not these, my lords, make me disclaim in it which all pursue." STEEVENS.
Thou whorson zed! thou unnecessary letter!] Zed is here probably used as a term of contempt, because it is the last letter in the English alphabet, and as its place may be supplied by S, and the Roman alphabet has it not; neither is it read in any word originally Teutonick. In Barret's Alvearie, or Quadruple Dictionary, 1580, it is quite omitted, as the author affirms it to be rather a syllable than a letter. C (as Dr. Johnson supposed) cannot be the unnecessary letter, as there are many words in which its place will not be supplied with any other, as charity, chastity, &c. STEEVENS.
This is taken from the grammarians of the time. Mulcaster says, "Z is much harder amongst us, and seldom seen :-S is become its lieutenant general. It is lightlie expressed in English, saving in foren enfranchisements." FARMER.
-this unbolted villain-] i. e. unrefined by education, the bran yet in him. Metaphor from the bakehouse.
WARBURTON, —into mortar,] This expression was much in use in our
daub the wall of a jakes with him.-Spare my grey beard, you wagtail ?
CORN. Peace, sirrah!
You beastly knave, know you no reverence?
CORN. Why art thou angry?
KENT. That such a slave as this should wear a sword,
Who wears no honesty. Such smiling rogues as these,5
Like rats, oft bite the holy cords atwain Which are too intrinse t'unloose: smooth every passion
author's time. So, Massinger, in his New Way to pay old Debts, Act I. sc. i:
-I will help your memory,
"And tread thee into mortar." STEEVENS.
Unbolted mortar is mortar made of unsifted lime, and therefore to break the lumps it is necessary to tread it by men in wooden shoes. This unbolted villain is therefore this coarse rascal TOLlet.
Yes, sir; but anger has a privilege.] So, in King John: "Sir, sir, impatience hath its privilege." STEEVENS.
Such smiling rogues as these,] The words-as these, are, in my opinion, a manifest interpolation, and derange the metre without the least improvement of the sense. STEEVENS.
• Like rats, oft bite the holy cords atwain
Which are too intrinse t'unloose:] By these holy cords the poet means the natural union between parents and children. The metaphor is taken from the cords of the sanctuary; and the fomenters of family differences are compared to those sacrilegious rats. The expression is fine and noble. WARBURTON.
The quartos read-to intrench. The folio-t'intrince. Intrinse, for so it should be written, I suppose was used by Shakspeare for intrinsecate, a word which, as Theobald has observed, he has used in Antony and Cleopatra:
That in the natures of their lords rebels;
66 -Come, mortal wretch,
"With thy sharp teeth this knot intrinsecate
We have had already in this play reverbs for reverberates. Again, in Hamlet:
"Season your admiration for a while
"With an attent ear."
The word intrinsecate was but newly introduced into our language, when this play was written. See the preface to Marston's Scourge of Villanie, 1598: "I know he will vouchsafe it some of his new-minted epithets; as real, intrinsecate, Delphicke," &c.
I doubt whether Dr. Warburton has not, as usual, seen more in this passage than the poet intended. In the quartos the word holy is not found, and I suspect it to be an interpolation made in the folio edition. We might perhaps better read, with the elder copy:
Like rats, oft bite those cords in twain, which are
7-smooth every passion-] So the old copies; for which Mr. Pope and the subsequent editors substituted sooth. The verb to smooth occurs frequently in our elder writers. So, in Greene's Groatsworth of Wit, 1592:
"For since he learn'd to use the poet's pen,
"He learn'd likewise with smoothing words to feign." Again, in Titus Andronicus:
"Yield to his humour, smooth, and speak him fair.” Again, in our poet's King Richard III:
"Smile in men's faces, smooth, deceive, and cog."
Mr. Holt White has observed, in a note on Pericles, that in some counties they say-" smooth the cat," instead of "stroke the cat." Thus also Milton:
- smoothing the raven down
Thus also in Stubbes's Anatomie of Abuses, 8vo. 1583: "If you will learn to deride, scoffe, mock and flowt, to flatter and smooth," &c. STEEVENS.
With every gale and vary of their masters,8
and turn their halcyon beaks
With every gale and vary of their masters,] The halcyon is the bird otherwise called the king-fisher. The vulgar opinion was, that this bird, if hung up, would vary with the wind, and by that means show from what point it blew. So, in Marlowe's Jew of Malta, 1633:
"But how now stands the wind?
"Into what corner peers my halcyon's bill?”
Again, in Storer's Life and Death of Thomas Wolsey, Cardinall, a poem, 1599:
"Or as a halcyon with her turning brest,
"Demonstrates wind from wind, and east from west.' Again, in The Tenth Booke of Notable Thinges, by Thomas Lupton, 4to. bl. 1: "A lytle byrde called the Kings Fysher, being hanged up in the ayre by the neck, his nebbe or byll wyll be alwayes dyrect or strayght against ye winde." STEEVENS.
As knowing nought,] As was supplied by Sir Thomas Hanmer, for the sake of connection as well as metre.
epileptick visage!] The frighted countenance of a man ready to fall in a fit. JOHNSON.
Camelot.] Was the place where the romances say king Arthur kept his court in the West; so this alludes to some proverbial speech in those romances. WARBURTON.
So, in The Birth of Merlin, 1662:
raise more powers
"To man with strength the castle Camelot."
Again, in Drayton's Polyolbion, Song III:
"Like Camelot, what place was ever yet renown'd? "Where, as at Carlion, oft he kept the table round."
In Somersetshire, near Camelot, are many large moors, where are bred great quantities of geese, so that many other places are from hence supplied with quills and feathers. HANMER.
GLO. Say that.
KENT. No contraries hold more antipathy, Than I and such a knave.3
How fell you out?
CORN. Why dost thou call him knave? What's his offence?
KENT. His countenance likes me not."
CORN. No more, perchance, does mine, or his, or hers.
KENT. Sir, 'tis my occupation to be plain;
This is some fellow, Who, having been prais'd for bluntness, doth affect A saucy roughness; and constrains the garb, Quite from his nature:5 He cannot flatter, he!— An honest mind and plain, he must speak truth: An they will take it, so; if not, he's plain. These kind of knaves I know, which in this plain
3 No contraries hold more antipathy,
Than I and such a knave.] Hence Mr. Pope's expression: "The strong antipathy of good to bad." TOLLET.
likes me not.] i. e. pleases me not. So, in Every Man out of his Humour :
"I did but cast an amorous eye, e'en now,
Upon a pair of gloves that somewhat lik'd me."
Again, in The Sixth Booke of Notable Thinges, by Thomas Lupton, 4to. bl. 1: "if the wyne have gotten his former strength, the water will smell, and then the wyne will lyke thee." STEEVENS.
constrains the garb,
Quite from his nature:] Forces his outside or his appearance to something totally different from his natural disposition.