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Mal. I extend my hand to him thus, quenching my familiar smile with an austere regard of control :
Sir To. And does not Toby take you a blow o' the lips then ?
Mal. Saying, Cousin Toby, my fortunes having cast me on your niece, give me this prerogative of speech :
Sir To. What, what ?
FAB. Nay, patience, or we break the sinews of our plot.
Mal. Besides, you waste the treasure of your time with a foolish knight ;
Sir And. That's me, I warrant you.
SIR And. I knew, 'twas I; for many do call me fool. Mal. What employment have we here : ?
[Taking up the letter. FAB. Now is the woodcock near the gin.
Sir To. O, peace! and the spirit of humours intimate reading aloud to him !
Mal. By my life, this is my lady's hand : these be her very C's, her U's, and her T's; and thus makes she her great P's. It is, in contempt of question, her hand.
fote slypped and she fell in the dyche, and there laye all her mylke; and so she was farre from her purpose, and neuer had that she hopid to haue.” Dial. 100, LL. ii. b. Steevens.
s What employment have we here?] A phrase of that time, equivalent to our common speech-" What's to do here?"
WARBURTON. 6 - her great P's.] In the direction of the letter which Malvolio reads, there is neither a C, nor a P, to be found.
STEEVENS. I am afraid some very coarse and vulgar appellations are meant to be alluded to by these capital letters. BLACKSTONE.
Sir And. Her C's, her U's, and her T's: Why that ?
Mal. [reads) To the unknown beloved, this, and my good wishes : her very phrases !-By your leave, wax.-Soft?!-and the impressure her Lucrece,
This was perhaps an oversight in Shakspeare; or rather, for the sake of the allusion hinted at in the preceding note, he chose not to attend to the words of the direction. It is remarkable, that in the repetition of the passages in letters, which have been produced in a former part of a play, he very often makes his characters deviate from the words before used, though they have the paper itself in their hands, and though they appear to recite, not the substance, but the very words. So, in All's Well That Ends Well, Act V. Helen says :
“- here's your letter; This it says:
“ And are by me with child ;"— yet in Act III. Sc. II. she reads this very letter aloud ; and there the words are different, and in plain prose : “ When thou canst get the ring upon my finger, which never shall come off, and shew me a child begotten of thy body," &c. Had she spoken in either case from memory, the deviation might easily be accounted for ; but in both these places, she reads the words from Bertram's letter.
Malone. From the usual custom of Shakspeare's age, we may easily suppose the whole direction to have run thus : “ To the Unknown belov’d, this, and my good wishes, with Care Present.” Ritson.
7 — By your leave, wax.-Soft! It was the custom in our poet's time to seal letters with soft wax, which retained its softness for a good while. The wax used at present would have been hardened long before Malvolio picked up this letter. See Your Five Gallants, a comedy, by Middleton : " Fetch a pennyworth of soft wax to seal letters." So, Falstaff, in K. Henry IV. Part II. : “I have him already tempering between my finger and my thumb, and shortly will I seal with him." MALONE.
I do not suppose that-Soft! has any reference to the wax; but is merely an exclamation equivalent to Softly ! i. e. be not in too much haste. Thus, in The Merchant of Venice, Act IV. Sc. I. : “ Soft! no haste.” Again, in Troilus and Cressida.“ Farewell. Yet soft!”
I may also observe, that though it was anciently the custom (as it still is) to seal certain legal instruments with soft and pliable wax, familiar letters (of which I have seen specimens from the time of K. Henry VI. to K. James I.) were secured with wax as glossy and firm as that employed in the present year. Steevens.
with which she uses to seal : 'tis my lady: To whom should this be ?
FAB. This wins him, liver and all.
No man must know.—What follows ? the numbers altered !-No man must know :-If this should be thee, Malvolio ?
Sir To. Marry, hang thee, brock 8!
But silence, like a Lucrece knife,
M, O, A, I, doth sway my life.
Fab. What a dish of poison has she dressed him! Sir To. And with what wing the stannyel' checks
at it !
8 - brock !] i. e. badger. He uses the word as a term of contempt, as if he had said, hang thee, cur! Out filth! to stink like a brock being proverbial. Ritson.
“ Marry, hang thee, brock !” i. e. Marry, hang thee, thou vain, conceited coxcomb, thou over-weening rogue !
Brock, which properly signifies a badger, was used in this sense in Shakspeare's time. So, in The Merrie Conceited Jests of George Peele, 4to. 1657: “ This self-conceited brock had George invited," &c. Malone
9 - doth sway my life.] This phrase is seriously employed in As You Like It, Act III. Sc. II. : “ Thy huntress name, that my full life doth sway.”
STEEVENS. i-stannyel -] The name of a kind of hawk is very judiciously put here for a stallion, by Sir Thomas Hanmer.
Johnson. Here is one of at least a hundred instances of the transcriber of
Mal. I may command where I adore. Why, she may command me; I serve her, she is my lady. Why, this is evident to any formal capacity. There is no obstruction in this ;—And the end,- What should that alphabetical position portend ? if I could make that resemble something in me,-Softly !M, O, A, 1.
Sir To. O, ay! make up that:-he is now at a cold scent.
FAB. Sowter will cry upon't, for all this, though it be as rank as a fox 4.
these plays being deceived by his ear. The eye never could have confounded stannyel and stallion. Malone.
To check, says Latham, in his book of Falconry, is, “when crows, rooks, pies, or other birds, coming in view of the hawk, she forsaketh her natural Aight, to Ay at them.” The stannyel is the common stone-hawk, which inhabits old buildings and rocks ; in the north called stanchil. I have this information from Mr. Lambe's notes on the ancient metrical history of the battle of Floddon. STEEVENS.
2 -formal capacity.) i. e. any one in his senses, any one whose capacity is not dis-arranged, or out of form. So, in The Comedy of Errors :
“ Make of him a formal man again.” Again, in Measure for Measure :
“ These informal women." STEEVENS. 3 Sowter -] Sowter is here, I suppose, the name of a hound. Sowterly, however, is often employed as a term of abuse. So, in Like Will to Like, &c. 1587 :
“You sowterly knaves, show you all your manners at once?” A sowter was a cobler. So, in Greene's Card of Fancy, 1608 ; “ If Apelles, that cunning painter, suffer the greasy sowter to take a view of his curious work,” &c. STEEVENS.
I believe the meaning is—“ This fellow will, notwithstanding, catch at and be duped by our device, though the cheat is so gross that any one else would find it out.” Our author, as usual, forgets to make his simile answer on both sides ; for it is not to be wondered at that a hound should cry or give his tongue, if the scent be as rank as a fox. Malone.
4- as rank as a fox.] Sir Thomas Hanmer reads,—" not as rank." The other editions, “ though it be as rank,” &c.
Mal. M,—Malvolio ;-M,—why, that begins my name.
FAB. Did not I say, he would work it out ? the cur is excellent at faults.
MAL. M.-But then there is no consonancy in the sequel; that suffers under probation: A should follow, but O does.
FAB. And O shall end, I hope 5.
Sir To. Ay, or I'll cudgel him, and make him cry, 0.
MAL. And then I comes behind;
FAB. Ay, an you had any eye behind you, you might see more detraction at your heels, than fortunes before you.
Mal. M, O, A, 1;—This simulation is not as the former :-and yet, to crush this a little, it would bow to me, for every one of these letters are in my name. Soft; here follows prose.-If this fall into thy hand, revolve. In my stars I am above thee; but be not afraid of greatness : Some are born great“, some achieve greatness?, and some have greatness thrust upon them. Thy fates open their hands ; let thy blood and spirit embrace them. And, to inure thyself to that thou art like to be, cast thy humble
5 And 0 shall end, I hope.] By O is here meant what we now call a hempen collar. Johnson.
I believe he means only, “ it shall end in sighing,” in disappointment. So, in Romeo and Juliet :
“Why should you fall into so deep an O?" Again, in Decker's Honest Whore, second part, 1630: “the brick house of castigation, the school where they pronounce no letter well but (!" Again, in Hymen's Triumph, by Daniel, 1623 :
“ Like to an O, the character of woe." STEEVENS. 6 - are born great,] The old copy reads—" are become great." The alteration by Mr. Rowe. STEEVENS.
It is justified by a subsequent passage in which the clown recites from memory the words of this letter. MALONE. 7 Some achieve greatness,] So in Fletcher's Night Walker ;
“ Although I am no gentlewoman born,