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The printer of the First Folio, evidently misunder-
“Wherein my Letter, praying on his side,
The received reading, therefore, though probably right, is only conjectural; unless we are to suppose, from its being adopted by Mr. Collier, that it has the sanction of his manuscript annotator. Some of the modern editors print “slighted of.” At a date considerably later than Shakespeare we have still slighted over (for to treat or perform carelessly). It is used by Dryden in the end of the seventeenth century, as it had been by Bacon in the beginning. The connexion of the various modifications of the term slight is sufficiently obvious. They all involve the notion of quickly and easily escaping or being dispatched and got rid of Perhaps not only slight and sly, but even slide, and slink, and sleek ought to be referred to the same root. In that case the modern German schlau (sly) may be connected not only with schleichen (to move softly), but also with schlecht (plain, simple, honest); strange as it may be thought that the same element should denote slyness or cunning in one modification, and sim
plicity or straightforwardness in another. 524. That every nice offence, etc.—Nice is the Anglo-Saxon nese or himese, tender, soft, gentle. In modern English the word always implies smallness or pettiness, though not always in a disparaging sense, but rather most usually in the contrary. So a pet, literally something small, is the common name for anything that is loved and cherished.—For “his comment” see 54. 525. Let me tell you, Cassius, etc.—Here we have a line with the first syllable wanting, which may be regarded as the converse of those wanting only the last syllable noticed in the note on 246. So, lower down, in 539, we have another speech of Brutus commencing with like abruptness, with a line which wants the two first syllables:—“You say you are a better soldier.” —For the nature of the hemistich see the note on “Made in her concave shores” in 15. 525. Are much condemned to have an itching palm. —To condemn to is now used only in the sense of sentencing to the endurance of. In the present passage the to introduces the cause, not the consequence, of the condemnation. “You are condemned” is used as a stronger expression for you are said, you are alleged, you are charged.—An itching palm is a covetous palm; as we say an itch for praise, an itch for scribbling, etc., or as in the translation of the Bible we read, in 2 Tim. iv. 3, of people “having itching ears” (being exactly after the original, Kv10dpevot Tov čkońv). 525. To sell and mart your offices.—To make merchandise, or matter of bargain and sale, of your appointments and commissions. Mart is held to be a contraction of market, which is connected with the Latin mera and mercor, and so with merchant, mercantile, commerce, etc. 525. To undeservers.-We have lost both this substantive and the verb to disserve (to do an injury to), which Clarendon uses; though we still retain the adjective undeserving. 527. And chastisement doth therefore.—All the old copies have doth. Mr. Collier, however, in his onevolume edition substitutes does.
529, 530. And bay the moon. . . . Brutus, bay not me.—In the First Folio we have “bay the moon,” and “bait not me;” in all the others, “bait the moon” and “bait not me.” Theobald suggested “bay the moon” and “bay not me;” and it is a remarkable confirmation of this conjecture that it exactly accords with the reading given by Mr. Collier's MS. annotator, who in 529 restores in the Second Folio the bay of the First, and in 530 corrects the bait of all the Folios into bay. To bay the moon is to bark at the moon; and bay not me would, of course, be equivalent to bark not, like an infuriated dog, at me. Vid. 349. To bait, again, from the French battre, might be understood to mean to attack with violence. So in Macbeth, v. 7, we have “to be baited with the rabble's curse.” It is possible that there may have been some degree of confusion in the minds of our ancestors between bait and bay, and that both words, imperfectly conceived in their import and origin, were apt to call up a more or less distinct notion of encompassing or closing in. Perhaps something of this is what runs in Cassius's head when he subjoins, “You forget yourself, To hedge me in"— although Johnson interprets these words as meaning “to limit my authority by your direction or censure.” —The present passage may be compared with one in A Winter's Tale, ii. 3:—
“Who late hath beat her husband,
530. I am a soldier, I.-It is impossible to be quite certain whether the second I here be the pronoun or
the adverb which we now write Ay. See the note on “I, as AEneas,” in 54. 530. To make conditions.—To arrange the terms on which offices should be conferred. 531. Go to.—Johnson, in his Dictionary, explains this expression as equivalent to “Come, come, take the right course” (meaning, contemptuously or sarcastically). He adds, that, besides being thus used as “a scornful exhortation,” it is also sometimes “a phrase of exhortation or encouragement;” as in Gen. ari. 4, where the people, after the flood, are represented as saying, “Go to, let us build us a city and a tower,” etc. But it must be understood to be used, again, in the scornful sense three verses lower down, where the Lord is made to say “Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language,” etc. 534. Have mind upon your health.-Mind, is here remembrance, and health is welfare, or safety, generally; senses which are both now obsolete. 535. Away, slight man 1–Vid. 494 and 522. 537. Hear me, for I will speak-The emphasis is not to be denied to the will here, although it stands in the place commonly stated to require an unaccented syllable. Vid. 426,436, and 613. 539. Must I observe you ?—Pay you observance, or reverential attention. 541. You say you are a better soldier.—Wid. 525. 541. I shall be glad to learn of abler men.—The old reading is “noble men;” abler is the correction of Mr. Collier's MS. annotator. Even if this were a mere conjecture, its claim to be accepted would be nearly irresistible. Noble here is altogether inappropriate. Cassius, as Mr. Collier remarks, had said nothing about “noble men,” whereas abler is the very expression that he had used (in 530):— “I am a soldier, I,
Older in practice, abler than yourself
542. I said, an elder soldier.—This is the reading of all the old copies. But Mr. Collier prints older. 551. You have done that you should be sorry for.— The emphasis, of course, is on should. The common meeting of shall, as used by Cassius, is turned, in Brutus's quick and unsparing replication, into the secondary meaning of should (ought to be). Vid. 181. 551. Which I respect not.—Which I heed not. Here respect has rather less force of meaning than it has now acquired; whereas observe in 539 has more than it now conveys. 551. And drop my blood.—Expend my blood in drops. 551. Than to wring.—Although had rather (Vid. 54 and 57), being regarded as of the nature of an auxiliary verb, does not in modern English take a to with the verb that follows it (Vid. 1), it does so here in virtue of being equivalent in sense to would or should prefer. 551. By any indirection.—Indirectness, as we should now say. 551. To lock such rascal counters.-Astolock. Vid. 408. Rascal means despicable. It is an A. Saxon word, properly signifying a lean worthless deer. 551. Dash him to pieces.—This is probably to be understood as the infinitive (governed by the preceding verb be ready) with the customary to omitted. Wid. 1.