« AnteriorContinua »
"Gaze WHERE you should"-The old copies read when for "where."
"-without he say, SIR-REVERENCE"-A very old corruption of save-reverence, or Salve reverentia! and used as a form of apology when any thing gross or offensive was said.
"that is, AN ELL"-"Or a Nell. This reply has been strangely misprinted and misunderstood by all the commentators: they altered 'is' to 'and,' because they were puzzled by the old punctuation, and because they did not know that an ell' Flemish is three quarters of a yard. Dromio merely says, that an ell,' or three quarters of a yard, 'will not measure her from hip to hip.'"-COLLIER.
"-arm'd and reverted, making war against her HEIR"-Theobald thought, and Malone concurred with him, that Shakespeare, in this passage about France, intended a covert reference to the state of that country after the assassination of Henry III. in 1589, when the people were "making war against the heir" to the throne, Henry IV. In 1591, Elizabeth sent over the Earl of Essex to Henry's assistance, and the conjecture is that the COMEDY OF ERRORS was produced soon afterwards. In this opinion Johnson does not concur, and sees in the passage nothing more than an equivocation respecting the corono veneris, a disorder which he supposes Dromio to impute to the kitchen-wench. There can be little doubt that Theobald is right; for if no allusion to the heir of France had been meant, hair would, probably, not have been spelt heire, as it stands in the oldest copy, though the second folio converts it into haire. The words "arm'd and reverted" also would hardly have been employed by Shakespeare, had he not intended more than Johnson saw in the passage.
"Where America, the Indies"-"This is certainly one of the boldest anachronisms of Shakespeare; for, although the period of the action of the COMEDY OF ERRORS may include a range of four or five centuries, it must certainly be placed before the occupation of the city by the Mohammedans, and therefore some centuries before the discovery of America.”—KNIGHT.
"—and made me turn i' the wheel''-i. e. The wheel turning the spit, she being the kitchen-maid. This was the old mode, by a cur-dog, as now in this country they are made to churn. "Steel" and "wheel" seem intended to rhyme, and the elision "i' the," making in the one syllable, looks like intended doggerel, as Knight has printed it.
"-to the PORCUPINE"-Here, as in Hamlet," and like quills upon the fretful porcupine," and elsewhere in the Poet, the old spelling is Porpentine, which seems a distinct form of the word in the same sense, and perhaps ought not to have been modernized in any of these passages.
ACT IV.-SCENE I.
"IS GROWING to me”—i. e. Accruing to me.
"Enter DROMIO of Syracuse"-" From the Bay," the old copies add, whither his master had not long before sent him, to ascertain whether any vessel was about to sail.
"Of his heart's METEORS tilting in his face"-This is an allusion to those meteors which, in superstitious times, were thought to resemble armies meeting in the shock of battle. The same thought occurs in HENRY IV., Part I., speaking of civil wars :
Which, like the meteors of a troubled heaven,
Milton also finely employs similar imagery in the second book of "Paradise Lost:"
As when, to warn proud cities, war appears
46- - he denied you had in him so right"-The modern construction would be, "He denied you had in him a right;" but this was Shakespeare's phraseology, and that of his time.
"STIGMATICAL in making"-That is, marked or stigmatized with deformity.
"Far from her nest the lapwing cries away"-Shakespeare has employed this simile in MEASURE FOR MEASURE, act i. scene 5:
With maids to seem the lapwing, and to jest, Tongue far from heart.
It was used by many writers, from Chaucer downwards, and became proverbial. Rowley, in his "Search for Money," (1609,) has, "This sir dealt like a lapwing with us, and cried furthest off the nest." This quality of the lapwing to cry far from its nest, to lead people away, is well understood.
"A devil in an EVERLASTING garment hath him" — "Sergeants, such as the one who had arrested Antipholus, were clad in buff, (Dromio just afterwards calls him ‘a fellow all in buff,') and, on account of its durability, that dress is here termed an everlasting garment.' COLLIER.
"A hound that RUNS COUNTER "-i. e. "The contrary, or wrong way in a chase. The sergeant is said to run 'counter,' from his carrying debtors to the prison so called."-COLLIER.
"- and yet DRAWS DRY-FOOT well"-" To draw dry foot' is technical, and means to hunt by the scent of the animal's foot."-COLLIER.
"One that, before the judgment, carries poor souls to hell"—i. e. "Carries them to prison (for which hell was the cant term) before judgment had been given against them; or, as Malone truly explains it, upon mesne process."-COLLIER.
"was he arrested on a BAND"-" Band" is the ancient mode of writing bond, and synonymous with it. Ben Jonson uses it in this sense.
"What, HAVE YOU GOT the picture of old Adam new apparell d'-Theobald, and some others, have interpolated this interrogatory, by inserting the words rid of after "What have you got?" They were not aware that "What have you got?" is still a vulgar phrase for "What have you done with?" or "What is become of?" and they puzzled themselves, and altered the language which Shakespeare thought fit to put into Dromio's mouth. The words, "picture of old Adam new apparell'd," allude to the suit of buff in which sergeants dressed officially; referring to the skin which Adam used for attire-a joke very popular among the old dramatists.
"he that SETS UP HIS REST"-" This expression became proverbial, and was applied to a person who took up any fixed position. It was generally used in the card-game of Primero, but here it has immediate reference to the rest of the morris-pike, and to the arrest by a sergeant."-COLLIER.
"-than a MORRIS-PIKE"-i. e. A Moorish pike, a well-known instrument of war.
"by my LONG EARS"-Meaning, says Stevens, that his master had lengthened his ears by often pulling them.. "welcomed home with it, when I return"-The writers who maintain Shakespeare's acquaintance with
classical literature, against Dr. Farmer and others, insist that this passage alludes to the oft-quoted eulogy of Cicero upon his favourite studies:-"Hæc studia adolescentiam agunt, senectutem oblectant, secundas res ornant, adversis perfugium ac solatium præbent, delectant domi, non impediunt foris, pernoctant nobiscum, peregrinantur, rusticantur."
"-and bind ANTIPHOLUS and DROMIO"-" And offer to bind him; he strives," is the direction of the old copies; but it is clear, from what follows, that they succeed in binding both. The stage-direction in our text follows Collier, and differs a little from many other editions.
ACT V.-SCENE I.
"TAKE a house"-i. e. Go into a house, as we say "take shelter," and as people used to say, "take sanctuary," which Antipholus and Dromio do inside "the priory," as it is called in the stage-direction of the old copy; but, as a lady abbess presides, it is probably an abbey, not a priory.
'It was the COPY of our conference"-i. e. A large part of our discourse: copy is often used in this sense by old writers, from the Latin copia: thus, Gosson, in his School of Abuse," (1579,) talks of "copy of abuses," or "abundance of abuses;" and Cooper, in his Latin Thesaurus,” translates "copiose et abundanter loqui," || "to use his words with great copie and abundance." It was distinguished from copy, in its modern sense, by being spelled copie, when meaning plenty.
"And at HER heels a huge infectious troop"-So the old copies; Heath and Malone needlessly altered her to their, when, in fact, only one person is spoken of, viz.: "moody and dull melancholy;" the next line—
Kinsman to grim and comfortless despair,
is parenthetical. There is no reason why Shakespeare should not make the personification of melancholy feminine, excepting that he had called her "kinsman" in the preceding line, which yet means no more than near relation, without denoting the sex, just as Portia calls herself
Of this fair manor, master of my servants,
Singer proposes to read, just before, "moody madness."
"To make of him a FORMAL man again"-i. e. To restore him to his senses: to bring him back to the forms of sober behaviour.
"The place of DEATH"-The original copy has depth, which is followed in the second folio. Rowe made the emendation.
"Exeunt all, except the two DROMIO brothers"-The old stage-direction is, “Exeunt omnes. Mane[n]t the two Dromios and two brothers." Such may have been the case; but it is more likely that the two Antipholuses went out with Adriana and Luciana, the two Dromios only remaining to conclude the play. I concur with Collier's suggestion that and is an error, and should be omitted; and have adapted the stage-direction to that
SCENERY AND LOCAL EMBELLISHMENTS.-The local embellishments of this play, in the present edition, are from those of the Pictorial edition, which are all copied or compiled from the best modern authorities, so as to give authentic representations of the existing remains
The "Supplementary Notice" of Knight's edition of this play closes with an analysis of the peculiar characteristics of the two pairs of twin brothers, which, though it may be somewhat over-refined, is yet very original and ingenious, and has, too, so much truth in it, that we cannot but transfer it to these pages:"Some one has said, that if our Poet's dramas were printed without the names of the persons represented being attached to the individual speeches, we should know who is speaking, by his wonderful discrimination in assigning to every character appropriate modes of thought and expression. It appears to us, that this is unquestionably the case with the characters of each of the twin brothers in the COMEDY OF ERRORS.
"The Dromio of Syracuse is described by his master as being
A trusty villain, sir; that very oft,
When I am dull with care and melancholy, Lightens my humour with his merry jests.
But the wandering Antipholus herein describes himself: he is a prey to 'care and melancholy.' He has a holy purpose to execute, which he has for years pursued without success. Sedate, gentle, loving, the Antipholus of Syracuse is one of Shakespeare's amiable creations. He beats his slave according to the custom of slavebeating; but he laughs with him, and is kind to him almost at the same moment. He is an enthusiast, for he falls in love with Luciana in the midst of his per
plexities, and his lips utter some of the most exquisite poetry. But he is accustomed to habits of self-command, and he resolves to tear himself away even from the syren :
But, lest myself be guilty to self-wrong
I'll stop mine ears against the mermaid's song.
As his perplexities increase, he ceases to be angry with his slave :
The fellow is distract, and so am I,
And here we wander in illusions.
Some blessed power deliver us from hence!
Unlike the Menæchmus Sosicles of Plautus, he refuses to dine with the courtesan. He is firm, yet courageous, when assaulted by the Merchant. When the 'Errors' are clearing up, he modestly adverts to his love for Luciana; and we feel that he will be happy.
"Antipholus of Ephesus is decidedly inferior to his brother, in the quality of his intellect and the tone of his morals. He is scarcely justifiable in calling his wife 'shrewish.' Her fault is a too sensitive affection for him. Her feelings are most beautifully described in that address to her supposed husband :
Come. I will fasten on this sleeve of thine;
The classical image of the elm and the vine would have been sufficient to express the feelings of a fond and confiding woman; the exquisite addition of the
Usurping ivy, briar, or idle moss,
conveys the prevailing uneasiness of a loving and doubting wife. Antipholus of Ephesus has somewhat hard measure dealt to him throughout the progress of the 'Errors;'-but he deserves it. His doors are shut against him, it is true;—in his impatience he would force his way into his house, against the remonstrances of Balthazar. He departs, but not 'in patience;'-he is con
tent to dine from home, but not at the Tiger.' His resolve
That chain will I bestow
(Be it for nothing but to spite my wife) Upon mine hostess,
would not have been made by his brother, in a similar situation. He has spited his wife; he has dined with the courtesan. But he is not satisfied:
go thou And buy a rope's end, that will I bestow Among my wife and her confederates.
We pity him not when he is arrested, nor when he receives the rope's end' instead of his ducats.' His furious passion with his wife, and the foul names he bestows on her, are quite in character; and when he has
Beaten the maids a-row, and bound the doctor,
we cannot have a suspicion that the doctor was practising on the right patient. In a word, we cannot doubt that, although the Antipholus of Ephesus may be a brave soldier, who took 'deep scars' to save his prince's life, and that he really has a right to consider himself much injured, he is strikingly opposed to the Antipholus of Syracuse; that he is neither sedate, nor gentle, nor truly-loving;-that he has no habits of self-command; that his temperament is sensual-and that, although the riddle of his perplexity is solved, he will still find causes of unhappiness, and entertain
a huge infectious troop Of pale distemperatures.
"The characters of the two Dromios are not so distinctly marked in their points of difference, at the first aspect. They each have their 'merry jests;' they each bear a beating with wonderful good temper; they each cling faithfully to their masters' interests. But there is certainly a marked difference in the quality of their mirth. The Dromio of Ephesus is precise and antithetical, striving to utter his jests with infinite gravity and discretion, and approaching a pun with a sly solemnity that is prodigiously diverting:
The capon burns, the pig falls from the spit, The clock hath stricken twelve upon the bell; My mistress made it one upon my ckeek: She is so hot, because the meat is cold.
I have some marks of yours upon my pate,
He is a formal humourist, and, we have no doubt, spoke with a drawling and monotonous accent, fit for his part in such a dialogue as this:
Ant. E. Were not my doors lock'd up, and I shut out? Dro. E. Perdy, your doors were lock'd, and you shut out. Ant. E. And did not she herself revile me there?
Dro. E. Sans fable, she herself revil'd you there.
Ant. E. Did not her kitchen-maid rail, taunt, and scorn me? Dro. E. Certes, she did; the kitchen-vestal scorn'd you. On the contrary, the 'merry jests' of Dromio of Syracuse all come from the outpouring of his gladsome heart. He is a creature of prodigious animal spirits, running over with fun and queer similitudes. He makes not the slightest attempt at arranging a joke, but utters what comes uppermost with irrepressible volubility. He is an untutored wit; and we have no doubt gave his tongue as active exercise by hurried pronunciation and variable emphasis, as could alone make his long descriptions endurable by his sensitive master. Look at the dialogue in the second scene of act ii., where Antipholus, after having repressed his jests, is drawn into a tilting-match of words with him, in which the merry slave has clearly the victory. Look, again, at his description of the kitchen-wench,'-coarse, indeed, in parts, but altogether irresistibly droll. The twin-brother was quite incapable of such a flood of fun. Again, what a prodi gality of wit is displayed in his description of the bailiff! His epithets are inexhaustible. Each of the Dromios is admirable in his way; but we think that he of Syracuse is as superior to the twin slave of Ephesus as our old friend Launce is to Speed, in the Two GENTLEMEN OF VERONA. These distinctions between the Antipho
luses and Dromios have not, as far as we know, been before pointed out; but they certainly do exist, and appear to us to be defined by the great master of character with singular force as well as delicacy. Of course the character of the twins could not be violently contrasted, for that would have destroyed the illusion. They must still—
Go hand in hand, not one before another.
"The myriad-minded man, our and all men's Shakespeare, has in this piece presented us with a legitimate farce, in exact consonance with the philosophical principles and character of farce, as distinguished from comedy and from entertainments. A proper farce is mainly distinguished from comedy by the license allowed, and even required, in the fable, in order to produce strange and laughable situations. The story need not be probable; it is enough that it is possible. A comedy would scarely allow even the two Antipholuses; because, although there have been instances of almost indistinguishable likeness in two persons, yet these are mere individual accidents, casus ludentis naturæ; and the verum will not excuse the inverisimile. But farce dares add the two Dromios, and is justified in so doing by the laws of its end and constitution. In a word, farces commence in a postulate which must be granted."-COLERIdge.
"Perhaps Shakespeare, no longer able to restrain his comic humour, gave vent to it in this farce, in a sort of joyous desperation. Regarding it merely as a farce, from the moment the 'Errors' commence, nothing has equalled it. Until I saw it on the stage, (not mangled into an opera,) I had not imagined the extent of the mistakes, the drollery of them, their unabated continuance, till, at the end of the fourth act, they reached their climax with the assistance of Dr. Pinch, when the audience in their laughter rolled about like waves. It was the triumph of farce-of Shakespeare's art in all that belongs to dramatic action.
"Here, it might be thought, that puns could be prop erly and plentifully introduced, where the twin brothers set the example of personal puns on one another; yet there are few puns to be found. Truth is, the mistakes alone are ludicrous, and the action is serious. To the strange contrast of grave astonishment among the actors with their laughable situations in the eyes of the spectators, who are let into the secret, is to be ascribed the irresistible effect. The two Dromios (Shakespeare's addition, among other matters, to Plautus) form a requisite link between the audience and the dramatis persona;-they invite us to mirth, otherwise we might half subdue it out of sheer principle."-CHARLES A. BROWN.