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a note on the expression in Hamlet, ii. 2,
66 Little eyases, that cry out on the top of question,” Steevens gives it as his opinion that question " in this place, as in many others, signifies conversation, dialogue.” And he quotes in corroboration Antonio's remark, in The Merchant of Venice, iv. I, “I pray you, think you question with the Jew.” But in that passage the meaning of the word is merely the ordinary one, you debate, argue, hold controversy, with. The following may perhaps be adduced as an instance of the use of the word in a somewhat larger sense, involving little or nothing of the notion of a doubt or dispute :
- Thou shalt accompany us to the place, where we will, not appearing what we are, have some question with the shepherd.” Winter's Tale, iv. 1.
376. Nor his offences enforced. - Dwelt upon and pressed, or more than simply stated. In the samne sense in Coriolanus, ii. 3, the tribune Sicinius exhorts the populace touching Marcius — “Enforce his pride, And his old hate unto you.”
376. As which of you shall not? — We find which in the Saxon forins hwilc, pwylc, and hwelc - forms which have been supposed to arise out of the combination of the relative hwa with lic (like), the annexation being designed to give greater generalization or indefiniteness of meaning to the pronoun. At all events, the word is used with reference to nouns of all genders, as is also its representative the whilk, or quhilk, of the old Scottish dialect, and as the English which, too, formerly was even when an ordinary relative (as we have it in the time-honored formula “Our Father which art in heaven”), and still is both whenever it is interrogative and likewise when the antecedent to which it is relative is either
suppressed or joined with it in the same concord and government. Thus, we say of persons as well as of things, “ Which was it?” and “I do not know which of them it was," as Brutus, addressing his fellow-citizens, las here “Which of you ;” and it is even allowable to say 66 Louis XVI., which king it was in whose reign - or, in the reign of which king it was that the French Revolution broke out.”
The stage direction in the original edition is, "Enter Mark Antony, with Cæsar's body."
376. My besi lover. - See 259.
381. Shall now be crowned in Brutus. The now is not in the old texts, but was supplied by Pope, and has been retained by Malone and Boswell, as well as by Steevens. [So Collier, Hudson, and White. Dyce follows the old text, but doubts its integrity.] It may not be the true word, but that some word is wanting is certain. The dialogue here is evidently intended to be metrical, and “ Shall be crowned in Brutus” is not a possible commencement of a verse.
386. Do grace to Cæsar's corpse. — We have lost this idiom, though we still say “to do honor to.” [Compare 407: “ do him reverence."]
389. I am beholden to you. Both here and also in 391 the first three Folios have all beholding, which may possibly have been the way in which Shakespeare wrote the word (as it is that in which it was often written in his day), but may nevertheless be rectified on the same principle as other similar improprieties with which all modern editors have taken that liberty. Yet beholding is, I believe, always Bacon's word; as in his Tenth Essay “ The stage is more beholding to love than the life
of man.” Even in Clarendon, reporting the words of Queen Henrietta to himself, we have old confessor, Father Philips, ... always told her, that, as she ought to continue firm and constant to her own religion, so she was to live well towards the Protestants who deserved well from her, and to whom she was beholding.” (Hist. Book xiii.) The initial syllable of the word is of more interest than its termination.
The complete disappearance from the modern form of the English language of the verbal prefix ge is a remarkable fact, and one which has not attracted the notice which it deserves. ment may be said to have been the favorite and most distinguishing peculiarity of the language in the period preceding the Norman Conquest. In the inflection of the verb it was not merely, as in modern German, the sign of the past participle passive, but might be prefixed to any other part; and the words of all kinds which commenced with it, and in which it was not inflectional, amounted to several thousands. Yet now there is no native English word having ge for its initial syllable in existence ; nor, indeed, has there been for many centuries : there are not only no such words in Chaucer, whose age (the fourteenth century) is reckoned the commencement of the period of what is denominated Middle English ; there are none even in Robert de Brunne, and very few, if any, in Robert of Gloucester, who belong to the thirteenth century, or to the age of what is commonly designated Early English. The inflectional ge is found at a comparatively late date only in the reduced or softened form of y, and even so scarcely after the middle of the sixteenth century (which
be taken as the date of the com.
mencement of Modern English) except in a few antique words preserved or revived by Spenser. If two or three such words as yclad and yclept are to be found in Shakespeare, they are introduced with a view to a burlesque or grotesque effect, as they might be by a writer of the present day. They did not belong to the language of his age any more than they did to that of Thomson, who in the last century sprinkled his Castle of Indolence with words of this description, the better to keep up his imitation of Spenser. As for the “star-ypointing pyramid" attributed to Milton (in his lines on Shakespeare), it is in all probability a mistake of his modern editors: “ypointed” might have been credible, but “ypointing" scarcely is. The true reading probably is “starry-pointing.” [Compare Marsh, Lect.on Eng. Lang. First Series, p. 333.] It has commonly been assumed that, with such rare and insignificant exceptions (if exceptions they are to be considered), the old prefix ge has entirely passed away or been ejected from the language in its present state, — that it has dropped off, like a decayed member, without anything being substituted in its place. But the fact is not so.
It is certain, that, both in its inflectional and in its non-inflectional character, it still exists in a good many words in a disguised form, - in that namely of be. Many of our words beginning with be cannot be otherwise accounted for. Our beloved, for example, is undoubtedly the Saxon gelufed. Another remarkable instance is that of the familiar word belief or believe. The Saxon has no such verb as belyfan; its form for our believe is gelyfan (the same with the modern German glauben). Again, to become (at least in the sense of to suit) is the Saxon gecweman: there is no becweman. Become, in this sense, it ought to be noticed, has apparently no connection with to come (from coman, or cuman); we have its root cweman in the old English to quem, meaning to please, used by Chaucer. And the German also, like our modern English, has in this instance lost or rejected both the simple form and the ge- form, retaining, or substituting, only bequem and bequemen. Nor is there any belang or belong; our modern belong is from the ancient gelang. In like manner there is no such Saxon verb as besecan; there is only gesecan, from which we have formed our beseek and beseech.. So tacn, or tacen, is a token, from which is getacnian, to denote by a token or sign; there is no betacnian: yet we say to betoken. And there are probably other examples of the same thing among the words now in use having be for the commencing syllable (of which the common dictionaries give us about a couple of hundreds), although the generality of them are only modern fabrications constructed in imitation of one another, and upon no other principle than the assumption that the syllable in question may be prefixed to almost any verb whatever. Such are bepraise, bepowder, bespatter, bethump, and many more. Only between thirty and forty seem to be traceable to Saxon verbs beginning with be.
The facts that have been mentioned sufficiently explain the word beholden. It has nothing to do with the modern behold, or the ancient behealdan (which, like its modern representative, signified to see or look on), but is another form, according to the corruption which we have seen to take place in so many other instances, of gehealden, the past participle passive of healdan, to hold; whence its meaning, here and always, of held, bound, obliged.