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ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL.
ACT I. SCENE I.
5. -in ward.) Under his particular care, as my guardian, till I come to age. It is now almost forgotten in England that the. heirs of great fortunes were the king's wards. Whether the same practice prevailed in France, it is of no great use to enquire, for Shakspeare gives to all nations the manners of England. JOHNS.
Line 20. -0, that had ! how sad a passage 'tis !] Passage is any thing that passes ; so we now say, a passage of an author, and we said about a century ago, the passages of a reign. When the countess mentions Helena's loss of a father, she recollects her own loss of a husband, and stops to observe how heavily that word had passes through her mind.
JOHNSON, Thus Shakspeare himself. See The Comedy of Errors, Act 3 Sc. 1.-" Now in the stirring passage of the day." STEEVENS.
Line 45. they are virtues and traitors too; in her they are the better for their simpleness ;] Her virtues are the better for their simpleness, that is, her excellencies are the better because they are artless and open, without fraud, without design. The learned Dr.
Warburton well explained virtues, but has not, I think, reached the force of the word traitors, and therefore has not shewn the full extent of Shakspeare's masterly observation. Virtues in an unclean mind are virtues and traitors too. Estimable and useful qualities, joined with evil disposition, give that evil disposition power over others, who, by admiring the virtue, are betrayed to the malevolence. The Tatler, mentioning the sharpers of his time, observes, that some of them are men of such elegance and knowledge, that a young man who falls into their way is betrayed as much by his judgment as his passions.
JOHNSON. Line 51. -can season her pruise in:]' Thus.in Tivelfth Night;
all this to season
“And lasting in her remembrance.” Line 54. -äll livelihood-] Means all appearance of life.
STEEVENS. 61. If the living be enemy to the grief, the ercess makes it soon mortal.] Lafeu says, crcessive grief is the enemy of the living: the countess replies, If the living be an enemy to grief, the excess soon makes it mortal : that is, if the living do not indulge grief, grief destroys itself by its own excess. By the word mortal I understand that which dies, and Dr. Warburton, (whose reading is—be not enemy) that which destroys. I think that my interpretation gives a sentence more acute and more refined. Let the reader judge.
JOHNSON. Line 75. That thee may furnish,] That may help thee with more and better qualifications,
JOHNSON, Line 82: Thèbest wishes, &c.] That is, may you be mistress of your wishes, and have power to bring thenisto effect. JOHNS.
Line 90..:these great tears-] The teurs which the king and countess shed for him.. ::
JOHNSON. Line 98. In his bright radiance and collateral light, &c.] I cannot be united with him and move in the same sphere, but must be comforted at a distance by the rudiunce that shoots on all sides from him.
JOHNSON. Line 105. In our hearts' table;] Table means the board or canvass on which a picture was painted. See Walpole's Anecdotes.
Line 106. trick of his sweet favour :] So in King John:
"-he hath a trick of Cour de Lion's face.” Trick seems to be some peculiarity of look or feature.
JOHNSON Line 115. Cold wisdom waiting on superfluous folly.] Cold for naked; as superfluous for over-cloathed. This makes the propriety of the antithesis.
WARBURTON Line 117. And you, monarch.] Probably monarcho, then a popular and ridiculous character of the age.
Line 121. stain of soldier ] Stain for colour. Parolles was in red, as appears from his being afterwards called red-tail'd
WARBURTON. It does not appear from either of these expressions, that Parolles was entirely drest in red. Shakspeare writes only some stain of soldier, meaning only he had red breeches on, which is sufficiently evident from calling him afterwards red-tail'd humble-bee. Steev.
Stain rather for what we now say tincture, some qualities, at least superficial, of a soldier.
JOHNSON Line 138. Loss of virginity is rational increase ;] Mr. Tyrwhitt would read national, which I think more plausible and correct. Line 156. —inhabited sin~] i. e. Forbidden. So in Othello:
“Of arts inhabited and out of warrant." So the first folio. Theobald and Johnson read prohibited. Steev. · Line 163. Marry, ill, to like him that ne'er it likes, &c.] Parolles, in answer to the question, how one shall lose virginity to her own liking? plays upon the word liking, and says, she must do ill , for virginity, to be so lost, must like him that likes not virginity.
JOHNSON. Line 170. -your date is better-] Here is a quibble on the word date, which means both age, and a particular kind of fruit much used in our author's time
-Romeo and Juliet:
Steev. Line 177. Not my virginity yet.) Perhaps Parolles, going away after his harangue, said, will you any thing with me? to which
JOHNSON. Parolles has been laughing at the unprofitableness of virginity, especially when it grows ancient, and compares it to withered fruit. Helena, properly enough replies, that liers is not yet in
Helen may reply.
that state, but that in the enjoyment of her, his master should find the gratification of all his most romantic wishes. Steev.
Line 182. -a traitress,] It seems that traitress was in that age a term of endearment, for when Lafeu introduces Helena to the king, he says, You like a traytor, but such traytors his majesty does not much fear.
Johnson. Line 197. And shew what we alone must think;] And shew by realities what we now must only think.
JOHNSON. Line 216. is a virtue of a good wing,] I confess, that a virtue of a good wing is an expression that I cannot understand, unless by a metaphor taken from falconry, it may mean, a virtue that will fly high, and, in the stile of Hotspur, Pluck honour from the moon.
JOHNSON. Mr. Edwards is of opinion, that a virtue of a good wing refers to his nimbleness or fleetness in running away. STEEVENS. Line 232. What power is it, which mounts my love so high,
That makes me see, and cannot feed mine eye ?] She means, by what influence is my directed to a person so much above me, why am I made to discern excellence, and left to long after it, without the food of hope.
JOHNSON. Line 234. The mightiest space in fortune nature brings
To join like likes, and kiss like native things.
What hath been,] All these lines are obscure, and, I believe, corrupt. I shall propose an emendation, which those who can explain the present reading, are at liberty to reject.
Through mightiest space in fortune nature brings
Likes to join likes, and kiss like native things. That is, nature brings like qualities and dispositions to meet through any distance that fortune may have set between them; she joins them and makes them kiss like things born together. The next lines I read with Hanmer.
Impossible be strange attempts to those
What ha'n't been, cannot be.