"My brain, more busy than the labouring spider, / Weaves tedious snares to trap mine enemies."

— Shakespeare, William (1564-1616)

1594, 1623
"My brain, more busy than the labouring spider, / Weaves tedious snares to trap mine enemies."
Metaphor in Context
Now, York, or never, steel thy fearful thoughts,
And change misdoubt to resolution.
Be that thou hop'st to be, or what thou art
Resign to death; it is not worth th' enjoying.
Let pale-faced fear keep with the mean-born man
And find no harbour in a royal heart.
Faster than springtime showers comes thought on thought,
And not a thought but thinks on dignity.
My brain, more busy than the labouring spider,
Weaves tedious snares to trap mine enemies.

Well, nobles, well: 'tis politicly done
To send me packing with an host of men.
I fear me you but warm the starvèd snake,
Who, cherished in your breasts, will sting your hearts.
'Twas men I lacked, and you will give them me.
I take it kindly. Yet be well assured
You put sharp weapons in a madman's hands.
Whiles I in Ireland nurse a mighty band,
I will stir up in England some black storm
Shall blow ten thousand souls to heaven or hell,
And this fell tempest shall not cease to rage
Until the golden circuit on my head
Like to the glorious sun's transparent beams
Do calm the fury of this mad-bred flaw.
And for a minister of my intent,
I have seduced a headstrong Kentishman,
John Cade of Ashford,
To make commotion, as full well he can,
Under the title of John Mortimer.
In Ireland have I seen this stubborn Cade
Oppose himself against a troop of kerns,
And fought so long till that his thighs with darts
Were almost like a sharp-quilled porcupine;
And in the end, being rescued, I have seen
Him caper upright like a wild Morisco,
Shaking the bloody darts as he his bells.
Full often like a shag-haired crafty kern
Hath he conversèd with the enemy
And, undiscovered, come to me again
And given me notice of their villainies.
This devil here shall be my substitute,
For that John Mortimer, which now is dead,
In face, in gait, in speech, he doth resemble.
By this I shall perceive the commons' mind,
How they affect the house and claim of York.
Say he be taken, racked, and torturèd --
I know no pain they can inflict upon him
Will make him say I moved him to those arms.
Say that he thrive, as 'tis great like he will --
Why then from Ireland come I with my strength
And reap the harvest which that coistrel sowed.
For Humphrey being dead, as he shall be,
And Henry put apart, the next for me.
Shakespeare, William. The Complete Works. Oxford Shakespeare. Electronic Edition for the IBM PC. Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor, Editor.
Date of Entry

The Mind is a Metaphor is authored by Brad Pasanek, Assistant Professor of English, University of Virginia.