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THE PLEASE-MAN'S SMILE
That smiles his cheek in years and knows the trick
(Love's Labour's Lost, v, 2, 465)
I HAVE no doubt that the "yeares” of the Quarto should have been youres (yours) — a printer's error easily made.
The whole theme of this long passage is privacy of understanding, intimacy between two persons with regard to some mutual secret; and Shakespeare's word-picture of the character sticks strictly to this idea throughout. The secret of the masque has been given away beforehand to the ladies who were to be tricked, and Shakespeare here characterizes, with many quick, live word-pictures, the sort of ladies'-man who would busy himself with carrying the tale to them — he is “some carrytale, some please-man, some slight zany, some mumble-news,
some trencher-knight, some Dick.” Then
Then follows the characterization quoted above.
Some such ladies’-man (we are familiar with the type) made it his business to go and confide to them what was brewing. Setting Shakespeare entirely aside now, and referring simply to our own knowledge of human nature, what always follows in such a case? What is the please
man's reward? There ensues a period of intimate understanding between the confidential fellow and the ladies; he can converse with them by their shrewd understanding of looks and nods; there is great traffic in winks and smiles; and all to the complete mystification of third parties who are not in the secret. It is especially mysterious to other gentlemen who do not seem to be on so intimate a basis with the fair. This is the please-man's reward; and Shakespeare would not have made a live picture of him at all if he had stopped with those epithets and not drawn them to some climax of particular and pat description. This he does in describing him as one who "smiles his cheek in yours," the meaning of which, as I would understand it, is as follows.
A man who smiles his cheek in yours is one who, entirely because of some mutual understanding, and without any necessity of words, makes you smile when he does, or smiles answeringly when you do - as in a mirror. His smile is at once translatable in the light of the mutual secret; the other smiles in return; the smile of his cheek goes directly into yours as in a looking-glass. Because of this direct-ness, without any other medium than the smile, and because the smiles evidently have the same source, he may be said very truly to be smiling his cheek in yours. The line, when thus viewed, is so true to human nature that it becomes the very soul and climax of the
characterization. It shows the ladies' pleaseman actively at work and reaping his reward.
All present-day texts have it "in years,” the explanation being: "smiles his cheek into wrinkles that give him the look of age.” This is inharmonious with the whole spirit of the picture; it is foreign to the theme. Why should Shakespeare here drag in the idea of a haggard and aged smile — especially as such a smile and with no further connection? It is more Shakespearean to stick to the subject, to keep directly on to the point and drive it deeper into human nature.
Various emendations have been suggested Theobald thought it ought to be fleers; Hanmer, tears; Jackson, yeas, etc. Furness, in lack of a plausible emendation, agrees with Warburton, Farmer and Steevens that it is “years” referring to a look of age. An understanding of the point in human nature, it seems to me, would have suggested yours, which is, after all, the most likely typographical error. Shakespeare uses the word yours otherwhere in his work; and hundreds, or rather thousands, of changes in the original text have been made on a less evident basis of typographical error.
The line immediately following this drives home the same meaning
“To make my lady laugh when she's disposed.” This immediately makes itself consistent with the context; and there is nothing so Shakespearean as sticking to the subject.
A LOVE DETAINED
Sister, you know he promis'd me a chaine,
(Comedy of Errors, ii, 1, 107)
The above is the text of the First Folio, a reading that passed out of use beginning with the Second Folio (1623). All efforts to read this passage as it stands in the original copies seem to be confined to the idea that a "love" could only refer to the woman whom Adriana supposed to be keeping her husband away from his bed; in which case her wish would not make consistent good sense. Hence the substitution of “alone, alone” for “alone a love" in all modern editions.
In my way of seeing it, the First Folio reading makes good sense while the other does not. I think it to be evident in the plays that in Shakespeare's day, or at least in his usage, any love token or remembrance, or any little loving act or thought was spoken of as a "love." This would seem a quite natural usage. For instance, in “King John," iv, 4, 49, Prince Arthur quotes himself as comforting Hubert when he was ill
Saying, “What lack you'? and ‘Where lies your grief?'
Or ‘What good love may I perform for you?' Here the word "love" would certainly seem to be used in the sense of an act of love. In A Midsummer Night's Dream, ii, 2, 154, Hermia exclaims, “Speak, of all loves! I almost swoon with fear.” This would be equivalent to saying — Of all loving acts you could perform for me, speak. Again in “The Merry Wives of Windsor” we have a like usage (ii, 2, 118) as also in “Othello,” iii, 1, 13, though here the Quarto reading “of all loves” has been done away with in favor of “for love's sake.”
If my understanding of the word is permissible, the "love" referred to is the chain itself which is mentioned in immediate connection, a love token; and this would make the First Folio reading preferable as having more consistency and continuity of thought. And why should not a love-token be spoken of as “a love' inasmuch as it is a separate act of love?
The sense, then, would be as follows. Adriana, who is afflicted with a fear that her husband is being kept away from home by another woman, suddenly remembers that he promised her a chain, which love-token has not yet been forthcoming; and as this fact pops into her mind in the present connection it adds to her suspicions. But immediately, in a woman's mood of being willing to suffer so long as her wrongs do not extend too far, she reflects — “Sister, you know he promised me a chain.