Page images

Prick love for pricking, and you beat love down.-(II) Give me a case to put my visage in :

[Putting on a Mask. (1)A visor for a visor!-what care I,() What curious eye doth quote deformities 5 ? Here are the beetle-brows, shall blush for me.

BEN. Come, knock, and enter; and no sooner in, But every man betake him to his legs.

ROM. A torch for me: let wantons, light of heart 6

Tickle the senseless rushes with their heels" ;
For I am proverb'd with a grandsire phrase




doth QUOTE deformities?] To quote is to observe.

"I am sorry, that with better heed and judgment
I had not quoted him."


See note on this passage. STEEvens.

6 - let wantons, light of heart, &c.] Middleton has borrowed

this thought in his play of Blurt Master-Constable, 1602: bid him, whose heart no sorrow feels,


"Tickle the rushes with his wanton heels,

[ocr errors]

So, in

"I have too much lead at mine." STEEVens.

7 Tickle the senseless RUSHES with their heels;] It has been already observed, that it was anciently the custom to strew rooms with rushes, before carpets were in use. See Henry IV. Part I. Act III. Sc. I. So Hentzner, in his Itinerary, speaking of Queen Elizabeth's presence-chamber at Greenwich, says: "The floor, after the English fashion, was strewed with hay," meaning rushes. So, in The Dumb Knight, 1633 :

"Thou dancest on my heart, lascivious queen, "Even as upon these rushes which thou treadest." The stage was anciently strewn with rushes. So, in Decker's Gul's Hornbook, 1609: " on the very rushes when the comedy is to daunce." STEEVENS.

Shakspeare, it has been observed, gives the manners and customs of his own time to all countries and all ages. It is certainly true; but let it always be remembered that his contemporaries offended against propriety in the same manner. Thus, Marlowe, in his Hero and Leander:


She, fearing on the rushes to be flung,

"Striv'd with redoubled strength -." MALONE. 8-a grandsire phrase, &c.] The proverb which Romeo means, is contained in the line immediately following. To hold

I'll be a candle-holder, and look on,

The game was ne'er so fair, and I am done". MER. Tut! dun's the mouse, the constable's own word ':

the candle, is a very common proverbial expression, for being an idle spectator. Among Ray's proverbial sentences, is this:"A good candle-holder proves a good gamester." STEEVENS.

The proverb to which Romeo refers, is rather that alluded to in the next line but one.

It appears from a passage in one of the small collections of Poetry, entitled Drolleries, of which I have lost the title, that "Our sport is at the best," or at the fairest, meant, we have had enough of it. Hence it is that Romeo says, I am done."


Dun is the mouse, I know not why, seems to have meant, Peace; be still! and hence it is said to be "the constable's own word;" who may be supposed to be employed in apprehending an offender, and afraid of alarming him by any noise. So, in the comedy of Patient Grissel, 1603: What, Babulo! say you. Heere, master, say I, and then this eye opens; yet don is the mouse, LIE STILL. What Babulo! says Grissel. Anone, say I, and then this eye lookes up; yet doune I snug againe."



9 I'll be a candle-holder, and look on,―

The game was ne'er so fair, and I am done.] An allusion to an old proverbial saying, which advises to give over when the game is at the fairest. RITSON.


and I am done." This is equivalent to phrases in common use-I am done for, it is over with me. Done is often used in a kindred sense by our author. Thus, in King Henry VI. Part III.:


my mourning weeds are done."

Again, in The Rape of Lucrece :


as soon decay'd and done,

"As in the morning's dew." STEEVENS.

Tut! dun's the mouse, the constable's own word :] This poor obscure stuff should have an explanation in mere charity. It is an answer to these two lines of Romeo:

"For I am proverb'd with a grandsire phrase;—and
"The game was ne'er so fair, and I am done."

Mercutio, in his reply, answers the last line first. The thought of which, and of the preceding, is taken from gaming. "I'll be a candle-holder (says Romeo) and look on." It is true, if I could play myself, I could never expect a fairer chance than in the company we are going to: but, alas! I am done. I have nothing to play with: I have lost my heart already. Mercutio

If thou art dun, we'll draw thee from the mire 2
Of this (save reverence) love3, wherein thou stick'st

catches at the word done, and quibbles with it, as if Romeo had said, The ladies indeed are fair, but I am dun, i. e. of a dark complexion. And so replies, Tut! dun's the mouse; a proverbial expression of the same import with the French, La nuit tous les chats son gris: as much as to say, You need not fear, night will make all your complexions alike. And because Romeo had introduced his observations with

"I am proverb'd with a grandsire phrase,"

Mercutio adds to his reply, the constable's own word: as much as to say, If you are for old proverbs, I'll fit you with one; 'tis the constable's own word; whose custom was, when he summoned his watch, and assigned them their several stations, to give them what the soldiers call, the word. But this night-guard being distinguished for their pacifick character, the constable, as an emblem of their harmless disposition, chose that domestick animal for his word, which, in time, might become proverbial.


2 If thou art DUN, we'll draw thee from the mire-] A proverbial saying, used by Mr. Thomas Heywood, (Drue,) in his play, intitled The Dutchess of Suffolk, Act III.:

"A rope for Bishop Bonner, Clunce run,
"Call help, a rope, or we are all undone,
"Draw dun out of the ditch." DR. GREY.

Draw dun (a common name, as Mr. Douce observes, for a cart-horse) out of the mire, seems to have been a game. In an old collection of Satyres, Epigrams, &c. I find it enumerated among other pastimes:

"At shove-groate, venter point, or crosse and pile,
"At leaping o'er a Midsommer bone-fier,
"Or at the drawing dun out of the


Dun's the mouse is a proverbial phrase, which I have likewise met with frequently in the old comedies. So, in Every Woman in her Humour, 1609:

66 If my host say the word, the mouse shall be dun."

It is also found among Ray's proverbial similes.

Again, in The Two Merry Milkmaids, 1620:


Why then 'tis done, and dun's the mouse, and undone all the courtiers."

Of this cant expression I cannot determine the precise meaning. It is used again in Westward Hoe, by Decker and Webster, 1607, but apparently in a sense different from that which Dr. Warburton would affix to it. STEEVENS.

Dun out of the mire was the name of a tune, and to this sense

Up to the ears.-Come, we burn day-light, ho**. ROM. Nay, that's not so.

* Quarto A, Leave this talk, we burn day-light here. Mercutio may allude when Romeo declines dancing. Taylor, in A Navy of Land Ships, says, "Nimble-heeled mariners (like so many dancers) capring in the pumpes and vanities of this sinfull world, sometimes a Morisca or Trenchmore of forty miles long, to the tune of Dusty my Deare, Dirty come Thou to Me, Dun out of the mire, or I Wayle in Woe and Plunge in Paine: all these dances have no other musicke." HOLT WHITE.

These passages serve to prove that Dr. Warburton's explanation is ill founded, without tending to explain the real sense of the phrase, or showing why it should be the constable's own word.


"The cat is grey," a cant phrase, somewhat similar to "Dun's the mouse," occurs in King Lear. But the present application of Mercutio's words will, I fear, remain in hopeless obscurity.


We are indebted to Mr. Gifford for a description of the game alluded to. See his note on A Masque of Christmas, Gifford's Jonson, vol. vii. p. 282. Boswell.

3 Or this (save reverence) love,] The folio-Or save your reverence, &c. The word or obscures the sentence; we should read-O! for or love. Mercutio having called the affection with which Romeo was entangled by so disrespectful a word as mire, cries out :


"O! save your reverence, love." JOHNSON.

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. sa



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 "I think you will have me say (save reverence) a husband.”


[ocr errors]


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.

* Quarto A, "We burn our lights by night like lamps by day." Folio and the other quartos, "We waste our lights in vain lights, lights by day.”

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 Merry Wives of Windsor, Act II. Sc. I.

Chapman has not very intelligibly employed this phrase in his translation of the twentieth Iliad:

"And all their strength

no more shall burn in vain the day." STEEVENS. S -like LAMPS by day.] Lamps is the reading of the oldest quarto. The folio and subsequent quartos read-lights, lights by


day 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, where we find in all the old copies-" of these fine the sense," instead of "these five." Again, in King Henry VI. P. I.: "Deck'd with fine flower-de-luces," instead of—“ five,” &c. In Coriolanus, 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 thereVOL. VI.


« PreviousContinue »