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Harbour more craft, and more corrupter ends,
Than twenty silly ducking observants,
That stretch their duties nicely.

KENT. Sir, in good sooth, in sincere verity, Under the allowance of your grand aspéct, Whose influence, like the wreath of radiant fire On flickering Phoebus' front,'


What mean'st by this?

KENT. To go out of my dialect, which you discommend so much. I know, sir, I am no flatterer: he that beguiled you, in a plain accent, was a plain

Than twenty silly ducking observants,] Silly means simple, or rustick. So, in Cymbeline, Act V. sc. iii:

"There was a fourth man in a silly habit," meaning Posthumus in the dress of a peasant. Nicely is with punctilious folly. Niais, Fr. STEEVENS.

See Cymbeline, Act V. sc. iii. Nicely is, I think, with the utmost exactness, with an attention to the most minute trifle. So, in Romeo and Juliet:

"The letter was not nice, but full of charge."


"On flickering Phoebus' front,] Dr. Johnson, in his Diction ary, says this word means to flutter. I meet with it in The History of Clyomon, Knight of the Golden Shield, 1599:

"By flying force of flickering fame your grace shall understand."

Again, in The Pilgrim of Beaumont and Fletcher:

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some castrel

"That hovers over her, and dares her daily;
"Some flickring slave."

Stanyhurst, in his translation of the fourth Book of Virgil's Eneid, 1582, describes Iris

"From the sky down flickering," &c.

And again, in the old play entitled, Fuimus Troes, 1633;

"With gaudy pennons flickering in the air."


Dr. Johnson's interpretation is too vague for the purpose. To flicker is indeed to flutter; but in a particular manner, which may be better exemplified by the motion of a flame, than explained by any verbal description. HENLEY.

knave; which, for my part, I will not be, though I should win your displeasure to entreat me to it. CORN. What was the offence you gave him? Never any:" It pleas'd the king his master, very late,


To strike at me, upon his misconstruction;
When he, conjunct,' and flattering his displeasure,
Tripp'd me behind; being down, insulted, rail'd,
And put upon him such a deal of man,

That worthy'd him, got praises of the king
For him attempting who was self-subdu'd;
And, in the fleshment of this dread exploit,
Drew on me here.3


KENT. None of these rogues, and cowards, But Ajax is their fool.*


though I should win your displeasure to entreat me to it.] Though I should win you, displeased as you now are, to like me so well as to intreat me to be a knave. JOHNSON.

9 Never any:] Old copy:

I never gave him any.

The words here omitted, which are unnecessary to sense and injurious to metre, were properly extruded by Šir T. Hanmer, as a manifest interpolation. STEEVENS.

1-conjunct,] is the reading of the old quartos; compact, of the folio. STEEVENS.


* —— fleshment-] A young soldier is said to flesh his sword, the first time he draws blood with it. Fleshment, therefore, is here metaphorically applied to the first act of service, which Kent, in his new capacity, had performed for his master; and, at the same time, in a sarcastick sense, as though he had esteemed it an heroick exploit to trip a man behind, that was actually falling.

Drew on me here.] Old copy:

Drew on me here again.


But as Kent had not drawn on him before, and as the adverb —again, corrupts the metre, I have ventured to leave it out.


But Ajax is their fool.] Meaning, as we should now express


Fetch forth the stocks, ho!

You stubborn ancient knave, you reverend brag.

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KENT. Sir, I am too old to learn: Call not your stocks for me: I serve the king; On whose employment I was sent to you: You shall do small respect, show too bold malice Against the grace and person of my master, Stocking his messenger.

CORN Fetch forth the stocks: As I've life and honour, there shall he sit till noon.

it, Ajax iş a fool to them, there are none of these knaves and cowards, that if you believe themselves, are not so brave, that Ajax is a fool compared to them; alluding to the Steward's account of their quarrel, where he says of Kent, "This ancient ruffian, whose life I have spared in pity to his gray beard." When a man is compared to one who excels him very much in any art or quality-it is a vulgar expression to say, "He is but a fool to him."

So, in The Wife for a Month, Alphonso says:

"The experienc'd drunkards, let me have them all,

"And let them drink their wish, I'll make them ideots." M. MASON.

The foregoing explanation of this passage was suggested also by Mr. Malone, in his Second Appendix to the Supplement to Shakspeare, 8vo. 1783, in opposition to an idea of mine, which I readily allow to have been erroneous. STEEVENS.

Our poet has elsewhere employed the same phraseology. So, in The Taming of the Shrew:

"Tut, she's a lamb, a dove, a fool to him.”

Again, in King Henry VIII:



now this mask

"Was cry'd incomparable, and the ensuing night
"Made it a fool and beggar."

The phrase in this sense is yet used in low language.


ancient knave,] Two of the quartos read-miscreant knave, and one of them-unreverent, instead of reverend.


REG. Till noon! till night, my lord; and all

night too.

KENT. Why, madam, if I were your father's dog, You should not use me so.


Sir, being his knave, I will. [Stocks brought out."

CORN. This is a fellow of the self-same colour 7 Our sister speaks of:-Come, bring away the stocks.

GLO. Let me beseech your grace not to do so: *His fault is much, and the good king his master Will check him for't: your purpos'd low correction Is such, as basest and contemned'st wretches," For pilferings and most common trespasses, Are punish'd with: the king must take it ill, That he's so slightly valued in his messenger, Should have him thus restrain'd.


I'll answer that.

REG. My sister may receive it much more worse, To have her gentleman abus'd, assaulted,

Stocks &c.] This is not the first time that stocks had been introduced on the stage. In Hick Scorner, which was printed early in the reign of King Henry VIII. Pity is put into them, and left there till he is freed by Perseverance and Contemplacyon.


7 colour-] The quartos read, nature. STEEVENS.

• His fault-] All between the asterisks is omitted in the folio. STEEVENS.

9- and contemned'st wretches,] The quartos read-and temnest wretches. This conjectural emendation was suggested by Mr. Steevens. MALONE.

I found this correction already made in an ancient hand in the margin of one of the quarto copies. STEEVENS.

For following her affairs.'-Put in his legs.

[KENT is put in the Stocks.2

Come, my good lord; away.


GLO. I am sorry for thee, friend; 'tis the duke's pleasure,

Whose disposition, all the world well knows,
Will not be rubb'd, nor stopp'd: I'll entreat for


KENT. Pray, do not, sir: I have watch'd, and travell'd hard;

Some time I shall sleep out, the rest I'll whistle. A good man's fortune may grow out at heels: Give you good morrow!

GLO. The duke's to blame in this; 'twill be ill


[Exit. KENT. Good king, that must approve the common saw !4

For following her affairs. &c.] This line is not in the folio.

I know not whether this circumstance of putting Kent in the stocks be not ridiculed in the punishment of Numps, in Ben Jonson's Bartholomew-Fair.

It should be remembered, that formerly in great houses, as still in some colleges, there were moveable stocks for the correction of the servants. FARMER.

3 Will not be rubb'd, nor stopp'd:] Metaphor from bowling. WARBURTON.

'Good king, that must approve the common saw! &c.] That art now to exemplify the common proverb, That out of, &c. That changest better for worse. Hanmer observes, that it is a proverbial saying, applied to those who are turned out of house and home to the open weather. It was perhaps used of men dismissed from an hospital, or house of charity, such as was erected formerly in many places for travellers. Those houses had names properly enough alluded to by heaven's benediction.


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