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times be humbled in the praises of the mean, of those who commend them without conviction or discernment: this, however is not so common ;
the mean are found more frequently than the great.
Act I. SCENE Vi. (1. iii. s.D.) Steward and Clown.
A Clown in Shakespeare' is commonly taken for a licensed jester, or domestick fool. We are not to wonder that we find this character often in his plays, since fools were, at that time, maintained in all great families, to keep up merriment in the house. In the picture of Sir Thomas Moore's family, by Hans Holbein, the only servant represented is Patison the fool. This is a proof of the familiarity to which they were admitted, not by the great only, but the wise.
In some plays, a servant, or rustic, of remarkable petulance and freedom of speech, is likewise called a Clown.
Act I. SCENE vi. (1. iii. 98-101.)
Tho' bonesty be no puritan, yet it will do no burt; it will wear the surplice of bumility over the black gown of a big beart.
Here is an allusion, violently enough forced in, to satirise the obstinacy with which the Puritans refused the use of the ecclesiastical habits, which was, at that time, one principal cause of the breach of union, and, perhaps, to insinuate, that the modest purity of the surplice was sometimes a cover for pride.
Act IV. SCENE Ü. (iv. ii. 73-4.)
Since Frenchmen are so braid, Marry that will, l'll live and die a Maid. Nothing is more common than for girls, on such occasions, to say in a pett what they do not think, or to think for a time what they do not finally resolve.
Act IV. SCENE üi. (iv. iii. 1.) First Lord.
The later Editors have with great liberality bestowed lordship upon these interlocutors, who, in the original edition, are called, with more propriety, capt. E. and capt. G. It is true that captain E. is in a former scene called Lord E. but the subordination in which they seem to act, and the timorous manner in which they converse, determines them to be only captains. Yet as the later readers of Shakespeare have been used to find them lords, I have not thought it worth while to degrade them in the margin.
ACT IV. SCENE V. (iv. iü. 282.)
He will steal, Sir, an egg out of a cloister. I know not that cloister, though it may etymologically signify any thing shut is used by our authour, otherwise than for a monastery, and therefore I cannot guess whence this hyberbole could take its original : perhaps it means only this : He will steal any thing, however trifling, from any place, however holy.
Act V. SCENE . (v. ii. 58-9.)
Tbo' you are a fool and a knave, you shall cat. Parolles has many of the lineaments of Falstaff, and seems to be the character which Shakespeare delighted to draw, a fellow that had more wit than virtue. Though justice required that he should be detected and exposed, yet his vices sit so fit in him that he is not at last suffered to starve.
Act V. SCENE iii. (v. iii. 20–2.)
Call bim hitber;
of the past. Shakespeare is now hastening to the end of the play, finds his matter sufficient to fill up his remaining scenes, and therefore, as on other such occasions, contracts his dialogue and precipitates his action. Decency required that Bertram's double crime of cruelty and disobedience joined likewise with some hypocrisy, should raise more resentment; and that though his mother might easily forgive him, his king should more pertinaciously vindicate his own authority and Helen's merit : of all this Shakespeare could not be ignorant, but Shakespeare wanted to conclude his play. ACT V. SCENE IV. (v. üi. 93.) BERTRAM. In Florence was it from a casement thrown me.
Bertram still continues to have too little virtue to deserve Helen. He did not know indeed that it was Helen's ring, but he knew that he had it not from a window.
ACT V. SCENE iv. (v. iii. 101–2.)
That knows the tinct and multiplying medicine. In the reign of Henry the fourth a law was made to forbid all men thenceforth to multiply gold, or use any craft of multiplication. Of which law Mr. Boyle, when he was warm with the hope of transmutation, procured a repeal. Act V. SCENE vi. (v. iii. 271–309.)
This dialogue [between the King and Diana] is too long, since the audience already knew the whole transaction ; nor is there any reason for puzzling the king and playing with his passions ; but it was much easier than to make a pathetical interview between Helen and her husband, her mother, and the king.
This.play has many delightful scenes, though not. sufficiently probable, and some happy characters, though not new, nor produced by any deep, knowledge of human nature. Parolles is a boaster and a coward, such as has always been the sport of the stage, but perhaps never raised more laughter or contempt than in the hands of Shakespeare.
I cannot reconcile my heart to Bertram ; a man noble without generosity, and young without truth; who marries Helen as a coward, and leaves her as a profligate : when she is dead by his unkindness, sneaks home to a second marriage, is accused by a woman whom he has wronged, defends himself by falshood, and is dismissed to happiness.
The story of Bertram and Diana had been told before of Mariana and Angelo, and, to confess the truth, scarcely merited to be heard a second time.
The story is copied from a novel of Boccace, which may be read in Shakespear Illustrated, with remarks not more favourable to Bertram than my own.
Acr I. SCENE I. (1. i. 24-6.)
For ere thou canst report I will be there,
The thunder of my cannon shall be beardo The simile does not suit well : the lightning indeed appears before the thunder is heard, but the lightning is destructive, and the thunder innocent. Act I. SCENE i. (1. i. 27–8.)
Be thou the trumpet of our wrath,
And sullen presage of your own decay. By the epithet sullen, which cannot be applied to a trumpet, it is plain, that our authour's imagination had now suggested a new idea. It is as if he had said, be a trumpet to alarm with our invasion, be a bird of ill omen to croak out the prognostick of your own ruin. Act I. SCENE iv. (1. i. 225.) Colbrand the giant.
Colbrand was a Danish giant, whom Guy of Warwick discomfited in the presence of king Athelstan. The combat is very pompously described by Drayton in his Polyolbion.
Act II. SCENE iv. (11. i. 300 foll.)
FRENCH HERALD. re men of Angiers, &c. This speech is very poetical and smooth, and except the conceit of the widow's husband embracing the earth, is just and beautiful.
ACT II. SCENE V. (11. i. 477–9.)
Lest zeal now melted by the windy breath
Cool and congeal again to wbat it was. We have here a very unusual, and, I think, not very just image of Zeal, which in its highest degree is represented by others as a flame, but by Shakespeare as a frost. To repress zeal, in the language of others, is to cool, in Shakespeare's to melt it; when it exerts its utmost power it is commonly said to flame, but by Shakespeare to be congealed.
Act III. SCENE I. (111. i. 70-1.)
Let Kings assemble. In Much ado about nothing, the father of Hero, depressed by her disgrace, declares himself so subdued by grief that a thread may lead him. How is it that grief in Leonato and lady' Constance, produces effects directly opposite, and yet both agreeable to nature.