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"Such as will strike sooner than speak, and speak sooner than drink, and drink sooner than pray."
This arrangement is certainly wrong; and Dr. Warburton has in vain attempted to rectify it: there is, indeed, but little humour in saying of this dissolute crew, that "they would speak sooner than drinkas little is there, I believe, in the proposed emendation, that "they would speak sooner than think, and think sooner than prey." Dr. Johnson is obliged to leave the passage as he found it; and Mr. Malone appears to be not at all satisfactory upon it: perhaps we should read thus: "Such as will strike sooner than drink, and drink sooner than speak, and speak sooner than pray." i. e. They are plain blunt fellows, who would rather open their mouths to drink than to talk; yet, would decline their loved potations sooner than omit an opportunity to plunder; and would be even loquacious sooner than religious.
252. "If I travel but four foot by the square.''''
Dr. Warburton has explained this passage just as I had conceived it, before I saw his note, and I am persuaded he is right; the humour is completely in Falstaff's manner, he cannot advance four feet without describing, in his motion, the square surface of that measure j he is as broad as he is long.
"Ere I'll rob afoot further."
Dr. Johnson would read, "rub," but there is much more humour in the expression as it is: it implies, that his whole career was robbery, and that to check his motion would be to remit his plunder.
267. "To play with mammets and to tilt with lips."
It has been suggested to me by my Lord Chedworth, that in Heron's Letters of Literature, "mammet" is derived from the French "mamette," a woman's breast, which is the sense required here; and this, perhaps, is the true signification of Hamlet's words to Ophelia, "I could interpret between you and your love, if I could see the puppets dallying," i. e. if I could observe the agitations of your bosom.
290." You elf-skin:'
I think we should read, with Sir T. Hanmer, eel-skin: in the Second Part of this play Falstaff says of Justice Shallow, "You might have truss'd him and all his apparel into an eel-skin."
293. "Give him as much as will make him a royal man, and send him back again to my mother."
Give him a royal and then he may approach the queen on equal terms.
305. "If, then, the tree may be known by the fruit, as the fruit by the tree, then there is virtue in that Falstaff"
Sir T. Hanmer's transposition appears to be necessary to the argument; the man being the tree, and virtue the fruit, the speaker says, that tree looks as if its fruit was virtue; and if we can as truly determine what the fruit is by the appearance of the tree, as we can, what the tree is by seeing the fruit, then, certainly, the fruit of that tree is virtue. Mr. Malone's is a very illogical conclusion.
This figure occurs in the Preface to Sir Walter Raleigh's History of the World: "As the fruit tells the name of the tree, so do the outward works of men give us whereof to guess at the rest."
310. "Never call a true piece of gold a counterfeit."
The hostess, after saying that the sheriff and the watch are at the door, asks, "Shall I let them in?" To which question, I suppose the Prince, by gesture, gives assent, and thereby calls forth these words from Falstaff, "Never call a true piece of gold a counterfeit," i. e never make light of a serious matter: "thou art essentially mad without seeming so." Your admitting these people, which appears to be only heedlessness and levity, is errant madness.
ACT III. SCENE I.
316. "I have forgot the map."
He had forgot, in a former scene, the name of the duke of York's palace. These are incidents which have no connexion with the plot or the action, but are admirably illustrative of the ardent and impetuous temper of Hotspur, and worthy of a genius like Shakspeare's.
320. "These signs have mark'd me extraordi
"Extraordinary" must here be extended to its full quantity, six syllables, as again in the next scene:
"Afford no extraordinary gaze."
"Why, I can teach you, cousin," Sec.
« Why" should be omitted:
"I can teach you, cousin, to command the devil."
321. "And sandy-bottom d Severn, have I sent
"Bootless home, and weather-beaten back."
It is strange that Mr. Steevens should choose to load the first of these lines with the word "him," and leave the second to rely for its quantity upon the bootless attempt to make " bootless" a trisyllable; especially as he has so often, with just censure, remarked on Mr. Malone's endeavours to lengthen words that will not admit of such extension. 1 would propose:
"Three times have I sent him,
"Bootless and weather-beaten home again."
"But mark," &c.
The two first words are superfluous, and should be omitted. 1
"Mark, how he bears his course, and runs me
"——— Gelding the opposed continent."
"Gelding"—cutting out a circular piece.
"And then he runs straight and even."
We might read: "And then he will run straight and evenly:"
"And then he runs on straight and evenly."
330. "Good father, tell her,—that," &c.
"That" is a careless interpolation:
"Tell her,—she, and my aunt Percy."
But Lady Percy, in the second act, calls Mortimer her brother, as, indeed, he was. We might read:
"Good father, say she, and my sister Percy."
"That pretty Welsh
"Which thou pourest down from these swelling heavens."
This passage has been misunderstood by the late editors. Language may be said to be "poured forth" from the lips, but not " poured down." The pretty Welsh, the language that Mortimer understands, is the lady's tears, and the " swelling heavens" are her eyes. That this is the meaning is evident, from what follows:
"But for shame,
"In such a parley I would answer thee."