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How oft when men are at the point of death,
5 0 , how may I
O, now may I Call this a lightning ? - Johnson. The reading of the text is that of the quarto 1599. The first copy reads—But how, &c. which shows that Dr. Johnson's emendation cannot be right. Malone.
How is certainly right and proper. Romeo had, just before, been in high spirits, a symptom which, he observes, was sometimes called a lightning before death : but how, says he, (for no situation can exempt Shakspeare's characters from the vice of punning) can I term this sad and gloomy prospect a lightning ?
Ritson. I see no pretence for accusing Shakspeare of a pun in this passage. The words sad and gloomy, which are supposed to be put in contrast with lightning, are of Mr. Ritson's invention. The reading of the first quarto furnishes, I think, the better meaning, Some men are merry before death, but how little cause have I for such a feeling at this moment. Boswell.
This idea occurs frequently in the old dramatick pieces. So, in the Second Part of The Downfall of Robert Earl of Huntingdon, 1601:
" I thought it was a lightning before death,
“ Too sudden to be certain.” Again, in Chapman's translation of the 15th Iliad:
“ since after this he had not long to live,
“ This lightning flew before his death." Again, in his translation of the 18th Odyssey :
- extend their cheer
“ To th' utmost lightning that still ushers death.” Steevens. 6 Death, that hath suck'd the honey of thy breath.
Hath had no power yet upon thy beauty :) So, in Sidney's
“ Decayed roses of discolour'd cheeks
Is crimson in thy lips, and in thy cheeks,
7 beauty's ENSIGN yet
Is crimson in thy lips, and in thy cheeks,
And DEATH'S PALE flag, &c.] So, in Daniel's Complaint of Rosamond, 1594 :
“ And nought respecting death (the last of paines)
“Upon his new-got spoil," &c. In the first edition of Romeo and Juliet, Shakspeare is less forid in his account of the lady's beauty; and only says :
- ah, dear Juliet. “ How well thy beauty doth become this grave !" The speech as it now stands is first found in the quarto 1599.
Steevens. “ And death's pale flag is not advanced there." An ingenious friend some time ago pointed out to me a passage of Marini, which bears a very strong resemblance to this:
“ Morte la ’nsegna sua pallida e bianca
TYRWHITT. Daniel, who was an Italian scholar, may have borrowed this thought from Marini. Malone.
8 Tybalt, liest thou there in thy bloody sheet?] So, in Painter's translation, tom. ii. p. 242: “ — what greater or more cruel satisfaction canst thou desyre to have, or henceforth hope for, than to see hym which murdered thee, to be empoysoned wyth hys owne handes, and buryed by thy syde?" Steevens.
So, in the old poem: “Ah cosin dere, Tybalt, whereso thy restles sprite now be, “ With stretched handes to thee for mercy now I crye, “For that before thy kindly howre I forced thee to dye. “ But if with quenched lyfe not quenched be thine yre, “ But with revengeing lust as yet thy hart be set on fyre, " What more amendes or cruell wreake disyrest thou " To see on me, then this which here is shewd forth to thee
now? “ Who reft by force of arines from thee thy loving breath, “ The same with his owne hand, thou seest, doth poison himselfe
to death. “ And for he caused thee in tombe too soone to iye, “ Too soone also, yonger then thou, himselfe he layeth by.”
O, what more favour can I do to thee,
9 Ah, dear Juliet,
Why art thou yet so fair? Shall I believe
That unsubstantial death is amorous ; &c.] Burton, in his Anatomy of Melancholy, edit. 1632, p. 463, speaking of the power of beauty, tells us :-" But of all the tales in this kinde, that is most memorable of Death himselfe, when he should have stroken a sweet young virgin with his dart, he fell in love with the object.”—Burton refers to Angerianus; but I have met with the same story in some other ancient book of which I have forgot the title. Steevens. So, in Daniel's Complaint of Rosamond, 1594:
“Ah, now, methinks, I see death dallying seeks
“ To entertain itselfe in love's sweete place." . Instead of the very long notes which have been written on this controverted passage, I shall lay before the reader the lines as they are exhibited in the original quarto of 1597, and that of 1599, with which the folio corresponds. In the quarto 1597, the passage appears thus :
Ah, dear Juliet,
“ Thy drugs are swift: thus with a kiss I die. [Falls.” In the quarto 1599, and the folio, (except that the folio has arms instead of arm,) the lines stand thus :
“ — Ah, dear Juliet,
And that the lean abhorred monster keeps
“ And never from this palace [palat * 4"] of dim night
“ Thy drugs are quick : thus with a kiss I die." There cannot, I think, be the smallest doubt that the words included within crotchets, which are not found in the undated quarto, were repeated by the carelessness or ignorance of the transcriber or compositor. In like manner, in a former scene we have two lines evidently of the same import, one of which only the poet could have intended to retain. See p. 188, n. 7.
In a preceding part of this passage Shakspeare was probably in doubt whether he should write
“- I will believe
“That unsubstantial death is amorous ;” Or,
" - Shall I believe
“That unsubstantial death is amorous ?" and having probably erased the words I will believe imperfectly, the wise compositor printed the rejected words as well as those intended to be retained. With respect to the line,
“ Here's to thy health, where'er thou tumblest in," it is unnecessary to inquire what was intended by it, the passage in which this line is found being afterwards exhibited in another form; and being much more accurately expressed in its second than its first exhibition, we have a right to presume that the poet
* – palat - Meaning, perhaps, the bed of night. So, in King Henry IV. Part II. :
“ Upon uneasy pallets stretching thee.” In The Second Maiden's Tragedy, however, (an old MS. in the library of the Marquis of Lansdowne,) monuments are styled the "palaces of death." Steevens.
For fear of that, I will still stay with thee;
intended it to appear in its second form, that is, as it now appears in the text. Malone.
Mr. Steevens has expressed his acquiescence in Mr. Malone's opinion respecting this passage, but has given the greater part of that gentleman's note, with a very slight alteration of the language, as his own. BOSWELL.
1-my everlasting rest;] See a note on scene 5th of the preceding Act, p. 203, n. 6. So, in The Spanish Gipsie, by Middleton and Rowley, 1653:
“ — could I set up my rest .
“ I could hold truce with sorrow." To set up one's rest, is to be determined to any certain purpose, to rest in perfect confidence and resolution, to make up one's mind. Again, in the same play:
“ Set up thy rest; her marriest thou, or none." Steevens. 2 – Eyes, look your last! Arms, take your last embrace! and lips, O you The doors of breath, seal with a righteous kiss
A dateless bargain to engrossing death!-] So, in Daniel's Complaint of Rosamond, 1594 :
“ Pitiful mouth, said he, that living gavest
“ Entomb'd in your sweet circles, sleep for ever!" I think there can be little doubt, from the foregoing lines and the other passages already quoted from this poem, that our author had read it recently before he wrote the last Act of the present tragedy.