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ACT V. SCENE I..
The fame. An Apartment in the Palace of Thefeus.
Enter THESEUS, HIPPOLYTA, PHILOSTRATE, Lords, and Attendants.
HIP. 'Tis ftrange, my Thefeus, that thefe lovers fpeak of.
THE. More ftrange than true. I never may believe Thefe antique fabies, nor these fairy toys. Lovers, and madmen, have fuch feething brains, Such fhaping fantasies, that apprehend More than cool reafon ever comprehends. The lunatick, the lover, and the poet,'
Are of imagination all compact:6
One fees more devils than vast hell can hold; That is, the madman: the lover, all as frantick,"
4 fuch feething brains,] So, in The Tempeft:
"Now useless, boil'd within thy fcull." STEEVENS.
We meet with the same expreffion in The Winter's Tale: “Would any but these boil'd brains of three and twenty hunt this weather?" MALONE.
The lunatick, the lover, and the poet,] An ingenious modern writer fuppofes that our author had here in contemplation Oreftes, Mark Antony, and himself; but I do not recolled any paffage in his works that shows him to have been acquainted with the ftory of Agamemnon's fon, — fcelerum furiis agitatus Oreftes: and indeed, if even fuch were found, the fuppofed allufion would ftill remain very problematical. MALONE.
6 Are of imagination all compa&:] i. e. made up of mere imagination. So, in As You Like It:
"If he, compact of jars, grow mufical." STEEVENS.
7 That is, the madman: the lover, all as frantick,] Such is the reading of all the old copies; instead of which, the modern editors have given us —
"The madman: while the lover," &c. STEEVENS.
Sees Helen's beauty in a brow of Egypt :
And, as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen
Such tricks hath ftrong imagination;
HIP. But all the ftory of the night told over,
Enter LYSANDER, DEMETRIUS, HERMIA, and
THE. Here come the lovers, full of joy and
Joy, gentle friends! joy, and fresh days of love
• Sees Helen's beauty in a brow of Egypt:] By "a brow of Egypt" Shakspeare means no more than the brow of a gipsy. So much for fome ingenious modern's ideal Cleopatra. See note 5.
in a fine frenzy rolling, ] This feems to have been imitated by Drayton in his Epistle to J. Reynolds on Poets and Poetry: defcribing Marlowe, he says:
that fine madness ftill he did retain,
"Which rightly should poffefs a poet's brain.
conftancy;] Confiftency, ftability, certainty. JOHNSON.
More than to us
Wait on your royal walks, your board, your bed! THE. Come now; what mafks, what dances fhall we have,
To wear away this long age of three hours,
Here, mighty Thefeus.
THE. Say, what abridgment have you for this
What mask? what mufick? How fhall we beguile
Wait on The old copies have wait in. Corre&ed by
Mr. Rowe. MALONE.
3 Cail Philofirate.] In the folio, 1623, it is, Call Egeus, and all the fpeeches afterwards fpoken by Philoftrate, except that beginning, "No, my noble lord," &c. are there given to that chara&er. But the modern editions, from the quartos 1600, have rightly given them to Philoftrate, who appears in the firft fcene as mafter of the revels to Thefeus, and is there fent out on a fimilar kind of errand.
In The Knight's Tale of Chaucer, Arcite, under the name of Philoftrate, is fquire of the chamber to Thefeus. STEEVENS.
4 Say, what abridgment, &c.] By abridgment our author may mean a dramatick performances, which crowds the events of years into a few hours. So, in Hamlet, A&t II. fc. vii. he calls the players "abridgments, abftracts, and brief chronicles of the time." Again, in K. Henry V:
"Then brook abridgment; and your eyes advance
After your thoughts
It may be worth while, however, to obferve, that in the North the word abatement had the fame meaning as diverfion or amusement. So, in the Prologue to the 5th Book of G. Douglas's version of the Eneid:
"Ful mony mery abaitmentis followis here." STEEVENS. Does not abridgement in the prefent inftance, fignify amusement to beguile the tedioufness of the evening? or, in one word, paflime?
The lazy time, if not with fome delight?
PHILOST. There is a brief,' how many sports are
Make choice of which your highttefs will fee first. [ Giving a paper. THE. reads. The battle with the Centaurs, to be fung By an Athenian eunuch to the harp.8
We'll none of that: that have I told my love,
The riot of the tipfy Bacchanals,
Tearing the Thracian finger in their rage. That is an old device; and it was play'd When I from Thebes came laft a conqueror. The thrice three Mufes mourning for the death Of learning, late deceas'd in beggary.
i. e. a fhort account or enumeration. So, in
Gascoigne's Dulce Bellum Inexpertis:
"She fent a brief unto me by her mayd."
Again, in King John:
the hand of time
"Shall draw this brief into as huge a volume. STEEVENS.
are ripe; ] One of the quartos has ripe, the other old editions - rife. JOHNSON.
Ripe is the reading of Fisher's quarto. Rife, however, is a word ufed both by Sidney and Spenfer. It means abounding, but is now almoft obfolete. Again, in Stephen Goffon's School of Abuse, 1579:"you fhall find the theaters of the one, and the abufes of the other, to be rife among us. STELVENS.
7 The. reads.] This is printed as Mr. Theobald gave it from both the old quartos. In the first folio, and all the following edi tions, Lyfander reads the catalogue, and Thefeus makes the remarks. JOHNSON.
8 By an Athenian eunuch to the harp.] This feems to imply a more ancient practice of caftration for the voice, than can be found in opera annals. BURNEY.
9 The thrice three Mufes mourning for the death
Of learning, &c.] I do not know whether it has been before obferved, that Shakspeare here, perhaps, alluded to Spenser's poem, entitled The Tears of the Mufes, on the neglect and contempt
That is fome fatire, keen, and critical,*
A tedious brief fcene of young Pyrantus,
of learning. This piece firft appeared in quarto, with others 15gi. The oldeft edition of this play now known is dated 1600. If Spenfer's poem be here intended, may we not prefume that there is fome earlier edition of this? But however, if the allufion be allowed, at leaft it feems to bring the play below 1591.
keen, and critical,] Critical here means criticising, cenfurSo, in Othello:
"O, I am nothing if not critical." STEEVENS.
3 Merry and tragical?] Our poet is ftill harping on Cambyfes, of which the first edition might have appeared in 1569-70; when "an Enterlude, a lamentable Tragedy full of pleasant myrth" was licensed to John Alde. Regist. Stat. fol. 184. b. STEEVENS.
4 That is, hot ice, and wonderous frange fnow.] The nonsense of this line fhould be corrected thus:
"That is, hot ice, a wonderous ftrange how."
Mr. Upton reads, not improbably:
"And wonderous ftrange black fnow. JOHNSON.
Sir Thomas Hanmer reads wondrous fcorching Snow, Mr. Pope omits the line entirely. I think the pallage needs no change, on account of the verfification; for wonderous is as often used as three, as it is as two fyllables. The meaning of the line is —
hot ice, and fnow of as frange a quality.
There is, however, an ancient pamphlet entitled, "Tarlton's Devife upon this unlooked for grete fnowe. And perhaps the paffage before us may contain fome allufion to it. This works is entered on the books of the Stationers' Company; as alfo, "A ballet of a Northerne Man's Report of the wonderful greate fnowe in the Southerne parts, &c. STEEVENS.
As there is no antithefis between ftrange and fnow, as there is between hot and ice, I believe we fhould read. "and wonderous Strong fnow." M. MASON.