Imatges de pÓgina

by Ravenscroft, who revised it successfully in the year 1687; and may add, that when the empress stabs her child, he has supplied the Moor with the following lines:

"She has outdone me, ev'n in mine own art,

Outdone me in murder, kill'd her own child;
Give it me, I'll eat it."



That the reader may know through how many regions the scene of this drama is dispersed, it is necessary to observe, that Antioch was the metropolis of Syria; Tyre, a city of Phoenicia in Asia; Tarsus, the metropolis of Cicilia, a country of Asia-minor; Mitylene, the capital of Lesbos, an island in the Egean sea; and Ephesus, the capital of Ionia, a country of the Lesser Asia.-STEEVENS.

"When I saw the porpus, how he bounded and tumbled."—Act II. Sc. 1.

Captain Cook, in his second voyage to the South Seas, mentions the playing of porpusses round the ship as a certain sign of a violent gale of wind.-MASON.

"A pair of bases."-Act II. Sc. 1.


What bases mean is quite uncertain, but from a passage in Sydney's Arcadia, we may suppose they were a kind of breeches. His bases (which he ware so long as they almost came to his ankles) were embrodiered onley with blacke wormes, which seemed to crawle up and downe, as readie alreadie to devour him."-STEEVENS.

"Till the ship be cleared of the dead.”—Act III. Sc. 1.

There was an ancient superstition, that a ship at sea would sink if a corpse remained on board. So in Fuller's Historie of the Holy Warre: "His body was carried into France, there to be buried, and was most miserably tossed; it being observed, that the sea cannot digest the crudity of a dead corpse, being a due debt to be interred where it dieth; and a ship cannot abide to be made a bier of.-STEEVENS.

"These roguing thieves serve the great pirate Valdes." — Act IV. Sc. 2.

The Spanish Armada probably furnished the author with this name. Don Pedro de Valdes was an admiral in that fleet, and had the command of the great galleon of Andalusia. His ship being disabled, he was taken by Sir Francis Drake, on the 22d of July, 1588, and sent to Dartmouth. The making one of this Spaniard's ancestors a pirate, was probably relished by the audience in those days.-MALONE.

"To keep our door hatched."— Act IV. Sc. 2.

The doors or hatches of brothels seem to have had some distinguishing mark. So in Cupid's Whirligig, 1607: —“Set some picks upon your hatch, and, I pray, profess to keep a bawdy-house."

"And cry, he that will give most, shall have her first.”— Act IV. Sc. 3. The prices of first and second prostitution were exactly settled; so in an old prose romance: "Go thou and make a crye through the citie, that of all men that shall enhabyte with her carnally, the fyrst shall give me a pounde of golde, and after that echone a peny of golde.-STEEVENS.

"I have drawn her picture with my voice.”— Act IV. Sc. 3.

It was formerly the custom at Naples to hang up the pictures of celebrated courtesans in the public parts of the town, to serve as directions where they lived.-MASON.

"Crack the glass of her virginity, and make the rest malleable.” — Act IV. Sc. 6.

A skilful workman, who had discovered the art of making glass malleable, carried a specimen of it to Tiberius, who asked him if he alone was in possession of the secret. He replied in the affirmative; on which the tyrant ordered his head to be struck off instantly, lest the invention should injure the workers in precious metals.-DION CASSIUS.


“And to eat no fish.”—Act I. Sc. 4.

In Elizabeth's time, the papists were thought, and with reason, enemies to the government. Hence the proverbial expression of, he's an honest man, and eats no fish, to signify he's a friend to the government, and a protestant; the eating of fish being considered such a badge of popery, that when it was enjoined by parliament to encourage the fishtowns, it was held proper to declare the reason, hence it was called Cecil's fast.-WARBURTON.

“That frontlet.”—Act I. Sc. 4.

A frontlet was a forehead cloth, used formerly by ladies at night, to render that part smooth.-MALONE.

"That's a shealed peascod."-Act I. Sc. 4.

The robeing of Richard II.'s effigy in Westminster Abbey, is wrought with peascods open, and the peas out; perhaps an allusion to his once being in possession of full sovereignty, but soon reduced to an empty title. TOLLET.

"Stocks brought out."-Act II. Sc. 2.

This was not the first time of introducing stocks on the stage. In Hick Scorner, which was printed early in the reign of Henry VIII., Pity is put into them, and left there till he is freed by Perseverance and Contemplacyon.-STEEVENS.

"Of Bedlam beggars."-Act II. Sc. 3.

In the Bell-man of London, by Decker, 1640, is an account of one of these characters under the name of an Abraham Man. "He sweares he

hath been in Bedlam, and will talke frantickly of purpose: you see pinnes stuck in sundry places of his naked flesh; especially in his armes, which paine he gladly puts himself to, only to make you believe he is out of his wits. He calls himself by the name of Poore Tom, and coming near any body crys out, Poore Tom is a-cold; of these Abraham Men, some be exceeding merry, and doe nothing but sing songs fashioned out of their own braines: some will dance, some will doe nothing but either laugh or weepe; others are dogged, and so sullen both in looke and speech, that spying but a small company in a house, they boldly and bluntly enter, compelling the servants, through fear, to give them what they demand." STEEVENS.

“Then he wears wooden nether-stocks.”—Act II. Sc. 4. Nether-stocks is the old word for stockings. Breeches being at that time called overstocks.-STEEVENS.

"Who gives anything to poor Tom? whom the foul fiend hath led through fire and through flame."-Act III. Sc. 4.

Edgar's ravings may be explained by reference to a passage in Harsnet's book: "This Exam' further sayeth, that one Alexander, an apothecary, having brought with him from London to Denham, on a time, a new haller, and two blades of knives, did leave the same upon the gallerie floore, in her master's house: a great search was made in the house to know how the said halter and knife-blades came thither, till Ma. Mainy, in his next fit said, it was reported that the devil lay'd them in the gal lerie, that some of those that were possessed might either hang themselves with the halter, or kill themselves with the blades."--MALONE.

"Wore gloves in my cap."-Act III. Sc. 4.

It was anciently the custom to wear gloves in the hat, on three different occasions, viz.: as the favour of a mistress; the memorial of a friend; and as a mark to be challenged by an enemy. A passage or two may be given to prove the usage.

In the play called Campaspe: "Thy men turned to women, thy soldiers to lovers, gloves worn in velvet caps, instead of plumes in graven helmets."

And in Decker's Satiromastiz: "Thou shalt wear her glove in thy worshipful hat, like to a leather brooch."-STEEVENS.

"Web and the pin.”—Act III. Sc. 4.

The Lapland method of cure for "a disease of the eyes called the pin and web, which is an imperfect stage of a cataract," is given by Acerbi, in his travels.-BLAKEWAY.

"Whipped from tything to tything."-Act III. Sc. 4.

A tything is a division of a place, a district; the same in the country, as a ward in the city. In the Saxon times, every hundred was divided into tythings. By a statute of Elizabeth, it is enacted, "that every vagabond shall be publickly whipped, and sent from parish to parish."

"Peace, Smolkin, peace.”—Act III. Sc. 4.


The demons here mentioned by Edgar, were the popular fiends of the poet's age, and were well known among the superstitious of every class. Even the learned and noble fell into the same grovelling delusion; King

James was a staunch believer, not merely in their existence, but in the every-day agency which was ascribed to them by the vulgar. Shakspeare has made Edgar, in his feigned madness, allude to an imposture of some English Jesuits. The trick was in substance as follows:-While the Spaniards were preparing their armada against England, the Jesuits were busy to promote it, by making converts: one method they employed was to dispossess pretended demoniacks, by which artifice they made several hundred converts among the common people. The principal scene of this farce was laid in the family of one Peckham, a catholic; where Marwood, (a servant of Anthony Babington, who was afterwards executed for treason,) Trayford, an attendant on Peckham, and three chambermaids, in that family, came into the priest's hands to be cured; but the discipline of the patients was so long and severe, and the priests were so elate and careless with success, that the plot was discovered on the confession of the parties, and the contrivers of it deservedly punished. The devils mentioned by Edgar, are those who were made to act in this farce upon the chambermaids, and they were generally so ridiculously nick-named, that Harsnet has one chapter "On the strange names of their devils; lest (says he), meeting them otherwise by chance, you mistake them for names of tapsters or jugglers."-WARBurton.

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Hopdance cries in Tom's belly."-Act III. Sc. 6.

In Harsnet's book, one of the pretended demoniacs deposeth-" that if at any time she did belch, as often times she did by reason that shee was troubled with a wind in her stomacke, the priests would say at such times, that then the spirit began to rise in her, and that the wind was the devil," and, "as she saith, if they heard any croaking in her belly, then they would make a wonderful matter of that."-STEEVENS.

"Poor Tom, thy horn is dry.”—Act III. Sc. 6.

A horn was usually carried about by every Tom of Bedlam, to receive such drink as the charitable might afford him. See A Pleasant Dispute between a Coach and a Sedan, 1636. "I have observed when a coach is appendant but two or three hundred pounds a yeere, marke it, the dogges are as leane as rakes; you may tell all their ribbes lying by the fire; and a Tom-a-Bedlam may sooner eat his horne, than get it filled with small drinke; and for his old alms of bacon there is no hope in the world."

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Upon these eyes of thine, I'll set my foot."—Act III. Sc. 7. In Selimus, emperor of the Turks, one of the sons of Bajazet pulls out the eyes of an Aga on the stage, and says,

"Yes, thou shalt live, but never see that day,

Wanting the tapers that should give thee light."

Immediately after, his hands are cut off. In Marston's Antonio's Revenge, 1602, Piero's tongue is torn out upon the stage. We give these instances of depraved taste, to prove that Shakspeare's drama was not more sanguinary than that of his contemporaries.'



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Hangs one that gathers samphire; dreadful trade!"

Act IV. Sc. 6.

Samphire grows in great plenty on most of the sea cliffs in this country: it is terrible to see how the people gather it, hanging by a rope

several fathom from the top of the impending rocks, as it were in the air."-SMITH'S HISTORY OF WATERFORD, 1774.

“That fellow handles his bow like a crow-keeper.”—Act IV. Sc. 6. In several counties, to this day, they call a stuffed figure representing a man, and armed with a bow and arrow, set up to fright the crows from the fruit and corn, a crow-keeper, as well as a scare-crow.—THEOBALD.

"It were a delicate stratagem, to shoe

A troop of horse with felt.”—Act IV. Sc. 6.

This "delicate stratagem" had actually been put in practice about fifty years before Shakspeare was born, as we learn from Lord Herbert's Life of Henry VIII. :-"And now," says that historian, "having feasted the ladies royally for divers days, he (Henry) departed from Tournay to Lisle, Oct. 13, 1513; whither he was invited by the Lady Margaret, who caused there a juste to be held in an extraordinary manner; the place being a fore-room, raised high from the ground by many steps, and paved with black square stones, like marble; while the horses, to prevent sliding, were shod with felt or flocks; after which the ladies danced all night."-MALONE.


"We'll not carry coals.”—Act I. Sc. 1.

One that would carry coals, formerly meant a mean-spirited fellow, who would submit to any indignity without resentment. A passage or two from old plays will abundantly prove this:—

"Now my ancient being a man of an un-coal-carrying spirit."

Chapman's May-day, 1610.

"Here comes one that will carry coals, ergo, will hold my dog." Every Man out of his Humour.

"He has had wrong, and if I were he, I would beare no coales." Antonio and Mellida, 1602.

“I will bite my thumb at them.”—Act I. Sc. 1.

This mode of quarrelling appears to have been common in our author's time. "What swearing is there (says Decker, describing the various groups that daily frequented the walks of St. Paul's church), what shouldering, what justling, what jeering, what byling of thumbs to beget quarrels !" The Dead Term, 1608.—MALONE.

"Your plantain leaf is excellent for that."-Act I. Sc. 2.

Tachius tells us, that a toad, before she engages with a spider, will fortify herself with some of this plant; and that if she comes off wounded, she cures herself afterwards with it.-DR. GREY.

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