Thursday, 2 April 2015

Shakspeare (1836): Tempest: Some explanatory notes

Plate 2: Tempest
Thurston. del. // Rhodes. sculp.
Act 1. Scene 2.
London Published by Thomas Tegg, No. 111 Cheapside. June. 1st. 1817

"A rotten carcass of a boat."
- Act I. Sc. 2.
Shakspeare (Sic.) might have read the following in Holinshed:- "After this, was Edwin, the king's brother, accused of some conspiracie by him begun against the king: whereupon he was banished the land; and sent out in an old rotten vessel, without rowers or mariner, onlie accompanied with one esquier: so that being launched forth from the shore, through despaire, Edwin leaped into the sea, and drowned himself."

"Setebos." - Act I. Sc.2.
We learn from Magellan's Voyages, that Setebos was the supreme god of the Patagons. This fabulous deitey is also mentioned in Hackluyt's Voyages, 1598. Barbot says, "The Patagons are reported to dread a great horned devil, called Setebos." And, in Eden's Historye of Travayle, 1577, we are told, that "the giantes, when they found themselves fettered, orared like bulls, and cried upon Setebos to help them."

".......For no kind of traffic
Would I admit, no name of magistrate." - Act II. Sc.1.
Shakspeare has here followed a passage in Montaigne, as translated by John Florio, 1603:- "It is a nation that hath no kind of trafficke, no knowledge of letters, no intelligence of numbers, no name of magistrate, nor of politic superioritie; no use of service, of riches, or of povertie; no contracts, no successions, no partitions, no occupation, but idle; no respect of kindred but common; no apparel but natural; no use of wine, corn, or metal. The very words that import lying, falsehood, treason, dissimulations, covetousness, envie, detraction, and pardon, were never heard amongst them."

"Sometimes like apes, that mow and chatter at me,
And after bate me, then like hedge-hogs, which
Lie tumbling in my bare-foot way." - Act II. Sc. 2.
Perhaps taken  from a passage in Harsnet's Declaration of Popish Impostures. "They make antike faces, grin, mow and mop, like an ape; tumble like an hedge-hog." - DOUCE.

"A dead Indian." - Act II. Sc. 2.
Sir Martin Frobisher, when he returned from his voyage of discovery, brought with him some native Indians. In his History of the First Voyage for the Discoverie of Cataya, we have the following account of a savage taken by him:- "Whereupon, when he founde himself in captivitie, for very choler and disdain, he bit his tong in twaine, within his mouth: notwithstanding, he died not thereof, but lived untill he came in England, and then he died of colde, which he had taken at sea." - STEEVENS.

"Nor scrape trenchering." - Act III. Sc. 1.
In our author's time, trenchers were in general use, and male domestics were employed in cleansing them. "I have helped (says Lyly, in hi History of his Life and Times, 1620,) to carry eighteen tubs of water in one morning; all manner of drudgery I willingly performed; scrape-trenchers," &c.

 "He was a strange monster indeed, if they were set in his tail." - Act III. Sc.2.
Probably in allusion to Stowe. It seems in the year 1574 a whale was thrown ashore near Ramsgate, "a monstrous fish, but not so monstrous as some reported, for his eyes were in his head, and not in his backe."

"This is the tune of our catch, played by the picture of Nobody." - Act III. Sc.2.
 A ridiculous figure, sometimes painted on signs. Westward for Smelts, a book wich our poet seems to have read, was printed for John Trundle, in Barbican, at the sign of No-body; or the allusion may be to the print of No-body, as prefixed to the anonymous comedy of No-body and Some-body, without date, but printed before the year 1600. - MALONE.

"One tree, the phœnix's throne" - Act III. Sc. 3.
In Holland's Pliny, the following passage occurs: "I myselfe verily have heard straunge things of this kind of tre; and, namely, in regard of the bird  Phœnix, which is supposed to have taken that name of this Date Tree; for it was assured unto me, that the said bird died with that tree, and revived of itselfe as the tree sprung again."

Dew-lapp'd like bulls, whose throats had hanging at them
Wallets of flesh?" - Act III. Sc. 3.
Whoever is curious to know the particulars relative to these mountaineers, may consult Maundeville's Travels, printed in 1503: but it is yet a known truth, that the inhabitants of the Alps have been long accustomed to such excrescences or tumours. - STEEVENS.

"Each putter-out of one for five." - Act III. Sc. 3.
The custom here alluded to was as follows:- It was a practice of those who engaged in long and hazardous expeditions, to place out a sum of money, on condition of receiving great interest for it at their return home. So in Ben Jonson's Every Man in his Humour:- "I do intend this year of jubilee coming on, to travel; and (because I will not altogether go upon expence) I am determined to put some five thousand pound, to be paid me five for one, upon the return of my wife, myself, and my dog, from the Turk's court, in Constantinople."

"Like poison, given to work a great time after." - Act III. Sc. 3.
The natives of Africa were supposed to be possessed of the secret how to temper poisons with such art, as not to operate till several years after they were administered. Italian travellers relate similar effects of the aqua tofana, a subtle, colourless and tasteless poison, which ladies carry about them, and have at their toilets, among their perfumed waters, for the purpose of administering in the drink of faithless lovers. In the chapel at Arundel, is the effigy of a nobleman of the Howard family, who, having incurred the jealousy of an Italian lady during his travels, was poisoned in this manner, and died after lingering many years. The effigy represents him nearly naked, his bones scarcely covered by his skin, and presenting altogether a most deplorable spectacle.

"And all be turn'd to barnacles, or to apes." - Act IV. Sc. 1.
Caliban's barnacle is the clakis or tree-goose. Collins very simply tells us, that the barnacle which grows on ships was meant; and quotes the following passage to support his opinion:- "There are, in the north parts of Scotland, certaine trees, whereon do grow shell-fishes, which, falling in the water, do become fowls, whom we call barnackles; in the north of England, brant-geese; and in Lancashire tree-geese." - DOUCE.

"Some subtilties o' the isle." - Act V. Sc. 1.
This is a phrase adopted from ancient cookery and confectionary. when a dish was so contrived as to appear unlike what it really was, they called it a subtilty. Dragons, castles, trees, &c. made out of sugar, had the like denomination. - STEEVENS.

[NB: On the title page, it says there are '...a selection of notes chiefly extracted from the commentaries of STEEVENS, MALONE, AND JOHNSON...'. I would imagine those named above are some of these commentaries.]

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