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King. Why then, young Bertram, take her, she's
thy wife. Ber. My wife, my liege? I shall beseech your highness; In such a business give me leave to use The help of mine own eyes. King
Know'st thou not, Bertram, What she has done for me? Ber.
Yes, my good lord;
King. 'Tis only title6 thou disdain'st in her, the which
6 'Tis only title -] i. e. the want of title. Malone.
? Of colour, weight, and heat,] That is, which are of the same colour, weight, &c. Malone.
8 From lowest place when virtuous things proceed,] The old copy has-whence. This easy correction (when) was prescribed by Dr. Thirlby. Theobald.
9 Where great additious swell,] Additions are the titles and de. scriptions by which men are distinguished from each other.
Malone. good alone Is good, without a name; vileness is so:] Shakspeare may mean, that external circumstances have no power over the real nature of things. Good alone (i. e. by itself) without a name (i.e.
Not by the title. She is young, wise, fair;
without the addition of titles) is good. Vileness is so (i. e. is itself.) Either of them is what its name implies: “ The
property by what it is should go,
“Let 's write good angel on the devil's horn,
Steevens. Steevens's last interpretation of this passage is very near being right; but I think it should be pointed thus:
good alone Is good ;--without a name, vileness is so. Meaning that good is good without any addition, and vileness would still be vileness, though we had no such name to distin. guish it by. A similar expression occurs in Macbeth:
Though all things foul would wear the brows of grace,
“ Yet grace must still look so.” * That is, grace would still be grace, as vileness would still be vileness. M. Mason.
The meaning is,-Good is good, independent on any wordly distinction or title: so vileness is vile, in whatever state it may appear. Malone.
2 In these to nature she's immediate heir;] To be immediate heir is to inherit without any intervening transmitter: thus she inherits beauty imme liately from nature, but honour is transmit. ted by ancestors. Johnson.
that is honour's scorn,
And is not like the sire:7 Perhaps we might read more elegantly-as honour-born,-honourably descended: the child of hon
Malone. Honour's born, is the child of honour. Born is here used, as bairn still is in the North. Henley.
4 And is not like the sire: Honours best thrive, &c.] The first folio omits-best; but the second folio supplies it, as it is necessary to enforce the sense of the passage, and complete its mea..
Steevens. The modern editors read- Honours best thrive; in which they have followed the editor of the second folio, who introduced the word best unnecessarily; not observing that sire was used by our author, like fire, hour, &c. as a dissyllable. Malone.
Where is an example of sire, used as a dissyllable, to be found? Fire and hour were anciently written fier and hower; and conse
Than our fore-goers: the mere word 's a slave,
Ber. I cannot love her, nor will strive to do 't.
to choose. Hel. That you are well restor'd, my lord, I am glad ; Let the rest go.
King. My honour 's at the stake; which to defeat,
quently the concurring vowels could be separated in pronuncia
Steevens. 5 My honour 's at the stake ; which to defeat,
I must produce my power: ] The poor King of France is again made a man of Gotham, by our unmerciful editors. For he is not to make use of his authority to defeat, but to defend his hon
Theobald. Had Mr. Theobald been aware that the implication or clause of the sentence (as the grammarians say) served for the antecedent “Which danger to defeat,” there had been no need of his wit or his alteration. Farmer.
Notwithstanding Mr. Theobald's pert censure of former editors for retaining the word defeat, I should be glad to see it restored again, as I am persuaded it is the true reading. The French verb defaire (from whence our defeat) signifies to free, to disembarrass, as well as to destroy: Defaire un naud, is to untie a knot; and in this sense, I apprehend, defeat is here used. It may be observed, that our verb undo has the same varieties of signification; and I suppose even Mr. Theobald would not have been much puzzled to find the sense of this passage, if it had been written ; --My honour 's at the stake, which to undo I must produce my power. Tyrwhitt.
that canst not dream, We, poizing us in her defective scale, Shall weigh thee to the beam ;] That canst not understand,
It is in us to plant thine honour, where
Ber. Pardon, my gracious lord; for I submit
Take her by the hand,
I take her hand.
this contract; whose ceremony Shall seem expedient on the now-born brief, And be perform’d to-night:8 the solemn feast
that if you and this maiden should be weighed together, and our royal favours should be thrown into her scale, (which you esteem so light) we should make that in which you should be placed, to strike the beam. Malone.
? Into the staggers,] One species of the staggers, or the horse's apoplexy, is a raging impatience, which makes the animal dash himself with a destructive violence against posts or walls. To this the allusion, I suppose, is made. Johnson.
Shakspeare has the same expression in Cymbeline, where Post
“Whence come these staggers on me?" Steevens.
Shall seem expedient on the now-born brief,
And be perform'd to-night:] Several of the modern editors read-new-born brief. Stecvens.
This, if it be at all intelligible, is at least obscure and inaccurate. Perhaps it was written thus:
Shall more attend upon the coming space,
Shall seem expedient on the now-born brief,
Shall more attend The brief is the contract of espousal, or the license of the church. The King means, What ceremony is necessary to make this contract a marriage, shall be immediately performed; the rest may be delayed. Johnson.
The only authentick ancient copy reads--now-born. I do not perceive that any change is necessary.
Malone. The whole speech is unnaturally expressed; yet I think it intelligible as it stands, and should therefore reject Johnson's amendment and explanation.
The word brief does not here denote either a contract or a license, but is an adjective, and means short or contracted: and the words on the now-born, signify for the present, in opposition to upon the coming space, which means hereafter. The sense of the whole passage seems to be this:-" The king and fortune smile on this contract, the ceremony of which it seems expedient to abridge for the present; the solemn feast shall be performed at a future time, when we shall be able to assemble friends.” M. Mason.
Though I have inserted the foregoing note, I do not profess to comprehend its meaning fully. Shakspeare uses the words expedience, expedient, and expediently, in the sense of haste, quick, expeditiously. A brief, in ancient language, means any short and summary writing or proceeding. The now-born brief is only another phrase for the contract recently and suddenly made.
The ceremony of it (says the king) shall seem to hasten after its short preliminary, and be performed to-night, &c. Steevens.
Now-born, the epithet in the old copy, prefixed to brief, unquestionably ought to be restored. The now-born brief, is the breve originale of the feudal times, which in this instance, formally notified the king's consent to the marriage of Bertram, his ward. Henley.
Our author often uses brief in the sense of a short note, or in. timation concerning any business; and sometimes without the idea of writing. So, in the last Act of this play:
She told me “ In a sweet verbal brief,” &c. Again, in the Prologue to Sir John Oldcastle, 1600:
“To stop which scruple let this brief suffice:
“ It is no pamper'd glutton we present,” &c. The meaning therefore of the present passage, I believe, is: Good fortune, and the king's favour, smile on this short contract; the ceremonial part of which shall immediately pass,-shall follow close on the troth now plighted between the parties, and be performed this night; the solemn feast shall be delayed to a future time. Malone.