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TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA.
1 —shapeless idleness.] THE expression is fine, as implying that idleness prevents the giving any form or character to the manners.
2 —nay, give me not the boots.] A proverbial expression, though now disused, signifying, don't make a laughing stock of me; don't play with me. The French have a phrase, Bailler foin en corne; which Cotgrave thus interprets, To give one the boots; to sell him a bargain.
sir Proteus-] This whole scene, like many others in these plays (some of which I believe were written by Shakspeare, and others interpolated by the players) is composed of the lowest and most trifling conceits, to be accounted for only from the gross taste of the age he lived in; Populo ut placerent. I wish I had authority to leave them out; but I have done all I could, to set a mark of reprobation upon them throughout this edition.
That this, like many other scenes, is mean and vulgar, will be universally allowed; but that it was
interpolated by the players seems advanced without any proof, only to give a greater licence to criticism.
* I, a lost mutton, gave your letter to her a laced mutton;] Speed calls himself a lost mutton, because he had lost his master, and because Proteus had been proving him a sheep. But why does he call the lady a laced mutton? Wenchers are to this day called muttonmongers; and consequently the object of their passion must, by the metaphor, be the mutton. And Cotgrave, in his English-French Dictionary, explains laced mutton, une garse, putain, fille de joye. And Mr. Motteux has rendered this passage of Rabelais, in the prologue of his fourth book, Cailles coiphees mignonnement chantans, in this manner, coated quails and lac'd mutton waggishly singing. So that laced mutton has been a sort of standard phrase for girls of pleasure.
Nash, in his Have with you to Saffron-Walden, 1595, speaking of Gabriel Harvey's incontinence, says "he would not stick to extoll rotten lac'd mutton." So in the Comedy of The Shoemaker's Holiday, or the Gentle Craft, 1610.
Why here's good lac'd mutton as I promised you." Again in Whetstone's Promos and Cassandra, 1578: "And I smelt he lov'd lac'd mutton well." Again Heywood in his Love's Mistress, 1636; speaking of Cupid, says, "He is the hero of hie-hoes, admiral of ay-mes, and monsieur of mutton-lac'd.
Nod, I? why, that's Noddy.] This play upon syllables was the fashion of the time, but we almost feel enraged that so great a genius as Shakspeare had not endeavoured by his example to reform so contemptible a species of humour, rather than practise it himself.
-you have testern'd me ;] You have gratified me with a tester, testern, or testen, that is, with a sixpence.
7 Should censure thus, &c.] To censure means, in this place, to pass sentence.
-a goodly broker!] A broker was used for matchmaker, sometimes for a procuress. JOHNSON. 9-stomach on your meat,] Stomach-passion, obsti
10 Light o' love.] A well-known ballad. 11-too harsh a descant:] Descant is a term in music.
12-but a mean, &c.] Mean is from the French moyen, and signifies the middle part, i. e. the tenor in
13 Indeed, I bid the base for Proteus.] The speaker here turns the allusion (which her mistress employed) from the base in musick to a country exercise, Bid the base: in which some pursue, and others are made prisoners. So that Lucetta would intend, by this, to say, Indeed I take pains to make you a captive to Proteus's passion.
14 -written down?] To write down is the same as to write in the West of England.
15-lie, for catching cold.] That is, "I will not permit them to lie here and take cold."
16 I see, you have a month's mind to them.] A month's mind was an anniversary in times of Popery; or, as Mr. Ray calls it, a less solemnity directed by the will of the deceased. There was also a year's mind, and a week's mind. See Proverbial Phrases.
A month's mind, in the ritual sense, signifies not desire or inclination, but remembrance: yet I suppose this is the true original of the expression.
To have a mind, or a month's mind, to a thing, is in frequent use now in Devonshire, for to have an inclination or desire for it. To mind is also to remember in the dialect of that county. I see you mind me, is, I see you remember me: and, I see you have still a mind to it, is, I see you don't yet forget your desire for it.
17 Some to discover islands far away;] In Shakspeare's time, voyages for the discovery of the islands of America were much in vogue. And we find, in the journals of the travellers of that time, that the sons of noblemen, and of others of the best families in England, went very frequently on these adventures. To this prevailing fashion our poet frequently alludes, and not without high commendations of it.
18-great impeachment to his age,] Impeachment is hindrance.
19 Attends the emperor in his royal court.] Mr. Theo
bald objects to this passage, as the emperor's court is held at Vienna and Valentine was at Milan. It should be remembered that the emperors of Germany have great possessions in Italy, and Milan has always been considered the capital of these Italian territories. Dr. Johnson says, " Mr. Theobald discovers not any great skill in history. Vienna is not the court of the emperor as emperor, nor has Milan been always without its princes since the days of Charlemagne."
20-in good time,] In good time was the old expression when something happened that suited the thing in hand, as the French say à propos.
21-exhibition-] i. e. allowance.
22 O, how this spring of love resembleth-] It has been suggested by Dr. Johnson to add a syllable to the end of this verse, but there are not wanting abundance of instances in old writers where an e is sounded, without being written, before the liquid letters, particularly the ; thus, childeren for children, sembelance for semblance, resembeleth for resembleth, &c.
23 for this is but one.] The words on and one have had a similar sound given them (in reading only), by old persons in Devonshire, since the Editor's remembrance. To those who know not of this pronunciation, the quibble seems more ridiculous than it is naturally.
24-takes diet;] To fast and to take diet appear synonimous terms: the poet means to fast like one put