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Comedy of Errors

(Act)I.(scene)ii.(line)96 (155,3) [o'er-raught] That is, over-reached.

I.ii.98 (156,5)

[As, nimble jugglers, that deceive the eye, Dark-working sorcerers, that change the mind, Soul-killing witches, that deform the body]

[W: Drug-working] The learned commentator has endeavoured with much earnestness to recommend his alteration; but, if I may judge of other apprehensions by my own, without great success. This interpretation of soul-killing is forced and harsh. Sir T. Hammer reads soul-selling, agreeable enough to the common opinion, but without such improvement as may justify the change. Perhaps the epithets have only been misplaced, and the lines should be read thus,

Soul-killing sorcerers, that change the mind; Dark-working witches that deform the body.

This change seems to remove all difficulties.

By soul-killing I understand destroying the rational faculties by such means as make men fancy themselves beasts.

I.ii.102 (157,6) [liberties of sin] Sir T. Hammer reads, libertines, which, as the author has been enumerating not acts but persons, seems right.

II.i.30 (158,8) [How if your husband start some other where?] I cannot but think, that our authour wrote,

--start some other hare?

So in Much ado about Nothing, Cupid is said to be a good hare-finder. II.i.32 (159,9) [tho' she pause] To pause is to rest, to be in quiet.

II.i.41 (159,1) [fool-begg'd] She seems to mean, by fool-begg'd patience, that patience which is so near to idiotical simplicity, that your next relation would take advantage from it to represent you as a fool, and beg the guardianship of your fortune.

II.i.82 (161,3) [Am I so round with you, as you with me] He plays upon the word round, which signified spherical applied to himself, and unrestrained, or free in speech or action, spoken of his mistress. So the king, in Hamlet, bids the queen be round with her son.

II.i.100 (161,5) [too unruly deer] The ambiguity of deer and dear is borrowed, poor as it is, by Waller, in his poem on the Ladies Girdle.

"This was my heav'n's extremest sphere, "This pale that held my lovely deer."

II.i.101 (161,6) [poor I am but his stale] The word stale, in our authour, used as a substantive, means, not something offered to allure or attract, but something vitiated with use, something of which the best part has been enjoyed and consumed.

II.ii.86 (166,4) [Not a man of those, but he hath the wit to lose his hair] That is, Those who have more hair than wit, are easily entrapped by loose women, and suffer the consequences of lewdness, one of which, in the first appearance of the disease in Europe, was the loss of hair.

II.ii.173 (169,6) [Be it my wrong, you are from me exempt] Exempt, separated, parted. The sense is, If I am doomed to suffer the wrong of separation, yet injure not with contempt me who am already injured.

II.ii.210 (171,1) [And shrive you] That is, I will call you to confession, and make you tell your tricks.

III.i.4 (172,2) [carkanet] seems to have been a necklace or rather chain, perhaps hanging down double from the neck. So Lovelace in his poem,

The empress spreads her carcanets.

III.i.15 (173,3) [Marry, so it doth appear By the wrongs I suffer, and the blows I bear] [T: don't appear] I do not think this emendation necessary. He first says, that his wrongs and blows prove him an ass; but immediately, with a correction of his former sentiment, such as may be hourly observed in conversation, he observes that, if he had been an ass, he should, when he was kicked, have kicked again.

III.i.101 (177,7) [supposed by the common rout] For suppose I once thought it might be more commodious to substitute supported; but there is no need of change: supposed is founded on supposition, made by conjecture.

III.i.105 (178,8) [For slander lives upon succession] The line apparently wants two syllables: what they were, cannot now be known. The line may be filled up according to the reader's fancy, as thus:

For lasting slander lives upon succession.

III.ii.27 (180,3) ['Tis holy sport to be a little vain] is light of tongue, not veracious.

III.ii.64 (181,2) [My sole earth's heaven, and my heaven's claim] When be calls the girl his only heaven on the earth, he utters the common cant of lovers. When he calls her his heaven's claim, I cannot understand him. Perhaps he means that which he asks of heaven.

III.ii.125 (184,5)

[S. Ant.  Where France?
 S. Dro.  In her forehead; arm'd and reverted,
 making war against her hair]

[T, from the first Folio: heir] With this correction and explication Dr. Warburton concurs, and sir T. Hammer thinks an equivocation intended, though he retains hair in the text. Yet surely they have all lost the sense by looking beyond it. Our authour, in my opinion, only sports with an allusion, in which he takes too much delight, and means that his mistress had the French disease. The ideas are rather too offensive to be dilated. By a forehead armed, he means covered with incrusted eruptions: by reverted, he means having the hair turning backwards. An equivocal word must have senses applicable to both the subjects to which it is applied. Both forehead and France might in some sort make war against their hair, but how did the forehead make war against its heir? The sense which I have given immediately occurred to me, and will, I believe, arise to every reader who is contented with the meaning that lies before him, without sending out conjecture in search of refinements.

IV.ii.19 (192,9) [sere] that is, dry, withered.

IV.ii.22 (192,1) [Stigmatical in making] This is, marked or stigmatized by nature with deformity, as a token of his vicious disposition.

IV.ii.35 (193,3) [A fiend, a fairy, pitiless and rough] [T: A fiend, a fury] There were fairies like hobgoblins, pitiless and rough, and described as malevolent and mischievous, (see 1765, III,143,3)

IV.ii.39 (193,5) [A hound that runs counter, and yet draws dry-foot well] To run counter is to run backward, by mistaking the course of the animal pursued; to draw dry-foot is, I believe, to pursue by the track or prick of the foot; to run counter and draw dry-foot well are, therefore, inconsistent. The jest consists in the ambiguity of the word counter, which means the wrong way in* the chase and a prison in London. The officer that arrested him was a serjeant of the counter. For the congruity of this jest with the scene of action, let our authour answer.

IV.iii.13 (196,9) [what, have you got the picture of old Adam new apparel'd] [T: got rid of the picture] The explanation is very good, but the text does not require to be amended.

IV.iii.27 (`is rest to do more exploits with his mace than a morris pike] [W: a Maurice-pike] This conjecture is very ingenious, yet the commentator talks unnecessarily of the rest of a musket. by which he makes the hero of the speech set up the rest of a musket, to do exploits with a pike. The rest of a pike was a common term, and signified, I believe, the manner in which it was fixed to receive the rush of the enemy. A morris-pike was a pike used in a morris or a military dance, and with which great exploits were done, that is, great feats of dexterity were shewn. There is no need of change.

IV.iv.78 (202,3) [kitchen-vestal] Her charge being like that of the vestal virgins, to keep the fire burning.

V.1.137 (210,6) [important letters]Important seems to be for importunate. (1773)

V.i.298 (216,2) [time's deformed hand Have written strange defeatures in my face] Defeature is the privative of feature. The meaning is, time hath cancelled my features.

V.i.406 (220,7) [After so long grief such nativity!] We should surely read. After so long grief, such festivity.

Nativity lying so near, and the termination being the same of both words, the mistake was easy.

Samuel Johnson