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Take but degree away, untune that string,
And, hark! what discord follows; each thing

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In mere oppugnancy: the bounded waters Should lift their bosoms higher than the shores, And make a sop of all this solid globe: Strength should be lord of imbecility,

And the rude son


110. meets] Ff; melts Q.


III. mere] absolute. On "merely upon myself" (Julius Cæsar, 1. ii. 39) Craik (The English Shakespeare, §45) has the following useful note. Merely. means purely, only. It separates that which it designates or qualifies from everything else. But in doing so the chief or most emphatic reference may be made either to that which is included or to that which is excluded. In modern English it is always to the latter; by 'merely upon myself' we should now mean upon nothing else except myself; the nothing else is that which makes the merely prominent. In Shakespeare's day the other reference was the more common, that, namely, to what was included; and 'merely upon myself' meant upon myself altogether or without regard to anything else. Myself was that which the merely made prominent. So, when Hamlet [Hamlet, 1. ii. 137], speaking of the world says, 'Things rank and gross in nature Possess it merely,' he by the merely brings the possession before the mind and characterises it as complete and absolute; but by the term now the prominence would be given to something else from which the possession might be conceived to be separable; 'possess it merely would mean have nothing beyond simply the possession of it (have, it

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112. Should lift] would be certain to lift.

113. And make a sop] and reduce to a mere pulp; sop, anything steeped and softened in liquor. Compare Richard III. 1. iv. 162: "First Murd. We will chop him in the malmsey butt in the next room. Sec. Murd. O excellent device! make a sop of him." 114, 115. Strength

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dead] If the text is sound here, the only sense I can extract from it is that mere strength would necessarily be lord over weakness and that as a consequence the strong, rough, son would strike his feeble father dead. This seems very poor. The gist of the whole passage is that where "degree is shaked,' everything is turned topsy-turvy, there is a general bouleversement in all processes. Now, in the ordinary course of things, "strength" is "lord of imbecility,' and so nothing is upset by "degree being "shaked". I believe, therefore, that for lord we should read dar'd, i.e. defied, and that the latter of the two lines has no dependence upon the former, but means that filial reverence would be a thing of the past. Apparently feeling this, Mr. P. A. Daniel conjectures slave or law'd for "lord".

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Force should be right; or rather, right and wrong,

Between whose endless jar justice resides,

Should lose their names, and so should justice


Then every thing includes itself in power,
Power into will, will into appetite;


And appetite, an universal wolf,

So doubly seconded with will and power,

Must make perforce an universal prey,

And last eat up himself. Great Agamemnon,
This chaos, when degree is suffocate,


Follows the choking.

And this neglection of degree it is

That by a pace goes backward, with a purpose

It hath to climb. The general's disdain'd
By him one step below, he by the next,
That next by him beneath; so every step,
Exampled by the first pace that is sick
Of his superior, grows to an envious fever
Of pale and bloodless emulation:

128. with] Q; in Ff.

117. jar] collision. For "resides " Warburton conjectures presides.

119, 120. Then everything. . . appetite] then everything resolves itself in the end into power, power in its turn resolves itself into will, and, etc. 125. suffocate] For the suffix -ed, omitted after d and t, see Abbott, Shakespearian Grammar, § 342. 127-129. And this. climb] It is not, of course, the "neglection of degree" that " goes backward" step by step, but those who, in their endeavour to climb, are guilty of this


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And 'tis this fever that keeps Troy on foot, 135
Not her own sinews. To end a tale of length,

Troy in our weakness stands, not in her strength.

Nest. Most wisely hath Ulysses here discover'd

The fever whereof all our power is sick.

Agam. The nature of the sickness found, Ulysses, 140
What is the remedy?

Ulyss. The great Achilles, whom opinion crowns
The sinew and the forehand of our host,

Having his ear full of his airy fame,

Grows dainty of his worth, and in his tent 145

Lies mocking our designs: with him Patroclus
Upon a lazy bed the livelong day

Breaks scurril jests;

And with ridiculous and awkward action,

Which, slanderer, he imitation calls,


He pageants us. Sometime, great Agamemnon, 149. awkward] Ff; sillie Q.

137. stands] Q; lines Ff.

138. discover'd] laid bare to our view.


143. forehand] originally an adjective used in archery of an arrow for shooting straight before one (in contrast with those fixed at an angle, as 'rovers "); hence that which holds the front position; later, of anything foremost, leading, and so as a substantive, the vanguard, etc. See the New Eng. Dict.

144. airy fame] Malone compares "mouth honour,' " Macbeth, v. iii. 27, but there the want of sincerity is the point, here the insubstantiality.

145. Grows . . . worth] sets exceeding great store by his prowess, so that he will not exert it in our behalf on ordinary occasions; not, I think, "is over-solicitous of, takes

too much care of" (Schmidt). Com-
pare Romeo and Juliet, 1. v. 26:-
"which of you all

Will now deny to dance? She
that makes dainty,

She, I'll swear, hath corns." 147. Upon a lazy bed] lazily upon his bed. So, "in her naked bed," Venus and Adonis, 397, means the bed upon which she lay naked.

151. pageants us] presents us as on a stage. A pageant originally meant a movable scaffold, such as was used in the representation of the old mystery plays and in the theatrical spectacles so common in Shakespeare's day, in which events, exploits, etc., were symbolised by animals and scenery constructed of wood. For the thought compare Antony and Cleopatra, v. ii. 216-221.

Thy topless deputation he puts on,

And, like a strutting player, whose conceit
Lies in his hamstring, and doth think it rich
To hear the wooden dialogue and sound
'Twixt his stretch'd footing and the scaffoldage,—
Such to-be-pitied and o'er-wrested seeming


He acts thy greatness in: and when he speaks,
'Tis like a chime a-mending; with terms un-

Which, from the tongue of roaring Typhon

Would seem hyperboles. At this fusty stuff


157. o'er-wrested] Pope; ore-rested Q, Ff 1, 2, 3; o're-rested F 4. 159. unsquar'd] unsquare Q.

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152. Thy topless deputation] "the supreme power deputed to thee (by the other Greek chiefs)" (Rolfe) seems preferable to "thy dignity as Jove's substitute " (Schmidt). Marlowe, Faustus, v. iii. 171, uses "topless' of the towers of Ilium in the sense of not exceeded by any; for the figurative sense, compare Marston, ii Antonio and Mellida, 1. i. 85, "my topless villany," and Heywood, The Golden Age, vol. iii. p. 40 (Pearson's Reprint), "their topless fury".

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153-156. whose conceit scaffoldage] whose only faculty for acting lies in the sinews of his legs, and who glories in the wooden echo given by the boards to the wooden, stilted gait with which he treads them: hamstring, one of the tendons which form the sides of the ham or space at the back of the knee. Malone thinks that scaffoldage refers to the galleries, the tiers of which were sometimes termed scaffolds," but it seems simpler to take it of the framework of the stage.


157. o'er-wrested] strained; a meta

phor from the tuning of stringed instruments by a wrest. See note on III. iii. 23, below, and compare Othello, II. i. 202:—

"O, you are well tuned now, But I'll set down the pegs that make this music".

159. a chime a-mending] Steevens understands this literally of repairing. Does it mean more than being tuned into unison? unsquared, unsuitable; resembling stones not dressed to fit into their proper places. Compare Marston, What You Will, Introduction, 71: "Lest aught I offered were unsquared or warp'd".

160. Typhon] A giant with a hundred serpentine heads_growing from his shoulders, in Epic Typhoeus, son of Tartaros and Gaia, who sought to dethrone Jupiter, and was by him imprisoned under Mt. Etna.

161. fusty] seems to be here used in the sense of "fustian," "highsounding," rather than that of "mouldy," the ordinary meaning of the word, though the mouldiness may, of course, be figurative.

The large Achilles, on his press'd bed lolling,
From his deep chest laughs out a loud applause;
Cries "Excellent! 'tis Agamemnon just.

Now play me Nestor; hem, and
Nestor; hem, and stroke thy

As he being dress'd to some oration."

That's done; as near as the extremest ends

Of parallels, as like as Vulcan and his wife :
Yet god Achilles still cries "Excellent!


'Tis Nestor right. Now play him me, Patroclus, 170
Arming to answer in a night alarm."

And then, forsooth, the faint defects of age
Must be the scene of mirth; to cough and spit,
And with a palsy-fumbling on his gorget,

Shake in and out the rivet

Sir Valour dies; cries "O,

and at this sport 175 enough, Patroclus,

Or give me ribs of steel! I shall split all

In pleasure of my spleen." And in this fashion
All our abilities, gifts, natures, shapes,
Severals and generals of grace exact,
Achievements, plots, orders, preventions,

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ordered gifts, individual and general'
(Delius); "the minutest, peculiar
and general excellencies" (Schmidt).
Hudson more probably, I think, takes
"of grace exact as exact in re-
spect of grace". Staunton's conjec-
ture, "of grace and act," is plausible,
but with him I doubt the necessity
of any change. Singer's "are of
grace exact is forbidden by the
construction as leaving "Achieve-
ments," etc., without any connecting

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181. preventions]


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