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A MIDSUMMER-NIGHT'S DREAM.
ACT I. SCENE I.
Line 5. Like to a step-dame, or a dowager,
Long withering out a young man's retenue.] Dr. Warburton would read, wintering on a young man's revenue, which is improvement to the sense.
With pomp, with triumph, and with revelling.] Triumph here means a show, a mask, or sport. Thus in King Henry VI. Part 3
“With stately triumphs, mirthful comick shows." Line 36. gauds,] i. e. Baubles, toys, trifles. Our author has the word frequently: See King John, Act 3. Sc. 5.
Steevens. Line 47. Or to her death, according to our law.] By a law of Solon's, parents had an absolute power of life and death over their children. So it suited the poet's purpose well enough, to suppose the Athenians had it before. Or perhaps he neither thought nor any thing of the matter.
WARBURTON. Line 55. To leave the figure, or disfigure it.] The sense is plain,
you owe to your father a being which he may at pleasure continue or destroy.
JOHNSON. Line 71.
to die the death,) I meet with this expression, in the second part of The Downfall of Robert Earl of Huntingdon, 1601.
“ We will, my liege, else let us die the death.” STEEVENS. Line 74. Know of your youth,] Bring your youth to the question. Consider your youth.
JOHNSON. Line 77. For aye) i.e. For ever.
82. But earthlier happy is the rose distill’d.] Thus all the copies, yet earthlier is so harsh a word, and earthlier happy for happier earthly, a mode of speech so unusual, that I wonder none of the editors have proposed earlier happy.
JOHNSON. Line 82. - the rose distilld.] This is one of our author's favourite images, it is frequently to be met with in his sonnets.
Line 118. ---spotted--- ] As spotless is innocent, so spotted is wicked.
JOHNSON. Line 141. Beteem them- -] Give them, bestow upon them. The word is used by Spenser.
JOHNSON Line 146. -too high to be enthrall’d to low!] Love possesses all the editions, but carries no just meaning in it. Nor was Hermia displeas'd at being in love; but regrets the inconveniencies that generally attend the passion : either, the parties are disproportioned, in degree of blood and quality; or unequal, in respect of years; or brought together by the appointment of friends, and ot by their own choice. These are the complaints represented by Lysander; and Hermia, to answer to the first, as she has done to the other two, must necessarily say ;
O cross —too high to be inthrall’d to low! So the antithesis is kept up in the terms; and so she is made to condole the disproportion of blood and quality in lovers.
THEOBALD. Line 153.
-momentany as a sound,] The old editions read momentany, which is the old and proper word. The modern editors, momentary.
JOHNSON. Line 155. Brief as the lightning in the collied night,] Collied, i. e. black, smutted with coal, a word still used in the midland counties.
Line 156. That, in a spleen, unfolds both heuven and earth,] Here our author uses the word spleen for a sudden hasty fit: so just the contrary, in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, he uses sudden for splenetic- -sudden quips. And it must be owned this sort of conversation adds a force to the diction.
WARBURTON. Line 170.
-remote -] Remote is the reading of both the quartos; the folio reads, remov'd.
STEEVENS. Line 196. Your eyes are lode-stars.] This was a compliment not unfrequent among the old poets. The lode-star is the leading or guiding star, that is, the pole-star. The magnet is, for the same reason, called the lode-stone, either because it leads iron, or because it guides the sailor.
Davies calls queen Elizabeth, lode-stone to hearts, and lode-stone to all eyes.
JOHNSON. Line 200. -favour-) Means, countenance, or disposition. Line 205. -translated) Signifies transformed. 219. Take comfort; he no more shall see my face;
Lysander and myself will fly this place.
Before the time I did Lysander see,] Hermia is willing to comfort Helena, and to avoid all appearance of triumph over her. She therefore bids her not to consider the power pleasing, as an advantage to be much envied or much desired, since Hermia, whom she considers as possessing it in the supreme degree, has found no other effect of it than the loss of happiness.
JOHNSON, Line 249. -holding no quantity,] Quality seems a word more suitable to the sense than quantity, but either may serve.
JOHNSON. Line 257.
-] Game here signifies not contentious play, but sport, jest. So Spenser, 'Twirt earnest and 'twirt game.
JOHNSON Line 259.
-Hermia's eyne,] This plural is common both in Chaucer and Spenser. Spenser, F. Q. b. i. c. 4. st. 9. “ While flashing beams do dare his feeble eyen."
ACT I. SCENE II. In this scene Shakspeare takes advantage of his knowledge of the theatre, to ridicule the prejudices and competitions of the players. Bottom, who is generally acknowledged the principal actor, declares his inclination to be for a tyrant, for a part of fury, tumult, and noise, such as every young man pants to perform when he first steps upon the stage. The same Bottom, . who seems bred in a tiring-room, has another histrionical passion. He is for engrossing every part, and would exclude his inferiors from all possibility of distinction. He is therefore desirous to play Pyramus, Thisbe and the Lyon at the same time. JOHNSON. Line 271.
the scrip.] A scrip, Fr. escript, now written ecrit. So Chaucer, Troilus and Cressida, 1. 2. 1130: “ Scripe nor bil.”
STEEVENS. Line 278.
-grow to a point.] Dr. Warburton read go on ; but grow is used, in allusion to his name, Quince. JOHNSON.
Line 278. And so grow to a point.] The sense, in my opinion, hath been hitherto mistaken ; and instead of a point, a substantive, I would read appoint, a verb, that is, appoint what parts each actor is to perform, which is the real case. Quince first tells them the name of the play, then calls the actors by their names, and after that, tells each of them what part is set down for him to act.
WARNER. Line 284. -spread yourselves.] i. e. Stand individually apart.
Line 299. I could play Ercles rarely, or a part to tetr a cat in.] In the old comedy of The Roaring Girl, 1611, there is a character called Tear-cat, who says, “I am called, by those who have “ seen my valour, Tear-cat.” In an anonymous piece called Histriomastix, or the Player whipt, 1610, in six acts, a parcel of soldiers drag a company of players on the stage, and the captain says, “ Sirrah, this is you that would rend and tear a cat upon a stage," &c. Again,
In The Isle of Gulls, a comedy by J. Day, 1606. “ I had rather “hear two such jests, than a whole play of such Tear-cat thun“ derclaps."