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"women of his country to be regarded by their vir"tue and not their ornaments, banished out of the "country by the law all painting, and commanded "out of the town all crafty men of picking and ap"parelling."
10 -like an ABC-book:] An ABC-book, or, as they spoke and wrote it, an absey-book, is a catechism.
11 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.
12 Knight, knight, good mother,-Basilisco-like :] Thus must this passage be pointed; and, to come at the humour of it, I must clear up an old circumstance of stage-history. Faulconbridge's words here carry a concealed piece of satire on a stupid drama of that age, printed in 1599, and called Soliman and Perseda. In this piece there is the character of a bragging cowardly knight, called Basilisco. His pretension to valour is so blown and seen through, that Piston, a buffoon-servant in the play, jumps upon his back, and will not disengage him, till he makes Basilisco swear upon his dudgeon dagger to the contents, and in the terms he dictates to him: as, for instance,
"Bas. O I swear, I swear.
"Pist. By the contents of this blade,— "Bas. By the contents of this blade.
" Pist. I, the aforesaid Basilisco,-
"Pist. Knave, good fellow, knave, knave."
So that it is clear, our poet is sneering at this play; and makes Philip, when his mother calls him knave, throw off that reproach by humorously laying claim to his new dignity of knighthood; as Basilisco arrogantly insists on his title of knight in the passage above quoted. The old play is an execrable bad one; and, I suppose, was sufficiently exploded in the representation: which might make this circumstance so well known, as to become the butt for a stage
13 Richard, that robb'd the lion of his heart,] So Rastal in his Chronicle: "It is sayd that a lyon was put to kynge Richard, beynge in prison, to have devoured him, and when the lyon was gapynge he put his arme in his mouth, and pulled the lyon by the harte so hard that he slewe the lyon, and therefore some say he is called Rycharde Cure de Lyon; but some say he is called Cure de Lyon, because of his boldness and hardy stomake."
14 As great Alcides' shoes upon an ass ;] But why his shoes, in the name of propriety? For let Hercules and his shoes have been really as big as they were ever supposed to be, yet they (I mean the shoes) would not have been an overload for an ass. I am persuaded, I have retrieved the true reading; and let us observe the justness of the comparison now. Faulconbridge
in his resentment would say this to Austria, "That "lion's skin, which my great father king Richard "once wore, looks as uncouthly on thy back, as that "other noble hide, which was borne by Hercules, "would look on the back of an ass." A double allusion was intended; first, to the fable of the ass in the lion's skin; then Richard I. is finely set in competition with Alcides, as Austria is satirically coupled with the ass.
Mr. Theobald had the art of making the most of his discoveries.
15 I have but this to say,
That he's not only plagued for her sin,
But, &c.- -] This passage appears to me very obscure. The chief difficulty arises from this, that Constance having told Elinor of her sin-conceiving womb, pursues the thought, and uses sin through the next lines in an ambiguous sense, sometimes for crime, and sometimes for offspring.
He's not only plagued for her sin, &c. He is not only made miserable by vengeance for her sin or crime; but her sin, her offspring, and she, are made the instruments of that vengeance, on this descendant; who, though of the second generation, is plagued for her and with her; to whom she is not only the cause but the instrument of evil.
The next clause is more perplexed. All the editions read,
-plagu'd for her,
And with her plague her sin; his injury,
Her injury, the beadle to her sin,
All punish'd in the person of this child.
I point thus:
-plagu'd for her
And with her.-Plague her son! his injury
That is; instead of inflicting vengeance on this innocent and remote descendant, punish her son, her immediate offspring: then the affliction will fall where it is deserved; his injury will be her injury, and the misery of her sin; her son will be a beadle, or chastiser, to her crimes, which are now all punished in the person of this child.
roundure-] Fr. rondeur, i. e. the circle.
17 You 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.
18 like a jolly troop of huntsmen,] It was, I think, one of the savage practices of the chase, for all to stain their hands in the blood of the deer, as a trophy.
19-scroyles-] Escrouelles, French, i. e. scabby, scrophulous fellows.
20 Here's a stay
That shakes the rotten carcase of old death
Out of his rags !] I cannot but think that every reader wishes for some other word in the place of stay, which though it may signify an hindrance, or man that
hinders, is yet very improper to introduce the next line. I read,
Here's a flaw,
That shakes the rotten carcase of old death.
That is, here is a gust of bravery, a blast of menace. This suits well with the spirit of the speech. Stay and flaw, in a careless hand, are not easily distinguished; and if the writing was obscure, flaw being a word less usual was easily missed.
-departed-] To part and to depart were formerly synonimous.
22-sightless-] The poet uses sightless for that which we now express by unsightly, disagreeable to the eyes. 23 makes his owner stout.] The old editions have, makes its owner stoop: the emendation is Sir T. Hanmer's.
24 To me, and to the state of my great grief,
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? Sorrows soften the mind while it is yet warmed by hope, but hardens it when it is congealed by despair. Distress, while there remains any prospect of relief, is weak and flexible, but when no succour remains, is fearless and stubborn; angry alike at those that injure, and at those that do not help;