« ÎnapoiContinuă »
The housings of a horse, and sometimes a horse himself, were anciently called the foot-cloth. So in Ben Jonson's play called The Case is altered,
"I'll go on my foot-cloth, I'll turn gentleman." So in the tragedy of Muleasses the Turk, 1610,
"I have seen, since my coming to Florence, the son of a pedlar mounted on a foot-cloth.” Again, in A fair Quarrel, by Middleton, 1617, thou shalt have a physician,
"The best that gold can fetch upon his foot-cloth."
-to engross- -] To fatten or pamper.
19 Who meets us here?—my niece Plantagenet,
Led in the hand of her kind aunt of Gloster?] Here is a manifest intimation, that the duchess of Gloster leads in somebody in her hand; but there is no direction marked in any of the copies, from which we can learn who it is. I have ventured to guess it must be Clarence's young daughter. The old duchess of York calls her niece, i. e. grand-daughter; as grandchildren are frequently called nephews. THEOBALD.
20 A king! perhaps] From hence to the words, Thou troublest me, I am not in the vein-have been left out ever since the first editions, but I like them well enough to replace them.
The allusions to the plays of Henry VI. are no weak proofs of the authenticity of these disputed pieces.
21 Because that like a Jack thou keep'st the stroke.] An image, like those of St. Dunstan's church in Fleet
street, which strike on the bell to mark the hour, was called a Jack of the clock.
pew-fellow-] That is companion. Sir J. Hawkins says the word is yet in use.
23 Humphrey Hour,-] This may probably be an allusion to some affair of gallantry of which the duchess had been suspected. I cannot find the name in Holinshed. Surely the poet's fondness for a quibble has not induced him at once to personify and christen that hour of the day which summon'd his mother to breakfast?
24 Till it was whetted on thy stone-hard heart] Shaskpeare is very fond of this broken metaphor. It occurs several times in his plays. In the Merchant of Venice the extravagance is carried still father
Not on thy sole, but on thy soul, harsh Jew,
Thou mak'st thy knife keen.
25 Some light-foot friend post to the duke-} Richard's precipitation and confusion is in this scene very happily represented by inconsistent orders, and sudden variations of opinion.
26 blame the due of blame.] This scene should, in my opinion, be added to the foregoing act, so the fourth act will have a more full and striking conclusion, and the fifth act will comprise the business of the important day, which put an end to the competition of York and Lancaster. Some of the quarto editions are not divided into acts, and it is probable, that this and many other plays were left by the author in one unbroken continuity, and afterwards dis
tributed by chance, or what seems to have been a guide very little better, by the judgment or caprice of the first editors.
27 In your embowell'd bosoms.] Exenterated; ripped up: alluding, perhaps, to the Promethean vulture; or, more probably, to the sentence pronounced in the English courts against traitors, by which they are condemned to be hanged, drawn, that is, embowelled, and quartered.
-Give me a watch:] A watch has many significations, but I should believe that it means in this place not a sentinel, which would be regularly placed at the king's tent; nor an instrument to measure time, which was not used in that age; but a watch-light, a candle to burn by him; the light that afterwards burnt blue; yet a few lines after, he says, Bid my guard watch.
which leaves it doubtful whether watch is not here a sentinel. JOHNSON.
I believe that particular kind of candle is here meant, which was anciently called a watch, because, being marked out into sections, each of which was a certain portion of time in burning, it supplied the place of what we now call a watch. I have seen these candles represented with great nicety in some of the pictures of Albert Durer.
29 Look that my staves be sound,-] Staves mean the shafts, or wooden handles of the lances.
99 O coward conscience,-] This is extremely fine. The speaker had entirely got the better of his consci
ence, and banished it from all his waking thoughts. But it takes advantage of his sleep, and frights him in his dreams. With greater elegance therefore he is made to call it coward conscience, which dares not encounter him while he is himself awake, and his faculties entire; but takes advantage of reason being off its guard, and the powers of the soul dissolved in sleep. But the players, amongst their other innumerable absurdities in the representation of this tragedy, make Richard say, instead of O coward conscience, O tyrant conscience! whereby not only a great beauty is lost, but a great blunder committed. For Richard had entirely got the better of his conscience; which could, on no account, therefore, be said to play the tyrant with him.
31 God, and saint George!-] Saint George was the common cry of the English soldiers when they charged the enemy. The author of the old Arte of Warre, printed in the latter end of queen Elizabeth's reign, formally enjoins the use of this cry among his military laws, page 84.
"Item, that all souldiers entring into battaile, "assault, skirmish, or other faction of armes, shall "have for their common cry and word, Saint George, "forward, or upon them, saint George, whereby the "souldiour is much comforted, and the enemy dis"maied by calling to minde the ancient valour of "England, which with that name has so often been "victorious; and therefore he, who upon any sinister "zeale shall maliciously omit so fortunate a name,
"shall be severely punished for his obstinate erroneous "heart, and perverse mind."
32 A horse! a horse !- -] Some inquiry hath been made for the first performers of the capital characters of Shakspeare.
We learn, that Burbage, the alter Roscius of Camden, was the original Richard, from a passage in the poems of bishop Corbet; who introduces his host at Bosworth describing the battle,
"But when he would have said king Richard died, And call'd a horse, a horse, he Burbage cried."
33 All this divided York and Lancaster,
Divided in their dire division.] I think the pass
age will be somewhat improved by a slight alteration.
All that divided York and Lancaster,
Divided in their dire division,
O now let Richmond and Elizabeth,
The true succeeders of each royal house,
By God's fair ordinance conjoin together.
Let them unite all that York and Lancaster divided.