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To the best bride-bed will we,
Titania leads another song, which is indeed lost like the former, though the editors have endeavoured to find it. Then Oberon dismisses his fairies to the despatch of the ceremonies.
The songs, I suppose were lost, because they were not inserted in the players' parts, from which the drama was printed.
JOHNSON. s To the best bride-bed will we,
Which by us shall blessed be;} We learn from 6 Articles ordained by K. Henry VII. for the Regulation of his Household, that this ceremony was observed at the Marriage of a Princess.
All men at her comming in to bec voided, except woemen, till shee bee brought to her bedd; and the man both; he fittinge in his bedd in his shirte, with a gowne cast aboct him. Then the Bishoppe, with the Chaplaines, to come in, and blesse the bedd: then cverie man to avoide without any drinke, save the twoe estates, if they liste, privicly." p. 129
STEEVENS. hare-lip, ] This defe& in children seems to have been so much dreaded, that numerous were the charms applied for its prevention. The following might be, as, efficacious as any of the reft. " If a woman with chylde have her smocke llyt at the neather ende or skyrt thereof, &c. the same chyldc that she then goeth withall, shall be safe from having a cloven or hare lippe.' Thomas Lupton's Fourth Book of Notable Thinges, 4to. bl. 1. STEEVENS,
9 Nor mark prodigious, ] Prodigious has here its primitive fignification of portentous. So, in K. Richard III:
" If ever he have child, abortive be it,
With this field-dew consecrate,
Make no ftay;
(Exeunt OBERON, TITANIA, and Train. Puck. If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, (and all is mended, )
take his gait;] i. e. take his way, or dire& his steps.
So, in Spenser's Faery Queen, B. I. c. viii:
And guide his weary gate both to and fro.". Again, in a Scottish Proverb :
“ A man may speer the gate to Rome." Again, in The Mercers' Play, among the Chester colleâion of Whitsun Mysteries, p. — :
" Therefore goe not through his cuntrey,
". Nor the gate you came to day." STEEVENS. By gate, I believe is meant, the door of each chamber.
M. MASON 9 Every fairy take his gait;
And cach several chamber bless, &c. ] The same superstitious kind of benediäion occurs in Chaucer's Miller's Tale, v. 3479. Tyrwhitt's edit.
- I crouche thee from elves, and from wightes.
And on the threswold of the dore withoutę.
Jesu Christ, and Seint Benedight,
Gentles, do not reprehend;
[ Exit. •
an hopest Puck, ) See Mr. Tyrwhitt's note, &c. A& II. sc. i. on the words
Sweet Puck. STEEVENS. unearned luck —] i. e. if we have better fortune than we have deserved. STEEVENS.
* Now to 'Scape the serpent's tongue, ] That is, if we be dismissed without hisles. JOHNSON.
So, in J. Markham's English Arcadia, 1607:
“ But the nymph, after the custom of distrest tragedians, whose first ad is entertained with a snaky salutation, " &c. SteeveNS. s Give me your hands, ] That is, Clap your hands.
Give us your applause. JOHNSON.
6 Wild and fantastical as this play is, all the parts in their various modes are well written, and give the kind of pleasure which the author designed. Fairies in his time were much in fashion; common tradition had made them familiar, and Spenser's poem had made them great. JOHNSON.
See pp. 53, 54, 55.
And heard a mermaid, on a dolphin's back, &c. &c. &c.] Dr. Warburton, whose ingenuity and acuteness have been long admired, is now, I believe, pretty generally thought to have some times seen not only what no other person would ever have been able to discover, but what, in reality, unless in his own playful imagination, did not exist. Criticism is a talisman, which has, more than one occasion, dispelled the illusions of this mighty magician. I shall not dispute, that, by the fair vestal, Shakspeare intended a compliment to Queen Elizabeth, who, I am willing to believe, at the age of fixty cight, was no less chajte than beautiful;
but whether any other part of Oberon's speech have an allegorical meaniug or not, I presume, in dire& oppofition to Dr. Warburton, to contend that it agrees with any other rather than with Mary Queen of Scots. The “ mixture of satire and panegyrick” I shall examine anon, I only wish to know, for the present, why it would have been "inconvenient for the author to speak openly” in “ dispraise" of the Scotish Queen. If he meant to please “the imperial votress," no incense could have been half so grateful as the blackest calumny. But, it seems, " her successor would not forgive her satirist. Who then was her " fucceffor” when this play was written? Mary's son, James? I am persuaded that, had Dr. Warburton been better read in the history of those times, he would not have found this monarch's succession quite so certain, at that period, as to have prevented Shakspeare, who was by no means the refined speculatist he wa ld induce one to suppose, from gratifying the us fair vestal" with sentiments so agreeable to her. However, if the poet has so well marked out every distinguishing circumstance of her life and chara&er, in this beautiful allegory, as will leave no room to doubt about his secret meaning," there is an end of all controversy. For, though the satire would be cowardly, false and infamous, yet, fince it was couched under an allegory, which, while perfpicuous as glass to Elizabeth, would have become opake as a mill-ftone to her successor, Shakspcare, lying as snug as his own Ariel in a cowslip's bell, would have had no reason to apprehend any ill consequences from it. Now, though our speculative bard might not be able to foresee the fagacity of the Scotish king in smelling out a plot, aș I believe it was some years after that he gave any proof of his excellence that way, he could not but have heard of his being an admirable witch-finder; and, surely, the skill requisite to dete& a witch must be sufficient to develope an allegory; fo that I must needs question the propriety of the compliment here paid to the poet's prudence. Queen Mary 66 is called a Mermaid, 1. to denote her reign over a kingdom fituate in the sea. In that refpe& at least Elizabeth was as much a mermaid as herself. 16 And 2. her beauty and intemperate luft; for as Elizabeth for her chastity is called a Vestal, this unfortunate lady, on a contrary account, is called a mermaid. All this is as false as it is foolish : The mermaid was never the emblem of luft; nor was the “gentle Shakspeare" of a chara&er or disposition to have insulted the memory of a murdered princess by so infamous a charge. The most abandoned libeler, even Buchanan himself, never accused her of “intemperate luft;' and it is pretty well understood at present that, if either of these ladies were remarkable for her purity, it was not Queen Elizabeth. " 3. An ancient story may be supposed to be here alluded to ; the Emperor Julian tells us that the Sirens (which with all the modern poets are mermaids) contended for precedency with the Muses, who
overcoming them took away their wings.”. Can any thing be more ridiculous? Mermaids are half women and half fishes: where then are their wings? or what possible use could they make of them if they had any? The Sirens which Juliav speaks of were partly women and partly birds : so that “ the pollusion," as good-man Dull hath it, by no means wholds in the exchange."". The quarrels between Mary and Elizabeth had the same cause and the same issue." That is, they contended for precedency, and Elizabeth overcoming took away the others wings. The secret of their contest for precedency thould feem to have been confined to Dr. Warburton: It would be in vain to enquire after it in the history of the time. The Queen of Scots, indeed, fiew for refuge to her ireacherous rival, (who is here again the mermaid of the allegory, alluring to deftru&tion, by her songs or fair specches,) and wearing, it should seem, like a cherubim, her wings on her neck, Elizabeth, who was determined she should fly no more, in her cagerness to tear them away, happened inada vertently to take off her head. The situation of the poet's piermaid, on a dolphin's back, “ evidently marks out that distinguishing circumstance in Mary's fortune, her marriage with the dauphin of France." A mermaid would seem to have but a strangely aukward seat on the back of a dolphin; but that, to be sure, is the poet's affair, and not the commentators: the latter, however, is certainly anfwerable for placing a Queen on the back of her husband: a very extraordinary situation one would think, for a married lady; and of which I only recolleâ a single instance, in the common print of " a poor man loaded with mischief." Mermaids are supposed to fing, but their dulcet and harmonious breath must in this instance to fuit the allegory, allude to “ those great abilities of genius and learning," which rendered Queen Mary " the most accomplished princess of her age." This compliment could not fail of being highly agreeable to the “ fair Veftal." " By the rude sea is meant Scotland incircled with the ocean, which rose up in arms against the regent, while the [ Mary) was in France. But her return home quieted these disorders: aná had not her frange ill condu& afterwards more violently iuflamed them, she might have passed her whole life in peace." Dr. Warburton whose skill in geography, seems to match his knowledge of history, and acuteness in allegory, must be allowed the sole merit of discovering Scotland be an island. But, as to the disorders of that country being quieted by the Queen's return, it appears from history to be full as peaceable before as it is at any time after that event. Whether, in the revival or conti. nuance of these disorders, she, or her ideot husband, or fanatical subjects were most to blame, is a point upon which do&ors fill differ; but, it is evident, that, if the enchanting song of the commentators mermaid civilized the rude sea for a time, it was only to render it, in an instant, more boisterous than ever: those great