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good BROTHER FATHER"-" In return to Elbow's blundering address of good father friar—(i. e. “ "good father brother')-the Duke humorously calls him, in his own style, 'good brother father.' This would appear still clearer in French-Dieu vous benisse, mon père frère. Et vous aussi, mon frère père.' There is no doubt that our friar is a corruption of the French frère."-TYRWHITT.
A. De Vigny, in the preface to his spirited translation of OTHELLO, etc., into French verse, expresses his surprise at finding so much of the antiquated English of Shakespeare to be good old French.
"From our faults, as faults from seeming, free"The meaning is obscure from brevity. The Duke wishes that we were all as free from faults as faults are from seeming to be so. Many editors print, with the second folio, "Free from our faults," etc.
-DETECTED for women"-The use of this word, in the various extracts from old authors, collected by the commentators, show that its old meaning was (not suspected, as some of them say, but) charged, arraigned, accused. Thus, in Greenway's "Tacitus," (1622,) the Roman senators, who informed against their kindred, are said "to have detected the dearest of their kindred." "in her CLACK-DISH"-"A wooden dish, with a moveable cover, formerly carried by beggars, which they clacked and clattered to show that they were empty. In this they received the alms. It was one mode of attracting attention. Lepers, and other paupers deemed infectious, originally used it, that the sound might give warning not to approach too near, and alms be given without touching the object. The custom of clacking at Easter is not yet quite disused, in some of the counties in England. Lucio's meaning is too evident to want explanation."-SINGER.
INWARD of his"-" Inward" is intimate. Here it is used substantively.
"the business he hath HELMED"-The business, vessel of the state, of which he hath taken the helm.
"— an OPPOSITE"-i. e. Adversary, or opponent. "eat MUTTON on FRIDAYS"-This figure is taken from the fasting required on Fridays, and from the word "mutton" being applied to flesh, both human and bestial. "Mutton" and "laced mutton" were the commonest terms applied to prostitutes, in Shakespeare's time.
"the DISSOLUTION of it must cure it"-i. e. Virtue has become so extreme, that it must have a speedy end. The reference is to the overstrained sanctity and zeal of Angelo.
"-to make fellowships accurs'd"-"The sense is, (says Holt White,) there scarcely exists sufficient honesty in the world to make social life secure; but there are occasions enough when a man may be drawn in to become surety, which will make him pay dearly for his friendships."
"Grace to stand, and virtue go"-Coleridge, in his Literary Remains," observes, upon this passage, "Worse metre, indeed, but better English would beGrace to stand, virtue to go."
M. Mason proposed to read
In grace to stand, and virtue go. The text, as it stands, accords with the pervading compressed and broken style of the whole drama.
"-weed my vice, and let his grow"-Some commentators make this refer to the Duke's personal fault, which he confesses-"'twas my fault to give this people scope." I rather think most readers will agree with Malone, that "My does not relate to the Duke in particular, but to any indefinite person. The meaning seems to be, to destroy by extirpation (as it is expressed in another place) a fault that I have committed, and to suffer his own vices to grow to a rank and luxuriant height. The speaker puts himself in the case of an unoffending person."
"Most pond'rous and substantial things"-I believe, with several of the best critics, that this passage, probably originally obscure from brevity of expression, has become more so from some misprint, the correction of which has not been discovered. "Likeness (says Collier) has been construed comeliness; but likeness made in crimes may refer to the resemblance, in vicious inclination, between Angelo and Claudio." Stevens gave up the lines as unintelligible, and the other commentators have not extracted much meaning out of them. We have printed the old text, as at least as good as any of the proposed emendations. The sense seems to be'How may persons, of similar criminality, by making practice on the times, draw to themselves, as it were with spiders' webs, the ponderous and substantial benefits of the world."
ACT IV.-SCENE 1.
"Take, O! take those lips away"-The earliest authority for assigning this song to Shakespeare, (excepting that one stanza of it is found here,) is the spurious edition of his "Poems," printed in 1640. It is inserted in Beaumont and Fletcher's "Bloody Brother," (act v. scene 2,) with a second stanza, as follows:Hide, O! hide those hills of snow, Which thy frozen bosom bears, On whose tops the pinks that grow Are of those that April wears; But first set my poor heart free, Bound in those icy chains by thee.
Critics differ as to the authorship. Coupling the two circumstances that one stanza of the song is found here, and that the whole was imputed to Shakespeare in 1640, his claim may be admitted, until better evidence is adduced to deprive him of it; unless, indeed, we admit Weber's very probable conjecture, that this stanza is Shakespeare's, and that Fletcher, having occasion for a similar song, borrowed the first, and added the second
"a PLANCHED gate"-i. e. A gate made of boards: (from the French planche.)
"There, have I made my promise, upon the Heavy middle of the night to call upon him."
I have here, like Knight, preferred retaining the original metrical regulation, harsh as it may be, to an arbi
trary change, which adds little melody to the linesand these, indeed, are not the worse for approaching to prose. By pointing and reading, as the sense directs, "have I made my promise" parenthetically, or between commas, the verse is more perceptible. Knight well remarks:-"There are many examples in Shakespeare's later plays, particularly in HENRY VIII., of metrical arrangements such as this, in which the freedom of versification is carried to the extremest limit. We believe it to be characteristic of a period of the Poet's life, and therefore cannot consent to remove these decided indications. The lines are ordinarily regulated as follows:There have I made my promise to call on him, Upon the heavy middle of the night."
"I have POSSESS'D him"-i. e. Informed him.
"most contrarious QUESTS"-i. e. False and contradictory inquisitions, and pryings into conduct. Inquest, in its legal sense, has the same origin, being an inquiry by a jury; and was abridged to " quest," as it may still be heard in vulgar usage.
"our TILTH's to sow"-The older copies have, "our tythes to sow." Warburton suggested it was a misprint for "tilth," which is, I think, the true reading, though not generally adopted. "Tilth" was a favourite old farming word, which is thus explained, by an old writer on husbandry-(Markham's "English Husbandry," 1635:)-"Begin to sow your barley upon that ground which the year before did lye fallow, and is commonly called your tilth, or fallow-field." It is a confirmation of this correction that, in this very book, on another "tilth" is misprinted, as here, tithe. The page, Duke then says "The harvest is so far from being ready to reap, that we have as yet not even sowed our field!"
- every TRUE man's apparel fits your thief"This is the old and more characteristic division of the dialogue, though the last speech of the Clown has been, after much learned discussion, in several editions, coupled with Abhorson's answer. The Clown asks Abhorson for proof that his occupation is a mystery, and receives for reply, merely, "Every true man's (i. e. honest man's) apparel fits your thief." The Clown, who is a quick fellow, catches at the reasoning passing in Abhorson's mind, and explains in what way every true man's apparel fits your thief." The author has made Abhorson a person of a certain concise and silent gravity, as if, indeed, he painted from some individual of this class, whose peculiarities he thought worthy of being preserved in this representative of his profession. He, therefore, contents himself with the assertion upon which the Clown enlarges.
you shall find me YARE"-i. e. Handy; nimble in the execution of the office.
the assignment of these speeches. In the original, the Duke says, "This is his lordship's man;" whereas it is not likely that the Provost, who has so strongly expressed his opinion that Angelo would be unrelenting, and who subsequently says "I told you," should, upon the very appearance of a messenger, exclaim—“ And here comes Claudio's pardon."
"young MR. RASH"-" This enumeration of the inhabitants of the prison affords a very striking view of the practices predominant in Shakespeare's age. Besides those whose follies are common to all times, we have four fighting-men and a traveller. It is not unlikely that the originals of the pictures were then known."-JOHNSON.
"a commodity of brown paper and old ginger"— An amusing and instructive paper might be made up from the plays, novels, and essays of France and Eng land, for the last three centuries, describing the still familiar arts of the money-lenders, to whom men of des perate credit are driven for aid, in contriving to avoid the usury laws, by obliging the hapless customer to take a portion of their loan in some unsaleable commodities. such as "brown paper and old ginger." From Shakespeare, who, as he soon became (in his own phrase) “a rich fellow enough, and had every thing handsome about him," must have described only the experience of others, to Sheridan, who doubtless related his own experience in that of Charles Surface, there is hardly an English writer of comic fiction but has at least hinted at this fruitful topic. Le Sage, Molière, etc., down to the present novelists of Paris, have also found in this perpetual food for pleasantry; and their laughable satire would not require much alteration to make it very intelligible on this side of the Atlantic. The first notice of it, that has fallen in my way, was in Wilson's “Discourse on Usury," (1572;) and, as he speaks of it as be ing then no novelty, this establishes a very respectable antiquity for this time-honoured usage.
"YONDER generation"—"The original is yond, in which the printer no doubt followed the contraction of the writer. But in most modern editions, we have the under generation; which change (says Johnson) was made by Hanmer, with true judgment.' Shakespeare has, indeed, in RICHARD II., alluded to the antipodes in a poetical figure :—
when the searching eye of heaven is hid Behind the globe, and lights the lower world. But what is gained in the passage before us by perplexing the time when the Duke assures the Provost he shall find his safety manifested? The scene takes place before the dawning: Claudio is to be executed by four of the clock. The Duke says
As near the dawning, provost, as it is, You shall hear more ere morning. Subsequently, when the morning is come, Isabella is told the Duke comes home to-morrow.' Speaking. then, in the dark prison, before sunrise, nothing can be more explicit than the Duke's statement that before the sun has twice made his daily greeting to 'yonder' generation-i. e. to the life without the walls-the Provost shall be assured of his safety. But at the time when he was speaking it would be evening at the antipodes: and if the Provost waited for his safety till the sun had twice risen upon the under generation, he would have to wait till a third day before he received that assurance: and this contradicts what is afterwards said of to-moTrow."-KNIGHT.
your BOSOM on this wretch"-i. e. (As the Duke just afterwards expresses it) "revenges to your heart."
"I am COMBINED"-i. e. Bound by agreement: in the same sense as Angelo is called the combinate husband of Mariana.
the old fantastical Duke of dark corners"Schlegel has some very just remarks concerning the character of the Duke, and the way in which Shakespeare incidentally informs us of his peculiarities from the mouth of Lucio. The Duke loves justice and truth, but it is his "crotchet" to attain them by crooked ways, and by lurking in disguises. "The interest (says Schlegel) reposes altogether on the action: curiosity constitutes no part of our delight; for the Duke, in the disguise of a monk, is always present to watch over his dangerous representatives, and to avert every evil which could possibly be apprehended. The Duke acts the part of the monk naturally, even to deception; he unites in his person the wisdom of the priest and the prince. His wisdom is merely fond of too roundabout ways: his vanity is flattered by acting invisibly, like an earthly providence; he is more enter tained with overhearing his subjects than governing them in the ordinary manner. As he at last extends pardon to all the guilty, we do not see how his original purpose of restoring the strictness of the laws, by com mitting the execution of them to other hands, has in any wise been accomplished." Hazlitt thinks he was "more absorbed in his own plots and gravity than anxious for the welfare of the state; more tenacious of his own character than attentive to the feelings and apprehensions of others." All this seems true; and yet we feel that the Duke, however fantastical," is an excellent man. He loves justice, but mercy still more.
-BEHOLDING to your reports"-The active instead of the passive participle was in general use at the time, and there is no reason for altering it. It is what Shakespeare wrote.
"a better wOODMAN than thou takest him for"i. e. One who hunted after women as the woodman hunts after deer; from the double meaning of deer, and dear:
"Well, well, son John,
I see you are a woodman, and can choose Your deer, though it be i' the dark.”
44- makes me UNPREGNANT"-Stevens remarks that in the first scene the Duke says that Escalus is preg nant-(i. e. ready in the forms of law.) Unpregnant," therefore, in the instance before us, is unready, unprepared.
"Yet reason dares her No"-This very obscure line is printed, in our text, as it is in the first copies. Stevens and other editors have thought to make the sense plainer by pointing it thus:-" Yet reason dares her?— No." Dare was often used in the sense of terrify, overawe; as in Beaumont and Fletcher
These mad mischiefs
In this sense we understand the passage thus:-" She
her? No." It is, after all, quite possible that the obscurity here, as in other passages of this play, arises from a typographical error, the true reading of which has not yet been discovered.
my authority bears or a credent bulk"-This is ordinarily printed, "bears off a credent bulk;" or else "of" is omitted. We follow the original. "Of" seems used, as often in Old-English, in a partitive or indefinite sense; as if he had said, "some credent bulk." In this way we find, in the MIDSUMMER-NIGHT'S DREAM"I desire you of more acquaintance." So, in a contemporary poet, Warner-"His ghost commandeth me of aid."
GENEROUS and gravest citizens"-" Generous" is here used in its Latin sense, for noble, of rank and birth. "Gravest," too, is in its less usual and Latin sense, for weightiest, most respected.
"HENT the gates"-i. e. Have taken possession of the gates. The word "hent" is derived from the Saxon hentan-to catch, or lay hold of. Shakespeare has it again in the WINTER'S TALE-"And merrily hent the stile-a." Hint has the same etymology, as Horne Tooke has observed. "Hent" was in use among the contemporaries of Spenser and Shakespeare.
"For INEQUALITY"-Johnson thought that "inequality" refers to the unequal position of the accuser and the accused; but Isabella adverts to the Duke's previous speech, where the indications of madness are definedapparent inconsistency, surrounded by "the oddest frame of sense."
"— hide the false SEEMS TRUE"-Malone interprets this "For ever hide-i. e. plunge into eternal darkness-the false one, Angelo, who now seems honest." Looking to the elliptical construction which prevails in this play, the meaning appears to be, clearly enoughDraw the truth from obscurity, and obscure the false which now seems true. The "seems true" is taken as one compounded word, and used substantively.
"as LIKE, as it is TRUE"-The Duke says, in derision, "This is most likely;" and Isabella replies by a wish that it had as much the appearance of truth as it had of the reality.
In COUNTENANCE"-i. e. In the sanctified presence and face of Angelo.
"— TEMPORARY meddler”—This seems to me plain enough, taking "temporary" for temporal, in opposition to the "man divine and holy." He is not a "meddler" in temporal matters.
"I'll be IMPARTIAL"-" Impartial," like several other words with the prefix im, bore, in Old-English, two senses, directly contradictory; and the use vibrated between them. Im is sometimes the negative, and sometimes merely intensive. Here it is taken literally. The Duke will take no part, whatever. He will leave it to the just judge to decide his own cause.
"-short of COMPOSITION"-Her fortune, which was promised proportionate to mine, fell short of the "composition"-i. e. contract, or bargain.
"Nor here PROVINCIAL"-"The different orders of monks (says M. Mason) have a chief, who is called the general of the order; and they have also superiors, subordinate to the general, in the several provinces through which the order may be dispersed. The friar, therefore, means to say, that the Duke dares not touch a finger of his; for he could not punish him by his own authority, as he was not his subject, nor through that of the superior, as he was not of that province."
-the FORFEITS in a barber's shop"-" Barbers' shops were anciently places of great resort for passing away time in an idle manner. By way of enforcing some kind of regularity, and, perhaps, at least as much to promote drinking, certain laws were usually hung up, the transgression of which was to be punished by specific forfeits;' which were as much in mock as mark, because the barber had no authority of himself to enforce them, and also because they were of a ludicrous nature."-SINGER.
"MEASURE FOR MEASURE, commonly referred to the end of 1603, is perhaps, after HAMLET, LEAR, and MACBETH, the play in which Shakespeare struggles, as it were, most with the overmastering power of his own mind: the depths and intricacies of being which he has searched and sounded, with intense reflection, perplex and harass him; his personages arrest their course of action to pour forth, in language the most remote from common use, thoughts which few could grasp in the clearest expression; and thus he loses something of dramatic excellence in that of his contemplative philosophy. The Duke is designed as the representative of this philosophical character. He is stern and melancholy by temperament, averse to the exterior shows of power, and secretly conscious of some unfitness for its practical duties. The subject is not very happily chosen, but artfully improved by Shakespeare. In most of the numerous stories of a similar nature, which before or since his time have been related, the sacrifice of chastity is really made, and made in vain. There is, however,
"Away with those GIGLOTS"-i. e. Wantons. So, something too coarse and disgusting in such a story; KING HENRY VI., (part i.:)
Young Talbot was not born
Measure still for Measure"-"The play (says Schlegel) takes its name improperly from the punishment: the sense of the whole is properly the triumph of mercy over strict justice; no man being himself so secure from error as to be entitled to deal it out among his equals. The most beautiful ornament of this composition is the character of Isabella, who, in the inten tion of taking the veil, allows herself to be prevailed on by pious love again to tread the perplexing ways of the world; while the heavenly purity of her mind is not even stained with one unholy thought by the general corruption. In the heavenly robes of the novice of a nunnery, she is a true angel of light." Hazlitt's criticism is acute, but wants a true sympathy with the author's feelings and objects:-"This is a play as full of genius as it is of wisdom. But there is a general want of passion; the affections are at a stand: our sympathies are repulsed and defeated in all directions. The only passion which influences the story is that of Angelo; and yet he seems to have a much greater passion for hypocrisy than for his mistress. Neither are we greatly enamoured of Isabella's rigid chastity, though she could not act otherwise than she did. We do not feel the same confidence in the virtue that is sublimely good' at another's expense, as if it had been put to some more disinterested issue." The same writer, after remarking on the equivocal character and situation in the drama of the Duke, Claudio, and the love of Mariana for Angelo, at whose conduct we revolt, adds, that 'in this respect there may be said to be a general system of cross-purposes between the feelings of the different characters, and the sympathies of the reader or the audience."
and it would have deprived him of a splendid exhibition of character. The virtue of Isabella, inflexible and independent of circumstance, has something very grand and elevated; yet one is disposed to ask, whether, if Claudio had been really executed, the spectator would not have gone away with no great affection for her; and at least we now feel that her reproaches against her miserable brother, when he clings to life like a frail and guilty being, are too harsh. There is great skill in the invention of Mariana, and without this the story could not have had any thing like a satisfactory termination; yet it is never explained how the Duke had become acquainted with this secret, and, being acquainted with it, how he had preserved his esteem and confidence in Angelo. His intention, as hinted towards the end, to marry Isabella, is a little too common-place; it is one of Shakespeare's hasty half-thoughts. The language of this comedy is very obscure, and the text seems to have been printed with great inaccuracy. I do not value the comic parts highly; Lucio's impudent profligacy, the result rather of sensual debasement than of natural illdisposition, is well represented; but Elbow is a very inferior repetition of Dogberry. In dramatic effect, MEASURE FOR MEASURE stands high; the two scenes between Isabella and Angelo, that between her and Claudio, those where the Duke appears in disguise, and the catastrophe in the fifth act, are admirably written and very interesting-except so far as the spectator's knowledge of the two stratagems, which have deceived Angelo, may prevent him from participating in the indignation at Isabella's imaginary wrong, which her lamentations would excite. Several of the circumstances and characters are borrowed from the old play of Whetstone, Promos and Cassandra;' but very little of the sentiments or language. What is good in MEASURE FOR MEASURE is Shakespeare's own."-HALLAM, Literature of Europe.