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ALEX. Nay, hear him.
CHAR. Good now, some excellent fortune! Let me be married to three kings in a forenoon, and widow them all: let me have a child at fifty S, to whom Herod of Jewry may do homage': find me to marry me with Octavius Cæsar, and companion me with my mistress.
Sooth. You shall outlive the lady whom you
“ And let my liver rather heat with wine.” STEEVENS. To know why the lady is so averse from heating her liver, it must be remembered, that a heated liver is supposed to make a pimpled face. Johnson.
The following passage in an ancient satirical poem, entitled Notes from Blackfryars, 1617, confirms Dr. Johnson's observation :
“ He'll not approach a taverne, no nor drink ye,
Scalding hot, by the bubbles on his nose.” Malone. The liver was considered as the seat of desire. In answer to the Soothsayer, who tells her she shall be very loving, she says, “She had rather heat her liver by drinking, if it was to be heated.”
M. Mason. let me have a child at fifty,] This is one of Shakspeare's natural touches. Few circumstances are more flattering to the fair sex, than breeding at an advanced period of life. STEEVENS.
9- to whom Herod of Jewry may do homage ;] Herod paid homage to the Romans, to procure the grant of the kingdom of Judea : but I believe there is an allusion here to the theatrical character of this monarch, and to a proverbial expression founded on it. Herod was always one of the personages in the mysteries of our early stage, on which he was constantly represented as a fierce, haughty, blustering tyrant, so that “ Herod of Jewry” became a common proverb, expressive of turbulence and rage. Thus, Hamlet says of a ranting player, that he “out-herods Herod.” And, in this tragedy, Alexas tells Cleopatra, that “not even Herod of Jewry dare look upon her when she is angry;" i. e. not even a man as fierce as Herod. According to this explanation, the sense of the present passage will be-Charmian wishes for a son who may arrive at such power and dominion that the proudest and fiercest monarchs of the earth may be brought under his yoke. STEEVENS.
Char. O excellent! I love long life better than figs. Sooth. You have seen and proved a fairer former
fortune Than that which is to approach.
Char. Then, belike, my children shall have no names?: Pr’ythee, how many boys and wenches must I have ?
Sooth. If every of your wishes had a womb, And fertile every wish, a million'.
" I shall never
I- I love long life better than figs.] This is a proverbial expression. Steevens.
2 Then, belike, my children shall have NO NAMES :] If I have already had the best of my fortune, then I
suppose name children," that is, I am never to be married. tell me the truth, tell me, “ how many boys and wenches ? "
Johnson. A fairer fortune, I believe, means—a more reputable one. Her answer then implies, that belike all her children will be bastards, who have no right to the name of their father's family. Thus says Launce, in the third Act of The Two Gentlemen of Verona : “ That's as much as to say bastard virtues, that indeed know not their fathers, and therefore have no names ;
STEEVENS. A line in our author's Rape of Lucrece confirms Mr. Steevens's interpretation :
Thy issue blurr'd with nameless bastardy." Malone. A fairer fortune, may mean a more prosperous fortune," So Launcelot, in The Merchant of Venice, vol. v. p. 45: “Well, if any man in Italy have a fairer table.” Boswell. 3 If every
wishes had a womb, And FERTILE every wish, a million.) For foretel, in ancient editions, the later copies have foretold. Foretel favours the emendation of Dr. Warburton, which is made with great acuteness; yet the original reading may, I think, stand. " If
had as many wombs as you will have wishes, and I should foretel all those wishes, I should foretel a million of children.” It is an ellipsis very frequent in conversation : " I should shame you, and tell all ;” that is, “ and if I should tell all.” And is for and if, which was anciently, and is still provincially, used for if.
Johnson. I have not hesitated to receive Dr. Warburton's emendation,
Char. Out, fool! I forgive thee for a witch 4.
Alex. You think, none but your sheets are privy to your wishes.
CHAR. Nay, come, tell Iras hers.
Eno. Mine, and most of our fortunes, to-night, shall be drunk to bed.
Iras. There's a palm presages chastity, if nothing else.
Char. Even as the o'erflowing Nilus presageth famine.
IrAs. Go, you wild bedfellow, you cannot soothsay.
Char. Nay, if an oily palm be not a fruitful prognostication, I cannot scratch mine ear.—Pr'ythee, tell her but a worky-day fortune.
the change being so slight, and so strongly supported by the context.
If every one of your wishes, says the Soothsayer, had a womb, and each womb-invested wish were likewise fertile, you then would have a million of children. The merely supposing each of her wishes to have a womb, would not warrant the Soothsayer to pronounce that she should have any children, much less a million ; for, like Calphurnia, each of these wombs might be subject to “ the sterile curse.” The word fertile, therefore, is absolutely requisite to the sense. In the instance given by Dr. Johnson,
“ I should shame you and tell all,” I occurs in the former part of the sentence, and therefore may be well omitted afterwards ; but here no personal pronoun has been introduced. MALONE. The epithet fertile is applied to womb, in Timon of Athens :
“ Ensear thy fertile and conceptious womb." I have received Dr. Warburton's most happy emendation.
The reader who wishes for more instruction on this subject, may consult Goulart's Admirable Histories, &c. 4to. 1607, p. 222, where we are told of a Sicilian Woman who was so fertill, as at thirty birthes she had seaventie three children.” Steevens.
- I forgive thee for a witch.] From a common proverbial reproach to silly ignorant females : “ You'll never be burnt for a witch." STEEVENS.
5 Nay, if an oily PALM be not a fruitful prognostication, &c.] So, in Othello : VOL. XII.
Sooth. Your fortunes are alike.
IRAS. Am I not an inch of fortune better than she?
Char. Well, if you were but an inch of fortune better than I, where would you choose it ?
IRAS. Not in my husband's nose.
Char. Our worser thoughts heavens mend ! Alexas,-come, his fortune , his fortune.-0, let him marry a woman that cannot go, sweet Isis, I beseech thee! And let her die too, and give him a worse ! and let worse follow worse, till the worst of
This hand is moist, my lady :“ This argues fruit fulness and liberal heart.” Again, in Venus and Adonis :
“ With that she seizeth on his sweating palm,
“The precedent of pith and livelihood.” Malone. Antonio, in Dryden's Don Sebastian, has the same remark : “ I have a moist, sweaty palm ; the more's my sin.”
STEEVENS. 6 Alexas,-come, his fortune,] [In the old copy, the name of Alexas is prefixed to this speech.]
Whose fortune does Alexas call out to have told ? But, in short, this I dare pronounce to be so palpable and signal a transposition, that I cannot but wonder it should have slipt the observation of all the editors ; especially of the sagacious Mr. Pope, who has made this declaration, “That if, throughout the plays, had all the speeches been printed without the very names of the persons, he believes one might have applied them with certainty to every speaker.” But in how many instances has Mr. Pope's want of judgment falsified this opinion? The fact is evidently this : Alexas brings a fortune-teller to Iras and Charmian, and says himself, "We'll know all our fortunes." Well; the Soothsayer begins with the women; and some jokes pass upon the subject of husbands and chastity: after which, the women hoping for the satisfaction of having something to laugh at in Alexas's fortune, call him to hold out his hand, and wish heartily that he may have the prognostication of cuckoldom upon him. The whole speech, therefore, must be placed to Charmian. There needs no stronger proof of this being a true correction, than the observations which Alexas immediately subjoins on their wishes and zeal to hear him abused. THEOBALD.
all follow him laughing to his grave, fifty-fold a cuckold! Good Isis, hear me this prayer, though thou deny me a matter of more weight; good Isis, I beseech thee!
Iras. Amen. Dear goddess, hear that prayer of the people ! for, as it is a heart-breaking to see a handsome man loose-wived, so it is a deadly sorrow to behold a foul knave uncuckolded : Therefore, dear Isis, keep decorum, and fortune him accordingly!
ALEX. Lo, now! if it lay in their hands to make me a cuckold, they would make themselves whores, but they'd do't.
Eno. Hush ! here comes Antony.
Not he, the queen.
Was he not here?
sudden A Roman thought hath struck him.-Enobarbus,
7 Saw you my lord ?] Old copy-Save you. Corrected by the editor of the second folio. Saw was formerly written sawe.
MALONE. 8 Here, MADAM,] The respect due from Alexas to his mistress, in my opinion, points out the title---Madam, (which is wanting in the old copy,) as a proper cure for the present defect in metre.