Page images
[ocr errors]

the happiness of life, and the dissemination of suspicion, which is the poison of society. JOHNSON

My fault, but not my body, pardon-] One of the conspirators against Queen Elizabeth, I think Parry, concludes his letter to her with these words:

a culpâ, but not a pæna, absolve me, most dear lady." This letter was much read at that time, [1585,) and our author doubtless copied it.

This whole scene was much enlarged and improved after the first edition; the particular insertions it would be tedious to mention, and tedious without much use.

JOHNSON. 22 -christom child-] The christom [or chrisom] was a white cloth, used to cover children with at their baptism. Mr. Whalley says that when the mother came to be churched this chrisom was no longer worn by the infant. Mrs. Quickly, therefore, means by a christom child, one who dies shortly after having received the sacrament of baptism.

23 —as cold as a stone.] Such is the end of Falstaff, from whom Shakspeare had promised us in his epilogue to K. Henry IV. that we should receive more entertainment. It happened to Shakspeare, as to other writers, to have his imagination crowded with a tumultuary confusion of images, which, while they were yet unsorted and unexamined, seemed sufficient to furnish a long train of incidents, and a new variety of merriment; but which, when he was to produce them to view, shrunk suddenly from him, or could not be accommodated to his general design. That he once designed to have brought Falstaff on the

scene again, we know from himself; but whether he could contrive no train of adventures suitable to his character, or could match him with no companions likely to quicken his humour, or could open no new vein of pleasantry, and was afraid to continue the same strain lest it should not find the same reception, he has here, for ever discarded him, and made haste to dispatch him, perhaps for the same reason for which Addison killed Sir Roger, that no other hand might attempt to exhibit him.

Let meaner authors learn from this example, that it is dangerous to sell the bear which is yet not hunted; to promise to the publick what they have not written.

This disappointment probably inclined Queen Elizabeth to command the poet to produce him once again, and to show him in love or courtship. This was, indeed, a new source of humour, and produced a new play from the former characters. JOHNSON

24 —clear thy crystals.] Dry up thy tears, dry

thine eyes.


25 — spend their mouths.] To spend the mouth, to give mouth, or tongue, is the sporting term for to lark. 26 -rivage-] is shore, French.

- linstock-] The linstock is the staff to which the match is fixed when ordnance is fired.

28 - the portage of the head,] Portage, open space, from port, a gate. Let the eye appear in the head as cannon through the battlements, or embrasures, of a fortification.

JOHNSON. 29-confounded base-] Confounded means here destroyed or worn.

mould, are,

30 —men of mould!] Mould is earth. Men of

mortals. si --four yards under the countermines :) Fluellen means, that the enemy had digged himself countermines four yards under the mines. JOHNSON.

31 —there's an end ) It were to be wished, that the poor merriment of this dialogue had not been purchased with so much profaneness. JOHNSON.

33 Scene IV.] I have left this ridiculous scene as I found it; and am sorry to have no colour left, from any of the editions, to imagine it interpolated.

WARBURTON. Sir T. Hanmer has rejected it. The scene is indeed mean enough, when it is read; but the grimaces of two French women, and the odd accent with which they uttered the English, made it divert upon the stage. It may be observed, that there is in it not only the French language, but the French spirit. Alice compliments the princess upon her knowledge of four words, and tells her that she pronounces like the English themselves. The princess suspects no deficiency in her instructress, nor the instructress in herself. Throughout the whole scene there may

be found French servility, and French vanity.

I cannot forbear to transcribe the first sentence of this dialogue from the edition of 1603, that the reader, who has not looked into the old copies, may judge of the strange negligence with which they are printed.

“ Kate. Alice venecia, vous aves cates en, vou parte fort bon Angloys englatara, coman sae palla vou la main en francoy."


We may observe in general, that the early editions have not balf the quantity; and every sentence, or rather every word, most ridiculously blundered. These, for several reasons, could not possibly be published by the author; and it is extremely probable that the French ribaldry was at first inserted by a different band, as the many editions most certainly were after he had left the stage.--Indeed, every

friend to his memory will not easily believe, that he was acquainted with the scene between Katharine and the old Gentlewoman: or surely he would not have admitted such obscenity and nonsense.

34 —nook-shotten isle of Albion.] Shotten signifies any thing projected: so nook-shotten isle, is an isle that shoots out into capes, promontories, and necks of land, the very figure of Great Britain.



35 And teach lavoltas high,] Sir T. Hanmer observes, that in this dance there was much turning and much capering. Shakspeare mentions it more than once; but never so particularly as the author of Muleasses the Turk, a tragedy, 1610:

“ Be pleas’d, ye powers of night, and 'bout me skip Your antick measures; like to coal-black Moors

Dancing their high lavoltoes to the sun, " Circle me round: and in the midst I'll stand, “ And crack my sides with laughter at your sports.”

36 Pennons-) In the battles of former days, when the sword and spear gave greater opportunity of exhibiting particular prowess, the several knights had each his arms painted on a little flag which was born

a Pax.

by one of his descendants into the field. This was called a pennon or pendant.

37 For he hath stol n a pix,] The old editions read pax. " And this is conformable to history,” says Mr. Pope, “ a soldier (as Hall tells us) being hang'd at this time for such a fact.”. -Both Hall and Ho. linshed agree as to the point of the theft; but as to the thing stolen, there is not that conformity betwixt them and Mr. Pope. It was an ancient custom, at the celebration of mass, that when the priest pronounced these words, Pax Domini sit semper vobis cum! both clergy and people kiss'd one another. And this was called Osculum Pacis, the Kiss of Peace. But that custom being abrogated, a certain image is now presented to be kissed, which is called

But it was not this image wbich Bardolph stole; it was a pix, or little chest (from the Latin word, pixis, a box,) in which the consecrated host was used to be kept. “A foolish soldier," says Hall expressly, and Holinshed after him, “ stole a pix out of a church, and unreverently did eat the holy hostes within the same contained."

THEOBALD. 88-the fig of Spain.] Mr. Steevens says, this has allusion to the Spanish custom of giving a poisoned fig to such as were objects


revenge. 39 Enter MontjoY.] Mont-joie, under the French monarchy, was the title of the principal king at arms.

40 He lounds from the earth as if his entrails were hairs;] i. e. like a tennis-ball, which is stuffed with hairs.

41 --strait trossers-] This word very frequently

« PreviousContinue »