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By an Athenian eunuch to the harp.
The riot of the tipsy Bacchanals,
A tedious brief scene of young Pyramus,
Which is as brief as I have known a play;
The. What are they that do play it?
Which never labour'd in their minds till now;
The. And we will hear it.
No, my noble lord, It is not for you: I have heard it over, And it is nothing, nothing in the world: Unless you can find sport in their intents, Extremely stretch'd, and conn'd with cruel pain, To do you service.
I will hear that play;
1 Steevens thought, that by abridgment was meant a dramatic performance which crowds the events of years into a few hours. Surely the context seems to require a different explanation; an abridgment appears to mean some pastime to shorten the tedious evening. 2 Short account.
3 This may be an allusion to Spenser's poem: The Tears of the Muses on the Neglect and Contempt of Learning;' first printed in 1591.
4 It is thought that Shakspeare alludes here to certain good hearted men of Coventry,' who petitioned that they mought renew their old storial shew' before the Queen at Kenilworth: where the poet himself may have been prosent, as he was then twelve years old. 5 i. e. unexercised, unpractised,
For never any thing can be amiss,
The. Why, gentle sweet, you shall see no such
Hip. He says they can do nothing in this kind.
Our sport shall be, to take what they mistake:
Noble respect takes it in might, not merit."
I read as much, as from the rattling tongue
Philost. So please your grace, the prologue is
[Flourish of trumpets.
Prol. If we offend, it is with our good will.
We do not come as minding to content you,
We are not here. That you should here repent you. The actors are at hand: and, by their show, You shall know all, that you are like to know.
The. This fellow doth not stand upon points. Lys. He hath rid his prologue, like a rough colt, he knows not the stop. A good moral, my lord: It is not enough to speak, but to speak true.
Hip. Indeed he hath played on this prologue like a child on a recorder; 10 a sound, but not in government.11.
The. His speech was like a tangled chain; nothing impaired, but all disordered. Who is next? Enter PYRAMUS and THISBE, Wall, Moonshine, and Lion, as in dumb show.
Prol. "Gentles, perchance, you wonder at this show;
"But wonder on, till truth make all things plain. "This man is Pyramus, if you would know; "This beauteous lady Thisby is, certain. "This man, with lime and rough-cast doth present "Wall, that vile wall which did these lovers sun
"And through wall's chink, poor souls, they are
"To whisper; at the which let no man wonder. "This man, with lantern, dog, and bush of thorn,
"Presenteth moon-shine; for, if you will know, "By moon-shine did these lovers think no scorn
6 Intents may be put for the object of their attention. To intend and to attend were anciently synonymous. 7 The sense of this passage appears to be:-"What dutifulness tries to perform without ability, regardful ge nerosity receives with complacency; estimating it, not by the actual merit, but according to the power or might of the humble but zealous performers."
9 Anciently the prologue entered after the third sounding of the trumpets, or, as we should now say, after the third music.
10 A kind of flageolet. To record anciently signified to modulate; perhaps the name arose from birds being taught to record by it.
11 i. e. not regularly, according to the time.
"To meet at Ninus' tomb, there, there to woo. "This grisly beast, which by name lion hight,' "The trusty Thisby, coming first by night, "Did scare away, or rather did affright; "And, as she fled, her mantle she did fall; "Which lion vile with bloody mouth did stain: "Anon comes Pyramus, swee youth, and tall, "And finds his trusty Thisby's mantle slain: "Whereat with blade, with bloody blameful blade, "He bravely broach'd his boiling bloody breast; "And, Thisby, tarrying in mulberry shade,
"His dagger drew, and died. For all the rest, "Let lion, moon-shine, wall, and lovers twain, "At large discourse, while here they do remain." [Exeunt Prol. THISBE, Lion, and Moonshine. The. I wonder, if the lion be to speak. Dem. No wonder, my lord: one lion may, when
many asses do.
Wall. "In this same interlude, it doth befall, "That I, one Snout by name, present a wall: "And such a wall, as I would have you think, "That had in it a cranny'd hole, or chink, "Through which the lovers, Pyramus and Thisby, "Did whisper often very secretly.
"This loam, this rough-cast, and this stone, doth show
"That I am that same wall; the truth is so: "And this the cranny is, right and sinister, "Through which the fearful lovers are to whisper." The. Would you desire lime and hair to speak better?
Dem. It is the wittiest partition that ever I heard discourse, my lord.
The. Pyramus draws near the wall: silence!
Pyr. "O grim-look'd night! O night with hue so black;
"O night, which over art, when day is not! "O night, O night, alack, alack, alack,
"I fear my Thisby's promise is forgot!"And thou, O wall, O sweet, O lovely wall, "That stand'st between her father's ground and
"Thou wall, O wall, O sweet, and lovely wall, "Show me thy chink, to blink through with mine [Wall holds up his Fingers. "Thanks, courteous wall: Jove shield thee well for this!
"But what see I? No Thisby do I see. "O wicked wall, through whom I see no bliss: "Curst be thy stones for thus deceiving me!" The. The wall, methinks, being sensible, should curse again.
Pyr. No, in truth, sir, he should not. Deceiving e, Is Thisby's cue: she is to enter now, and I am to spy her through the wall. You shall see, it will fall pat as I told you :-Yonder she comes.
This. "I kiss the wall's hole, not your lips at all." Pyr. "Wilt thou at Ninny's tomb meet me straightway?"
This. "Tide life, tide death, I come without delay."
Wall. "Thus have I, wall, my part discharged so; "And, being done, thus wall away doth go.'
[Exeunt Wall, PYRAMUS, and THISBE. The. Now is the mural down between the two neighbours.
Dem. No remedy, my lord, when walls are so wilful to hear without warning. 3
Hip. This is the silliest stuff that ever I heard. The. The best in this kind are but shadows: and the worst are no worse, if imagination amend them. Hip. It must be your imagination then, and not theirs.
The. If we imagine no worse of them, than they of themselves, they may pass for excellent men. Here come two noble beasts in, a moon and a lion. Enter Lion and Moonshine.
Lion. "You, ladies, you, whose gentle hearts do fear
"The smallest monstrous mouse that creeps on floor,
"May now, perchance, both quake and tremble here,
Then know, that I, one Snug the joiner, am "When lion rough in wildest rage doth roar. No lion fell, nor else no lion's dam:
"For if I should as lion come in strife "Into this place, 'twere pity on my life." The. A very gentle beast, and of a good con
Dem. The very best at a beast, my lord, that e' I saw.
Lys. This lion is a very fox for his valour. The. True; and a goose for his discretion. Dem. Not so, my lord: for his valour cannot carry his discretion; and the fox carries the goose.
The. His discretion, I am sure, cannot carry his valour; for the goose carries not the fox. It is well: leave it to his discretion, and let us listen to the moon.
Moon. "This lantern doth the horned moon pre
Dem. He should have worn the horns on his head. The. He is no crescent, and his horns are invisible within the circumference.
Moon. "This lantern doth the horned moon present:
"Myself the man i'the'moon do seem to be."
The. This is the greatest error of all the rest: the man should be put into the lantern: How is it else the man i'the moon?
Dem. He dares not come there for the candle; for, you see, it is already in snuff.
Hip. I am aweary of this moon: Would he would change!
The. It appears, by his small light of discretion, that he is in the wane: but yet, in courtesy, in all reason, we must stay the time.
Lys. Proceed, moon.
Moon. All that I have to say, is, to tell you, that the lantern is the moon; I, the man in the moon; this thorn bush, my thorn bush; and this dog my dog.
Dem. Why, all these should be in the lantern; for they are in the moon. But silence; here comes
This. "This is old Ninny's tomb: Where is my love?" Lion. "Oh."
[The Lion roars.-THISBE runs off. down, were it to exercise this faculty without previous warning.
4 The old copies read, a man, &c. The emendation is by Theobald.
5 An equivoque. Snuff signifies both the cinder of a candle and hasty anger,
"I thank thee, moon, for shining now so bright. "For, by thy gracious, golden, glittering streams, "I trust to taste of truest Thisby's sight.
"But stay;-O spite!
"O dainty duck! O dear!
"What, stain'd with blood?
"Quail, crush, conclude, and quell !"4 The. This passion, and the death of a dear friend, would go near to make a man look sad.
Hip. Beshrew my heart, but I pity the man.
"Since lion vile hath here deflour'd my dear: "Which is no, no-which was the fairest dame, "That liv'd, that lov'd, that lik'd, that look'd
Hip. Methinks, she should not use a long one, for such a Pyramus: I hope, she will be brief. Dem. A mote will turn the balance, which Pyramus, which Thisbe, is the better.
Lys. She hath spied him already with those sweet eyes.
Dem. And thus she moans," videlicet. This. "Asleep, my love? "What, dead, my dove? "O Pyramus, arise, "Speak, speak.
"Dead, dead? A tomb "Must cover thy sweet eyes. "These lily brows," "This cherry nose, "These yellow cowslip cheeks, "Are gone, are gone: "Lovers, make moan! "His eyes were green as leeks. "O sisters three,
"Come, come, to me, "With hands as pale as milk; "Lay them in gore, "Since you have shore
"With shears his thread of silk.
"Tongue, not a word :
"Come, trusty sword;
"Come, blade, my breast imbrue :
"And farewell, friends;
"Thus Thisby ends:
"Adieu, adieu, adieu."
The. Moonshine and lion are left to bury the dead Dem. Ay, and wall too.
Bot. No, I assure you; the wall is down that parted their fathers. Will it please you to see the epilogue, or to hear a Burgomask dance, between two of our company?
The. No epilogue, I pray you: for your play needs no excuse. Never excuse; for when the players are all dead, there need none to be blamed. Marry, if he that writ it, had play'd Pyramus, and hanged himself with Thisbe's garter, it would have been a fine tragedy: and so it is, truly; and very notably discharged. But come, your Bergomask: let your epilogue alone. [Here a dance of Clowns. The iron tongue of midnight hath told twelve:Lovers, to bed; 'tis almost fairy time.
I fear we shall outsleep the coming morn,
SCENE II. Enter PUCK.
And the wolf behowls the moon;
Whilst the scritch-owl, scritching loud, Puts the wretch that lies in woe,
In remembrance of a shroud.
That the graves all gaping wide,
By the triple Hecat's team,
1 To mouse, according to Malone, signified to mam-You shall taste him more as a soldier than as a wit, mock, to tear in pieces, as a cat tears a mouse.
2 Dr. Farmer thought this was written in ridicule of a passage in Damon and Pythias, by Richard Edwards,
Ye furies, all at once
On me your torments tire.
And present pangues of death;
3 Thrum is the end or extremity of a weaver's warp.
which is a distinction he is here striving to deserve, though with little success; as in support of his pretensions he never rises higher than a pun, and frequently sinks as low as a quibble.
7 The old copies read means, which had anciently the same signification as moans. Theobald made the alteration.
8 The old copies read lips instead of brows. The alteration was made for the sake of the rhyme by Theo
I am sent, with broom, before,
Enter OBERON and TITANIA, with their Train.
Hop as light as bird from brier;
Tita. First, rehearse this song by rote:
SONG AND DANCE.
Obe. Now, until the break of day,
Shall their children be.-
And each several chamber bless,
And the owner of it blest.
Make no stay;
Meet me all by break of day.
Puck. If we shadows have offended,
[Exeunt ORERON, TITANIA, and Train.
Think but this (and all is mended,)
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
WILD and fantastical as this play is, all the parts in their various modes are well written, and give the kind of pleasure which the author designed. Fairies in his time were much in fashion; common tradition had made them familiar, and Spenser's poem had made them great. JOHNSON.
JOHNSON'S concluding observations on this play are not conceived with his usual judgment. There is no analogy or resemblance between the Fairies of Spenser and those of Shakspeare. The Fairies of Spenser, as appears from his description of them in the second book of the Faerie Queene, canto x. were a race of mortals created by Prometheus, of the human size, shape, and affections, and subject to death. But those of Shakspeare, and of common tradition, as Johnson calls them, were a diminutive race of sportful beings, totally different from those of Spenser. M. MASON. endowed with immortality and supernatural powers, married couple would no doubt rejoice when the benediction was ended,
5 Way, course.
in Chaucer's Millere's Tale, vol. i. p. 105, 1. 22. Whit6 The same superstitious kind of benediction occurs tingham's Edit.
7 i. e. if we have better fortune than we have deserved. Si. e. hisses.
9 Clap your hands, give us your applause.
LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST.
THE novel upon which this comedy was founded has hitherto eluded the research of the commentators. Mr. Nathaniel the curate, and Holofernes, that prince of peThe grotesque characters, Don Adrian de Armado, Douce thinks it will prove to be of French extraction. dants, with the humours of Costard the clown, are well The Dramatis Personæ in a great measure demons-contrasted with the sprightly wit of the principal chatrate this, as well as a palpable Gallicism in Act iv. Sc. racters in the play. It has been observed that 'Biron 1: viz. the terming a letter a capon.' and Rosaline suffer much in comparison with Benedick This is one of Shakspeare's early plays, and the and Beatrice, and it must be confessed that there is author's youth is certainly perceivable, not only in the some justice in the observation. Yet Biron, that merry style and manner of the versification, but in the lavish mad-cap Lord,' is not overrated in Rosaline's admirasuperfluity displayed in the execution: the uninterrupt- ble character of himed succession of quibbles, equivoques, and sallies of A merrier man, every description. The sparks of wit fly about in Within the limit of becoming mirth, such profusion that they form complete fireworks, and the dialogue for the most part resembles the bustling I never spent an hour's talk withal: sion and banter of passing masks at a carnival.'* His eye begets occasion for his wit; The scene in which the king and his companions detect For every object that the one doth catch, each other's breach of their mutual vow, is capitally The other turns to a mirth-moving jest ;So sweet and voluble is his discourse.' Corived. The discovery of Biron's love-letter while Shakspeare has only shown the inexhaustible powers rallying his friends, and the manner in which he extri- of his mind in improving on the admirable originals of cates himself, by ridiculing the folly of the vow, are his own creation in a more mature age. admirable.
Malone placed the composition of this play first in 1591, afterwards in 1594. Dr. Drake thinks we may safely assign it to the earlier period. The first edition was printed in 1598.
Let fame, that all hunt after in their lives,
Therefore, brave conquerors!-for so you are,
Biron. I can but say their protestation over,
1 Beroune in all the old editions.
King. Your oath is pass'd to pass away from these.
I only swore, to study with your grace,
Lmg. You swore to that, Biron, and to the rest. Biron. By yea and nay, sir, then I swore in jest. What is the end of study? let me know.
King. Why, that to know, which else we should not know.
Biron. Things hid and barr'd, you mean, from
King. Ay, that is study's god-like recompense. Biron. Come on then, I will swear to study so To know the thing I am forbid to know: As thus-To study where I well may dine,
When I to feast expressly am forbid; Or, study where to meet some mistress fine, When mistresses from common sense are hid: Or, having sworn too hard-a-keeping oath, Study to break it, and not break my troth. If study's gain be thus, and this be so, Study knows that, which yet it doth not know: Swear me to this, and I will ne'er say, no.
King. These be the stops that hinder study quite, And train our intellects to vain delight.
Biron. Why, all delights are vain; but that most
Which, with pain purchas'd, doth inherit pain: As, painfully to pore upon a book,
To seek the light of truth: while truth the while Doth falsely blind the eyesight of his look:
Light, seeking light, doth light of light beguile: So, ere you find where light in darkness lies, Your light grows dark by losing of your eyes. Study me how to please the eye indeed,
By fixing it upon a fairer eye; Who dazzling so, that eye shall be his heed, And give him light that it was blinded by. Study is like the heaven's glorious sun, That will not be deep-search'd with saucy looks; Small have continual plodders ever won, Save base authority from others' books. These earthly godfathers of heaven's lights, That give a name to every fixed star, Have no more profit of their shining nights
Than those that walk, and wot not what they are. Too much to know, is, to know nought but fame; And every godfather can give a name.
King. How well he's read, to reason against reading!
Dum. Proceeded well, to stop all good proceeding!
5 The meaning is; that when he dazzles, that is, has
21. e. with all these companions. He may be sup- his eye made weak, by fixing his eye upon a later ye posed to point to the king, Biron, &c.
3 Dishonestly, treacherously.
4 The whole sense of this gingling declamation is only this, that a man by too close study may read him self blind.
that fairer eye shall be his heed or guide, his lode-stat and give hom light that was blinded by it.
6 That is, too much knowledge gives no real olur") of doubts, but merely fame, or a name, a thing whea every godfather can give.