Imagini ale paginilor

For that I am some twelve or fourteen moon-shines
Lag of a brother? Why bastard? wherefore base?
When my dimensions are as well compact,
My mind as generous, and my shape as true,
As honest madam's issue? Why brand they us
With base? with baseness? bastardy? base, base?
Who, in the lusty stealth of nature,3 take

occasion. Edmund, on the contrary, is turning this law into ridicule; and for such a purpose, the curiosity of nations, (i. e. the idle, nice distinctions of the world) is a phrase of contempt much more natural in his mouth, than the softer expression of-courtesy of nations. Steevens. Curiosity is used before in the present play, in this sense:—“ For equalities are so weighed, that curiosity in neither can make choice of either's moiety."

Again, in All's Well that Ends Well:

"Frank nature, rather curious than in haste,

"Hath well compos'd thee."

IN THE ENGLISH DICTIONARY, or Interpreter of hard Words, by H. Cockeram, 8vo. 1655, curiosity is defined" More diligence than needs." Malone.

By "the curiosity of nations" Edmund means the nicety, the strictness of civil institution. So, when Hamlet is about to prove that the dust of Alexander might be employed to stop a bung-hole, Horatio says, "that were to consider the matter too curiously. M. Mason.

1 ―to deprive me,] To deprive was, in our author's time, synonymous to disinherit. The old dictionary renders exhæredo by this word: and Holinshed speaks of the line of Henry before deprived. Again, in Warner's Albion's England, 1602, B. III, ch. xvi:

"To you, if whom ye have depriv'd ye shall restore again."

Again, ibid:

"The one restored, for his late depriving nothing mov’d.” Steevens.

2 Lag of a brother?] Edmund inveighs against the tyranny of custom, in two instances, with respect to younger brothers, and to bastards. In the former he must not be understood to mean himself, but the argument becomes general by implying more than is said, Wherefore should I or any man. Hanmer.

3 Who, in the lusty stealth of nature, &c.] How much the following lines are in character, may be seen by that monstrous wish of Vanini, the Italian atheist, in his tract De admirandis Naturæ, &c. printed at Paris, 1616, the very year our poet died. "O utinam extra legitimum et connubialum thorum essem procreatus! Ita enim progenitores mei in venerem incaluissent ardentius, ac cumulatim affatimque generosa semina contulissent, è quibus ego forma blanditiam et elegan tiam, robustas corporis vires, mentemque innubilem, consequutus fuissem. At quia conjugatorum sum soboles, his orbatus sum bonis." Had the book been published but ten or twenty years sooner, who would not have believed that Shakspeare alluded to this passage?

More composition and fierce quality,
Than doth, within a dull, stale, tired bed,
Go to the creating a whole tribe of fops,
Got 'tween asleep and wake?—Well then,
Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land:
Our father's love is to the bastard Edmund,
As to the legitimate: Fine word,-legitimate!
Well, my legitimate, if this letter speed,
And my invention thrive, Edmund the base,
Shall top the legitimate. I grow; I prosper :-
Now, gods, stand up for bastards!


Glo. Kent banish'd thus! And France in choler parted! And the king gone to-night! subscrib'd his power! Confin'd to exhibition !5 All this done

Upon the gad !6

-Edmund! How now? what news?

Edm. So please your lordship, none.

[Putting up the Letter. Glo. Why so earnestly seek you to put up that letter? Edm. I know no news, my lord.

But the divinity of his genius foretold, as it were, what such an atheist as Vannini would say, when he wrote upon such a subject. Warburton.

subscrib'd his power!] To subscribe, is, to transfer by signing or subscribing a writing of testimony. We now use the term, He subscribed forty pounds to the new building. Johnson.

To subscribe in Shakspeare is to yield, or surrender. So, afterwards: "You owe me no subscription." Again, in Troilus and Cressida: "For Hector in his blaze of wrath subscribes

[blocks in formation]

The folio reads-prescribed. Steevens.

5 — exhibition!] is allowance. The term is yet used in the universities. Johnson.

So, in The Two Gentlemen of Verona:


"What maintenance he from his friends receives,

"Like exhibition thou shalt have from me." Steevens.

All this done

Upon the gad!] To do upon the gad, is, to act by the sudden stimulation of caprice, as cattle run madding when they are stung by the gad fly. Johnson.

Done upon the gad is done suddenly, or, as before, while the iron is hot. A gad is an iron bar. So, in I`ll never leave thee, a Scottish song, by Allan Ramsay:

"Bid iceshogles hammer red gads on the studdy."

The statute of 2 and 3 Eliz. 6, c. 27, is a " Bill against false forging of iron gadds, instead of gadds of steel." Ritson.

Glo. What paper were you reading?

Edm. Nothing, my lord.

Glo. No? What needed then that terrible despatch of it into your pocket? the quality of nothing hath not such need to hide itself. Let's see; Come, if it be nothing, I shall not need spectacles.

Edm. I beseech you, sir, pardon me : it is a letter from my brother, that I have not all o'er-read; for so much as I have perused, I find it not fit for your over-looking. Glo. Give me the letter, sir.

Edm. I shall offend, either to detain or give it. The contents, as in part I understand them, are to blame. Glo. Let's see, let's see.

Edm. I hope, for my brother's justification, he wrote this but as an essay or taste of my virtue."

Glo. [reads] This policy, and reverence of age, makes the world bitter to the best of our times; keeps our fortunes from us, till our oldness cannot relish them. I begin to find an idle and fond bondage in the oppression of aged tyranny; who sways, not as it hath power, but as it is suffered. Come to me, that of this I may speak more. If our father would sleep till I waked him, you should enjoy half his reve

7 taste of my virtue.] Though taste may stand in this place, yet I believe we should read-assay or test of my virtue: they are both metallurgical terms, and properly joined. So, in Hamlet:

"Bring me to the test." Johnson.

Essay and Taste, are both terms from royal tables. See note on Act V, sc. iii. Mr. Henley observes, that in the eastern parts of this kingdom the word say is still retained in the same sense. So, in Chapman's version of the nineteenth Iliad:

"Atrides with his knife took say, upon the part before;"


[ocr errors]

Both the quartos and folio have essay, which may have been merely a mis-spelling of the word assay, which in Cawdrey's Alphabetical Table. 1604, is defined-" a proof or trial." But as essay is likewise defined by Bullokar in his English Expositor, 1616, "a trial,” I have made no change.

To assay not only signified to make trial of coin, but to taste before another; prælibo. In either sense the word might be used here.


8 This policy, and reverence of age,] Butter's quarto has, this policy of age; the folio, this policy and reverence of age. Johnson.

The two quartos published by Butter, concur with the folio in reading age. Mr. Pope's duodecimo is the only copy that has ages.

9 idle and fond -] Weak and foolish. Johnson.


nue for ever, and live the beloved of your brother, Edgar. -Humph-Conspiracy!-Sleep till I waked him,-you should enjoy half his revenue,-My son Edgar! Had he a hand to write this? a heart and brain to breed it in?When came this to you? Who brought it?

Edm. It was not brought me, my lord, there's the cunning of it; I found it thrown in at the casement of my closet.

Glo. You know the character to be your brother's?

Edm. If the matter were good, my lord, I durst swear it were his; but, in respect of that, I would fain think it

were not.

Glo. It is his.

Edm. It is his hand, my lord; but, I hope, his heart is not in the contents.

Glo. Hath he never heretofore sounded you in this business?

Edm. Never, my lord: But I have often heard him maintain it to be fit, that, sons at perfect age, and fathers declining, the father should be as ward to the son, and the son manage his revenue.

Glo. O villain, villain!-His very opinion in the letter!-Abhorred villain! Unnatural, detested, brutish villain! worse than brutish!-Go, sirrah, seek him! I'll apprehend him :-Abominable villain!-Where is he?

Edm. I do not well know, my lord. If it shall please you to suspend your indignation against my brother, till you can derive from him better testimony of his intent, you shall run a certain course; where, if you1 violently proceed against him, mistaking his purpose, it would make a great gap in your own honour, and shake in pieces the heart of his obedience. I dare pawn down my life for him, that he hath writ this to feel my affection to your honour, and to no other pretence2 of danger.


where, if you] Where was formerly often used in the sense of whereas. See Vol. X, p. 211, n. 1. Malone.

So, in Pericles, Prince of Tyre, Vol. XVII, Act I, sc. i: "Where now you're both a father and a son."

See also Act II, sc. iii. Steevens.


[ocr errors]

· pretence —] Pretence is design, purpose. So, afterwards in this play:

"Pretence and purpose of unkindness. Johnson,

So, in Macbeth:



Glo. Think you so?

Edm. If your honour judge it meet, I will place you where you shall hear us confer of this, and by an auricular assurance have your satisfaction; and that without any further delay than this very evening.

Glo. He cannot be such a monster.

Edm.3 Nor is not, sure.

Glo. To his father, that so tenderly and entirely loves him. Heaven and earth!-Edmund, seek him out; wind me into him, I pray you: frame the business after your own wisdom: I would unstate myself, to be in a due resolution.5

"Against the undivulg'd pretence I fight

"Of treasonous malice."

But of this, numberless examples can be shown; and I can venture to assert, with some degree of confidence, that Shakspeare never uses the word pretence, or pretend, in any other sense. Steevens.

3 Edm.] From Nor is, to heaven and earth! are words omitted in the folio. Steevens.

4 wind me into him,] I once thought it should be read, you into him; but, perhaps, it is a familiar phrase, like do me this.

Johnson. So, in Twelfth Night: "-challenge me the duke's youth to fight with him." Instances of this phraseology occur in The Merchant of Venice, King Henry IV, Part I, and in Othello. Steevens.

5 I would unstate myself, to be in a due resolution.] i. e. I will throw aside all consideration of my relation to him, that I may act as justice requires. Warburton.

Such is this learned man's explanation. I take the meaning to be rather this, Do you frame the business, who can act with less emotion; I would unstate myself; it would in me be a departure from the paternal character, to be in a due resolution, to be settled and composed on such an occasion. The words would and should are in old language often confounded. Johnson.

The same word occurs in Antony and Cleopatra:

"Yes, like enough, high-battled Cæsar will

"Unstate his happiness, and be stag'd to show
"Against a sworder."

To unstate, in both these instances, seems to have the same meaning. Edgar has been represented as wishing to possess his father's fortune, i e. to unstate him; and therefore his father says he would unstate himself to be sufficiently resolved to punish him. Steevens.

It seems to me, that I would unstate myself, in this passage, means simply I would give my estate, (including rank as well as fortune). Tyrwhitt.

Both Warburton and Johnson have mistaken the sense of this passage, and their explanations are such as the words cannot possibly imply. Gloster cannot bring himself thoroughly to believe what Ed

« ÎnapoiContinuă »