Philip Weller caricature
Philip and Weller hugging

Welcome to my web site, now under development for more than twenty years.   
-- Philip Weller, November 13, 1941 - February 1, 2021
Dr. Weller, an Eastern Washington University professor of English and Shakespearean scholar for more than 50 years.

Note to The Tempest, 2.2.61 "went on four legs"


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The Tempest,
Act 2, Scene 2, line 61
Stephano is boasting that he is not afraid of the monster with four legs, and to prove his point he says, "for it hath been said, 'As proper a man as ever went on four legs cannot make him give ground'; and it shall be said so again while Stephano breathes at's nostrils." The phrase, "for it hath been said" has made some editors assume that Stephano is alluding to a proverb, but I haven't been able to find such a proverb. Besides, "As proper a man as ever went on four legs cannot make him give ground" doesn't have the essence of a proverb, a nugget of wisdom. This leads me to believe that what Stephano is quoting is simply a Elizabethan era version of modern (C.E. 2018) phrases such as "he never backs down" or "he will stand up to anyone."

To go into detail: "Proper" here does not mean "handsome," as editors often assert; it means, "Such as a person or thing of the kind specified should be" (Oxford English Dictionary). And "as ever went on four legs" must be Stephano's made-up, very boastful version of "as ever went on two legs,' meaning "as ever roamed the earth," or some such.

Stephano by Walter Crane
Illustrator: Walter Crane