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Ellipses after will, is, &c.

Ellipses after will and is.

"I will," i.e. "I purpose," when followed by a preposition of motion, might naturally be supposed to mean "I purpose motion." Hence, as we have

“He purposeth to Athens,


“I'll to him.

“Will you along?

“Now we'll together.

“I will to-morrow,
And betimes I will, to the weird sisters.” Ib. iii. 4. 133. “Strange things I have in head that will to hand.” Ib. iii. 4. 139.


“Give these fellows some means (of access) to the king.

Similarly, as we have

“I must (go) to Coventry.

“I must (go) a dozen mile to-night.


“And he to England shall along with you.

We still say, "He is (journeying) for Paris," but not “He is (ready) for no gallants' company without them.” B. J. E. out &c. i. 1.

“Any ordinary groom is (fit) for such payment.

So T. N. iii. 3. 46; A. W. iii. 6. 109.

“I am (bound) to thank you for it.

Such an ellipsis explains

“Run from her guardage to the sooty bosom
Of such a thing as thou, (a thing fit) to fear (act.), not to

Again, we might perhaps say, "This is not a sky (fit) to walk under," but not

“This sky is not (fit) to walk in.

The modern distinction in such phrases appears to be this: when the noun follows is, there is an ellipse of "fit," "worthy:" when the noun precedes is, there is an ellipse of "intended," "made." Thus: "this is a book to read" means "this is a book worthy to read;" but, "this book is to read and not to tear," means "this book is intended or made for the purpose of reading." This distinction was not recognized by the Elizabethans. When we wish to express "worthy" elliptically, we insert a: "He is a man to respect," or we use the passive, and say, "He is to be respected." Shakespeare could have written "He is to respect" in this sense. The Elizabethans used the active in many cases where we should use the passive. Thus--

“Little is to do.

“What's more to do.” Ib. v. 8. 64; A. and C. ii. 6. 60; J. C. iii. 1. 26; 2 Hen. VI. iii. 2. 3. Hence "This food is not to eat" might in Shakespeare's time have meant "This food is not fit to eat;" now, it could only mean "intended to eat." Similarly "videndus" in Cicero meant "one who ought to be seen," "worthy to be seen;" but in poetry and in later prose it meant "one who may be seen," "visible."

The following passages illustrate the variable nature of this ellipsis:--

“I have been a debtor to you
For curtesies which I will be ever to pay you,
And yet pay still.

i.e. "kindnesses which I intend to be always ready to pay you, and yet to go on paying."

We still retain an ellipsis of "under necessity" in the phrase

“I am (yet) to learn.

But we should not say: “That ancient Painter who being (under necessity) to represent
the griefe of the bystanders, &c.” MONTAIGNE, 3. We should rather translate literally from Montaigne: "Ayant à représenter."


“I am to break with thee of some affairs,

the meaning is partly of desire and partly of necessity: "I want." So Bottom says to his fellows:

“O, masters, I am (ready) to discourse wonders.

The ellipsis is "sufficient" in

“Mark Antony is every hour in Rome
Expected; since he went from Egypt 'tis
A space (sufficient) for further travel.

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