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D. PEDRO. Well, if ever thou dost fall from this faith, thou wilt prove a notable argument 9.
BENE. If I do, hang me in a bottle like a cat', and shoot at me; and he that hits me, let him be clapped on the shoulder, and called Adam".
9 — notable argument.] An eminent subject for satire.
JOHNSON. -in a bottle like a cat,] As to the cat and bottle, I can procure no better information than the following:
In some counties in England, a cat was formerly closed up with a quantity of soot in a wooden bottle, (such as that in which shepherds carry their liquor,) and was suspended on a line. He who beat out the bottom as he ran under it, and was nimble enough to escape its contents, was regarded as the hero of this inhuman di
Again, in Warres, or the Peace is Broken, bl. 1.: arrowes flew faster than they did at a catte in a basket, when Prince Arthur, or the Duke of Shordich, strucke up the drumme in the field."
In a Poem, however, called Cornu-copiæ, or Pasquil's Nightcap, or an Antidote to the Head-ache, 1623, p. 48, the following passage occurs:
Fairer than any stake in Greys-inn field, &c. "Guarded with gunners, bill-men, and a rout "Of bow-men bold, which at a cat do shoot." Again, ibid.:
"Nor at the top a cat-a-mount was fram'd,
"Or some wilde beast that ne'er before was tam'd;
"To have his name canoniz'd in the clout."
The foregoing quotations may serve to throw some light on Benedick's allusion. They prove, however, that it was the custom to shoot at factitious as well as real cats. STEEVENS.
This practice is still kept up at Kelso, in Scotland, where it is called-Cat-in-barrel. See a description of the whole ceremony in a little account of the town of Kelso, published in 1789, by one Ebenezer Lazarus, a silly Methodist, who has interlarded his book with scraps of pious and other poetry. Speaking of this sport, he
"The cat in the barrel exhibits such a farce,
"That he who can relish it is worse than an ass." DouCE. 2 - and he that hits me, let him be clapped on the shoulder, and called ADAM.] But why should he therefore be called Adam? Perhaps, by a quotation or two we may be able to trace the poet's allusion here. In Law-Tricks, or, Who Would Have Thought It,
D. PEDRO. Well, as time shall try :
In time the savage bull doth bear the yoke 3.
BENE. The savage bull may; but if ever the sensible Benedick bear it, pluck off the bull's horns, and set them in my forehead: and let me be vilely painted; and in such great letters as they write, Here is good horse to hire, let them signify under my sign,-Here you may see Benedick the married
CLAUD. If this should ever happen, thou would'st be horn-mad.
D. PEDRO. Nay, if Cupid have not spent all his quiver in Venice, thou wilt quake for this shortly.
(a comedy written by John Day, and printed in 1608,) I find this speech: "Adam Bell, a substantial out-law, and a passing good archer, yet no tobacconist." By this it appears, that Adam Bell at that time of day was of reputation for his skill at the bow. I find him again mentioned in a burlesque poem of Sir William D'Avenant's, called The Long Vacation in London. THEOBALD.
Adam Bel, Clym of the Cloughe, and Wyllyam of Cloudesle, were, says Dr. Percy, three noted outlaws, whose skill in archery rendered them formerly as famous in the North of England, as Robin Hood and his fellows were in the midland counties. Their place of residence was in the forest of Englewood, not far from Carlisle. At what time they lived does not appear. The author of the common ballads on The Pedigree, Education, and Marriage of Robin Hood, makes them contemporary with Robin Hood's father, in order to give him the honour of beating them. See Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, vol. i. p. 143, where the ballad on these celebrated outlaws is preserved. STEEVENS.
3 In time the savage bull doth bear the yoke.] This line is from The Spanish Tragedy, or Hieronymo, &c. and occurs also, with a slight variation, in Watson's Sonnets, 4to. bl. 1. printed in 1581. See note on the last edition of Dodsley's Old Plays, vol. xii. p. 387. STEEVENS.
The Spanish Tragedy was printed and acted before 1593.
It may be proved that The Spanish Tragedy had at least been written before 1592. STEEVENS.
4-if Cupid have not spent all his quiver in VENICE,] All modern writers agree in representing Venice in the same light as the ancients did Cyprus. And it is this character of the people that is here alluded to. WARBURTON.
BENE. I look for an earthquake too then.
D. PEDRO. Well, you will temporize with the hours. In the mean time, good signior Benedick, repair to Leonato's; commend me to him, and tell him, I will not fail him at supper; for, indeed, he hath made great preparation.
BENE. I have almost matter enough in me for such an embassage; and so I commit you
CLAUD. To the tuition of God: From my house, (if I had it,)—
D. PEDRO. The sixth of July: Your loving friend, Benedick.
BENE. Nay, mock not, mock not: The body of your discourse is sometime guarded with fragments, and the guards are but slightly basted on neither ere you flout old ends any further, examine your conscience: and so I leave you.
5 — GUARDED with fragments,] Guards were ornamental lace or borders. So, in The Merchant of Venice :
Again, in Henry IV. Part I.:
velvet guards, and Sunday citizens." STEEVENS. ere you flout OLD ENDS, &c.] Before you endeavour to distinguish yourself any more by antiquated allusions, examine whether you can fairly claim them for your own.' This, I think, is the meaning; or it may be understood in another sense, mine, if your sarcasms do not touch yourself.' JOHNSON.
The ridicule here is to the formal conclusions of Epistles Dedicatory and Letters. Barnaby Googe thus ends his dedication to the first edition of Palingenius, 12mo. 1560: “And thus committyng your Ladiship with all yours to the tuicion of the moste mercifull God, I ende. From Staple Inne at London, the eighte and twenty of March." The practice had however become obsolete in Shakspeare's time. In A Poste with a Packet of Mad Letters, by Nicholas Breton, 4to, 1607, I find a letter ending in this manner, entitled, "A letter to laugh at after the old fashion of love to a Maide." REED.
Dr. Johnson's latter explanation is, I believe, the true one. By old ends the speaker may mean the conclusion of letters commonly used in Shakspeare's time: "From my house this sixth of
CLAUD. My liege, your highness now may do me
D. PEDRO. My love is thine to teach; teach it but how,
And thou shalt see how apt it is to learn
D. PEDRO. No child but Hero, she's his only heir: Dost thou affect her, Claudio?
O my lord,
July," &c. So, in the conclusion of a letter which our author supposes Lucrece to write, in his Rape of Lucrece :
So I commend me from our house in grief;
My woes are tedious, though my words are brief." See the note on that passage.
Old ends, however, may refer to the quotation that D. Pedro had made from The Spanish Tragedy: "Ere you attack me on the subject of love, with fragments of old plays, examine whether you are yourself free from its power." So, King Richard:
"With odd old ends, stol'n forth of holy writ."
This kind of conclusion to letters was not obsolete in our author's time, as has been suggested. Michael Drayton concludes one of his letters to Drummond of Hawthornden, in 1619, thus: "And so wishing you all happiness, I commend you to God's tuition, and rest your assured friend." So also Lord Salisbury concludes a letter to Sir Ralph Winwood, April 7th, 1610: "And so I commit you to God's protection." Winwood's Memorials, III. 147. MALONE.
The practice might have become obsolete to the general though retained by certain individuals. An old fashion has sometimes a few solitary adherents, after it has been discarded from common REED.
D. PEDRO. Thou wilt be like a lover presently,
And I will break with her, and with her father,
CLAUD. How sweetly do you minister to love, That know love's grief by his complexion ! But lest my liking might too sudden seem, I would have salv'd it with a longer treatise. D. PEDRO. What need the bridge much broader than the flood?
The fairest grant is the necessity 7:
Look, what will serve, is fit: 'tis once, thou lovestR;
I know, we shall have revelling to-night;
And tell fair Hero I am Claudio;
And in her bosom I'll unclasp my heart,
And take her hearing prisoner with the force
7 The fairest GRANT is the necessity:] i. e. no one can have a better reason for granting a request than the necessity of its being granted. WARBURTON.
Mr. Hayley with great acuteness proposes to read:
"The fairest grant is to necessity; i. e. necessitas quod cogit defendit." STEEVENS.
These words cannot imply the sense that Warburton contends for; but if we suppose that grant means concession, the sense is obvious; and that is no uncommon acceptation of that word.
8 —'TIS ONCE, thou lov'st;] This phrase, with concomitant obscurity, appears in other dramas of our author, viz. The Merry Wives of Windsor, and King Henry VIII. In The Comedy of Errors, it stands as follows:
"Once this-Your long experience of her wisdom," &c. Balthazar is speaking to the Ephesian Antipholis.
Once may therefore mean
at once.' STEEVENS.
once for all,'-'tis enough to say
Once has here, I believe, the force of-once for all. So, in Coriolanus: "Once, if he do require our voices, we ought not to deny him." MALONE.