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Bu doth rebate and blunt his natural edge
Has censur'd hims
Isab. Alas! what poor ability 's in me
Assay the power you have.
to give fear to use -] To intimidate use, that is, praerices long countenanced by custom. Fobnson.
s Unless you have the grace - ] That is, the acceptableness, the power of gaining favour. So, when she makes her suit, the provost says:
“ Heaven give thee moving graces .!” Johnson.
my pith Of business – ] The inmost part, the main of my message.
Fobnson. So, in Hamlet:
“ And enterprizes of great pitb and moment.” Steevens. 5 Has censur'd him --] i. e, sentenced him. So, in Othello:
to you, lord governor, “Remains the censure of this hellish villain.” Steevens. We should read, I think, He bas censured bim, &c. In the MSS. of our author's time, and frequently in the printed copy of these plays, be bas, when intended to be contracted, is writtenb'as. Hence probably the mistake here. So, in Othello, 4to. 1622: “ And it is thought abroad, that 'twixt my
sheets “ H'as done my office.” Again, in All's well that ends well, p. 247, folio 1623, we find Has twice, for He has. See also, Twelfth Night, p. 258, edit. 1623 : os - b'as been told so,” for “ he has been told so."
Our doubts are traitors,
Isab. I'll see what I can do.
Lucio. I take my leave of you.
Good sir, adieu. [ Exeunt.
ACT II.....SCENE I.
1 Hall in Angelo's House.
Officers, and other Attendants.
6 All their petitions are as freely theirs -] All their requests are as freely granted to them, are granted in as full and beneficial a manner, as they themselves could wish. The editor of the second folio arbitrarily reads-as truly theirs; which has been followed in all the subsequent copies. Malone.
would owe them.] To owe, signifies in this place, as in many others, to possess, to have. Steevens.
- the mother -] The abbess, or prioress. Fobnson. 9 Provost,] A provost martial, Minsbiex explains, “ Prevost des mareschaux: Præfectus rerum capitalium, Prætor rerum capitalium.” Reed.
A provost is generally the executioner of an army. So, in The Famous History of Tho. Stukely, 1605, bl. 1:
“ Provost, lay irons upon him, and take him to your charge.” Again, in The Virgin Martyr, by Massinger:
And let it keep one shape, till custom make it
Ay, but yet
“ Thy provost, to see execution done
“ On these base Christians in Cæsarea." Steevens. A prison for military offenders is at this day, in some places, called the Prevót. Malone.
The Provost here, is not a military officer, but a kind of sheriff or gaoler, so called in foreign countries. Douce.
1-to fear the birds of prey,] To fear is to affright, to terrify. So, in The Merchant of Venice :
this aspect of mine Hath fear'd the valiant.” Steevens. 2 Than fall, and bruise to death:] I should rather read fell, j. e. strike down. So, in Timon of Athens :
All save thee, • I fell with curses." Warburton. Fall is the old reading, and the true one. Shakspeare has used the same verb active in The Comedy of Errors:
as easy may'st thou fall “A drop of water,”: i. e. let fall. So, in As you Like it :
the executioner “ Falls not the axe upon the humbled neck.” Steevens. Than fall, and bruise to death:] i. e. fall the axe ;--or rather, let the criminal fall, &c. Malone.
3 Let but your honour know,] To know is here to examine, to take cognizance. So, in A Midsummer Night's Dream:
“ Therefore, fair Hermia, question your desires ; “ Know of your youth, examine well your blood.” Johnson. 4 Err’d in this point, which now you censure him,] Some word seems to be wanting to make this line sense. Perhaps, we should read: “Errd in this point which now you censure him for. Steevens.
And pull’d the law upon you.
Ang. 'Tis one thing to be tempted, Escalus, Another thing to fall. I not deny, The jury, passing on the prisoner's life, May, in the sworn twelve, have a thief or two Guiltier than him they try: What's open made to
Escal. Be it as your wisdom will.
Where is the provost?
See that Claudio Be executed by nine to-morrow morning:
The sense undoubtedly requires, which now you censure him for," but the text certainly appears as the poet left it. I have elsewhere shewn that he frequently uses these elliptical expressions. Malone.
5 That justice seizes.] For the sake of metre, I think we should read,-se: zes on; or, perhaps, we should regulate the passage thus;
Guiltier than bim they try: What's open made
What know the laws, That thieves do pass on thieves?] How can the administrators of the laws take cognizance of what I have just mentioned? How can they know, whether the jurymen who decide on the life or death of thieves be themselves as criminal as those whom they try? To pass on is a forensick term. Malone. So, in King Lear, Act III, sc. vii:
“ Though well we may not pass upon his life.” See my note on this passage. Steevens.
7 'Tis very pregnant,] 'Tis plain that we must act with bad as with good; we punish the faults, as we take the advantages that Jie in our way, and what we do not see we cannot note. Johnsor.
8 For I have had - ] That is, becausc, by reason that I have had such faults. Johnson,
Bring him his confessor, let him be prepar'd;
Escal. Well, heaven forgive him! and forgive us all!
9 Some rise, &c.] This line is in the first folio printed in Italics as a quotation. All the folios read in the next line :
Some run from brakes of ice, and answer none. Fohnson. The old reading is, perhaps, the true one, and may mean, some run away from danger, and stay to answer none of their faults, whilst others are condemed only on account of a single frailty. If this be the true reading, it should be printed:
Some run from breaks (i. e. fractures] of ice, &c. Since I suggested this, I have found reason to change my opinion. A brake anciently meant not only a sharp bit, a snofie, but also the engine with which farriers confined the legs of such unruly horses as would not otherwise submit themselves to be shod, or to have a cruel operation performed on them. This, in some places, is still called a smith's brake. In this last sense, Ben Jonson uses the word in his Underwoods :
“ And not think he had eat a stake,
“ Or were set up in a brake.” And, for the former sense, see The Silent Woman, Act IV Again, for the latter sense, Bussy d'Ambois, by Chapman :
“ Or, like a strumpet, learn to set my face
“ In an eternal brake." Again, in The Opportunity, by Shirley, 1640:
“ He is fallen into some brake, some wench has tied him by the legs.” Again, in Holland's Leaguer, 1633:
her I'll make • A stale, to catch this courtier in a brake." I offer these quotations, which may prove of use to some more fortunate conjecturer; but am able myself to derive very little from them to suit the passage before us.
I likewise find from Holinshed, p. 670, that the brake was an engine of torture. “ The said Hawkins was cast into the Tower, and at length brought to the brake, called the Duke of Excester's daughter, by means of which pain he shewed many things,” &c.
“When the Dukes of Exeter and Suffolk (says Blackstone, in his Commentaries, Vol. IV, chap. xxv, p. 320, 321) and other ministers of Hen. VI, had laid a design to introduce the civil law into this kingdom as the rule of government, for a beginning thereof they erected a rack for torture ; which was called in de rision the Duke of Exeter's Daughter, and still remains in the