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VERBS, MOODS OF:-- SUBJUNCTIVE: simple form

Subjunctive, simple form. See also Be, Were, An, But, If, &c. The subjunctive (a consequence of the old inflectional form) was frequently used, not as now with would, should, &c., but in a form identical with the indicative, where nothing but the context (in the case of past tenses) shows that it is the subjunctive, as:

“But, if my father had not scanted me,
Yourself, renowned prince, then stood as fair.

“Preferment goes by letter and affection,
And not by old gradation where each second
Stood heir to the first.

If it be asked what is the difference between "stood" here and "would have stood," I should say that the simple form of the subjunctive, coinciding in sound with the indicative, implied to an Elizabethan more of inevitability (subject, of course, to a condition which is not fulfilled). "Stood" means "would certainly have stood." The possibility is regarded as an unfulfilled fact, to speak paradoxically. Compare the Greek idiom of ἵνα with the indicative.

“If he did not care whether he had their love or no, he waived
indifferently 'twixt doing them neither good nor harm; but he seeks
their hate with greater devotion than they can render it him.

“If they
Should say, 'Be good to Rome,' they charged him even
As those should do, &c.

“(If I rebuked you) then I check'd my friends.

"Till" is used varyingly with the indicative present, future, and the subjunctive.

The subjunctive is found after "so" in the sense of "so (that)," i.e. "(if it be) so (that)."

“I will . . . endow a child of thine,
So in the Lethe of thy angry soul
Thou drown the sad remembrance of these wrongs.

Sometimes the presence of the subjunctive, used conditionally (where, as in the case of did, the subjunctive and indicative are identical in inflections), is indicated by placing the verb before the subject:

“Did I tell this . . . who would believe me?

Live Roderigo,
He calls me to a restitution.

Live a thousand years,
I shall not find myself so fit to die.

“Live thou, I live.

Where we should say, "Should I tell, live," &c.

The indicative is sometimes found where the subjunctive might be expected:

Pleaseth you walk with me down to his house,
I will discharge my bond,

where the first clause might be taken interrogatively, "Is it your pleasure to walk with me? In that case I will," &c. So 2 Hen. IV. iv. 1. 225. Perhaps we may thus explain the so-called imperative in the first person plural:

“Well, sit we down,
And let us hear Bernardo speak of this.

i.e. "suppose we sit down?" "what if we sit down?" Compare Ib. 168.

So

Alcib. I'll take the gold thou giv'st me, not all thy counsel.
Timon. Dost thou, or dost thou not, Heaven's curse upon
thee!

So "willy-nilly" and

“He left this ring behind him, would I or not.

"Please" is, however, often found in the subjunctive, even interrogatively.

“Please it you that I call?

It then represents our modern "may it please?" and expresses a modest doubt.

The subjunctive is also found, more frequently than now, with if, though, &c. The subjunctive "he dare" is more common than "he dares" in the historical plays, but far less common in the others. The only difference between the two is a difference of thought, the same as between "he can jump six feet" and "he could jump six feet," i.e. if he liked.

Compare

“For I know thou darest,
But this thing dare not.

i.e. "would not dare on any consideration:" stronger than "dares."

The indiscriminate use of "dare" and "dares" (regulated, perhaps, by some regard to euphony) is illustrated by “Here boldly spread thy hands, no venom'd weed
Dares blister them, no slimy snail dare creep.” B. and F. F. Sh. iii. 1.

1 "This thing" means "this creature Trinculo," and is antithetical to "thou."

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