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What follows is still less worthy of particular. illustration. Mercutio riots in this sort of lan-. guage. The epithet driveling is applied to love as. a slavering idiot; but Sir Philip Sidney has made Cupid an old drivell. See the lines quoted from the Arcadia by Dr. Farmer, Much ado about nothing, Act iii. Sc. 2.
Sc. 4. p. 431.
NURSE. I pray you sir, what saucy merchant was this, that was so full of his ropery?
Mr. Steevens has justly observed that the term merchant was anciently used in contradistinction to gentleman. Whetstone, in his Mirour for majestrates of cyties, 1584, 4to, speaking of the usurious practices of the citizens of London who attended the gaming-houses for the purpose of supplying the gentlemen players with money, has the following remark: "The extremity of these mens dealings hath beene and is so cruell as there is a natural malice generally impressed in the hearts of the gentlemen of England towards the citizens of London, insomuch as if they odiously name a man, they foorthwith call him, a trimme merchaunt. In like despight the citizen. calleth every rascall a joly gentleman. And
truely this mortall envie betweene these two woorthie estates, was first engendred of the cruell usage of covetous merchaunts in hard bargaines gotten of gentlemen, and nourished with malitious words and revenges taken of both parties."
With respect to ropery,-the word seems to have been deemed unworthy of a place in our early dictionaries, and was probably coined in the mint of the slang or canting crew. It savours strongly of the halter, and appears to have signified a low kind of knavish waggery. From some other words of similar import, it may derive illustration. Thus a rope-rype is defined in Hulæt's Abcedarium to be "an ungracious waghalter, nequam ;" and in Minshæu's dictionary," one ripe for a rope, or for whom the gallowes grones." A roper has nearly the same definition in the English vocabulary at the end of Thomasii Dictionarium, 1615, 4to; but the word occasionally denoted a crafty fellow, or one who would practise a fraud against another (for which he might deserve hanging). So in the book of blasing of arms or coat armour, ascribed to Dame Juliana Bernes, the author says, "which crosse I saw but late in tharmes of a noble man: the whiche in very dede was somtyme a crafty man, a roper, as he himself sayd," sig. Aij. b. Roper had
also another sense, which, though rather foreign to the present purpose, is so quaintly expressed in one of our old dictionaries, that the insertion of it will doubtless be excused:-" Roper, restio, is he that loketh in at John Roper's window by translation, he that hangeth himselfe." Hulæt's Abcedarium Anglico-Latinum, 1552, folio. Ropetricks, elsewhere used by Shakspeare, belongs also to this family.
Sc. 4. p. 431.
NURSE. I am none of his skains-mates.
This has been explained cut-throat companions, and frequenters of the fencing-school, from skein, a knife or dagger. The objection to this interpretation is, that the nurse could not very well compare herself with characters which it is presumed would scarcely be found among females of any description. One commentator thinks that she uses shains-mates for kins-mates, and ropery for roguery; but the latter words have been already shown to be synonymous, and the existence of such a term as kins-mate may be questioned. Besides, the nurse blunders only in the use of less obvious words.
The following conjecture is therefore offered,
but not with entire confidence in its propriety. It will be recollected that there are skains of thread; so that the good nurse may perhaps mean nothing more than sempstresses, a word not always used in the most honourable acceptation. She had before stated that she was "none of his flirt-gills."
Scene 1. Page 452.
ROM. O! I am fortune's fool!
"I am always running in the way of evil fortune, like the fool in the play," says Dr. Johnson. There is certainly no allusion to any play. See the note in vol. i. p. 238.
Sc. 2. p. 456.
JUL. That run-away's eyes may wink.
A great deal of ingenious criticism has been expended in endeavouring to ascertain the meaning of this expression. Dr. Warburton thought the runaway in question was the sun; but Mr. Heath has most completely disproved this opinion.
Mr. Steevens considers the passage as extremely elliptical, and regards the night as the runaway; making Juliet wish that its eyes, the stars, might retire to prevent discovery. Mr. Justice Blackstone can perceive nothing optative in the lines, but simply a reason for Juliet's wish for a cloudy night; yet according to this construction of the passage, the grammar of it is not very easily to be discovered.
Whoever attentively reads over Juliet's speech, will be inclined to think, or even be altogether satisfied, that the whole tenor of it is optative. With respect to the calling night a runaway, one might surely ask how it can possibly be so termed in an abstract point of view? Is it a greater fugitive than the morning, the noon, or the evening? Mr. Steevens lays great stress on Shakspeare's having before called the night a runaway in The merchant of Venice,
"For the close night doth play the runaway;"
but there it was already far advanced, and might therefore with great propriety be said to play the runaway; here it was not begun. The same remark will apply to the other passage cited by Mr. Steevens from The fair maid of the Exchange. Where then is this runaway to be