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SIR To. Shall this fellow live?
FAB. Though our silence be drawn from us with cars, yet peace.
court'sies there to me:] From this passage one might suspect that the manner of paying respect, which is now confined to females, was equally used by the other sex. It is probable, however, that the word court'sy was employed to express acts of civility and reverence by either men or women indiscriminately. In an extract from the Black Book of Warwick, Bibliotheca Topographica Britannica, p. 4, it is said, "The pulpett being sett at the nether end of the Earle of Warwick's tombe in the said quier, the table was placed where the altar had bene. At the coming into the quier my lord made lowe curtesie to the French king's armes.' Again, in the Book of Kervynge and Sewynge, printed by Wynkyn de Worde, sign. A. IIII: "And whan your Soverayne is set, loke your towell be about your necke, then make your soverayne curtesy, then uncover your brede and set it by the salte, and laye your napkyn, knyfe, and spone afore hym, then kneel on your knee," &c. These directions are to male servants. Lord Herbert of Cherbury, in his Life, speaking of dancing, recommends that accomplishment to youth," that he may know how to come in and go out of a room where company is, how to make courtesies handsomely, according to the several degrees of persons he shall encounter." REED.
*Though our silence be drawn from us with cars,] i. e. though it is the greatest pain to us to keep silence. WARburton.
I believe the true reading is: Though our silence be drawn from us with carts, yet peace. In The Two Gentlemen of Verona, one of the Clowns says: "I have a mistress, but who that is, a team of horses shall not pluck from me." So, in this play : “ Oxen and wainropes will not bring them together." JOHNSON.
The old reading is cars, as I have printed it. It is well known that cars and carts have the same meaning.
A somewhat similar passage occurs in the old play of King Leir, 1605: ten teame of horses shall not draw me away, till I have full and whole possession."
King. I, but one teame and a cart will serve the turne.”
If I were to suggest a word in the place of cars, which I think is a corruption, it should be cables. It may be worth remarking,
MAL. I extend my hand to him thus, quenching my familiar smile with an austere regard of control:
SIR TO. And does not Toby take you a blow o'the lips then ?
MAL. Saying, Cousin Toby, my fortunes having cast me on your niece, give me this prerogative of speech :
SIR TO. What, what?
MAL. You must amend your drunkenness.
SIR TO. Out, scab!
FAB. Nay, patience, or we break the sinews of our plot.
perhaps, that the leading ideas of Malvolio, in his humour of state, bear a strong resemblance to those of Alnaschar, in The Arabian Nights' Entertainments. Some of the expressions too are very similar. TYRWHITT.
Many Arabian fictions had found their way into obscure Latin and French books, and from thence into English ones, long before any professed version of The Arabian Nights' Entertainments had appeared. I meet with a story similar to that of Alnaschar, in The Dialoges of Creatures Moralysed, bl. 1. no date, but probably printed abroad: "It is but foly to hope to moche of vanyteys. Whereof it is tolde in fablys that a lady uppon a tyme delyuered to her mayden a galon of mylke to sell at a cite. And by the waye as she sate and restid her by a dyche side, she began to thinke y' with ye money of the mylke she wolde bye an henne, the which shulde bring forth chekyns, and whan they were growyn to hennys she wolde sell them and by piggis, and eschaunge them into shepe, and the shepe into oxen; and so whan she was come to richesse she sholde be maried right worshipfully vnto some worthy man, and thus she reioycid. And whan she was thus meruelously comfortid, & rauished inwardely in her secrete solace thinkynge with howe great ioye she shuld be ledde towarde the churche with her husbond on horsebacke, she sayde to her self, Goo wee, goo wee, sodaynelye she smote the grounde with her fote, myndynge to spurre the horse; but her fote slypped and she fell in the dyche, and there laye all her mylke; and so she was farre from her purpose, and neuer had that she hopid to haue." Dial. 100, LL. ii. b. STEEVENS.
MAL. Besides, you waste the treasure of your time with a foolish knight;
SIR AND. That's me, I warrant you.
MAL. One Sir Andrew:
SIR AND. I knew, 'twas I; for many do call me fool.
MAL. What employment have we here ?5 [Taking up the letter. FAB. Now is the woodcock near the gin. SIR TO. O, peace! and the spirit of humours intimate reading aloud to him!
MAL. By my life, this is my lady's hand: these be her very C's, her U's, and her T's; and thus makes she her great P's. It is, in contempt of question, her hand.
• What employment have we here?] A phrase of that time, equivalent to our common speech-What's to do here.
6 her great P's.] In the direction of the letter which Malvolio reads, there is neither a C, nor a P, to be found.
I am afraid some very coarse and vulgar appellations are meant to be alluded to by these capital letters. BLACKStone.
This was perhaps an oversight in Shakspeare; or rather, for the sake of the allusion hinted at in the preceding note, he chose not to attend to the words of the direction. It is remarkable, that in the repetition of the passages in letters, which have been produced in a former part of a play, he very often makes his characters deviate from the words before used, though they have the paper itself in their hands, and though they appear to recite, not the substance, but the very words. So, in All's well that ends well, Act V. Helen says:
here's your letter; This it says:
"When from my finger you can get this ring,
yet in Act III. sc. ii. she reads this very letter aloud; and there the words are different, and in plain prose: "When thou canst get the ring upon my finger, which never shall come off, and
SIR AND. Her C's, her U's, and her T's: Why that?
MAL. [reads] To the unknown beloved, this, and my good wishes: her very phrases!-By your leave, wax.-Soft!-and the impressure her Lucrece, with which she uses to seal: 'tis my lady: To whom should this be?
FAB. This wins him, liver and all.
MAL. [reads] Jove knows, I love:
Lips do not move,
shew me a child begotten of thy body," &c. Had she spoken in either case from memory, the deviation might easily be accounted for; but in both these places, she reads the words from Bertram's letter. MALONE.
From the usual custom of Shakspeare's age, we may easily suppose the whole direction to have run thus: " To the Unknown belov'd, this, and my good wishes, with Care Present." RITSON.
7 By your leave, wax.-Soft!] It was the custom in our poet's time to seal letters with soft wax, which retained its softness for a good while. The wax used at present would have been hardened long before Malvolio picked up this letter. See Your Five Gallants, a comedy, by Middleton: "Fetch a pennyworth of soft wax to seal letters." So, Falstaff, in K. Henry IV. P. II: "I have him already tempering between my finger and my thumb, and shortly will I seal with him." MALONE.
I do not suppose that-Soft! has any reference to the wax; but is merely an exclamation equivalent to Softly! i. e. be not in too much haste. Thus, in The Merchant of Venice, Act IV.
sc. i: « Soft! no haste." Again, in Troilus and Cressida :
"Farewel. Yet soft!"
I may also observe, that though it was anciently the custom (as it still is) to seal certain legal instruments with soft and pliable wax, familiar letters (of which I have seen specimens from the time of K. Henry VI. to K. James I.) were secured with wax as glossy and firm as that employed in the present year.
No man must know.-What follows? the numbers altered!-No man must know:-If this should be thee, Malvolio?
SIR TO. Marry, hang thee, brock !8
FAB. A fustian riddle!
SIR TO. Excellent wench, say I.
MAL. M, O, A, I, doth sway my life.-Nay, but first, let me see,-let me see,-let me see.
FAB. What a dish of poison has she dressed him! SIR TO. And with what wing the stannyel'checks at it!
brock!] i. e. badger. He uses the contempt, as if he had said, hang thee, cur! like a brock being proverbial. RITSON.
word as a term of Out filth! to stink
Marry, hang thee, brock!] i. e. Marry, hang thee, thou vain, conceited coxcomb, thou over-weening rogue!
Brock, which properly signifies a badger, was used in this sense in Shakspeare's time. So, in The merrie conceited Jests of George Peele, 4to. 1657: "This self-conceited brock had George invited," &c. MALONE.
doth sway my life.] This phrase is seriously employed you like it, Act III. sc. ii:
Thy huntress name, that
full life doth sway."
my STEEVENS. stannyel] The name of a kind of hawk is very judiciously put here for a stallion, by Sir Thomas Hanmer.
To check, says Latham, in his book of Falconry, is, "when crows, rooks, pies, or other birds, coming in view of the hawk, she forsaketh her natural flight, to fly at them." The stannyel is the common stone-hawk, which inhabits old buildings and rocks; in the north called stanchil. I have this information from Mr. Lambe's notes on the ancient metrical history of the battle of Floddon. STEEVENS.