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Up to the ears.—Come, we burn day-light, ho.4.
This passage is not worth a contest; and yet if the conjunction or were retained, the meaning appears to be :-“ We'll draw thee from the mire, (says he) or rather from this love wherein thou stick'st.”
Dr. Johnson has imputed a greater share of politeness to Mercutio than he is found to be possessed of in the quarto, 1597. Mercutio, as he passes through different editions, “Works himself clear, and as he runs refines.”
STEEVENS. I have followed the first quarto, 1597, except that it has surreverence, instead of save-reverence. It was only a different mode of spelling the same word; which was derived from the Latin, salva reverentia. See Blount's Glossograph. 8vo. 1681, in v. sareverence So, in Massinger's Very Woman:
- The beastliest man,
“ (Sir-reverence of the company) a rank whore-monster.” Again, in The Puritan, 1607:56 - ungartered, unbuttoned, nay, (sir-reverence,) untrussed.”.
In Cymbeline we have the same thing more delicately expressed: “ Why should his mistress not be fit too? The rather, saving reverence of the word, for 'tis said a woman's fitness comes by-fits.”
In The Comedy of Errors, the word is written as in the first copy of this play, and is used in the same sense: “-such a one as a man may not speak of, without he say sir-reverence," And in Much Ado about Nothing, it occurs as now printed in the text: “ I think you will have me say (save reverence) a husband.” The printer of the quarto, 1599, exhibited the line thus unintelligibly:
Or, save you reverence, love, which was followed by the next quarto, of 1609, and by the folio with a slight variation. The editor of the folio, whenever he found an error in a later quarto, seems to have corrected it by caprice, without examining the preceding copy. He reads Or, save your reverence, &c. MALONE.
* - we burn day-light, ho.] To burn day-light is a proverbial expression, used when candles, &c. are lighted in the day time. See Vol. V. p. 63, n. 5.
Chapman has not very intelligibly employed this phrase in his translation of the twentieth Iliad:
6. And all their strength
- ROM. Nay, that's not so. MER.
I mean, sir, in delay We waste our lights in vain, like lamps by day.5
Take our good meaning; for our judgment sits · Five times in that, ere once in our five wits.
5- like lamps by day.] Lamps is the reading of the oldest quarto. The folio and subsequent quartos read-lights, lights by day. STEEVENS.
Five times in that, &c.] The quarto, 1597, reads : “ Three times a day;" and right wits, instead of fine wits. STEEVENS.
-- for our judgment sits
Five times in that, ere once in our five wits.] The quarto, 1599, and the folio, have our fine wits. Shakspeare is on all occasions so fond of antithesis, that I have no doubt he wrote five, not fine. The error has happened so often in these plays, and the emendation is so strongly confirmed by comparing these lines as exhibited in the enlarged copy of this play, with the passage as it stood originally, that I have not hesitated to give the reading which I proposed some time ago, a place in the text.
The same mistake has happened in A Midsummer-Night's Dream, Vol. V. p. 447, n. 8, where we find in all the old copies—" of these fine the sense,” instead of "—these five.” Again, in King Henry VI. P. I. Vol. XIII. p. 24, n. 1: “ Deck'd with fine flower-de-luces," instead of five,” &c. In Coriolanus, (see Vol. XVI. p. 234, n. 6.) the only authentick ancient copy has—“ the five strains of honour,” for “ the fine strains of honour." Indeed in the writing of Shakspeare's age, the u and n were formed exactly in the same manner: we are not to wonder therefore that ignorant transcribers should have confounded them. In the modern editions these errors have all been properly aniended. See also on the same point, Vol. V. p. 191, n. 3; Vol. IX. p. 412, n. 9; and Vol. XIX. p. 130, n. 7. · Shakspeare has again mentioned the five wits in Much Ado about Nothing, (see Vol. VI. p. 11, n. 6.) in King Lear, and in one of his Sonnets. Again, in the play before us: “ Thou hast more of the wild-goose in one of thy wits, than, I am sure, I have in my whole five." Mercutio is here also the speaker.' In the first quarto the line stands thus :
“ Three times in that, ere once in our right wits.” · When the poet altered “ three times” to “ five times,” he, without doubt, for the sake of the jingle, discarded the word
Rom. And we mean well, in going to this mask;
Why, may one ask?
And so did I.
That dreamers often lie. Rom. In bed, asleep, while they do dream
.. things true. . .. MER. O, then, I see, queen Mab hath been
with you. She is the fairies' midwife ;8 and she comes
right, and substituted five in its place. The alteration, indeed, seems to have been made merely to obtain the antithesis.
MALONE. 70, then, &c.] In the quarto 1597, after the first line of Mercutio's speech, Romeo says, Queen Mab, what's she? and the printer, by a blunder, has given all the rest of the speech to the same character. STEEVENS. 8 O, then, I see, queen Mab hath been with you.
She is the fairies' midwife;] The fairies' midwife does not mean the midwife to the fairies, but that she was the person among the fairies, whose department it was to deliver the fancies of sleeping men of their dreams, those children of an idle brain. When we say the king's judges, we do not mean persons who are to judge the king, but persons appointed by him to judge his subjects. SteeVENS.
I apprehend, and with no violence of interpretation, that by " the fairies' midwife,” the poet means, the midwife among the fairies, because it was her peculiar employment to steal the newborn babe in the night, and to leave another in its place. The poet here uses her general appellation, and character, which yet has so far a proper reference to the present train of fiction, as that her illusions were practised on persons in bed or asleep; for she not only haunted women in childbed, but was likewise the incubus or night-mare. Shakspeare, by employing her here, alludes at large to her midnight pranks performed on sleepers ; but denominates her from the most notorious one, of her per*
In shape no bigger than an agate-stone
sonating the drowsy midwife, who was insensibly carried away into some distant water, and substituting a new birth in the bed or cradle. It would clear the appellation to read the fairy midwife. The poet avails himself of Mab's appropriate province, by giving her this nocturnal agency. T. WARTON.
9 On the fore-finger of an alderman,] The quarto, 1597, reads-of a burgo-master. The alteration was probably made by the poet himself, as we find it in the succeeding copy, 1599: but in order to familiarize the idea, he has diminished its propriety. In the pictures of burgo-masters, the ring is generally placed on the fore-finger; and from a passage in The First Part of Henry IV. we may suppose the citizens, in Shakspeare's time, to have worn this ornament on the thumb. So again, Glapthorne, in his comedy of Wit in a Constable, 1639: “ - and an alderman, as I may say to you, he lias no more wit than the rest o'the bench; and that lies in his thumb-ring." STEEVENS.
i of little atomies—] Atomy is no more than an obsolete substitute for atom. So, in The Two Merry Milkmaids, 1620:
“ I can tear thee
“ Like dust before the wind.”
“ I'll tear thy limbs into more atomies
“ Than in the summer play before the sun." ' In Drayton's Nimphidia there is likewise a description of Queen Mab's chariot :
« Four nimble gnats the horses were,
« Upon the coach-box getting :
“ So lively was the limning :
“ I trow, 'twas simple trimming:
Athwart men's noses as they lie asleep:
:love : On courtiers' knees, that dream, on court’sies
straight : O'er lawyers' fingers, who straight dream on fees : O'er ladies' lips, who straight on kisses dream; Which oft the angry Mab with blisters plagues, Because their breaths with sweet-meats? tainted are. Sometime she gallops o'er a courtier's nose, And then dreams he of smelling out a suit :3
“ The wheels compos'd of cricket's bones,
“ With thistle-down they shod it.” STEEVENS. Drayton's Nimphidia was written several years after this tragedy. See Vol. V. p. 348, n. 7. MALONE.
? — with sweet-meats-] i. e. kissing-comfits. These artificial aids to perfume the breath, are mentioned by Falstaff, in the last Act of The Merry Wives of Windsor. MALONE. 3 Sometime she gallops o’er a courtier's nose,
And then dreams he of smelling out a suit: &c.] Mr. Pope reads-lawyer's nose. STEEVENS.
The old editions have it courtier's nose; and this undoubtedly is the true reading; and for these reasons: First, In the