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King Henry IV, Part I Essay

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Act i. sc. i. King Henry's speech:

No more the thirsty entrance of this soil
Shall daub her lips with her own children's blood.

A MOST obscure passage: but I think Theobald's inter-pretation right, namely, that 'thirsty entrance' means the dry penetrability, or bibulous drought, of the soil. The obscurity of this passage is of the Shakspearian sort.

Ib. sc. 2. In this, the first introduction of Falstaff, observe the consciousness and the intentionality of his wit, so that when it does not flow of its own accord, its absence is felt, and an effort visibly made to recall it. Note also throughout how Falstaff's pride is gratified in the power of influencing a prince of the blood, the heir apparent, by means of it. Hence his dislike to Prince John of Lancaster, and his mortification when he finds his wit fail on him:—

P. John. Fare yon well, Falstaff : I, in my condition, Shall better speak of you than you deserve.
Fal. I would you had but the wit; 'twere better than your dukedom.—Good faith, this same young sober-blooded boy doth not love me;—nor a man cannot make him laugh.

Act ii. sc. i. Second Carrier's speech:—

.... breeds fleas like a loach.

Perhaps it is a misprint, or a provincial pronunciation, for 'leach,' that is, blood-suckers. Had it been gnats, instead of fleas, there might have been some sense, though small probability, in Warburton's suggestion of the Scottish 'loch. Possibly 'loach,' or 'hitch,' may be some lost word for dovecote, or poultry-lodge, notorious for breeding fleas. In Stevens's or my reading, it should properly be 'loaches,' or 'leeches,' in the plural; except that I think I have heard anglers speak of trouts like a salmon.

Act iii. sc. i.

Glend. Nay, it you melt, then will she run mad.

This 'nay' so to be dwelt on in speaking, as to be equiva-lent to a dissyllable -u, is characteristic of the solemn Glendower; but the imperfect line

She bids you On the wanton rushes lay you down, &c.

is one of those fine hair-strokes of exquisite judgment peculiar to Shakspeare; — thus detaching the Lady's speech, and giving it the individuality and entireness of a little poem, while he draws attention to it.

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