John G Orger.

Critical notes on Shakespeare's histories and tragedies online

. (page 1 of 4)
Online LibraryJohn G OrgerCritical notes on Shakespeare's histories and tragedies → online text (page 1 of 4)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook










English Chaplain at Divan, France ; late Rector of Cranford,


Dookstlltrs to tbe Qntcn anb $.&.l. tfcr fjrinct of




SOME few of these notes defend the text against
change. Some few others suggest change where
none has been proposed. The rest are devoted
to passages where change is clearly needed, and
the conjectures hitherto offered have failed to be

Where emendations have been proposed by
others which commend themselves to my own
judgment, though they have not secured the
suffrages of editors, I have not felt called upon
to support their adoption, as I had to suppose
their authors did their best to recommend them.
These, therefore, I leave aside ; together with
those passages in which, though no satisfactory
explanation or alteration has been discovered, I
am conscious I have none to offer.

This will explain the method of selection in the
following notes, which I refer to the censure of the
Shakspere Student in the hope that some at least
of the conjectures offered will merit his considera-

A 2


In the notes on the Comedies published last
year, page 23, for the line in Measure for Measure,
Act iii, i, 17

" Yes, he would give!t thee ; from this rank offence,"

I proposed " Yes, he would quit thee of this rank
offence," altering " from " to " of," because, as I
said, I could not find " quit from " in use. I avail
myself of the preface to this volume to observe
that this is needless, as I find what is virtually
the same expression in Richard ///, Act iii, 7, 233

Your mere enforcement shall acquittance me
From all the impure blots and stains thereof,

which will allow of our reading

" Yes, he would quit thee from this rank offence."

I take this opportunity, also, of pointing out
an emendation of a passage in the Sonnets, which,
though very obvious, has hitherto escaped observa-
tion. In Sonnet Ixv, where the author deplores
the effect of Time on Beauty, and illustrates it by
its power over " rocks " and " gates of steel," he

O Fearful Meditation ! Where, alack,
Shall Time's best jewel from Time's chest lie hid,
Or what strong hand can hold his swift foot back,
Or who his spoil of beauty can forbid ?


The connexion of ideas points naturally to Time
stealing away the jewel, which is further confirmed
by the expression " Spoil of Beauty."

The line should be read

Where, alack,
Shall Time's best jewel from Time's theft lie hid ?

The similarity of type as then used easily ac-
counts for the mistake.



King John 9

Richard II 18

1 Henry IV 21

2 Henry IV 24

Henry V 28

1 Henry VI 38

2 Henry VI 40

3 Henry VI 41

Henry VI 1 1 44


Troilus and Cressida 45

Coriolanus 58

Titus Andronicus .... .... .... .... .... 65

Romeo and Juliet .... .... .... .... .... 67

Timon of Athens .... .... .... .... .... 71

Julius Caesar 75

Macbeth 78

Hamlet 82

King Lear 88

Othello .... _ 92

___^ Antony and Cleopatra .... .... .... .... 96

Cymbeline 103



Act ii, scene i, line 143

It lies as sightly on the back of him

As great Alcides' shoes upon an ass :

But, Ass, I'll take that burden from your back

Or lay on that shall make your shoulders crack.

A favourite proverb in Shakspere's age to be-
token incongruity was " The shoe of Hercules on
a child's foot." So Hooker, Book iv, chapter ix,
" The name of blasphemy in this place is like
the shoe of Hercules on a child's foot " ; where
Keble's note, page 445, is " Herculis cothurnos
aptare infanti," &c.

The corresponding proverb for fitness, and


aptitude, was in equally common use, "Dignum
patina operculum."

The application of the proverb in the present
instance is so obvious that it naturally leads to a
correction of the word " Asse," to make it apposite.
" Asse," I apprehend, is nothing but a mistake for
"Ape," a still more diminutive creature than a
"child," and therefore still more insulting in its

Such a juxtaposition we find in Much Ado, v, i,
193, " He is then a giant to an ape." And again
a " child " compared 'to an " ape " in Richard III,
Act iii, i, 130

Because that I am little like an ape,

He thinks that you should bear me on your shoulders.

I would therefore propose

It lies as sightly on the back of him

As great Alcides' shoes upon an ape;

But, Ass, I'll take that burden from your back

Or lay on that shall make your shoulders crack.

Act ii, scene i, line 149

King Lewis, determine what we shall do straight.
LEW. Women and fools break off your conference,
King John, this is the very sum of all :
England and Ireland, Angiers, Touraine, Maine,
In right of Arthur do I claim of thee.


That this speech does not belong to Lewis, but
to his father, is clear, I think, from the tone of it,
" King John, I claim of thee," and from John's
answer, " I do defy thee, France " ; which words
show that it is the two Kings are speaking, and
reasonably support Theobald's proposal to give
the speech to the " King." The Cambridge
Editors' objection to this on the ground that he
is uniformly in this scene designated " Fran." or
"Fra." overlooks the earlier portion where he is
uniformly marked as " King," lines 37, 50, 79.

If the words King and Lew. be simply trans-
posed to mark the speakers, we might alter "Lewis "
in the verse to " Let us," reading

LEW. Let us determine what we shall do straight.
KING. Women and fools break off your conference.

Act ii, scene i, line 354

And now he feasts mousing the flesh of men,

" Mousing " can hardly be the word. In Macbeth,
ii, 4, line 13, it is applied to an "owl," as we apply
it to a " cat," which seems unworthy of " Death."
Pope's emendation " mouthing," interpreted by
Hamlet, iv, 2, 18, is equally foreign to the purpose,
as it goes no further than taking or holding in the


mouth. But " chops," " fangs," and " teeth," point
to " mounching."
I would read

" And now he feasts mounching the flesh of men."

Act iii, scene 3, line 37

if the midnight bell

Did, with his iron tongue and brazen mouth,
Sound on into the drowsy race of night.

" Tongue " and "mouth" give reasonable support
to the obvious conjecture of "ear," offered by
Walker and adopted by Dyce.

"Sound on" will then mean repeating the sounds,
in the same way that " Speak on " signifies " con-
tinue speaking," as e.g., in Henry VIII, Act iii, scene
2, line 306.

" Race," however, suggests the less obvious word
"vast" as a nearer emendation. It is used in
Hamlet, i, 2, 198

In the dead -vast and middle of the night ;

and in Tempest, i, 2, 327

the vast of night
and this will yield a finer image of the bell sounding


its strokes into vacancy, and better account for the
words " sound on into " suggestive of the sound
being lost in the distance.

Act iii, scene 3, line 52

Then in despight of brooded watchful day.

I imagine the explanation of "brooded," in the
sense of "brooding" drawn from vigilance of a hen
over her chickens, will hardly be admitted.

Pope's conjecture " broad-eyed " derives some
support horn Henry F, Act ii, 2, 55, "how shall
we stretch our eye " as opposed to " winking," and
has a natural connexion with our familiar expression
" broad daylight."

But this in its ordinary acceptation is strictly
confined to the sunrise, which is one objection, and
the boldness of the conjecture is another.

King John has already spoken of " Proud day"
in line 34 as an hindrance to his divulging his
murderous intention, and may be only repeating it
here, in which case we should read

" Then in despight of proud and watchful day."

Act iii, scene 4, line 2

" A whole armado of convicted sail."


None of the conjectures to correct this unmeaning
phrase are entirely satisfactory, as there is no special
reason for preferring any one of them to any other,
" collected," " connected," " consorted," " combined."

From a somewhat parallel passage in Othello, i,
3> 33

The Ottomites, reverend and gracious,

Steering with due course toward the isle of Rhodes,

Have there injointed them with an after fleet,

and from " unjointed " in i Henry IV, i, 3, 65, and
" disjoint" in Macbeth, iii, 2, 16, we may probably
infer the word is " conjointed," the more so as it is
immediately followed by its opposite "disjoined."
I would therefore correct

" A whole armado of conjointed sail."

Act iii, scene 4, line 63

Where but by chance a silver drop hath fallen,
Even to that drop ten thousand wiry friends
Do glue themselves in sociable grief.

The king apparently intimates that Constance's
hair had turned suddenly grey with grief. Before,
there had been here and there a silver drop, but
now " ten thousand wiry friends " are added to it.

This is rendered, to say the least, very obscure


by the employment of the present-perfect " hath " ;
and as " hath" and "had" are frequently confounded
in print, as, e.g., 2 Henry VI, Act i, I, 88, the sense
becomes much clearer by the pluperfect. I would
therefore read

Where but by chance a silver drop had fallen,
Even to that drop ten thousand wiry friends
Do glue themselves in sociable grief.

Act v, scene 2, line 64

LEWIS. And even then, methinks, an angel spake.


Look where the holy legate comes apace,
To give us warrant from the hand of heaven,
And on our actions set the name of right,
With holy breath.

I can hardly be persuaded to admit the Cambridge
Editors' suggested explanation of the first line, as a
jocose aside, connecting "angel" with "purse"
and "noble." It seems entirely out of place in
Lewis's mouth ; but after the pathetic expressions
of grief given forth by Salisbury, it would not be
unsuitable to him. He sees the legate coming to
give the English nobles " warrant from the hand of
heaven," and "set the name of right with holy
breath " upon their revolt ; and the opportune coin-
cidence of his approach with Lewis's assurances,


warms him to declare that Lewis had spoken like
an angel in the words of comfort he had uttered.
I would accordingly propose

SALISBURY. And even there, methinks, an angel spake [to

Lewis] ;

Look where the holy legate comes apace,
To give us warrant from the hand of heaven,
And on our actions set the name of right,
With holy breath.

Act v, scene 2, line 103

Have I not heard these islanders shout out
Vive le Roy, as I have banked their towns ?

The explanation of " banked their towns " as if
it were "thrown up entrenchments," or "cast a
bank against them," as in Isaiah xxxvii, 3 3, is alike
contrary to the idea of the expedition of the march,
and the alacrity of the inhabitants to accept relief
from the dominion of their native king.

It may be more plausibly interpreted " Come by
sea to the banks on which their towns stood,"
as " bank " is used in connexion with the " sea," as
well as " rivers." See Merchant of Venice, v, i, 1 1 ;
Othello, iv, I, 131.

But as he is apparently speaking of his march,
and " banking their towns " would in either case


be a very forced expression, I would suggest
" warned" in the sense of " summon," as it seems
to be used m Julius Casar, v, I, 5

" They mean to warn us in Philippi here,"
and read

" Have I not heard these islanders shout out
Vive le Roy, as I have warned their towns ?"



Act ii, scene 2, line 148

Farewell at once, for once, for all, and ever.

The words " for all " standing separate by a
comma are meaningless. " Once for all " is a com-
mon turn of expression, for " semel in perpetuum,"
as in Ainsworth's Latin dictionary s.v., and will
suit here well

Farewell at once, for once for all, and ever.

Act iv, scene i, line 52 (from the ist quarto)
" I task the earth to the like, forsworn Aumerle."

Dr. Johnson proposes " oath " for " earth " in
this unintelligible expression, and reads " I take
thy oath " : but the sense seems to require " I take
my oath to the like," viz., to Aumerle's being guilty
of Gloucester's death : the connexion of the passage
shows something like this must be intended.

But the forcible asseveration then in use " I take
it on my death" makes it more probable that
" earth " is a corruption of " death." It is constant
in Shakspere and elsewhere.


E.g., King John, i, i, 1 10

Upon his death-bed he by will bequeathed
His lands to me, and took it on his death
That this my mother's son was none of his ;

where Stcevens mistakes the meaning, explaining
it " Entertained it as his fixed opinion when he was
dying" a useless repetition, as " on his death-bed "
has already occurred. Again, i Henry IV, Act v,
4, 148, " I'll take it on my death I gave him this
wound in the thigh."

We may suppose that this form of adjuration
took its rise from the imprecation in case of false-
hood, which has been rendered notorious by the
story on Devizes Market Cross, where the woman
begged God to " strike her dead " if she told a lie,
and fell a corpse after uttering the words.

The formula "take it on my death," was ap-
parently abbreviated to " take my death," in which
form it is found in Latimer's Sermons (page 163,
Parker Society) : " The first man when he was on
the ladder denied the matter utterly, and ' took his
death' upon it, that he never consented to the
robbery of the priest." Again, page 180, "She
took her death she was guiltless in that thing she
suffered for," and this form we find in 2 Henry VI,
Act ii, 3, 87, " I will take my death I never meant
him any harm."

B 2


In either case, whether " oath " or " death," " the "
is alike awkward, and as " death " is a less obvious,
and equally close emendation, I would propose

" I take my death to the like."



Act ii, scene 3, line 57

And in thy face strange motions have appeared

Such as are seen when men restrain their breath

On some great sudden hast. O what portents are these ?

The quarto reading "hest" affords no better
sense than " haste," with which indeed the epithet
" sudden " agrees better.

But I do not imagine Lady Percy is thinking of
a " surprise," which, in familiar style, is said to
" take the breath away," but rather of a difficulty
men hold their breath in cope with in a dogged
determination, such as is described in Henry V T ,
iii, i, 15

Now set the teeth, and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To its full height.

This consideration, together with the redundancy
of the line, throws doubt on the word " sudden,"
which indeed Steevens omitted ; and recommends
" hazard " for " hast." We find it in 2 Henry IV,
Act iv, i, 15

" That your attempts may overlive the hazard"


I would accordingly propose

And in thy face strange motions have appeared
Such as we see when men restrain their breath
On some great hazard. What portents are these ?

Act ii, scene 4, line 1 1 3

Didst thou never see Titan kiss a dish of butter?
Pitiful-hearted Titan that melted at the sweet tale
of the sun.

The person melting at the sun's sweet tale
cannot possibly be Titan, who tells the tale. The
second " Titan " is evidently a mistake for another
name which will answer the description of " melt-
ing," or dissolving under his influence or power.

" Melt " is used below, Act iii, scene I, line 211,
for dissolving in tears

Nay, if you melt, then she will run mad.

Othello, \, 2, 352

Albeit unused to the melting mood.

And in a sense bearing closer relation to Falstaff's
state in Hamlet, i, 2, 129

O that this too too solid flesh would melt,
Thaw, and resolve itself.

This ambiguous word, I apprehend, affords the


prince an opportunity for a grotesque classical
allusion to " Niobe," who is as constant an image
of " dissolving " as Titan is of " heat."
g. t Hamlet, i, 2, 148

" Like Niobe, all tears."
And Troilus and Cressida, v, 10, 19
" Make wells and Niobes of the maids and wives."

Parson Evans in the Merry Wives, v, 5, 136,
tells Falstaff "his pelly is all putter," and he
describes himself there, iii, 5, 102, as "being as
subject to heat as butter." And our own experience
of that article of consumption in July, explains
the humour of the prince, when he describes
Falstaff as " Niobe," without our requiring con-
sistency to mythology. I would accordingly read

"Pitiful-hearted Niobe that melted at the sweet
tale of the sun."


Act i, scene 3, line 36

Yes, if this present quality of war,

Indeed the instant action : a cause on foot,

Lives so in hope : As in an early spring,

We see th' appearing buds, which to prove fruit,

Hope gives not so much warrant, as despair

That frosts will bite them.

This passage has been deemed corrupt by almost
all editors, Mr. Knight appearing to be the only
one to propose no alteration of the words, but to
confine it to the punctuation. In this opinion I
concur with him, and think all other difficulty of
the passage lies in two expressions which have not
been perfectly understood, viz., " This present
quality of war," and " lives in hope."

As regards the first, Shakspere has a peculiar
use of the term " Quality," to which I do not know
whether attention has been directed, and which
this passage will serve to illustrate.

In our ordinary language now we use it mainly
in comparison, as, e.g., we say, "This silk is of
inferior quality." We should hardly say, "Silk is
of soft quality," or " The quality of silk is soft,"


speaking of silk in the abstract. We might say,
" The quality of silk is softness " : but Shakspere,
to express this idea, would not scruple to use the
adjective, and say " the quality of silk is soft"
Thus, where he writes in Merchant of Venice, iv,

i, 179

"The quality of mercy is not strained;"

or, as he might have expressed it, " Mercy is not
of a strained quality," he means that it is of the
very essence of mercy, an indispensable condition
of it, to be unconstrained. Mercy is not mercy if
it is not free and voluntary.

So again Julius C&sar, i, 3, 66

Why all these things change, from their ordinance,
Their natures, and pre-fonned faculties,
To monstrous quality,

i.e., to quality of monstrousness.

So again m Julius Ccesar, iii, i, 61

But I am constant as the northern star,
Of whose true fixed and resting quality
There is no fellow in the firmament,

i.e., " of its quality of fixedness."
So again Henry V, Act v, 2, 18

The venom of such looks, we fairly hope,
Have lost their quality ;


which defies grammatical construction, but is
nearer our present use

" Such looks have lost their quality of venom."

Applying this principle to the passage in hand :
" This present quality of war," will mean "this war,
the quality of which consists in being present, not
future," or this war, the essential property, or as
logicians speak, the inseparable accident of which
is its immediate imminence.

For " present " and " instant " we may compare
the language with Act iv, I, 82

The examples
Of every minute's instance^ present now,

and Troilus and Cressida, iii, 3, 153
" Take the instant way."

As regards the other phrase, " lives in hope," it
is, I apprehend, nothing but the colloquialism, " I
live in hope," for " I entertain," or " indulge in, the

Thus understanding these two expressions,
although the construction is somewhat involved,
the sense of the whole is clear enough. Lord
Bardolph urging compromise when it is possible,
declares that a time when we are called upon to


put all to an immediate issue, when the action is
imminent, when the cause is afoot, is not a time to
indulge in hopes of any future, remote, and
problematical contingency, which may prove as
illusory as the promise of a too early Spring.

"Instant action," "cause on foot," arc, in fact,
explanatory of, and in apposition to, "present
quality ;" and we may read

Yes, if this present quality of war

Indeed, the instant action a cause on foot,

Lives so in hope, as in an early spring

We see th' appearing buds ; which to prove fruit

Hope gives not so much warrant, as despair

That frosts will bite them.




Act i, scene i, line 47

When he speaks

The air, a chartered libertine, is still,
And the mute wonder lurketh in men's ears
To steal his sweet and honeyed sentences.

" The mute wonder " cannot be an allowable
expression if " mute " be supposed the attribute of
wonder. "The" is indeed found before certain
abstract nouns, as " The wars," " The vengeance,"
" The policy," " The spoil " ; but it cannot be
used indefinitely here, as if " the mute wonder "
meant "mute wonder."

There is indeed a somewhat similar turn in
Richard 77, Act i, 2, 58

Grief boundeth where it falls,
Not with the empty hollowness, but weight :

which may perhaps be defended as if it meant
" not with the empty hollowness of a ball ; " but
the unusual place of the definite article suggests
the possessive pronoun as preferable " not with his
empty hollowness, but weight."


Anyhow, in the present instance, the solecism is
easily removed by a comma. As the " air " is a
"libertine," so "wonder" is a "mute" in the sense
in which we find it in Hamlet, v, 2, 322

You that look pale and tremble at this chance,
That are but mutes and audience to this act.

I would therefore read

And the mute, Wonder, lurketh in men's ears
To steal his sweet and honeyed sentences.

Act i, scene 2, line 93

And rather choose to hide them in a net
Than amply to imbar their crooked title.

I am surprised that the word " amply " has not
suggested " unvaile " (to use Cotgrave's spelling) for
" imbarre," for which there is the support of Twelfth
Night, i, i, 27

The element itself, till seven years' heat,
Shall not behold her face at ample view ;
But, like a cloistress, she will -veiled walk.

But Theobald's conjecture " unbare," adopted by
Capell, affords an opportunity for the consideration
of the prefix " un," which may at the same time
support his emendation here and illustrate other


Miss Baker, in her Glossary of Northampton-
shire Words, has the following article, " Abate : to
make bare ; to uncover ; to clear away or remove
the superincumbent soil preparatory to working
stone in a quarry. Bate, onbare, tmbare, and
unbate are all cognate terms (i.e., synonymous).
Uncallow is correspondent in East Anglia."

Again, " Ungive : to begin to thaw ; gingerbread
losing its crispness, and salt, or any other sub-
stance relaxing from the humidity of the atmos-
phere, are said to ungive. Give, forgive, ongive,
are similarly applied." I can bear testimony to
the constant use of " ongiving " as applied to the
weather, or soil, after a frost.

Shakspere certainly so uses " unloose " uniformly
in the sense of " loose," as, e.g., in this play, Act i,
scene I, line 46

The Gordian knot of it he will unloose
Familiar as his garter.

Again, Lear, ii, 2, 69

" bite the holy cords a-twain
Which are too intrinse to unloose."

These, I think, support Theobald's conjecture
" unbare."

I think too it will go far to support Mr. Beckett's


conjecture on the difficult passage in Otiiello, Act iv,
scene 2, line 54

but, alas ! to make me
A fixed figure for the time of scorn
To point his slow unmoving finger at.

He would read "slovv-unmoving," I suppose, in
the sense of " slow-moving." Time is slow to take
his finger off or away, and thus " unmoving," by the
analogy of " unloosing," will signify ranoving.

Dr. Farmer seems, in his note on the words in
Measure for Measure, v, I, 166, " In this I'll be
////partial," to prove a similar peculiarity with
regard to the prefix " im" " impartial " being there

1 3 4

Online LibraryJohn G OrgerCritical notes on Shakespeare's histories and tragedies → online text (page 1 of 4)