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Atalanta most celebrated, and who therefore must be intended here where she has no epithet of discrimination, the better part seems to have been her heels, and the worse part was so bad that Rosalind would not thank her lover for the comparison. There is a more obscure Atalanta, a huntress and a heroine, but of her nothing bad is recorded, and therefore I know not which was the better part. Shakspeare was no despicable mythologist, yet he seems here to have mistaken some other character for that of Atalanta.
Line 172. Sad- -] Is grave, sober.
the touches-] The features; les traits.
202. I was never so be-rhymed since Pythagoras's time, that I was an Irish rat.] Rosalind is a very learned lady. She alludes to the Pythagorean doctrine, which teaches that souls transmigrate from one animal to another, and relates that in his time she was an Irish rat, and by some metrical charm was rhymed to death. The power of killing rats with rhymes Donne mentions in his Satires, and Temple in his Treatises. Dr. Grey has produced a similar passage from Randolph. JOHNSON.
Line 220. Good my complexion!] The meaning is, Hold good my complexion, i. e. let me not blush. WARBURTON.
Line 222. One inch of delay more is a South-sea off discovery.] Every delay, however short, is to me tedious and irksome as the longest voyage, or as a voyage of discovery on the South-sea. How much voyages to the South-sea, on which the English had then first ventured, engaged the conversation of that time, may be easily imagined. JOHNSON.
Line 252. --Garagantua's mouth--] Rosalind requires nine questions to be answered in one word. Celia tells her that a word of such magnitude is too big for any mouth but that of Garagantua the giant of Rabelais. JOHNSON,
Line 259. -to count atomies,] Atomies are those floating particles, discernible only when the sun shines through a crevice into a darkened room.
-to kill my heart.] A pun on hart and heart. -but I answer you right painted cloth,] This alludes to the fashion, in old tapestry hangings, of mottos and moral
sentences from the mouths of the figures worked or printed in them. The poet again hints at this custom in his poem, called, Tarquin and Lucrece:
"Who fears a sentence, or an old man's saw,
"Shall by a painted cloth be kept in awe." THEOBALD. I answer you right painted cloth, may mean, I give you a true painted cloth answer; as we say, she talks right Bilingsgate; that is, exactly such language as is used at Bilingsgate.
Line 373. -in-land man;] Is used in this play for one civilised, in opposition to the rustick of the priest. So Orlando before-Yet am I in-land bred, and know some nurture. JOHNSON.
Line 403. an unquestionable spirit;] That is, a spirit not inquisitive, a mind indifferent to common objects, and negligent of common occurrences. Here Shakspeare has used a passive for an active mode of speech: so in a former scene, The Duke is too disputable for me, that is, too disputatious.
May it not mean, unwilling to be conversed with? Line 411. -point device-] Means, drest up like a coxcomb. —a moonish youth,] i. e. Inconstant.
to a living humour of madness;] If this be the true reading, we must by living understand lasting, or permanent, but I cannot forbear to think that some antithesis was intended which is now lost; perhaps the passage stood thus, I drove my suitor from a dying humour of love to a living humour of madness. Or rather thus, from a mad humour of love to a loving humour of madness, that is, from a madness that was love, to a love that was madness. This seems somewhat harsh and strained, but such modes of speech are not unusual in our poet: and this harshness was probably the cause of the corruption. JOHNSON.
ACT III. SCENE III.
Line 478. it strikes a man more dead than a great reckoning in a little room:] A great reckoning, in a little room, implies that the entertainment was mean, and the bill extravagant. The poet here alluded to the French proverbial phrase of the quarter of hour of Rabelais: who said, there was only one quarter of an hour in
human life passed ill, and that was between the calling for the reckoning and paying it. WARBURTON.
Line 485. —and what they swear in poetry, &c.] This sentence seems perplexed and inconsequent; perhaps it were better read thus, What they swear as lovers they may be said to feign as poets. JOHNSON. Line 496. A material fool!] A fool with matter in him; a fool stocked with notions. JOHNSON.
-I am foul.] By foul is meant coy or frowning.
what though?] What then.`
-defence-] Defence here, is in allusion to
-Sir Oliver:] He that has taken his first degree at the university is in the academical style called Dominus, and in common language was heretofore termed Sir. This was not always a word of contempt; the graduates assumed it in their own writings; so Trevisa the historian writes himself Syr John de Trevisa.
-God'ild you] Ild for yield, or reward.
-his bow,] i. e. His yoke.
Not-0 sweet Oliver, O brave, &c.] The Clown dismisses Sir Oliver only because Jaques had put him out of conceit with him, by alarming his pride and raising doubts, touching the validity of a marriage solemnized by one who appears only in the character of an itinerant preacher; though he intends to have recourse to some other of more dignity in the same profession. STEEVENS.
ACT III. SCENE IV.
Line 581. I'faith, his hair is of a good colour.] There is much of nature in this petty perverseness of Rosalind; she finds faults in her lover, in hope to be contradicted, and when Celia in sportive malice too readily seconds her accusations, she contradicts herself rather than suffer her favourite to want a vindication. JOHNSON. Line 584. -as the touch of holy bread.] We should read beard, that is, as the kiss of an holy saint or hermit, called the
kiss of charity: This makes the comparison just and decent; the other is impious and absurd.
Line 587. -a nun of winter's sisterhood- -] Means, an unfruitful sisterhood, which had devoted itself to chastity.
Liné 613. quite traverse, athwart, &c.] An unexperienced lover is here compared to a puny tilter, to whom it was a disgrace to have his lance broken across, as it was a mark either of want of courage or address. WARBURTON.
Than he that dies and lives by bloody drops ?] To dye means as well to dip a thing in a colour foreign to its own, as to expire. In this sense, contemptible as the quibble is, the executioner may be said to die as well as live by bloody drops. STEEV.
Line 658. The cicatrice and capable impressure—] Cicatrice is here not very properly used; it is the scar of a wound. Capable impressure arrows mark. JOHNSON. Line 665. as before in Midsummer-Night's Dream.
power of fancy,] Fancy is here used for love, JOHNSON.
Line 672. -Who might be your mother,] It is common for the poets to express cruelty by saying, of those who commit it, that they were born of rocks, or suckled by tigresses. JOHNSON.
Line 674. That you insult, exult, and all at once,] The speaker may mean: Who might be your mother, that you insult, exult, and that too all in a breath. Such I take to be the meaning of all at STEEVENS.
Line 682. Of nature's sale-work:] i. e. Those works that nature makes up carelessly and without exactness. The allusion is to the practice of mechanicks, whose work bespoke is more elaborate, than that which is made up for chance-customers, or to sell in quantities to retailers, which is called sale-work. WARB. Line 701. Foul is most foul, being foul to be a scoffer:] The sense is, The ugly seem most ugly, when, though ugly, they are scoffers. JOHNSON.
-Though all the world could see,
all mankind could look on you, none could be so deceived as to
think you beautiful but he.
Line 749.carlot] i. e. Churl.
ACT IV. SCENE I.
-swam in a gondola.] That is, been at Venice, the seat at that time of all licentiousness, where the young English gentlemen wasted their fortunes, debased their morals, and sometimes lost their religion.
The fashion of travelling, which prevailed very much in our author's time, was considered by the wiser men as one of the principal causes of corrupt manners. It was therefore gravely censured by Ascham in his Schoolmaster, and by bishop Hall in his Quo Vadis; and is here, and in other passages, ridiculed by Shakspeare. JOHNSON.
Line 65. of a better leer than you.] Leer means, countenance or complexion.
Line 102. chroniclers of that age.-] Sir T. Hanmer reads coroners, by the advice, as Dr. Warburton hints, of some anonymous critick. JOHNSON.
Line 150. I will weep for nothing, like Diana in the fountain,] This alludes to the image of Diana, at the cross in Cheapside. See Stowe.
Line 152. I will laugh like a hyen,] The bark of the hyena very much resembles a loud laugh. STEEVENS.
Line 159. make the doors-] This is an expression used in several of the midland counties, instead of bar the doors. STEEV. Line 165. -Wit, whither wilt?] This was an exclamation much in use, when any one was either talking nonsense, or usurping a greater share in conversation than justly belonged to him. STEEVENS.
make her fault her husband's occasion,] That is,
represent her fault as occasioned by her husband. JOHNSON. I will think you the most pathetical break-promise,] We have the same unmeaning word, in Love's Labour's Lost:
"-most pathetical nit."