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Commentators generally have been taken up with the problem as to what it is that is being forsaken; and many of them seem to think that it is the rope or the gully which women themselves forsake; though what these things stand for is not explained. Others think it ought to read “in such a scare” and ascribe the present reading to a mistake upon the part of the printers of the Folio. As the Folio, which is full of error in punctuation, prints the word ropes as follows-“rope's—many critics think that this stands for “rope us." The present-day state of affairs is shown in the note of Gollancz summing up the most plausible theories:
“This is one of the standing cruxes in the text of Shakespeare; some thirty emendations have been proposed for ‘ropes' and ‘scarre'. . The apostrophe in the First and Second Folios makes it almost certain that 's stands for us. Possibly 'make' is used as an auxiliary; 'make rope's' would then mean ‘do constrain, or ensnare us.' Or is ‘make rope' a compound verb? 'Scarre' may mean'scare' (i.e. 'fright'). The general sense seems to be 'I see that man may reduce us to such a fright that we'll forsake ourselves.””
Inasmuch as Bertram was the opposite of threatening, and used only the softest blandishment and persuasion, Gollancz's conclusion after considering all the attempts does not seem very fit to the actual case. It is difficult to see
what Shakespeare would mean by writing “men make-rope us in such a scarre.
There has been much clinging to the apostrophe in the word rope's because it is thus found in the First and Second Folios; but this is due to the fact that no possible solution presented itself and this seemed to offer a different way out, whatever it might signify. However we must remember that the Second Folio had no independent source; it was copied from the First Folio; and the First Folio has thousands of errors in punctuation which have been corrected without question. The fact that a mistake has been copied does not lend it any authority, though many editors have seemed to reason that it does. The editor of the Second Folio was human; and, as he probably did not understand the line himself, he simply put
down what he found in the First Folio. Following is a list of emendations, beginning with Rowe (1709):
Rowe - make hopes in such affairs.
BECKET — make mopes in such a scar, or make japes of such a scathe.
Henley — make hopes in such a scare.
COLLIER — make slopes in such a scarre, or make ropes in such a stairs.
Dyce make hopes in such a case.
BUBIER make ropes in such a snare, or wake hopes in such a scare.
ADDIS may drop's in such a scarre.
HERR — make oaths in such a siege, or make loves in such a service.
LETTSOM make ropes in such a scape.
KEIGHTLY — make ropes of oaths and vows to scale our fort in hope.
ARMADO O' THE ONE SIDE
Armado o' the one side, -0 a most dainty man!
(Love's Labour's Lost, iv, 1, 146)
This passage, in its entirety, has been very embarrassing to editors because it seems to have no connection with the scene in which it stands and of which it forms the conclusion. As it appears to be so irrelevant and foreign to the context, some editors, as Staunton, Halliwell and Rolfe, lift it from its present position and find a place for it in the preceding scene at line 136. But others, not finding that it fits here with any convincing aptness, prefer to let it remain where it is according to the original sources of the play. Armado and the Page, whom the clown seems to be characterizing, do not appear in the scene at all; hence there has been difficulty in determining upon what grounds the mind should take such a sudden jump.
The trouble lies in the interpretation — not merely of words and phrases but of the working of the clown's mind. Costard is not talking
about Armado and the Page primarily; he is soliloquizing about the nobleman Boyet who has just left. In order to appreciate Shakespeare's work in this place, it is necessary for us to call to mind the leading traits of certain characters in the play.
The page, Moth, stands for quick-wittedness. He is a cogging and bantering juvenile who is always catching somebody in a verbal trap.
To the simple-minded Costard he is the nonpareil of wits because he always succeeds in “putting down” others. In that respect he is Costard's delight: “An' I had but one penny in the world thou should'st have it to buy gingerbread.” Costard wishes the boy were his “bastard” so that he might be blessed with so bright a son (v, 1, 79).
Armado, on the other hand, was a dandy pure and simple. He is all courtliness and clothes. But as to intellect, his mind is a mere collection of bizarre phrases and knightly notions by which he affects the much-travelled courtier and man of wars. To Costard he would naturally seem the very paragon of ladies' men.
Now what sort of man is Boyet? He is the French nobleman who accompanied the Princess and her ladies to England. The conductor of such a party is, of course, your complete ladies' man; and as we see in this scene particularly, he has a nimble wit in their playful encounters with him.
It is into one of these wit encounters that