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let me ask you a question: Man is enemy to virginity; how may we barricado it against him?
Par. Keep him out.
Hel. But he assails; and our virginity, though valiant in the defence, yet is weak: unfold to us some warlike resistance.
Par. There is none; man, sitting down before you, will undermine you, and blow you up.
Hel. Bless our poor virginity from underminers, and blowers up!-Is there no military policy, how virgins might blow up men?
Par. Virginity, being blown down, man will quicklier be blown up: marry, in blowing him down again, with the breach yourselves made, you lose your city. It is not politick in the commonwealth of nature, to preserve virginity. Loss of virginity is rational increase;5 and there was never virgin got, till virginity was first lost. That, you were made of, is metal to make virgins. Virginity, by being once lost, may be ten times found: by being ever kept, it is ever lost: 'tis too cold a companion; away with it.
Hel. I will stand for 't a little, though therefore I die a virgin.
Par. There's little can be said in 't; 'tis against the rule of nature. To speak on the part of virginity, is to accuse your mothers; which is most infallible disobedience. He, that hangs himself, is a virgin: virginity murders itself;6 and should be buried in highways, out of all sanctified limit, as a desperate offendress against
- with the breach yourselves made, you lose your city.] So, in our author's Lover's Complaint:
“ And long upon these terms I held my city,
“ Till thus he 'gan besiege me.” Again, in The Rape of Lucrece:
- This makes in bim more rage, and lesser pity,
" To make the breach, and enter this sweet city. Malone. 5 Loss of virginity is rational increase;] I believe we should read, national. Tyrwhitt.
Rational increase may mean the regular increase by which rational beings are propagated. Steevens.
6 He, that hangs himself, is a virgin: virginity murders itself ;] e. he that hangs himself, and a virgin, are in this circumstance 'ke; they are both self-destroyers. Malone.
nature. Virginity breeds mites, much like a cheese; consumes itself to the very paring, and so dies with feeding his own stomach. Besides, virginity is peevish, proud, idle, made of self-love, which is the most inhibited sin? in the canon. Keep it not; you cannot choose but loose by 't: Out with 't: within ten years it will make itself ten,8 which is a goodly increase; and the principal itself not much the worse: Away with 't.
inhibited sin -] i. e. forbidden. So, in Othello:
within ten years it will make itself ten,] The old copy reads—" within ten years it will make itself two." The emendation was made by Sir T. Hanmer. It was also suggested by Mr. Steevens, who likewise proposed to read—“within two years it will make itself two." Mr. Tollet would read within ten years it will make itself twelve."
I formerly proposed to read—“Out with it: within ten months it will make itself two." Part with it, and within ten months' time it will double itself; i. e. it will produce a child.
I now mention this conjecture, (in which I once had some confidence) only for the purpose of acknowledging my error. I had not sufficiently attended to a former passage in this scene,“ Virginity, by being once lost, may be ten times found,” i. e. may produce ten virgins. Those words likewise are spoken by Parolles, and add such decisive support to Sir Thomas Hanmer's emendation, that I have not hesitated to adopt it. The text, as exhibited in the old copy, is undoubtedly corrupt. It has already been observed, that many passages in these plays, in which numbers are introduced, are printed incorrectly. Our author's sixth Sonnet fully supports the emendation here made:
“ That use is not forbidden usury,
“ If ten of thine ten times refigur'd thee.” “ Out with it," is used equivocally.--Applied to virginity, it means, give it away; part with it: considered in another light, it signifies, put it out to interest. In The Tempest we have-“ Each putter out on five for one,” &c. Malone.
There is no reason for altering the text. A well-known observation of the noble earl, to whom the horses of the present generation owe the length of their tails, contains the true explanation of this passage. Henley.
I cannot help repeating, on this oecasion, Justice Shallow's remark: “Give me pardon, sir :-If you come with news, I take it there is but two ways; either to utter them, or to conceal them."
Hel. How might one do, sir, to lose it to her own liking?
Par. Let me see: Marry, ill, to like him that ne'er it likes.' 'Tis a commodity will lose the gloss with lying; the longer kept, the less worth: off with ’t, while 'tis vendible: answer the time of request. Virginity, like an old courtier, wears her cap out of fashion; richly suited, but unsuitable: just like the brooch and toothpick, which wear not now:1 Your date is better2 in your pie and your porridge, than in your cheek: And your virginity, your old virginity, is like one of our French withered pears; it looks ill
, it eats dryly; marry, 'tis a withered pear; it was formerly better; marry, yet, 'tis a withered pear: Will you any thing with it?
Hel. Not my virginity yet.”
With this noble earl's notorious remark, I am quite unacquainted. But perhaps the critick (with a flippancy in which he has sometimes indulged himself at my expense) will reply, like Pistol, “ Why then lament therefore;" or observe, like Hamlet, that "a knavish speech sleeps in a foolish ear.” Steevens.
9 - Marry, ill, to like him that ne'er it likes.] Parolles, in answer to the question, “How one shall lose virginity to her own liking ?" plays upon the word liking, and says, she must do ill, for virginity, to be so lost, must like him that likes not virginity.
Fohnson. which wear not now ;] Thus the old copy, and rightly. Shakspeare often uses the active for the passive. The modern editors read, “ which we wear not now." Lyrwhitt.
The old copy has were. Mr. Rowe corrected it. Malone.
2 Your date is better -] Here is a quibble on the word date, which means both age, and a candied fruit much used in our author's time. So, in Romeo and Juliet:
“ They call for dates and quinces in the pastry.” The same quibble occurs in Troilus and Cressida: 66 and then to be bak'd with no date in the pie, for then the man's date is out.”
Steevens 3 Not my virginity yet.] The whole speech is abrupt, unconnected, and obscure. Dr. Warburton thinks much of it sup. positious. I would be glad to think so of the whole, for a commentator naturally wishes to reject what he cannot understand. Something, which should connect Helena's words with those of Parolles, seems to be wanting. Hanmer has made a fair attempt, by reading:
Not my virginity yet.--You 're for the court,
There shall your master, &c. ome such clause has, I thing, dropped out, but still the first
There shall your master have a thousand loves,
words want connection. Perhaps Parolles, going away from his harangue, said, will you any thing with me?'to which Helen may reply. I know not what to do with the passage. Johnson.
I do not perceive so great a want of connection as my predecessors have apprehended; nor is that connection always to be sought for, in so careless a writer as ours, from the thought immediately preceding the reply of the speaker. Parolles has been laughing at the unprofitableness of virginity, especially when it grows ancient, and compares it to withered fruit. Helena, properly enough, replies, that hers is not yet in that state ; but that in the enjoyment of her, his master should find the gratification of all his most romantic wishes. What Dr. Warburton says afterwards is said at random, as all positive declarations of the same kind must of necessity be. Were I to propose any change, I would read should instead of shall. It does not, however, appear that this rapturous effusion of Helena was designed to be intelligible to Parolles. Its obscurity, therefore, may be its merit. It sufficiently explains what is passing in the mind of the speaker, to every one but him to whom she does not mean to explain it. Steevens.
Perhaps we should read: “Will you any thing with us?” i. e. will you send any thing with us to court? to which Helena's answer would be proper enough
“Not my virginity yet.". A similar phrase occurs in Twelfth Night, Act III, sc. i:
“ You'll nothing, madam, to my lord by me?" Tyrwhitt. Perhaps something has been omitted in Parolles's speech. “I am now bound for the court; will you any thing with it i. e.? with the court ?" So, in The Winter's Tale:
“ Tell me what you have to the king." I do not agree with Mr. Steevens in the latter part of his note;
that in the enjoyment of her,” &c. Malone. I am satisfied the passage is as Shakspeare left it. Parolles, after having cried down, with all his eloquence, old virginity in reference to what he had before said, “That virginity is a commodity the longer kept, the less worth: off with ’t, while 'tis vendible. ANSWER THE TIME of request." asks Helena, “Will you any thing with it?"—to which she replies—"Nor My virginity yer.” Henley.
4.4 phænix, &c.] The eight lines following friend, I am persuaded, is the nonsense of some foolish conceited player. What put it into his head was Helen's saying, as it should be read for the future:
There shall your master have a thousand loves;
A guide, a goddess, and a sovereign,
Where the fellow, finding a thousand loves spoken of, and only three reckoned up, namely, a mother's a mistress's, and a friend's, (which, by the way, were all a judicious writer could mention; for there are but these three species of love in nature) he would help out the number, by the intermediate nonsense: and, because they were yet too few, he pieces out his loves with enmities, and makes of the whole such finished nonsense, as is never heard out of Bedlam. Warburton.
5-captain,) Our author often uses this word for a head or chief. So, in one of his Sonnets:
“Or captain jewels in the carkanet.” Again, in Timon of Athens : “— the ass more captain than the lion.”
Again, more appositely, in Othello, where it is applied to Desdemona:
“ — our great captain's captain." We find some of these terms of endearment again used in The Winter's Tale. Leontes says to the young Mamillius,
“Come, captain, we must be neat,” &c. Again, in the same scene, Polixenes, speaking of his son says:
“He's all my exercise, my mirth, my matter;
Malone. 0 — a traitress,] It seems that traitress was in that age a term of endearment, for when Lafeu introduces Helena to the king, he says, “ You are like a traytor, but such traytors his ma. jesty does not much fear.” Johnson.
I cannot conceive that traitress (spoken seriously) was in any age a term of endearment. From the present passage, we might as well suppose enemy (in the last line but one) to be a term of endearment. In the other passage quoted, Lafeu is plainly speaking ironically. Tyrwhitt.
Traditora, a traitress, in the Italian language, is generally used as a term of endearment. The meaning of Helena is, that she shall prove every thing to Bertram. Our ancient writers delighted in catalogues, and always characterize love by contrarieties.
Steevens. Falstaff, in The Merry Wives of Windsor, says to Mrs. Ford: “Thou art a traitor to say so." In his interview with her, he certainly meant to use the language of love.
Helena, however, I think, does not mean to say that she shall prove every thing to Bertram, but to express her apprehension that he will find at the court some lady or ladies who shall prove every thing to him; (“ a phenix, captain, counsellor, traitress ;" &c.]
to whom he will give all the fond names that “blinking Cupid gossips.” Malone.