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Come, go with us; we'll look to that anon; Will you walk in to see their gossiping?
[Exeunt ANTIPHOLUS S. and E., Adr. DRO. E. That's a question : how shall we try it?
Dro. S. We'll draw cuts for the senior; till Dro. S. There is a fat friend at your master's
then, lead thou first. house,
Dro. E. Nay, then, thus ; That kitchen’d me for you to-day at dinner ; We came into the world like brother and broShe now shall be my sister,—not my wife. DRO. E. Methinks you are my glass, and not And now let's go hand in hand, not one before
[E.reunt. I see by you, I am a sweet-fac'd youth.
(1) SCENE II.- They say this town is full of cozenage, d'c.] This was the character attributed to Ephesus in remote ages. Steevens suggests that Shakespeare might have got the hint for this description from Warner's translation of the “ Menæchmi,” 1595. “ For this assure yourselfe, this Towne Epidamnum is a place of outragious expences, exceeding in all ryot and lasciviousnesse : and (I heare) as full of Ribaulds, Parasites, Drunkards, Catchpoles, Cony.catchers, and Sycophants, as it can hold,” &c. But it is observable that Shakespeare, with great propriety, makes Antipholus attach to the Ephesians higher and more poetical qualities of cozenage than those enumerated by the old translator. It is not merely as “catch
cony-catchers," and the like, but as “ darkworking sorcerers,” and “soul-killing witches,” that he speaks of them. And hence we are prepared to find him
attribute the cross-purposes of the scene to supernatural agency, and see no inconsistency in his wooing Luciana as an enchantress :
“ Teach me, dear creature! how to think and speak;
Lay open to my earthy gross conceit,
The folded meaning of your words' deceit.
To make it wander in an unknown field ?" Or in his imagining that, to win the sibyl, he must lose himself:
“ Sing, syren, for thyself, and I will dote:
spread o'er the silver waves thy golden hairs,
And, in that glorious supposition, think
(1) SCENE I.-Once this.] The following note in Gifford's “Ben Jonson" (vol. iii. p. 218) helps to confirm our opinion that once in this place, and in many other instances, is only another forin of nonce, and means for the occasion, for the time being, &c. “For the nonce, is simply for the onre, for the one thing in question, whatever it may be. This is invariably its meaning. The aptitude of many of our monosyllables beginning with a vowel to assume tho n is well known ; but the progress of this expression iş distinctly marked in our early writers, ‘a ones,' an anes,' ' for the anes,' 'for the nanes,' ' for the nones,' 'for the nonce.'
Borne on a foamy-crested wave,
She, plunging, sought the deep below." The reader desirous of particular information concerning the supposed existence and habits of these seductive beings, may consult Maillet's “Telliamed," Pontopiddan's “Natural History of Norway," and Waldron's “ Account of the Isle of Man."
(2) SCENE II.—He gains by death, that hath such means to die.] The allusion is obviously to the long current opinion that the syren, or mermaid, decoyed mortals to destruction by tho witchery of her songs. This superstition has been charmingly illustrated by Leyden, in his poem, " The Mermaid," (oide Scott's “Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border," vol. iv. p. 294.)
(3) SCENE II.-
Dro. S. In her forehead; arm'd and reverted, making war against her heir.) As Theobald first observed, an equivoque was, no doubt, intended between the words hair and heir ; and by the latter, was meant Henry IV. the heir of France, concerning whose succession to the throne there was a civil war in the country from 1589 for several years. Henry, after struggling long against the League, extricated himself from all his difficulties by embracing the Roman Catholic religion at St. Denis, on Sunday, the 25th of July, 1593, and was crowned King of France in February, 1594. In '1591, Lord Essex was dispatched with 4,000 troops to the French king's assistance, and his brother Walter was killed before Rouen, in Normandy. From that time till Henry was peaceably settled on the throne, many bodies of troops were sent by Queen Elizabeth to his aid : so that his situation must at that period have been a matter of notoriety, and a subject of conversation in England. From the reference to this circumstance, Malone imagines the “ Comody of Errors" to have been written before 1594.
" Thus, all to soothe the Chieftain's woe,
Far from the maid he loved so dear,
That sea-maid's form, of pearly light, Was whiter than the downy spray, And round her bosom, heaving bright, Her glossy, yellow ringlets play.
(1) SCENE II.--A devil in an everlasting garment hath him.) A sergeant's buff leather garment was called durance; partly, it would appear, on account of its everlasting qualities, and partly from a quibble on the occupation of the wearer, which was that of arresting and clapping men in durance. In Greene's “ Quip for an Upstart Courtier,” sig. D, 3d edit. 1620, there is a graphic description of a sergeant, or sheriff's officer. “ One of them had on a buffe-leather jerkin, all greasie before with the droppings of beere, that fell from his heard, and by his side, a skeino like a brewer's bung knife ; and muffled he was in a cloko, turn'd over his nose, as though hee had beene ashamed to showe his face."
This peculiar garb is again referred to by our author in a passage of Henry IV.” Part I. Act I, Sc. 2,
" And is not a buff jerkin a most sweet robe of durance ?" the point of which seems not to have been fully understood by the commentators. A robe of durance was a cant term, implying imprisonment; and the Prince, after dilating on purse-stealing, humorously calls attention to its probable consequences, by his query about the breff jerkin. See MIDDLETON'S “ Blurt, Master Constable,” Act III. Sc. 2:
“ Tell my lady, that I go in a suit of durance."
(2) SCENE II.-A hound that runs counter, and yet draws dry foot well.] To run counter is to follow on false scent; to draw dry foot means to track by the mere scent of the foot. A hound that does one is not likely to do the other; but the ambiguity is explained by the double meaning attached to the words counter and dry foot. The former implying both false, and a prison, and the latter, privation of scent, and lack of means. The sheriff's. officer, as he tracks for a prison, may be said to run counter, and, as he follows those who have expended their substance, he draus dry foot.
on the word rest, arrest, and a metaphor, very common in our old writers, setting up his rest, which is taken from gaming, and means staking his all upon an event. Hence it was frequently applied to express fixed determination, steadfast purpose. Thus, in “ All's Well that Ends Well," Act II. Sc. 1:
" What I can do, can do no hurt to try,
Since you set up your rest’gainst remedy."
(5) SCENE III.-A ring he hath of mine vorth forty durats.] The number forty was very anciently adopted to express a great many, in the same way that we now use fifty, or a sore. In the Scriptures it is recorded that the food was forty days on the earth ; the Israelites were forty years, and our Saviour forty days in the wilderness ; and Job mourned forty days. In Hindustani, the word chalis, forty, has the same indefinite acceptation ; chalis-sutun, denoting literally forty columns, being applied to a palace with a number of pillars. So also in Persia, chihal signifies furty, and Persepolis, because it is a city of many towers, is called chihal-minar, “the forty towers." In like manner, too, the insect which we name centipede, is there known as chihal-pd, “forty feet.” The word in this sense is not at all uncommon among old English writers ;
“ Quoth Niceness to Newsangle, thou art such a Jacke, That thou devisest sortie fashions for my ladie's backe."
The Cobler's Prophecy, 1594. And it is so used repeatedly by Shakespeare ; for example, “I have learned these forty years."
Richard II. Act I. Sc. 3. "I will have forty moys."
Henry V. Act IV. Sc. 4. “I myself fight not onre in forty years."
Henry VI. Part I. Act I, Sc. 3. “Some forty truncheoneers draw.".
Henry VIII. Act V. Sc. 3. “ I could beat forty of them."
Coriolanus, Act III. Sc. I. " I saw her once hop forly paces."
Antony and Cleopatra, Act II. Sc. 2. " I had rather than forty pound."
Twelfth Night, Act V. Sc. I.
(3) SCENE II.-One that, before the judgment, carries poor souls to hell.] By before the judgment, in its secondary sense, Dromio is supposed to allude to arrest on mesneprocess. IIell was a cant term for the worst dungeon in the wretched prisons of the time. There was the Master's Side, the Knight's Ward, the Hole, and last and most deplorable, the department called Hell, which was the receptacle for those who had no means to pay the extortionate fines exacted for better accommodation.
(4) SCENE III.--He that sets up his rest to do more efploits with his mace than a morris-pike.] Dromio plays
(1) SCENE I.-It your important letters, d.]
these ryche men ben unkinde:
“In the passage before us, Shakspeare was thinking particularly on the interest which the king had in England in the marriage of his wards, who were the heirs of his tenants holding by knight's service, or in capite, and were under age ; an interest which Queen Elizabeth in Shakspeare's time exerted on all occasions, as did her suc. cessors, till the abolition of the Court of Wards and Liveries; the poct attributes to the duke the same right to choose a wife or a husband for his wards at Ephesus."MALONE.
THE COMEDY OF ERRORS.
“ The alternate rhymes that are found in this play, as well as in ' A Midsummer Night's Dream,' Love's Labour's Lost,' "The Two Gentlemen of Verona,' and “Romeo and Juliet,' are a further proof that these pieces were among our author's earliest productions. We are told by himself that “Venus and Adonis' was the first heir of his invention.' The · Rape of Lucrece' probably followed soon afterwards. When he turned his thoughts to the stage, the measure which he had used in those poems naturally presented itself to him in his first dramatick essays: I mean in those plays which were written originally by himself. In those which were grounded, like the Henrics, on the preceding productions of other men, he naturally followed the example before him, and consequently in those pieces no alternate rhymes are found. The doggrel measure, which, if I recollect right, is employed in none of our author's plays except • The Comedy of Errors,” “The Taming of the Shrew,' and 'Love's Labour 's Lost,' also adds support to the dates assigned to these plays; for these long doggrel verses are written in that kind of metre which was usually attributed by the dramatic poets before his time to some of their inferior characters. * He was imperceptibly infected with the prevailing mode in these his early compositions ; but soon learned to deviate boldly from the common track ' left by preceding writers.”—MALONE.
“ This drama of Shakspeare's is much more varied, rich, and interesting in its incidents than the Menachmi of Plautus ; and while, in rigid adherence to the unities of action, time, and place, our poet rivals the Roman play, he has contrived to insinuate the necessary previous information for the spectator, in a manner infinitely more pleasing and artful than that adopted by the Latin bard ; for whilst Plautus has chosen to convey it through the medium of a prologue, Shakspeare has rendered it at once natural and pathetic, by placing it in the mouth of Ægeon, the father of the twin brothers.
“In a play, of which the plot is so intricate, occupied, in a great measure, by mere personal mistakes and their whimsical results, no elaborate development of character can be expected; yet is the portrait
LIKE WILL TO LIKE.
Tos. Few wordes are best among freends, this is true,
And some, berlady, very good, for so standeth the case,
THE THREE LADIES OF LONDON.
“You think I am going to market to buy rost meate, do ye not?
I thought so, but you are deceived, for I wot what I wot:
(About 1570.) “SHIFT. By gogs bloud, my maisters, we were not best longer
here to staie, I thinke was never such a craftie knave before this daie.
THE COBLER'S PROPHECY.
" Quoth Niceness to Newfangle, thou art such a Jacke,
That thou devisest fortie fashions for my ladie's backe.
PROMOS AND CASSANDRA.
" The wind is yl blows no man's gaine: for cold I neede not care:
Here is nine and twentie sutes of apparel for my share :
of Ægeon touched with a discriminative hand, and the pressure of age and misfortune is so painted, as to throw a solemn, dignified, and impressive tone of colouring over this part of the fable, contrasting well with the lighter scenes which immediately follow,-a mode of relief which is again resorted to at the close of the drama, where the re-union of Ægeon and Æmilia, and the recognition of their children, produce an interest in the denouëment of a nature more affecting than the tone of the preceding scenes had taught us to expect.
“ As to the comic action which constitutes the chief bulk of this piece, if it be true, that, to excite laughter, awaken attention, and fix curiosity, be essential to its dramatic excellence, the Comedy of Errors cannot be pronounced an unsuccessful effort; both reader and spectator are hurried on to the close, through a series of thick-coming incidents, and under the pleasurable influence of novelty, expectation, and surprise ; and the dialogue is uniformly vivacious, pointed, and even effervescing. Shakspeare is visible, in fact, throughout the entire play, as well in the broad exuberance of its mirth, as in the cast of its more chastised parts,—a combination of which may be found in the punishment and character of Pinch, the pedagogue and conjuror, who is sketched in the strongest and most marked style of our author.
“ If we consider, therefore, the construction of the fable, the narrowness of its basis, and that its powers of entertainment are almost exclusively confined to a continued deception of the external senses, we must confess that Shakspeare has not only improved on the Plautian model, but, making allowance for a somewhat too coarse vein of humour, has given to his production all the interest and variety that the nature and the limits of his subject would permit.”—DRAKE.
“Shakespeare has in this piece presented us with a legitimate farce in exactest 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 scarcely allow even the two Antipholuses, because although there have been instances of almost undistinguishable likeness in two persons, yet these are mere individual antecedents, casus ludentis nature, and the verum will not excuse the inverisimile. But difarce 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.
«The Comedy of Errors' is the subject of the Menæchmi of Plautus, entirely recast and enriched with new developments. Of all works of Shakspeare this is the only example of imitation of, or borroicing from, the ancients. To the two twin brothers of the same name are added two slaves, also twins, impossible to be distinguished from each other, and of the same name. The improbability becomes by this means doubled; but when once we have lent ourselves to the first, which certainly borders on the incredible, we shall not perhaps be disposed to cavil at the second; and if the spectator is to be entertained by mere perplexities, they cannot be too much varied. *
In short, this is perhaps the best of all written or possible Menæchmi; and if the piece be inferior in worth to other pieces of Shakspeare, it is merely because nothing more could be made of the materials.”—SCHLEGEL.