Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

ALEX. Soothsayer.
SOOTH. Your will?

not change instead of charge; which word was never abbreviated. I also doubted the phraseology-change with, and do not at present recollect any example of it in Shakspeare's plays or in his time; whilst in The Taming of the Shrew, we have the modern phraseology-change for:

"To change true rules for odd inventions."

But a careful revision of these plays has taught me to place no confidence in such observations; for from some book or other of the age, I have no doubt almost every combination of words that may be found in our author, however uncouth it may appear to our ears, or however different from modern phraseology, will at some time or other be justified. In the present edition, many which were considered as undoubtedly corrupt, have been incontrovertibly supported.

Still, however, I think that the reading originally introduced by Mr. Theobald, and adopted by Dr. Warburton, is the true one, because it affords a clear sense; whilst, on the other hand, the reading of the old copy affords none: for supposing change with to mean exchange for, what idea is conveyed by this passage? and what other sense can these words bear? The substantive change being formerly used to signify variety, (as change of clothes, of honours, &c.) proves nothing: change of clothes or linen necessarily imports more than one; but the thing sought for is the meaning of the verb to change, and no proof is produced to show that it signified to dress; or that it had any other meaning than to exchange.

:

Charmian is talking of her future husband, who certainly could not change his horns, at present, for garlands, or any thing else, having not yet obtained them; nor could she mean, that when he did get them, he should change or part with them, for garlands but he might charge his horns, when he should marry Charmian, with garlands: for having once got them, she intended, we may suppose, that he should wear them contentedly for life. Horns charged with garlands is an expression of a similar import with one which is found in Characterismi, or Lenton's Leasures, 8vo. 1631. In the description of a contented cuckold, he is said to “ hold his velvet horns as high as the best of them."

Let it also be remembered that garlands are usually wreathed round the head; a circumstance which adds great support to the emendation now made. So, Sidney:

"A garland made, on temples for to wear."

CHAR. Is this the man?-Is't you, sir, that know

things?

SOOTH. In nature's infinite book of secrecy,

A little I can read.

ALEX.

Show him your hand.

Enter ENOBARBUS.

ENO. Bring in the banquet quickly; wine enough, Cleopatra's health to drink.

CHAR. Good sir, give me good fortune.

SOOTH. I make not, but foresee.

CHAR. Pray then, foresee me one.

SOOTH. You shall be yet far fairer than you are.
CHAR. He means, in flesh.

IRAS. No, you shall paint when you are old.
CHAR. Wrinkles forbid!

It is observable that the same mistake as this happened in Coriolanus, where the same correction was made by Dr. Warburton, and adopted by all the subsequent editors: "And yet to charge thy sulphur with a bolt,

"That should but rive an oak."

The old copy there, as here, has change. Since this note was written, I have met with an example of the phrase-to change with, in Lyly's Maydes Metamorphosis, 1600:

"The sweetness of that banquet must forego,

"Whose pleasant taste is chang'd with bitter woe." I am still, however, of opinion that charge, and not change, is the true reading, for the reasons assigned in my original note. MALONE.

"To change his horns with [i. e. for] garlands," signifies, to be a triumphant cuckold; a cuckold who will consider his state as an honourable one. Thus, says Benedick, in Much Ado about Nothing: "There is no staff more honourable than one tipt with horn." We are not to look for serious argument in such a "skipping dialogue" as that before us. STEEVENS.

ALEX. Vex not his prescience; be attentive.
CHAR. Hush!

SOOTH. You shall be more beloving, than beloved.
CHAR. I had rather heat my liver' with drinking.
ALEX. Nay, hear him.

CHAR. Good now, some excellent fortune! Let me be married to three kings in a forenoon, and widow them all let me have a child at fifty, to whom Herod of Jewry may do homage:" find me

8

"I had rather heat my liver &c.] So, in The Merchant of Venice:

“And let my liver rather heat with wine." STEEVENS. To know why the lady is so averse from heating her liver, it must be remembered, that a heated liver is supposed to make a pimpled face. JOHNSON.

The following passage in an ancient satirical poem, entitled Notes from Blackfryars, 1617, confirms Dr. Johnson's observa

tion:

MALONE.

"He'll not approach a taverne, no nor drink ye, "To save his life, hot water; wherefore think ye? "For heating's liver; which some may suppose "Scalding hot, by the bubbles on his nose." The liver was considered as the seat of desire. In answer to the Soothsayer, who tells her she shall be very loving, she says, "She had rather heat her liver by drinking, if it was to be heated." M. MASON.

let me have a child at fifty,] This is one of Shakspeare's natural touches. Few circumstances are more flattering to the fair sex, than breeding at an advanced period of life.

9

STEEVENS.

to whom Herod of Jewry may do homage:] Herod paid homage to the Romans, to procure the grant of the kingdom of Judea: but I believe there is an allusion here to the theatrical character of this monarch, and to a proverbial expression founded on it. Herod was always one of the personages in the mysteries of our early stage, on which he was constantly represented as a fierce, haughty, blustering tyrant, so that Herod of Jewry became a common proverb, expressive of turbulence

to marry me with Octavius Cæsar, and companion me with my mistress.

SOOTH. You shall outlive the lady whom you

serve.

CHAR. O excellent! I love long life better than figs.'

SOOTH. You have seen and proved a fairer former fortune

Than that which is to approach.

CHAR. Then, belike, my children shall have no names: Pr'ythee, how many boys and wenches must I have?

and rage. Thus, Hamlet says of a ranting player, that he "out-herods Herod." And, in this tragedy, Alexas tells Cleopatra, that "not even Herod of Jewry dare look upon her when she is angry;" i. e. not even a man as fierce as Herod. According to this explanation, the sense of the present passage will be-Charmian wishes for a son who may arrive at such power and dominion that the proudest and fiercest monarchs of the earth may be brought under his yoke. STEEVENS.

I love long life better than figs.] This is a proverbial expression. STEEVENS.

Then, belike, my children shall have no names:] If I have already had the best of my fortune, then I suppose I shall never name children, that is, I am never to be married. However, tell me the truth, tell me, how many boys and wenches?

JOHNSON.

A fairer fortune, I believe, means-a more reputable one. Her answer then implies, that belike all her children will be bastards, who have no right to the name of their father's family. Thus says Launce, in the third Act of The Two Gentlemen of Verona: "That's as much as to say bastard virtues, that indeed know not their fathers, and therefore have no names.”

STEEVENS. A line in our author's Rape of Lucrece confirms Mr. Steevens's interpretation:

"Thy issue blurr'd with nameless bastardy." MALONE. VOL. XVII.

[ocr errors]

SOOTH. If every of your wishes had a womb, And fertile every wish, a million.3

CHAR. Out, fool! I forgive thee for a witch.

ALEX. You think, none but your sheets are privy to your wishes.

3

CHAR. Nay, come, tell Iras hers.

ALEX. We'll know all our fortunes.

If every of your wishes had a womb,

And fertile every wish, a million.] For foretel, in ancient editions, the latter copies have foretold. Foretel favours the emendation of Dr. Warburton, which is made with great acuteness; yet the original reading may, I think, stand. If you had as many wombs as you will have wishes, and I should foretel all those wishes, I should foretel a million of children. It is an ellipsis very frequent in conversation; I should shame you, and tell all; that is, and if I should tell all. And is for and if, which was anciently, and is still provincially, used for if.

JOHNSON.

If every one of your wishes, says the Soothsayer, had a womb, and each womb-invested wish were likewise fertile, you then would have a million of children. The merely supposing each of her wishes to have a womb, would not warrant the Soothsayer to pronounce that she should have any children, much less a million; for, like Calphurnia, each of these wombs might be subject to "the sterile curse.' "The word fertile, therefore, is absolutely requisite to the sense.

In the instance given by Dr. Johnson, "I should shame you and tell all," I occurs in the former part of the sentence, and therefore may be well omitted afterwards; but here no personal pronoun has been introduced. MALONE.

The epithet fertile is applied to womb, in Timon of Athens: "Ensear thy fertile and conceptious womb."

I have received Dr. Warburton's most happy emendation. The reader who wishes for more instruction on this subject, may consult Goulart's Admirable Histories, &c. 4to. 1607, p. 222, where we are told of a Sicilian woman who "was so fertill, as at thirty birthes shee had seaventie three children."

STEEVENS.

I forgive thee for a witch.] From a common proverbial reproach to silly ignorant females: "You'll never be burnt for a witch."

STEEVENS.

« VorigeDoorgaan »