« AnteriorContinuar »
"We entered the prince his hall, where anon "we heard the noyse of drum and fife." p. 119. At a stately masque on Shrove-Sunday 1510, in which Henry VIII. was an actor, Holinshed mentions the entry "of a drum and fife apparelled in white "damaske and grene bonnettes." Chron. iii. 805. col. 2. There are many more instances in Holinshed, and Stowe's Survey of London.
From the old French word viffleur, above cited, came the English word whiffler, which anciently was used in its proper literal sense. Strype, speaking of a grand tilting before the court in queen Mary's reign, 1554, says, from an old journal, that king Philip and the challengers entered the lists, preceded by "their whifflers, their footmen, and their armourers." Eccles. Memor. iii. p. 211. This explains the use of the word in Shakspeare, where it is also literally applied. Hen. V. Act. 4. sc. ult:
"Pales in the flood with men, with wives and boys, "Whose shouts and claps out-voice the deep
"Which, like a mighty whiffler 'fore the king, "Seems to prepare his way."
By degrees, the word whiffler hence acquired the metaphorical meaning, which it at present obtains in common speech, and became an appellation of contempt. Whiffler, a light trivial character, a fellow hired to pipe at processions.
·tupp'd?] A ram is called a tup among the sheep-breeders in some counties.
67-Like to the Pontic sea, &c.] This simile is omitted in the first edition: I think it should be so, as an unnatural excursion in this place.
Every reader will, I durst say, abide by Mr. Pope's censure on this passage. When Shakspeare grew acquainted with such particulars of knowledge, he made a display of them as soon as opportunity offered. He found this in the second Book and 97th Chapter of Pliny's Natural History, as trans"And the sea lated by Philemon Holland, 1601: Pontus evermore floweth and runneth out into Propontis, but the sea never retireth backe againe within Pontus."
Mr. Edwards, in his MSS. notes, conceives this simile to allude to sir Philip Sidney's device, whose impress, Camden, in his Remains, says, was the Caspian sea, with this motto, Sine refluxu.
68 a capable and wide revenge—] i. e. ample, capa
And to obey shall be in me remorse,
What bloody business ever.] Thus all the old copies, to the manifest depravation of the poet's sense. Mr. Pope has attempted an emendation, but with his old luck and dexterity:
Not to obey shall be in me remorse, &c.
Nor, to obey, shall be in me remorse, &c.
i. e. Let your commands be ever so bloody, remorse and compassion shall not restrain me from obeying them.
Let him command,
And to obey shall be in me remorse,
What bloody business ever.] Thus the old copies read, but evidently wrong. Some editions read, Not to obey; on which the editor Mr. Theobald takes occasion to alter it to, Nor to obey; and thought he had much mended matters. But he mistook the sound end of the line for the corrupt; and so by his emendation, the deep-designing Iago is foolishly made to throw off his mask, when he had most occasion for it; and without any provocation, stand before his captain a villain confessed; at a time, when, for the carrying on his plot, he should make the least show of it. For thus Mr. Theobald forces him to say, I shall have no remorse to obey your commands, how bloody soever the business be. But this is not Shakspeare's way of preserving the unity of character. Iago, till now, pretended to be one, who, though in the trade of war he had slain men, yet held it the very stuff of the conscience to do no contrived murder; when, of a sudden, without cause or occasion, he owns himself a ruffian without remorse. Shakspeare wrote and pointed the passage thus:
-Let him command,
i. e. however the business he sets me upon may shock my honour and humanity, yet I promise to go through with it, and obey without reserve. Here Iago speaks in character, while the sense and grammar are made better by it. So Skelton:
And if so him fortune to write and plaine,
Squire, knight, and lord,
Thus the churche remorde.
Of these two emendations, I believe, Theobald's will have the greater number of suffrages; it has at least mine. The objection against the propriety of the declaration in Iago, is a cavil; he does not say that he has no principle of remorse, but that it shall not operate against Othello's commands. To obey shall be in me, for I will obey you, is a mode of expression not worth the pains here taken to introduce it; and the word remorde has not in the quotation the meaning of withhold, or make reluctant, but of reprove, or censure; nor do I know that it is used by any of the contemporaries of Shakspeare.
I will offer an interpretation, which, if it be received, will make alteration unnecessary, but it is very harsh and violent. Iago devotes himself to wronged Othello, and says, Let him command whatever bloody business, and in me it shall be an act, not of cruelty, but of tenderness, to obey him; not of malice to others, but of tenderness for him. If this sense be thought
too violent, I see nothing better than to follow Pope's reading, as it is improved by Theobald. JOHNSON.
70 Full of cruzadoes.] A Portuguese coin, value three shillings sterling; so called from the cross stamped upon it.
71 A sybil, that had number'd in the world
The sun to make two hundred compasses,] Thus the quarto, 1622. The folio-to course. STEEVENS. That is, numbered the sun's courses: badly expressed.
The expression is not very infrequent: we say, I counted the clock to strike four; so she number'd the sun to course, to run two hundred compasses, two hundred annual circuits.
72 And it was dy'd in mummy,] The balsamic liquor running from mummies was formerly celebrated for its anti-epileptic virtues. We are now wise enough to know, that the qualities ascribed to it are all imaginary; and yet I have been informed, that this fanciful medicine still holds a place in the shops where drugs are sold. So, in The Bird in a Cage, by Shirley, 1633: 66 make mummy of my flesh, and sell me to
Again, in The Honest Lawyer, 1616:
"That I might tear their flesh in mammocks, raise "My losses, from their carcases turn'd mummy.”
73 'Tis not a year or two shows us a man:] From this line it may be conjectured, that the author in