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And indeed the sense and spirit of Hector's speech requires that the most celebrated of his adversaries should be picked out to be defied; and this was Achilles, with whom Hector had his final affair. We must conclude then that Shakspeare wrote,
Not Neoptolemus's sire irascible,
On whose bright crestIrascible is an old school term, and is an epithet suiting his character, and the circumstances he was then in:
-“Impiger, iracundus, inexorabilis, acer." But our editor Mr. Theobald, by his obscure diligence, had found out that Wynken de Worde, in the old chronicle of The three Destructions of Troy, introduces one Neoptolemus into the ten years quarrel, a person distinct from the son of Achilles; aná therefore will have it, that Shakspeare here means no other than the Neoptolemus of this worthy chronicler. He was told, to no purpose, that this fancy was absurd. For first, Wynken's Neoptolemus is a common-rate warrior, and so described as not to fit the character here given. Secondly, it is not to be imagined that the poet should on this occasion make Hector refer to a character not in the play, and never so much as mentioned on any other occasion. Thirdly, Wynken's Neoptolemus is a warrior on the Trojan side, and slain by Achilles. But Hector must needs mean by one “ who could promise a thought of added honour torn “ from him," a warrior amongst his enemies on the Grecian side.
After all this contention it is difficult to imagine that the critic believes mirable to have been changed to irascible. I should sooner read,
Not Neoptolemus th' admirable ; as I know not whether mirable can be found in any other place. The correction which the learned commentator gave to Hanmer,
Not Neoptolemus' sire so mirable, as it was modester than this, was preferable to it. But nothing is more remote from justness of sentiment, than for Hector to characterise Achilles as the father of Neoptolemus, a youth that had not yet appeared in arms, and whose name was therefore much less known than his father's. My opinion is, that by Neoptolemus the author meant Achilles himself; and remembering that the son was Pyrrhus Neoptolemus, considered Neoptolemus as the nomen gentilitium, and thought the father was likewise Achilles Neoptole
Shakspeare certainly uses Neoptolemus for Achilles. Wilfride Holme, the author of a poem
called The Fall and evil Successe of Rebellion, &c. 1537, had made the same mistake before him, as the following stanza will shew :
“ Also the triumphant Troyans victorious, 'By Anthenor and Æneas false confederacie,
“Sending Polidamus to Neoptolemus, “Who was vanquished and subdued by their conspiracie.
“O dolorous fortune, and fatal miserie! “ For multitude of people was there mortificate
“With condigne Priamus, and all his progenie, "And flagrant Polixene, that lady delicate."
STEEVENS. 38 Now, Hector, I have fed mine eyes on thee;] The hint for this scene of altercation between Achilles and Hector is taken from Lidgate.
STEEVENS. thou crusty batch-] A batch is the quantity of bread baked in an oven at once heating.
40 The goodly transformation of Jupiter there,] Jupiter transformed himself into a bull to carry away Europa. Thersites calls Menelaus a bull, because he was a cuckold and wore horns.
keep this sleeve.] The custom of wearing a lady's sleeve for a favour, is mentioned in Hall's Chronicle, fol. 12.—“One ware on his head-piece his la
dy's sleeve, and another bare on his helme the glove “ of his deareling."
42 By all Diana's waiting women yonder,] i. e. the stars.
43 And with another knot, five-finger-tied,] A knot tied by joining hands. 44 Brother, you have a vice of mercy in you, Which better
fits a lion,-) The traditions and stories of the darker ages abounded with examples of the lion's generosity. Upon the supposition that these acts of clemency were true, Troilus reasons not improperly, that to spare against reason, by mere instinct of pity, became rather a generous heast than a wise man.
JOHNSON. 45 O farewell, dear Hector!] The interposition and
clamorous sorrow of Cassandra was copied by the author from Lidgate.
bastard Margarelon.] This circumstance was taken from Lidgate.
“ Which when the valiant knight, Margarelon,
STEEVENS. - on Galathe his horse,] From The Three Destructions of Troy is taken this name given to Hector's
THEORALD, 48 I am unarmd; forego this 'vantage, Greek.] Hector, in Lidgate's poem, falls by the hand of Achilles; but it is Troilus who, having been inclosed round by the Myrmidons, is killed after his armour had been hewn from his body, which was afterwards drawn through the field at the horse's tail. The Oxford Editor, I believe, was misinformed; for in the old storybook of The Three Destructions of Troy, I find likewise the same account given of the death of Troilus. There may, however, be variation in the copies, of which there are very many.--Heywood, in his Rupe of Lucrece, 1638, seems to have been indebted to some such book as Hanmer mentions. “ Had puissant Hector by Achilles' hand
Dy'd in a single nionomachie, Achilles “ Had been the worthy; but being slain by odds, “ The poorest Myrmidon had as much honour “ As faint Achilles in the Trojan's death.”
STEEVENS. 19 And, stickler-like,-) A stickler was one who VOL. IX.
stood by to part the combatants when victory could be determined without bloodshed. They are often mentioned by Sidney. “ Anthony (says Sir Tho. “ North in his Translation of Plutarch) was himself in “person a stickler to part the young men when they had “fought enough.” They were called sticklers, from carrying sticks or staves in their hands, with which they interposed between the combatants. We now call them sidesmen. So again, in a comedy called Forture by Land and Sca, by Heywood and Rowley, “ 'tis not fit that every apprentice should with his “shop-club play between us the stickler."
END OF VOLUMÉ IX,