the better part. Shakespeare was no despicable Mythologist, yet he seems here to have mistaken some other character for that of Atalanta.

Act III. SCENE Vi. (. ii. 187–8.)

I was never so be-rbymed since Pythagoras time, that I was an Irish rat.

Rosalind is a very learned Lady. She alludes to the Pythagorean doctrine which teaches that souls transmigrate from one animal to another, and relates that in his time she was an Irish rat, and by some metrical charm was rhymed to death. The power of killing rats with rhymes Donne mentions in his satires, and Temple in his treatises. Dr. Gray has produced a similar passage from Randolph

My Poets
Shall with a saytire steeped in vinegar
Rhyme them to death, as they do rats in Ireland.

Act III. SCENE X. (111. iv.)

There is much of nature in this petty perverseness of Rosalind; she finds faults in her lover, in hope to be contradicted, and when Celia in sportive malice too readily seconds her accusations, she contradicts herself, rather than suffer her favourite to want a vindication.

Act IV. SCENE i. (iv. i. 39-40.)

I will scarce think you have swam in a Gondola. That is, been at Venice, the seat at that time of all licentiousness, where the young English gentlemen wasted their fortunes, debased their morals, and sometimes lost their religion.

The fashion of travelling which prevailed very much in our author's time, was considered by the wiser men as one of the principal causes of corrupt manners.


was therefore gravely censured by Ascham in his School master, and by Bishop Hall in his Quo Vadis, and is here, and in other passages ridiculed by Shakespeare.

Of this play the fable is wild and pleasing. I know not how the ladies will approve the facility with which both Rosalind and Celia give away their hearts. To Celia much may be forgiven for the heroism of her friendship. The character of Jaques is natural and well preserved. The comick dialogue is very sprightly, with less mixture of low buffoonery than in some other plays ; and the graver part is elegant and harmonious. By hastening to the end of his work Shakespeare suppressed the dialogue between the usurper and the hermit, and lost an opportunity of exhibiting a moral lesson in which he might have found matter worthy of his highest powers.


The stile of the rhyming scenes in this play is often entangled and obscure.

Acr I. SCENE i. (1. i. 77.)

Ligbt, seeking light, doth light of light beguile. The whole sense of this gingling declamation is only this, that a man by too close study may read himself blind, which might have been told with less obscurity in fewer words.

Act I. SCENE I. (1. i. 148.)

Necessity will make us all forsworn. Biron amidst his extravagancies, speaks with great justness against the folly of vows. They are made without sufficient regard to the variations of life, and are therefore broken by some unforseen necessity. They proceed commonly from a presumptuous confidence, and a false estimate of human power. ACT I. SCENE Üi. (1. ü. 5.) Dear imp.

Imp was anciently a term of dignity. Lord Cromwel in his last letter to Henry VIII. prays for the imp his son. It is now used only in contempt or abhorrence ; perhaps in our authour's time it was ambiguous, in which state it suits well with this dialogue. Act II. SCENE ii. (11. i. 221.)

My lips are no common, tbougb several ibey be. Several is an inclosed field of a private proprietor, so Maria says, her lips are private property. Of a Lord that was newly married one observed that he grew fat; yes, said Sir Walter Raleigh, any beast will grow fat, if you take him from the common and graze him in the several.

Act IV. SCENE ü. (iv. č.) Holophernes.

I am not of the learned commentator's opinion, that the satire of Shakespeare is so seldom personal. It is of the nature of personal invectives to be soon unintelligible ; and the authour that gratifies private malice, animam in volnere ponit, destroys the future efficacy of his own writings, and sacrifices the esteem of succeeding times to the laughter of a day. It is no wonder, therefore, that the sarcasms which, perhaps, in the authour's time set the playhouse in a roar, are now lost among general reflections. Yet whether the character of Holofernes was pointed at any particular man, I am, notwithstanding the plausibility of Dr. Warburton's conjecture, inclined to doubt. Every man adheres as long as he can to his own pre-conceptions. Before I read this note I considered the character of Holofernes as borrowed from the Rhombus of Sir Philip Sidney, who, in a kind of pastoral entertainment exhibited to Queen Elizabeth, has introduced a schoolmaster so called, speaking a leash of languages at once, and puzzling himself and his auditors with a jargon like that of Holofernes in the present play. Sidney himself might bring the character from Italy; for as Peacham observes, the Schoolmaster has long been one of the ridiculous personages in the farces of that country. Act V. SCENE i. (v. i. 2–6.)

NATHANIEL. I praise God for you, Sir, your reasons at dinner bave been sbarp. and sententious ; pleasant without scurrility, witry without affectation, audacious without impudency, learned without opinion, and strange without beresy.

I know not well what degree of respect Shakespeare intends to obtain for this vicar, but he has here put into his mouth a finished representation of colloquial excellence. It is very difficult to add any thing to this character of the schoolmaster's table-talk, and perhaps all the precepts of Castiglione will scarcely be found to comprehend a rule for conversation so justly delineated, so widely dilated, and so nicely limited.

It may be proper just to note, that reason here, and in many other places, signifies discourse, and that audacious is used in a good sense for spirited, animated, confident. Opinion is the same with obstinacy or opiniatreté. Act V. SCENE i. (v. ü. 69–72.) PRINCESS. None are so surely caught, wben they are carcb'd,

As wit turn'd fool : folly, in wisdom batch'd,
Hath wisdom's warrant, and the belp of school ;

And wit's own grace to grace a learned fool. These are observations worthy of a man who has surveyed human nature with the closest attention.

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Act V. SCENE V. (v. č. 206.)

Doucbsafe, brigbt moon, and these oby stars, to sbine. When Queen Elizabeth asked an ambassadour how he liked her Ladies, It is hard, said he, to judge of stars in the presence of the sun. Act V. SCENE Vü. (v. ü. 374-9.) BIRON.

Fair, gentle, sweet,
Your wit makes wise things foolisb; when we greet
With eyes best seeing beaven's fiery, cye,
By ligbl we lose ligbt ; your capacity
Is of that nature, as to your buge store

Wise things seem foolisb, and rich things but poor.
This is a very lofty and elegant compliment.

In this play, which all the editors have concurred to censure, and some have rejected as unworthy of our Poet, it must be confessed that there are many passages mean, childish, and vulgar; and some which ought not to have been exhibited, as we are told they were, to a maiden queen. But there are scattered, through the whole, many sparks of genius ; nor is there any play that has more evident marks of the hand of Shakespeare.


Act I. SCENE Ü. (1. ïi. 260-1.)

Whereof the execution did cry out

Against the non-performance. This is one of the expressions by which Shakespeare too frequently clouds his meaning. This sounding phrase means, I think, no more than a thing necessary to be done.

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