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Biron. Sweet lord, and why?
Long. To fright them hence with that dread penalty. Biron. A dangerous law against gentility.7
[Reads.] Item, If any man be seen to talk with a woman within the term of three years, he shall endure such publick shame as the rest of the court can possibly devise.— This article, my liege, yourself must break;
For, well you know, here comes in embassy The French king's daughter, with yourself to speak,A maid of grace, and cómplete majesty,About surrender-up of Aquitain
To her decrepit, sick, and bed-rid father: Therefore this article is made in vain,
Or vainly comes the admired princess hither. King. What say you, lords? why this was quite forgot. Biron. So study evermore is overshot; While it doth study to have what it would, It doth forget to do the thing it should: And when it hath the thing it hunteth most, 'Tis won, as towns with fire; so won, so lost.
King. We must, of force, dispense with this decree; She must lie here on mere necessity.
7 A dangerous law against gentility!] I have ventured to prefix the name of Biron to this line, it being evident, for two reasons, that it, by some accident or other, slipt out of the printed books. In the first place, Longaville confesses he had devised the penalty: and why he should immediately arraign it as a dangerous law, seems to be very inconsistent. In the next place, it is much more natural for Biron to make this reflection, who is cavilling at every thing; and then for him to pursue his reading over the remaining articles.-As to the word gentility, here, it 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.
lie here-] Means reside here, in the same sense as an ambassador is said to lie leiger. See Beaumont and Fletcher's Love's Cure, or the Martial Maid, Act II, sc. ii:
"Or did the cold Muscovite beget thee,
"That lay here leiger, in the last great frost?" Again, in Sir Henry Wotton's Definition: "An ambassador is an honest man sent to lie (i. e. reside) abroad for the good of his country." Reed.
Biron. Necessity will make us all forsworn
Three thousand times within this three years' space: For every man with his affects is born;
Not by might master'd, but by special grace:9
If I break faith, this word shall speak for me,
I am forsworn on mere necessity.
So to the laws at large I write my name:
And he, that breaks them in the least degree,
Suggestions are to others, as to me;
King. Ay, that there is; our court, you know, is haunted
With a refined traveller of Spain;
A man in all the world's new fashion planted,
9 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. Johnson.
1 Suggestions-] Temptations.
So, in King Henry IV, P. I:
"And these led on by your suggestion." Steevens. 2 ·quick recreation —] Lively sport, spritely diversion.
3 A man of complements, whom right and wrong
Have chose as umpire of their mutiny:] As very bad a play as this is, it was certainly Shakspeare's, as appears by many fine master-strokes scattered up and down. An excessive complaisance is here admirably painted, in the person of one who was willing to make even right and wrong friends; and to persuade the one to recede from the accustomed stubbornness of her nature, and wink at the liberties of her opposite, rather than he would incur the imputation of ill-breeding in keeping up the quarrel. And
This child of fancy, that Armado hight,5
For interim to our studies, shall relate,
as our author, and Jonson his contemporary, are confessedly the two greatest writers in the drama that our nation could ever boast of, this may be no improper occasion to take notice of one material difference between Shakspeare's worst plays and the other's. Our author owed all to his prodigious natural genius; and Jonson most to his acquired parts and learning. This, if attended to, will explain the difference we speak of: which is this, that, in Jonson's bad pieces, we do not discover the least traces of the author of the Fox and Alchemist; but in the wildest and most extravagant notes of Shakspeare, you every now and then encounter strains that recognize their divine composer. And the reason is this, that Jonson owing his chief excellence to art, by which he sometimes strained himself to an uncommon pitch, when he unbent himself, had nothing to support him, but fell below all likeness of himself; while Shakspeare, indebted more largely to nature, than the other to his acquired talents, could never, in his most negligent hours, so totally divest himself of his genius, but that it would frequently break out with amazing force and splen dour. Warburton.
This passage, I believe, means no more than that Don Armado was a man nicely versed in ceremonial distinctions; one who could distinguish in the most delicate questions of honour, the exact boundaries of right and wrong. Compliment, in Shakspeare's time, did not signify, at least did not only signify verbal civility, or phrases of courtesy, but, according to its original meaning, the trappings, or ornamental appendages of a cha racter, in the same manner, and on the same principles of speech with accomplishment. Complement is, as Armado well expresses it, the varnish of a complete man. Johnson.
Dr. Johnson's opinion may be supported by the following passage in Lingua, or The Combat of the Tongue and the Five Senses for Superiority, 1607::-" after all fashions and of all colours, with rings, jewels, a fan, and in every other place, odd comple ments." And again, by the title-page to Richard Braithwaite's English Gentlewoman: "drawne out to the full body, expressing what habiliments doe best attire her: what ornaments doe best adorne her; and what complements doe best accomplish her." Again, in p. 59, we are told that "complement hath beene anciently defined, and so successively retained;-a no lesse reall than formall accomplishment."
4 This child of fancy,] This fantastick. The expression, in another sense, has been adopted by Milton in his L'Allegro:
"Or sweetest Shakspeare, Fancy's child -." Malone. That Armado light,] Who is called Armado. Malone.
How you delight, my lords, I know not, I;
Biron. Armado is a most illustrious wight,
A man of fire-new words, fashion's own knight.
Enter DULL, with a letter, and COSTARD.
Dull. Which is the duke's own person?9
6 From tawny Spain, lost in the world's debate.] i. e. he shall relate to us the celebrated stories recorded in the old romances, and in their very style. Why he says, from tawny Spain, is, because those romances, being of Spanish original, the heroes and the scene were generally of that country. Why he says, lost in the world's debate, is, because the subject of those romances were the crusades of the European Christians against the Saracens of Asia and Africa. Warburton.
I have suffered this note to hold its place, though Mr. Tyrwhitt has shewn that it is wholly unfounded, because Dr. Warburton. refers to it in his dissertation at the end of this play. Malone. in the world's debate.] The world seems to be used in a monastick sense by the king, now devoted for a time to a monastick life. In the world, in seculo, in the bustle of human affairs, from which we are now happily sequestered, in the world, to which the votaries of solitude have no relation. Johnson.
Warburton's interpretation is clearly preferable to that of JohnThe king had not yet so weaned himself from the world, as to adopt the language of a cloister, M. Mason.
7 And I will use him for my minstrelsy.] i. e. I will make a minstrel of him, whose occupation was to relate fabulous stories.
fire-new words,] "i. e. (says an intelligent writer in the Edinburgh Magazine, Nov. 1786,) words newly coined, new from the forge. Fire-new, new off the irons, and the Scottish expression bren-new, have all the same origin." The same compound epithet occurs in King Richard III:
"Your fire-new stamp of honour is scarce current.”
9 Which is the duke's own person?] The king of Navarre in several passages, through all the copies, is called the duke: but as this must have sprung rather from the inadvertence of the editors than, a forgetfulness in the poet, I have every where, to avoid confusion, restored king to the text. Theobald.
The princess in the next act calls the king-"this virtuous duke," a word which, in our author's time, seems to have been used with great laxity. And indeed, though this were not the
Biron. This, fellow; What would'st?
Dull. I myself reprehend his own person, for I am his grace's tharborough:1 but I would see his own person in flesh and blood.
Biron. This is he.
Dull. Signior Arme-Arme-commends you. There's villainy abroad; this letter will tell you more.
Cost. Sir, the contempts thereof are as touching me. King. A letter from the magnificent Armado.
Biron. How low soever the matter, I hope in God for high words.
Long. A high hope for a low having: 2 God grant us patience!
Biron. To hear? or forbear hearing?3
Long. To hear meekly, sir, and to laugh moderately; or to forbear both.
Biron. Well, sir, be it as the style shall give us cause to climb in the merriness.
case, such a fellow as Costard may well be supposed ignorant of his true title. Malone.
I have followed the old copies. Steevens.
tharborough:] i. e. Thirdborough, a peace officer, alike in authority with a headborough or a constable. Sir J. Hawkins. 2 A high hope for a low having:] In old editions:
"A high hope for a low heaven;"
A low heaven, sure, is a very intricate matter to conceive. I dare warrant, I have retrieved the poet's true reading; and the meaning is this: "Though you hope for high words, and should have them, it will be but a low acquisition at best." This our poet calls a low having; and it is a substantive which he uses in several other passages. Theobald.
It is so employed in Macbeth, Act I:
"Of noble having, and of royal hope."
Heaven, however, may be the true reading, in allusion to the gradations of happiness promised by Mohammed to his followers. So, in the comedy of Old Fortunatus, 1600:
"Oh, how my soul is rapt to a third heaven!" Steevens. 3 To hear? or forbear hearing?] One of the modern editors plausibly enough, reads:
"To hear? or forbear laughing?" Malone.
as the style shall give us cause to climb-] A quibble between the stile that must be climbed to pass from one field to another, and style, the term expressive of manner of writing in regard to language. Steevens.