Page images

fresh fish is the coat of an ancient family, and the salt fish is the coat of a merchant grown rich by trading over the sea.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

"And many a breme, and many a luce in stewe."

Chaucer's Prol, of the Cant. Tales, 351, 352. It appears from the extended comments on this obscure, and probably corrupted passage, that our author aimed a satire on Sir Thomas Lucy, by whom he had been prosecuted in the younger part of his life for a misdemeanor, under the character of Justice Shallow.

Line 35. The council shall hear it; it is a riot.] He alludes to the statute of K. Henry IV. (13. chap. 7.) concerning riots cognizable by the court of Star-chamber.

Line 39.


-vizaments] i. e. Deliberation.

—which is daughter to master George Page,] The whole set of editions have negligently blundered one after another in Page's Christian name in this place; though Mrs. Page calls him George afterwards in at least six several passages.


Line 48. —speaks small like a woman.] This is from the folio of 1623, and is the true reading. He admires her for the sweetness of her voice. But the expression is highly humourous, as making her speaking small like a woman one of her marks of distinction; and the ambiguity of small, which signifies little as well as low, makes the expression still more pleasant.


Line 89. How does your fallow greyhound? &c.] Cotswold, a village in Worcestershire or Warwickshire, was famous for rural exercises, and sports of all sorts. Shallow, in another place, talks of a stout fellow, a Cotswold man, i. e.

[ocr errors]

one who was a native of this very place, so famous for trials of strength, "activity, &c. and consequently a robust athletic person." I have seen a poem, or rather a collection of poems, which I think is called The Cotswold Muse, containing a description of these games. WARTON.

Line 112. —and broke open my lodge.] This probably alludes to some real incident, at that time well known.


Line 119. 'Twere better for you, if it were known in counsel ;] The old copies read, 'Twere better for you, if 'twere known in council. Perhaps it is an abrupt speech, and must be read thus: 'Twere better for you-if 'twere known in council, you'll be laugh'd at. 'Twere better for you, is, I believe, a menace. JOHNSON.


Line 125. -coney-catching rascals,-] A coney-catcher was, in the time of Elizabeth, a common name for a cheat or sharper. Green, one of the first among us who made a trade of writing pamphlets, published A Detection of the Frauds and Tricks of Coney-catchers and Couzeners. JOHNSON.

Line 129. You Banbury cheese!] This is said in allusion to the thin carcase of Slender. The same thought occurs in Jack Drum's Entertainment, 1601-" You are like a Banbury cheese-nothing "but paring." STEEVENS.

Line 131. How now, Mephostophilus ?] This is the name of a spirit or familiar in the old story book of Sir John Faustus, or John Faust. WARTON.

Line 156.

Edward shovel-boards,] This was a shilling coin of Edward VI. and often used at a game called shovel-board, or shuffle-board.

One of these pieces of metal is mentioned in Middleton's comedy of The Roaring Girl, 1611-" away slid I my man, like "a shovel-board shilling," &c. STEEVENS.

Line 163. I combat challenge of this latten bilboe:] Pistol seeing Slender such a slim, puny wight, would intimate, that he is as thin as a plate of that compound metal, which is called latten: and which was, as we are told, the old orichalc. THEOBALD.

Falstaff threatens, in another play, to drive prince Henry out of his kingdom, with a dagger of lath. A latten bilboe means therefore, I believe, no more than a blade as thin as a lath-a vice's dagger. STEEVENS. Line 164. Word of denial in thy labras here;] I suppose it should rather be read,

Word of denial in my Labra's hear;

that is, hear the word of denial in my lips. Thou ly'st.


We often talk of giving the lie in a man's teeth, or in his throat. Pistol chooses to throw the word of denial in the lips of his adversary.


Line 168. —marry trap,—] When a man was caught in his own stratagem, I suppose the exclamation of insult was marry, trap! JOHNSON.

Line 169.nuthook's humour-] Read, pass the nuthook's humour. Nuthook was a term of reproach in the vulgar way, and in cant strain. In The Second Part of Henry IV. Dol Tearsheet says to the beadle, Nuthook, Nuthook, you lie. Probably it was a name given to a bailiff or catchpole, very odious to the common people. HANMER.

Line 173. -Scarlet and John?] The names of two of Robin Hood's companions; but the humour consists in the allusion to Bardolph's red face; concerning which, see The Second Part of Henry IV. WARBURTON.

Line 178. fap,-] i. e. Drunk. In the edition to which these notes refer there is a typographical error; for sap, read fap. Line 179. careires.] I believe this strange word is nothing but the French cariere; and the expression means, that the common bounds of good behaviour were overpassed. JOHNSON. -To pass the cariere was a military phrase. I find it in one of Sir John Smythe's Discourses, 1589, where, speaking of horses wounded, he says" they after the first shrink at the entering of "the bullet doo pass their carriere, as though they had verie little "hurt." STEEVENS.

Line 199.

book of songs and sonnets-] Book of riddles.

These were popular works in that age.

Line 204. upon Allhallowmas last, a fortnight afore Michaelmas?] Sure, Simple's a little out in his reckoning. Allhallowmas is almost five weeks after Michaelmas. But may it not be urged, it is designed Simple should appear thus ignorant, to keep up the character? I think not. The simplest creatures (nay, even naturals) generally are very precise in the knowledge of festivals, and marking how the seasons run: and therefore I have ventured to suspect our poet wrote Martlemas, as the vulgar call it: which is near a fortnight after All-Saints day, i. e. eleven days, both inclusive. THEOBALD.

This correction, thus seriously and wisely enforced, is received by Sir Thomas Hanmer; but probably Shakspeare intended a blunder. JOHNSON.

Line 229. the lips is parcel of the mouth;] Thus the old copies. The modern editors read-" parcel of the mind.”

STEEVENS. Line 250. I hope, upon familiarity will grow more contempt: Certainly, the editors in their sagacity have murdered a jest here. It is designed, no doubt, that Slender should say decrease, instead of increase; and dissolved, dissolutely, instead of resolved and resolutely: but to make him say, on the present occasion, that upon familiarity will grow more content (the old reading) instead of contempt, is disarming the sentiment of all its salt and humour, and disappointing the audience of a reasonable cause for laughter. THEOBALD.

Line 286.


-a master of fence,- -] i. e. A master of de

Line 287. —three veneys for a dish, &c.] i. e. Three venues, French. Three different set-to's, attacks, a technical term. So in B. and Fletcher's Philaster :-" Thou would'st be loth to play half


a dozen venies at Wasters with a good fellow for a broken head." So in Chapman's comedy, The Widow's Tears, 1612: "So there's "venie for venie, I have given it him." So in our author's Love's Labour Lost: " -a quick renew of wit." STEEVENS. -Sackerson] Seckerson is the name of a STEEVENS.

Line 297.

bear in the old comedy of Sir Giles Goosecap.

Line 299.

-that it pass'd:] It pass'd, or this passes, was a way of speaking customary heretofore, to signify the excess, or extraordinary degree of any thing. The sentence completed would be, This passes all expression, or perhaps, This passes all things. We still use passing well, passing strange. WARBURTON. Line 305. By cock and pye,] An adjuration frequently to be met with in our author.

Line 330.



bully rook?] i. e. Chess-men.

-let me see thee froth, and lime:- -] The Host calls for an immediate specimen of Bardolph's abilities as a tap

ster; and frothing beer and liming sack were tricks practised in the time of Shakspeare. The first was done by putting soap into the bottom of the tankard when they drew the beer; the other, by mixing lime with the sack (i. e. sherry) to make it sparkle in the glass. Froth and live is sense, but a little forced; and to make it so we must suppose the Host could guess by his dexterity in frothing a pot to make it appear fuller than it was, how he would afterwards succeed in the world. Falstaff himself complains of limed sack. STEEVENS.

Line 347. O base Gongarian wight! &c.] This is a parody on a line taken from one of the old bombast plays, beginning, "O base Gongarian, wilt thou the distaff wield?"

I had marked the passage down, but forgot to note the play.

Line 351.


-humour of it.] This speech is partly taken

from the corrected copy, and partly from the slight sketch in 1602. I mention it, that those who do not find it in either of the common old editions may not suspect it to be spurious.

Line 355.


-at a minute's rest.] Our author probably wrote, LANGTON.

-at a minim's rest.

This conjecture seems confirmed by a passage in Romeo and Juliet,—rests his minim, &c. It may however mean, that like a skillful harquebuzier, he takes a good aim, though he has rested his piece for a minute only. STEEVENS.

Line 357. -a fico—] i. e. A fig.


363. Young ravens must have food.] An adage. See Ray's

Line 371.


—about no waste;- -] I find the same play on

words in Heywood's Epigrams, 1562:

"Where am I least, husband? quoth he, in the waist:
"Which cometh of this, thou art vengeance strait lac'd.
"Where am I biggest, wife? in the waste, quoth she,
"For all is waste in you, as far as I see."


Line 379. The anchor is deep: will that humour pass?] I see not what relation the anchor has to translation. Perhaps we may read, the author is deep; or perhaps the line is out of its place, and should be inserted lower after Falstaff has said,

« PreviousContinue »