Imágenes de páginas

Upon whose influence Neptune's empire stands,
Was sick almost to doomsday with eclipse.

ginning of one line has been joined to the end of another, the intervening words being omitted. That such conjectures are not merely chimerical, I have already proved. See Vol. VIII, p. 296, n. 2; and Vol. XI, p. 67, n. 5.

The following lines in Julius Cæsar, in which the prodigies that are said to have preceded his death, are recounted, may throw some light on the passage before us:

[ocr errors]

There is one within,

"Besides the things that we have heard and seen,
"Recounts most horrid sights seen by the watch.
"A lioness hath whelped in the streets;

"And graves have yawn'd and yielded up their dead:
"Fierce fiery warriors fight upon the clouds,
"In ranks, and squadrons, and right form of war,
"Which drizzled blood upon the Capitol:

"The noise of battle hurtled in the air,
"Horses do neigh, and dying men did groan;

"And ghosts did shriek and squeal about the streets." The lost words perhaps contained a description of fiery warriors fighting on the clouds, or of brands burning bright beneath the stars. The 15th Book of Ovid's Metamorphoses, translated by Golding, in which an account is given of the prodigies that preceded Cæsar's death, furnished Shakspeare with some of the images in both these passages:


battels fighting in the clouds with crashing armour flew,

"And dreadful trumpets sounded in the ayre, and hornes eke blew,

"As warning men beforehand of the mischiefe that did


"And Phœbus also looking dim did cast a drowsie light, Uppon the earth, which seemde likewise to be in sory

[ocr errors]


"From underneath beneath the starres brandes oft seemde burning bright,

"It often rain'd drops of blood. The morning star look'd blew,

"And was bespotted here and there with specks of rustic hew,

"The moone had also spots of blood.

"Salt teares from ivorie-images in sundry places fell ;"The dogges did howle, and every where appeared

ghastly sprights,

"And with an earthquake shaken was the towne."Plutarch only says, that "the sunne was darkened," that "diverse men were seen going up and down in fire;" there were "fires in the element; sprites were seene running up and downe in the night, and solitaire birds sitting in the great market-place."

And even the like precurse of fierce events,-9
As harbingers preceding still the fates,

And prologue to the omen coming on,—1

Have heaven and earth together démonstrated

The disagreeable recurrence of the word stars in the second line induces me to believe that As stars in that which precedes, is a corruption. Perhaps Shakspeare wrote:

Astres with trains of fire,

and dews of blood

Disastrous dimm'd the sun.

The word astre is used in an old collection of poems entitled Diana, addressed to the Earl of Oxenforde, a book of which I know not the date, but believe it was printed about 1580. In Othello we have antres, a word exactly of a similar formation.


The word-astre, (which is no where else to be found) was affectedly taken from the French by John Southern, author of the poems cited by Mr. Malone. This wretched plagiarist stands indebted both for his verbiage and his imagery to Ronsard. See the European Magazine, for June, 1788, p. 389. Steevens.

and the moist star, &c.] i. e. the moon. So, in Marlowe's Hero and Leander, 1598:

"Not that night-wandering, pale, and watery star," &c.


8 And even-] Not only such prodigies have been seen in Rome, but the elements have shown our countrymen like forerunners and foretokens of violent events. Johnson.


-precurse of fierce events,] Fierce, for terrible.


I rather believe that fierce signifies conspicuous, glaring. It is used in a somewhat similar sense in Timon of Athens:

"O the fierce wretchedness that glory brings !" Again, in King Henry VIII, we have "fierce vanities." Steevens.

1 And prologue to the omen coming on,] But prologue and omen are merely synonymous here. The poet means, that these strange phænomena are prologues and forerunners of the events presaged: and such sense the slight alteration, which I have ventured to make, by changing omen to omen'd, very aptly gives. Theobald.

Omen, for fate. Warburton.

Hanmer follows Theobald.

A distich from the life of Merlin, by Heywood, however, will show that there is no occasion for correction:

"Merlin well vers'd in many a hidden spell,

"His countries omen did long since fortell." Farmer.

Again, in The Vowbreaker:

"And much I fear the weakness of her braine
"Should draw her to some ominous exigent."

Omen, I believe, is danger. Steevens.

Unto our climatures and countrymen.-]

Re-enter Ghost.

But, soft; behold! lo, where it comes again!

I'll cross it, though it blast me.-Stay, illusion!
If thou hast any sound, or use of voice,

Speak to me:

If there be any good thing to be done,

That may to thee do ease, and grace to me,
Speak to me:

If thou art privy to thy country's fate,
Which, happily, foreknowing may avoid,
O, speak!

Or, if thou hast uphoarded3 in thy life
Extorted treasure in the womb of earth,

For which, they say, you spirits oft walk in death,

[Cock crows.

Speak of it:-stay, and speak.--Stop it, Marcellus.
Mar. Shall I strike at it with my partizan?
Hor. Do, if it will not stand.4

And even the like precurse of fierce events,

As harbingers preceding still the fates,

And prologue to the omen coming on,] So, in one of our author's poems:

"But thou shrieking harbinger

"Foul precurser of the fiend,

[ocr errors]

Augur of the fever's end," &c.

The omen coming on is, the approaching dreadful and porten tous event. So, in King Richard III:

"Thy name is ominous to children."

i. e. (not boding ill fortune, but) destructive to children. Again, ibidem:

"O Pomfret, Pomfret, O, thou bloody prison,

"Fatal and ominous to noble peers." Malone.

2 If thou hast any sound,] The speech of Horatio to the spectre is very elegant and noble, and congruous to the common traditions of the causes of apparitions. Johnson.

3 Or, if thou hast uphoarded &c.] So, in Decker's Knight's Conjuring, &c. " - If any of them had bound the spirit of gold by any charmes in caves, or in iron fetters under the ground, they should for their own soules quiet (which questionlesse else would whine up and down) if not for the good of their children, release it." Steevens. 4 Stop it, Marcellus.

Hor. Do, if it will not stand,] I am unwilling to suppose that Shakspeare could appropriate these absurd effusions to Horatio, who is a scholar, and has sufficiently proved his good under

[blocks in formation]

For it is, as the air, invulnerable,

And our vain blows malicious mockery.

'Tis here!

[Exit Ghost..

Ber. It was about to speak, when the cock crew.
Hor. And then it started, like a guilty thing

Upon a fearful summons. I have heard,

The cock, that is the trumpet to the morn,5

Doth with his lofty and shrill-sounding throat

standing by the propriety of his addresses to the phantom. Such a man therefore must have known that

"As easy might he the intrenchant air
"With his keen sword impress,"

as commit any act of violence on the royal shadow. The words -Stop it, Marcellus,-and Do, if it will not stand-better suit the next speaker, Bernardo, who, in the true spirit of an unlettered officer, nihil non arroget armis. Perhaps the first idea that occurs to a man of this description, is to strike at what offends him. Nicholas Poussin, in his celebrated picture of the Crucifixion, has introduced a similar occurrence. While lots are casting for the sacred vesture, the graves are giving up their dead. This prodigy is perceived by one of the soldiers, who instantly grasps his sword, as if preparing to defend himself, or resent such an invasion from the other world.

The two next speeches-'Tis here!-'Tis here !-may be allotted to Marcellus and Bernardo, and the third-'Tis gone! &c. to Horatio, whose superiority of character indeed seems to demand it.-As the text now stands, Marcellus proposes to strike the Ghost with his partizan, and yet afterwards is made to descant on the indecorum and impotence of such an attempt.

The names of speakers have so often been confounded by the first publishers of our author, that I suggest this change with less hesitation than I should express concerning any conjecture that could operate to the disadvantage of his words or meaning. Had the assignment of the old copies been such, would it have been thought liable to objection? Steevens.

5 The cock, that is the trumpet to the morn,] So, the quarto, 1604. Folio-to the day.

In England's Parnassus, 8vo. 1600, I find the two following lines ascribed to Drayton, but know not in which of his poems they are found:

"And now the cocke, the morning's trumpeter,
"Play'd huntsup for the day-star to appear."

Mr. Gray has imitated our poet:

Awake the god of day; and, at his warning,
Whether in sea or fire, in earth or air,

"The cock's shrill clarion, or the echoing horn,
"No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed."


6 Whether in sea &c.] According to the pneumatology of that time, every element was inhabited by its peculiar order of spirits, who had dispositions different, according to their various places of abode. The meaning therefore is, that all spirits extravagant, wandering out of their element, whether aërial spirits visiting earth, or earthly spirits ranging the air, return to their station, to their proper limits in which they are confined. We might read:

[ocr errors]

And at his warning

"Th' extravagant and erring spirit hies
"To his confine, whether in sea or air,
"Or earth, or fire. And of," &c.

But this change, though it would smooth the construction, is not necessary, and, being unnecessary, should not be made against authority. Johnson.

A Chorus in Andreini's drama, called Adamo, written in 1615, consists of spirits of fire, air, water, and hell, or subterraneous, being the exiled angels. "Choro di Spiriti ignei, aerei, acquatici, ed infernali," &c. These are the demons to which Shakspeare alludes. These spirits were supposed to controul the elements in which they respectively resided; and when formally invoked or commanded by a magician, to produce tempests, conflagrations, floods, and earthquakes. For thus says The Spanish Mandeville of Miracles, &c. 1600: "Those which are in the middle region of the ayre, and those that are under them nearer the earth, are those, which sometimes out of the ordinary operation of nature doe moove the windes with greater fury than they are accustomed; and do, out of season, congeele the cloudes, causing it to thunder, lighten, hayle, and to destroy the grasse, corne, &c. &c.-Witches and negromancers worke many such like things by the help of those spirits," &c. Ibid. Of this school therefore was Shakspeare's Prospero in The Tempest. T. Warton.

Bourne of Newcastle, in his Antiquities of the common People, informs us," It is a received tradition among the vulgar, that at the time of cock-crowing, the midnight spirits forsake these lower regions, and go to their proper places.-Hence it is, (says he) that in country places, where the way of life requires more early labour, they always go chearfully to work at that time; whereas if they are called abroad sooner, they imagine every thing they see, a wandering ghost." And he quotes on this occasion, as all his predecessors had done, the well-known lines from the first hymn of Prudentius. I know not whose translation he gives us, but there is an old one by Heywood. The pious chansons, the hymns and carrols, which Shakspeare mentions presently, were usually copied from the elder Christian poets. Farmer.

« AnteriorContinuar »