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Verg. O, a stool and a cushion for the sexton!5
Dogb. Marry, that am I and my partner.
Verg. Nay, that 's certain; we have the exhibition to examine.
Sexton. But which are the offenders that are to be examined? let them come before master constable. Dogb. Yea, marry, let them come before me.— is your name, friend?
Dogb. Pray write down-Borachio.- -Yours, sirrah? Con. I am a gentleman, sir, and my name is Conrade. Dogb. Write down-master gentleman Conrade.— Masters, do you serve God?
Con. Bora. Yea, sir, we hope.
Dogb. Write down-that they hope they serve God: -and write God first; for God defend but God should go before such villains!"-Masters, it is proved already that you are little better than false knaves; and it will go near to be thought so shortly. How answer you for yourselves?
The Sexton (as Mr. Tyrwhitt observed) is styled in this stagedirection, in the old copies, the Town-Clerk, "probably from his doing the duty of such an officer." But this error has only happened here; for throughout the scene itself he is described by his proper title. By mistake also in the quarto, and the folio, which appears to have been printed from it, the name of Kempe (an actor in our author's theatre) throughout this scene is prefixed to the speeches of Dogberry, and that of Cowley to those of Verges, except in two or three instances, where either Constable or Andrew are substituted for Kempe. Malone.
5 O, a stool and a cushion for the sexton!] Perhaps a ridicule was here aimed at The Spanish Tragedy:
"Hieron. What, are you ready?
"Balth. Bring a chaire and a cushion for the king." Malone. • Con. Bora. Yea, sir, we hope.
Dogb. Write down-that they hope they serve God:-and write God first; for God defend but God should go before such villains!] This short passage, which is truly humorous and in character, have added from the old quarto. Besides, it supplies a defect: for without it, the Town-Clerk asks a question of the prisoners, and goes on without staying for any answer to it. Theobald.
The omission of this passage since the edition of 1600, may be accounted for from the stat. 3 Jac. I, c. 21, the sacred name being jestingly used four times in one line. Blackstone.
Con. Marry, sir, we say we are none.
Dogb. A marvellous witty fellow, I assure you; but I will go about with him.-Come you hither, sirrah; a word in your ear, sir; I say to you, it is thought you are false knaves.
Bora. Sir, I say to you, we are none.
Dogb. Well, stand aside.-'Fore God, they are both in a tale: Have you writ down-that they are none? Sexton. Master constable, you go not the way to examine; you must call forth the watch that are their ac
Dogb. Yea, marry, that's the eftest way: '-Let the watch come forth:-Masters, I charge you, in the prince's name, accuse these men.
1 Watch. This man said, sir, that Don John, the prince's brother, was a villain.
Dogb. Write down-prince John a villain:-Why this is flat perjury, to call a prince's brother-villain.
7'Fore God, they are both in a tale:] This is an admirable stroke of humour: Dogberry says of the prisoners that they are false knaves; and from that denial of the charge, which one in his wits could not but be supposed to make, he infers a communion of counsels, and records it in the examination as an evidence of their guilt. Sir J. Hawkins.
If the learned annotator will amend his comment by omitting the word guilt, and inserting the word innocence, it will (except as to the supposed inference of a communication of counsels, which should likewise be omitted or corrected) be a just and pertinent remark. Ritson.
8 Yea, marry, that's the eftest way:] Our modern editors, who were at a loss to make out the corrupted reading of the old copies, read easiest. The quarto, in 1600, and the first and second editions in folio, all concur in reading-Yea, marry, that's the eftest way, &c. A letter happened to slip out at press in the first edition; and 'twas too hard a task for the subsequent editors to put it in, or guess at the word under this accidental deprivation. There is no doubt but the author wrote, as I have restored the text-rea, marry, that's the deftest way, i. e. the readiest, most commodious way. The word is pure Saxon. Dearlice, debite, congrue, duly, fitly, Ledathe, opportune, commode, fitly, conveniently, seasonably, in good time, commodiously. Vide Spelman's Saxon Gloss. Theobald.
Mr. Theobald might have recollected the word deftly in Macbeth:
"Thyself and office deftly show." Shakspeare, I suppose, designed Dogberry to corrupt this word as well as many others.
Bora. Master constable,
Dogb. Pray thee, fellow, peace; I do not like thy look, I promise thee.
Sexton. What heard you him say else?
2 Watch. Marry, that he had received a thousand ducats of Don John, for accusing the lady Hero wrongfully. Dogb. Flat burglary, as ever was committed.
Verg. Yea, by the mass, that it is.
Sexton. What else, fellow?
1 Watch. And that count Claudio did mean, upon his words, to disgrace Hero before the whole assembly, and not marry her.
Dogb. O villain! thou wilt be condemned into everlasting redemption for this.
Sexton. What else?
2 Watch. This is all.
Sexton. And this is more, masters, than you can deny. Prince John is this morning secretly stolen away; Hero was in this manner accused, in this very manner refused, and upon the grief of this, suddenly died.-Master constable, let these men be bound, and brought to Leonato's; I will go before, and show him their examination.
Dogb. Come, let them be opinion'd.
Con. Off, coxcomb!"
9 Verg. Let them be in band.
Con. Off, coxcomb!] The old copies read,
"Let them be in the hands of coxcomb." Steevens.
"When Phoebus next unclos'd his wakeful eye,
Dogb. God's my life! where's the sexton? let him
The passage then in question is to be read thus:
Sexton. Let them be in hand.
Dogberry would have them pinion'd. The Sexton says, it was sufficient if they were kept in safe custody, and then goes out. When one of the watchmen comes up to bind them, Conrade says, Off, coxcomb! as he says afterwards to the constable, Away! you are an ass.-But the editor adds, The old quarto gave me the first umbrage for placing it to Conrade. What these words mean I don't know: but I suspect the old quarto divides the passage as I have done. Warburton.
Theobald has fairly given the reading of the quarto.
Dr. Warburton's assertion, as to the dignity of a sexton or sacristan, may be supported by the following passage in Stany. hurst's Version of the fourth Book of the Eneid, where he calls the Massylian priestess:
-in soil Massyla begotten,
"Sexten of Hesperides sinagog."
Let them be in hand.] I had conjectured that these words should be given to Verges, and read thus-Let them bind their hands. I am still of opinion that the passage belongs to Verges; but, for the true reading of it, I should wish to adopt a much neater emendation, which has since been suggested to me in conversation by Mr. Steevens-Let them be in band. Shakspeare, as he observed to me, commonly uses band for bond. Tyrwhitt.
It is plain that they were bound from a subsequent speech of Pedro: "Whom have you offended, masters, that you are thus bound to your answer?" Steevens.
Off, coxcomb!] The old copies read-of, and these words make a part of the last speech, "Let them be in the hands of coxcomb." The present regulation was made by Dr. Warburton, and has been adopted by the subsequent editors. Off was formerly spelt of. In the early editions of these plays a broken sentence (like that before us,-Let them be in the hands-) is almost always corrupted by being tacked, through the ignorance of the transcriber or printer, to the subsequent words. So, in Coriolanus, instead of
"You shames of Rome! you herd of-Boils and plagues "Plaister you o'er!"
we have in the folio, 1623, and the subsequent copies, "You shames of Rome, you! Herd of boils and plagues," &c. See also, Measure for Measure.
Perhaps, however, we should read and regulate the passage thus:
Ver. Let them be in the hands of-[the law, he might have intended to say.]
Con. Coxcomb! Malone.
There is nothing in the old quarto different in this scene from the common copies, except that the names of two actors, Kempe
write down-the prince's officer coxcomb.-Come, bind them:- -Thou naughty varlet!
Con. Away! you are an ass, you are an ass.
Dogb. Dost thou not suspect my place? Dost thou not suspect my years?-O that he were here to write me down-an ass!—but, masters, remember, that I am an ass; though it be not written down, yet forget not that I am an ass:-No, thou villain, thou art full of piety, as shall be proved upon thee by good witness. I am a wise fellow; and, which is more, an officer; and, which is more, a housholder; and, which is more, as pretty a piece of flesh as any is in Messina; and one that knows the law, go to; and a rich fellow enough, go to; and a fellow that hath had losses; and one that hath two gowns, and every thing handsome about him:-Bring him away. O, that I had been writ down-an ass!
ACT V..... SCENE I.
Before LEONATO's House.
Enter LEONATO and ANTONIO.
Ant. If you go on thus, you will kill yourself;
But such a one whose wrongs do suit with mine.
And bid him speak of patience;1
Measure his woe the length and breadth of mine,
And let it answer every strain for strain;
and Cowley, are placed at the beginning of the speeches, instead of the proper words. Johnson.
1 And bid him speak of patience;] Read
"And bid him speak to me of patience." Ritson.