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So portent-like? would I o'ersway his state,
Ros. The blood of youth burns not with such excess, As gravity's revolt to wantonness. 9
Mar. Folly in fools bears not so strong a note,
? So portent-like &c.] In former copies:
So pertaunt-like, would I o'er-sway his state,
That he should be my fool, and I his fate. In old farces, to show the inevitable approaches of death and destiny, the Fool of the farce is made to employ all his stratagems to avoid Death or Fate; which very stratagems, as they are or. dered, bring the Fool, at every turn, into the very jaws of Fate. To this Shakspeare alludes again in Measure for Measure:
merely thou art Death's Fool ;
“ And yet run'st towards him still " It is plain from all this, that the nonsense of pertaunt-like, should be read, portent-like, i. e. I would be his fate or destiny, and, like a portent, hang over, and influence his fortunes. For portents were not only thought to forebode, but to influence. So the Latins called a person destined to bring mischief, fatale portentum.
Warburton. The emendation appeared first in the Oxford edition. Malone.
Until some proof be brought of the existence of such characters as Death and the Fool, in old farces, (for the mere assertion of Dr. Warburton not to be relied on) this passage must be literally understood, independently of any particular allusion. The old reading might probably mean—"so scoffingly would I o'ersway,” &c. The initial letter in Stowe, mentioned by Mr. Reed in Measure for Measure, here cited, has been altogether misunderstood. It is only a copy from an older letter which formed part of a Death's Dance, in which Death and the Fool were always represented. I have several of these alphabets.
Douce. 8 None are so &c.] These are observations worthy of a man who has surveyed human nature with the closest attention. Yohnson.
to wantonness.] The quarto, 1598, and the first folio have to wantons be. For this emendation we are likewise in. debted to the second folio. Malone.
Enter Boyet. Prin. Here comes Boyet, and mirth is in his face. Boyet. O, I am stabb’d with laughter! Where 's her
grace? Prin. Thy news, Boyet? Boyet.
Prepare, madam, prepare! Arm, wenches, arm! encounters mounted are Against your peace: Love doth approach disguis'd, Armed in arguments; you 'll be surpris'd: Muster your wits; stand in your own defence; Or hide your heads like cowards, and fly hence.
Prin. Saint Dennis to saint Cupid!1 What are they, That charge their breath against us? say, scout, say.
Boyet. Under the cool shade of a sycamore,
1 Saint Dennis, to saint Cupid!!] The Princess of France invokes, with too much levity, the patron of her country, to oppose his power to that of Cupid. Fohnson.
Johnson censures the Princess for invoking with so much le. vity the patron of her country, to oppose his power to that of Cupid; but that was not her intention. Being determined to en. gage the King and his followers, she gives for the word of battle St. Dennis, as the King, when he was determined to attack her, had given for the word of battle St. Cupid:
“ Saint Cupid then, and soldiers to the field.” M. Mason.
With that all laugh’d, and clapp'd him on the shoulder;
Prin. But what, but what, come they to visit us?
- splecn ridiculous --] Is, a ridiculous fit of laughter.
Fohnson. The spleen was anciently supposed to be the cause of laughter: So, in some old Latin verses already quoted on another occasion.
Splen ridere facit, cogit amare jecur.” Steevens.
- passion's solemn tears.] So, in A Midsummer Night's Dream :
6. Made mine eyes water, but more merry tears
“ The passion of loud laughter never shed.” Malone. 4 Like Muscovites, or Russians; as I guess,] The settling commerce in Russia was, at that time, a matter that much ingrossed the concern and conversation of the publick. There had been several embassies employed thither on that occasion; and several tracts of the manners and state of that nation written: so that a mask of Muscovites was as good an entertainment to the audience of that time, as a coronation has been since. Warburton.
A mask of Muscovites was no uncommon recreation at court long before our author's time. In the first year of King Henry the Eighth, at a banquet made for the foreign embassadors in the parliament-chamber at Westminster: “came the lorde Henry, Earle of Wiltshire, and the lorde Fitzwater, in twoo long gounes of yellowe satin travarsed with white satin, and in every ben of white was a bend of crimosen satin after the fashion of Russia or Ruslande, with furred hattes of grey on their hedes, either of them havyng an hatchet in their handes, and bootes with pykes turned up." HALL, Henry VIII, p. 6. This extract may serve to convey an idea of the dress used upon the present occasion by the King and his Lords at the performance of the play. Ritson.
Unto his several mistress; which they 'll know
Prin. And will they so? the gallants shall be task'd :-
Ros. Come on then; wear the favours most in sight.
Prin. The effect of my intent is, to cross theirs:
Ros. But shall we dance, if they desire us to 't?
Prin. No; to the death, we will not move a foot: Nor to their penn'd speech render we no grace; But, while 'tis spoke, each turn away her face.5 Boyet. Why, that contempt will kill the speaker's
heart. And quite divorce his memory from his part.
Prin. Therefore I co it; and, I make no doubt, The rest will ne'er come in, if he be out. There's no such sport, as sport by sport o'erthrown; To make theirs ours, and ours none but our own: So shall we stay, mocking intended game; And they, well mock’d, depart away with shame.
[Trumpets sound within. Boyet. The trumpet sounds; be mask'd, the maskers come.
[The ladies mask.
her face.] The first folio, and the quarto, 1598, havehis face. Corrected by the editor of the second folio. Malone.
will ne'er come in,] The quarto, 1598, and the folio, 1623, read_will e'er. The correction was made in the second folio.
Enter the King, BIRON, LONGAVILLE, and DUMAIN,
in Russian habits, and masked; Mort, Musicians and
[The ladies turn their backs to him. That ever turn'd their-backsto mortal views !
Biron. Their eyes, villain, their eyes.
Moth. Out of your favours, heavenly spirits, vouchsafe Not to behold
Biron. Once to behold, rogue.
Moth. Once to behold with your sun-beamed eyes,with your sun-beamed eyes —
Boyet. They will not answer to that epithet; You were best call it, daughter-beamed eyes.
Moth. They do not mark me, and that brings me out.
Boyet. What would you with the princess?
King. Say to her, we have measur'd many miles,
grass. Boyet. They say that they have measur'd many a mile, To tread a measure with you on this grass.
7 Beauties no richer than rich taffata.] i. e. the taffata masks they wore to conceal themselves. All the editors concur to give this line to Biron; but, surely, very absurdly: for he's one of the zealous admirers, and hardly would make such an inference. Boyet is sneering at the parade of their address, is in the secret of the ladies' stratagem, and makes himself sport at the absurdity of their proem, in complimenting their beauty, when they were mask'd. It therefore comes from him with the utmost propriety.