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-which by name lion hight,] Hight is an old
English word, meaning, is called.
Line 161. Whereat, with blade, with bloody blameful blade,] Mr. Upton rightly observes, that Shakspeare in this line ridicules the affectation of beginning many words with the same letter. He might have remarked the same of
The raging rocks
And shivering shocks.
Gascoigne, contemporary with our poet, remarks and blames the same affectation. JOHNSON.
This alliteration seems to have reached the height of its fashion in the reign of Henry VIII. The following stanza is quoted from a poem On the Fall and evil Success of Rebellion, written in 1537, by Wilfride Holme:
"Loe, leprous lurdeins, lubricke in loquacitie,
Out, oblatrant, oblict, obstacle, and obcecate.
"Ah addict algoes, in acerbitie acclamant
"Magnall in mischief, malicious to mugilate,
Line 219. And like Limander, &c.] Limander and Helen, are spoken by the blundering player, for Leander and Hero. Shafalus and Procrus, for Cephalus and Procris. JOHNSON.
. Line 280. in snuff.] An equivocation. Snuff signifies both the cinder of a candle, and hasty anger.
glittering streams,] The old copies read beams. STEEVENS.
cut thread and thrum;] Thrum is the end or extremity of a weaver's warp; it is popularly used for very coarse yarn. The maids now call a mop of yarn a thrum mop.
-and quell!] To quell, is to murder.
-cheer,] i. e. Countenance.
and prove an ass.] The character of Theseus
in this play is more exalted in his humanity, than his greatness.
Though some sensible observations on life, and animated descriptions fall from him, as it is said of Jago, you should taste him more as a soldier than as a wit, 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. STEEVENS.
Line 354. A mote will turn the balance,] A mote is the smallest particle of matter, the old copies read moth, which was the old spelling of mote.
This cherry nose.] In the old copies, These lily lips, this cherry nose. All Thisby's lamentation, till now, runs in regular rhyme and metre. But both, by some accident, are in this single instance interrupted. I suspect the poet wrote;
These lily brows,
This cherry nose.
Now black brows being a beauty, lily brows are as ridiculous as a cherry nose, green eyes, or cowslip cheeks. THEOBALD,
ACT V. SCENE II.
Line 407. And the wolf behowls the moon;] In the old copies, And the wolf beholds the moon. As 'tis the design of these lines to characterize the animals, as they present themselves at the hour of midnight; and as the wolf is not justly characterized by saying he beholds the moon, which other beasts of prey, then awake, do: and as the sounds these animals make at that season, seem also intended to be represented; I make no question but the poet wrote;
And the wolf behowls the moon.
For so the wolf is exactly characterized, it being his peculiar property to howl at the moon. (Behowl, as bemoan, beseem, and an hundred others.)
414. Now it is the time of night, &c.] Thus also in
"Tis now the very witching time of night,
Line 424. I am sent, with broom, before,
To sweep the dust behind the door.] Cleanliness is always necessary to invite the residence and the favour of Fairies. JOHNSON.
Line 437. Now, until, &c.] This speech, which both the old quartos give to Oberon, is in the edition of 1623, and in all the following, printed as the song. I have restored it to Oberon, as it apparently contains not the blessing which he intends to bestow on the bed, but his declaration that he will bless it, and his orders to the fairies how to perform the necessary rites. But where then is the song?—I am afraid it is gone after many other things of greater value. The truth is, that two songs are lost. The series of the scene is this; after the speech of Puck, Oberon enters, and calls the fairies to a song, which song is apparently wanting in all the copies. Next Titania leads another song, which is indeed lost like the former, though the editors have endeavoured to find it. Then Oberon dismisses his fairies to the dispatch of the ceremonies.
The songs, I suppose, were lost, because they were not inserted in the players parts, from which the drama was printed. JOHNSON.
Line 469. unearned luck—] i. e. If we have better fortune than we have deserved. STEEVENS. Line 470. Now to 'scape the serpent's tongue.] That is, if we be dismissed without hisses. Line 474. Give me your hands.] That is, Clap your hands. Give us your applause.
END OF THE ANNOTATIONS ON A MIDSUMMER-NIGHT'S
LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST..
ACT I. SCENE 1.
LINE 33. With all these, living in philosohy.] The stile of the rhyming scenes in this play is often entangled and obscure. I know not certainly to what all these is to be referred; I suppose he means, that he finds love, pomp, and wealth in philosophy.
By all these the poet seems to mean, all these gentlemen who have sworn to prosecute the same studies with me. STEEVENS.
Line 49. Not to see ladies, study, fast, not sleep.] Our author here has availed himself of poetical licence, by omitting the particle to before the last three verbs.
Line 65. When I to feast expressly am forbid ;] The copies all have,
When I to fast expressly am forbid.
But if Biron studied where to get a good dinner, at a time when he was forbid to fust, how was this studying to know what he was forbid to know? Common sense, and the whole tenour of the context require us to read, feast, or to make a change in the last word of the verse.
When I to fast expressly am fore-bid;
i. e. when I am enjoined before-hand to fast. -while truth the while Doth falsely blind—
-] Falsely is here, and in many other places, the same as dishonestly or treacherously. The whole sense of this gingling declamation is only this, that a man by too close study may read himself blind, which might have been told with less obscurity in fewer words. JOHNSON.
Line 86. Who dazzling so, that eye shall be his heed,
And give him light that was it blinded by.] This is another passage unnecessarily obscure: the meaning is, that when he dazzles, that is, has his eye made weak, by fixing his eye upon a fairer eye, that fairer eye shall be his heed, his direction or lodestar, (see Midsummer-Night's Dream,) and give him light that was blinded by it. JOHNSON.
Line 96. Too much to know, is to know nought but fame;
And every godfather can give a name.] The consequence, says Biron, of too much knowledge, is not any real solution of doubts, but mere empty reputation. That is, too much knowledge gives only fame, a name which every godfather can give likewise. JOHNSON.
-sneaping frost,] To sneap, is to check.
times and merriment of May-day.
Line 143. A dangerous law against gentility Gentility, here, does not signify that rank of people called gentry; but what the French express by gentilesse, i. e. elegantia, urbanitas. And then the meaning is this: Such a law for banishing women from the court is dangerous, or injurious to politeness, urbanity, and the more refined pleasures of life. For men without women would turn brutal and savage, in their natures and behaviour. THEOBALD.
Line 171. Not by might master'd, but by special grace:] Biron, amidst his extravagancies, speaks with great justness against the folly of vows. They are made without sufficient regard to the variations of life, and are therefore broken by some unforeseen necessity. They proceed commonly from a presumptuous confidence, and a false estimate of human power. Line 177. Suggestions-] Temptations.