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Enter certain Reapers, properly habited: they join
with the Nymphs in a graceful dance; towards the end whereof PROSPERO starts suddenly, and speaks ; after which, to a strange, hollow, and confused noise, they heavily vanish.
Pro. [Aside.] I had forgot that foul conspiracy Of the beast Caliban, and his confederates, Against my life; the minute of their plot Is almost come.—[To the Spirits.] Well done ;
avoid ;-no more. Fer. This is strange': your father's in some
passion That works him strongly. Mira.
Never till this day,
Pro. You do look, my son, in a mov'd sort,
5 This is most strange :) I have introduced the word—most, on account of the metre, which otherwise is defective.--In the first line of Prospero's next speech there is likewise an omission, but I have not ventured to supply it.
STEEVENS. 6 And, like the baseless fabrick of this vision, &c.] The exact period at which this play was produced is unknown : it was not, however, published before 1623. In the year 1603, the Tragedy of Darius, by Lord Sterline, made its appearance, and there I find the following passage: “Let greatness of her glassy scepters vaunt,
Not scepters, no, but reeds, soon bruis’d, soon broken; " And let this worldly pomp our wits enchant,
“ All fades, and scarcely leaves behind a token.
“With furniture superfluously fair,
Evanish all like vapours in the air.”
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
of Queen Elizabeth, (which happened on the 24th of March, 1603,) as it is dedicated to James VI. King of Scots.
Whoever should seek for this passage (as here quoted from the 4to. 1603) in the folio edition, 1637, will be disappointed, as Lord Sterline made considerable changes in all his plays, after their first publication. Steevens.
1 - all which it Inherit,] i. e. all who possess, who dwell upon it. So, in The Two Gentlemen of Verona :
“ This, or else nothing, will inherit her.” MALONE. And, like this insubstantial PAGEANT FADED,]
Faded means here—having vanished; from the Latin, vado. So, in Hamlet :
“ It faded on the crowing of the cock.” To feel the justice of this comparison, and the propriety of the epithet, the nature of these exhibitions should be remembered. The ancient English pageants were shows exhibited on the reception of a prince, or any other solemnity of a similar kind. They were presented on occasional stages erected in the streets. Originally they appear to have been nothing more than dumb shows; but before the time of our author, they had been enlivened by the introduction of speaking personages, who were characteristically habited. The speeches were sometimes in verse; and as the procession moved forward, the speakers, who constantly bore some allusion to the ceremony, either conversed together in the form of a dialogue, or addressed the noble person whose presence occasioned the celebrity. On these allegorical spectacles very costly ornaments were bestowed. See Fabian, ii. 382. Warton's Hist. of Poet. ii. 199, 202.
The well-known lines before us may receive some illustration from Stowe's account of the pageants exhibited in the year 1604, (not many years before this play was written,) on King James, his Queen, &c. passing triumphantly from the Tower to Westminster; on which occasion seven gates or arches were erected in different places through which the procession passed.-Over the first gate
was represented the true likeness of all the notable houses, Towers and steeples, within the citie of London."-"The sixt arche or gate of triumph was erected above the Conduit in Fleet e-Streete, whereon the Globe of the world was seen to move, &c. At Temple-bar a seaventh arche or gait was erected, the fore-front whereof was proportioned in every respect like a Temple, being dedicated to Janus, &c. The citie of Westminster, and dutchy of Lancaster, at the Strand had erected the in
Leave not a rack behind ': We are such stuff
vention of a Rainbow, the moone, sunne, and starres, advanced between two Pyramides,” &c. Annals, p. 1429, edit. 1605. See also his Survey of London, 1618, p.
some of them, like Midsummer pageants, with towers, turrets,” &c.
Perhaps our poet also remembered Spenser's Ruines of Time, 1591 :
“ High towers, fair temples, goodly theatres,
Strong walls, rich porches, princelie pallaces,
“ And overgrown with black oblivions rust.” Malone. 9 Leave not a RACK behind :] “ The winds, (says Lord Bacon) which move the clouds above, which we call the rack, and are not perceived below, pass without noise.” I should explain the word rack, somewhat differently, by calling it, the last fleeting vestige of the highest clouds, scarce perceptible on account of their distance and tenuity.' What was anciently called the rack, is now termed by sailors—the scud.
The word is common to many authors contemporary with Shakspeare. So, in the Faithful Shepherdess, by Fletcher :
shall I stray
“ The sailing rack.”-
“ Beating the clouds into their swiftest rack.” Again, in the prologue to the Three Ladies of London, 1584: “We list not ride the rolling rack that dims the chrystal
skies." Again, in Shakspeare's 33d Sonnet :
" Anon permits the basest clouds to ride
“ With ugly rack on his celestial face.” Again, in Chapman's version of the twenty-first Iliad :
the cracke “ His thunder gives, when out of heaven it tears atwo
his racke." Here the translator adds, in a marginal note.
6. The racke or motion of the clouds, for the clouds." Again, in Dryden's version of the tenth Æneid :
the doubtful rack of heaven “ Stands without motion, and the tide undriven.” Mr. Pennant in his Tour in Scotland observes, there is a fish
Is rounded with a sleep.--Sir, I am vex'd;
called a rack-rider, because it appears in winter or bad weather; Rack, in the English of our author's days, signifying the driving of the clouds by tempests.
Sir Thomas Hanmer, instead of rack, reads track, which may be countenanced by the following passage in the first scene of Timon of Athens :
“ But flies an eagle flight, bold, and forth on,
Leaving no tract behind.”
Steevens. Rack is generally used for a body of clouds or rather for the course of clouds in motion. So, in Antony and Cleopatra :
“ That which is now a horse, even with a thought,
“ The rack dislimns.” But no instance has yet been produced where it is used to signify a single small fleeting cloud, in which sense only it can be figuratively applied here. I incline to think that rack is a mis-spelling for wrack, i. e. wreck, which Fletcher likewise has used for a minute broken fragment. See his Wife for a Month, where we find the word mis-spelt as it is in The Tempest :
“ He will bulge so subtilly and suddenly,
“ You may snatch him up by parcels, like a sea-rack.” It has been urged, that " objects which have only a visionary and insubstantial existence, can, when the vision is faded, leave nothing real, and consequently no wreck behind them.” But the objection is founded on misapprehension. The words “ Leave not a rack (or wreck) behind," relate not to “ the baseless fabrick of this vision,” but to the final destruction of the world, of which the towers, temples, and palaces, shall (like a vision, or a pageant) be dissolved, and leave no vestige behind.
Malone. Yet see Mr. Horne Tooke's observations on this
passage, EIIEA IITEPOENTA, vol. ii. p. 388. BOSWELL. I As DREAMS are made of,] The old
reads-on. But this is a mere colloquial vitiation ; of, among the vulgar, being still pronounced-on. STEEVENS.
The stanza which immediately precedes the lines quoted by Mr. Steevens from Lord Sterline's Darius, may serve still further to confirm the conjecture that one of these poets imitated the other. Our author was, I believe, the imitator :
Be not disturb’d with my infirmity :
We wish your peace.
[Ereunt. Pro. Come with a thought:-1 thank you :
Ariel, come ?.
Enter ARIEL. ARI. Thy thoughts I cleave to ' : What's thy
pleasure ? PRO.
Spirit, We must prepare to meet with Caliban 4. ARI. Ay, my commander: when I presented
“ And when the eclipse comes of our glory's light,
• Then what avails the adoring of a name?
Malone. 2 Fer. Mir. We wish your peace.
Pro. Come with a thought :-I thank you:-Ariel, come.] The old copy reads “- I thank thee.” But these thanks being in reply to the joint wish of Ferdinand and Miranda, I have substituted
you for thee, by the advice of Mr. Ritson. Steevens. 3 Thy thoughts I CLEAVE TO :) To cleave to, is to unite with closely. So, in Macbeth:
“ Like our strange garments, cleave not to their mould.” Again :
you shall cleave to my consent.” Steevens. 4 — TO MEET With Caliban.) To meet with is to counteract ; to play stratagem against stratagem.--" The parson knows the temper of every one in his house, and accordingly either meets with their vices, or advances their virtues.” Herbert's Country Parson., Johnson. So, in Cynthia's Revenge, 1613 :