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THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR.
LITERARY AND HISTORICAL NOTICE.
THIS play was produced under two disadvantages: first, it was not the suggestion of Shakspeare's own genius, he having exhibited the character of Falstaff in three inimitable plays, and finished the portrait to his own taste; and secondly, it was written with unusual expedition, in the short period of fourteen days. Queen Elizabet b is said to have been so delighted with the Knight, that she commanded our poet to show him in love; and, upon this regal signification, Dr. Johnson remarks, that "no task is harder than that of writing to the ideas of another. Shakspeare knew what the Queen, if the story be true, seems not to have known---that by any real passion of tenderness, the selfish craft, the careless jollity, and the lazy luxury of Falstaff must have suffered so much abatement, that little of his former craft would have remained. Falstaff could not love, but by ceasing to be Falstaff." The most noted propensities of "the fat old man," are however, skilfully engrafted on the design of the piece; so that wit, covetousness, mendacity, and concupiscence, are as much as possible combined and developed in his conduct. The other characters, also, are well contrasted; and many of the scenes are pregnant with amusing incident. The circumstances of the plot are variously derived: some of them, probably, from an old translation of Il Pecorone by Giovanni Fiorentino; and the particular adventures of Falstaff, from The Lovers of Pisa, a story in an ancient piece called Tarleton's News out of Purgatorie. Malene supposes that Shakspeare chose Windsor for the scene of Falstaff a love-frolics, upon reading the subjoined passage in "Westward for Smelts:" "In Windsor not long agoe, dwelt a sumpterman, who had to wife a very faire but wanton creature, over whom, not without cause, he was something jealous; yet had he never any proof of her inconstancy."
SCENE I.-Windsor. Before PAGE's House.
Shal. Sir Hugh, persuade me not: I will make a star chamber matter of it: if he were twenty Sir John Falstaffs, he shall not abuse Robert Shallow, esquire.
Slen. In the county of Gloster, justice of peace, and coram.
Shal. Ay, cousin Slender, and Cust-alorum. † Sien. Ay, and ratolorum too; and a gentle man born, master parson; who writes himself armigero; in any bill, warrant, quittance, or obligation, armigero.
Shal. Ay, that we do; and have done any time these three hundred years.
Sten. All his successors, gone before him have done't; and all his ancestors, that come after him, may; they may give the dozen white lucest in their coat.
Shal. It is an old coat. Eva. The dozen white louses do become an A title formerly appropriated to chaplains as well as + Custos rotulorum. The luce is a pike: Shakspeare has here a throw at Sir Thomas Lucy, who compelled him to leave Stratferd.
old coat well; it agrees well, passant: it is a familiar beast to man, and signifies-love.
Shal. The luce is the fresh fish; the salt fish is an old coat.
Slen. I may quarter, coz?
Shal. You may, by marrying.
Eva. It is marring indeed, if he quarter it.
Eva. Yes, py'r lady if he has a quarter of your coat, there is but three skirts for yourself, in my simple conjectures: but that is all one: If Sir John Falstaff have committed disparagements unto you, I am of the church, and will be glad to do any benevolence, to make atonements and compromises between you.
Shal. The council shall hear it; it is a riot.
Eva. It is not meet the council bear a riot; there is no fear of Got in a riot: the council look you, shall desire to hear the fear of Got, and not to hear a riot; take your vizaments į in that.
Shal. Ha! o' my life, if I were young again, the sword should end it.
Eva. It is petter that friends is the sword, and end it: and there is also another device in my prain, which, peradventure, prings goot discretions with it: There is Anne Page
which is daughter to master George Page, which is pretty virginity.
Slen. Mistress Anne Page? She has brown hair, and speaks small like a woman.
Eva. It is that fery verson for all the 'orld, as just as you will desire; and seven hundred pounds of monies, and gold, and silver, is her grandsire, upon his death's-bed, (Got deliver to a joyful resurrections :) give, when she is able to overtake seventeen years old: it were a goot motion, if we leave our pribbles and prabbles, and desire a marriage between master Abraham, and mistress Anne Page.
Shal. Did her grandsire leave her seven hundred pound?
Eva. Ay, and her father is make her a petter penny :
Shal. I know the young gentlewoman; she has good gifts.
Eva. Seven hundred pounds, and possibilities, is good gifts.
Shal. Well, let us see honest master Page: Is Falstaff there?
Eva. Shall I tell you a lie? I do despise a liar, as I do despise one that is false; or, as despise one that is not true. The knight, Sir John, is there; and, I beseech you, be ruled by your well-willers. I will peat the door [knocks] for master Page. What, hoa! Got pless your house here!
Page. Who's there?
Eva. Here is Got's plessing, and your friend, and justice Shallow : and here young master Slender; that peradventures shall tell you another tale, if matters grow to your likings.
Page. I am glad to see your worship's well: I thank you for my venison, master Shallow.
Shal. Master Page, I am glad to see you: Much good do it your good heart! I wished your venison better: it was ill kill'd :-How doth good mistress Page?-and I love you always with my heart, la; with my heart.
Page. Sir, I thank you.
Shal. Sir, I thank you; by yea and no, I do. Page. I am glad to see you, good master Slender.
Shal. Sir, he's a good dog, and a fair dog; Can there be more said? he is good and fair.Is Sir John Falstaff here ?
Page. Sir, he is within; and I would I could do a good office between you.
Eva. It is spoke as a Christians ought to speak.
Shal. He bath wrong'd me, master Page. Page. Sir, he doth in some sort confess it. Shal. If it be confess'd, it is not redress'd; is not that so, master Page? He hath wrong'd me; indeed, he hath ;-at a word, he hath ;believe me ;-Robert Shallow, esquire, saith he is wrong'd.
Page. Here comes Sir John. Enter Sir JOHN FALSTAFF, BARDOLPH, NYM, and PISTOL.
Fal. Now, master Shallow; you'll complain
Fal. But not kiss'd your keeper's daughter?
Shal. The council shall know this.
+ Cotswold in Gloucestershire
Fal. 'Twore better for you, if it were known in counsel you'll be laugh'd at.
Eva. Pauca verba, Sir John, good worts. Fal. Good worts! good cabbage.-Slender, I broke your head; What matter have you against me?
Slen. Marry, Sir, I have matter in my head against you; and against your coney-catching ✦ rascals, Bardolph, Nym, and Pistol. They carried me to the tavern, and made me drunk, and afterwards picked my pocket.
Burd. You Banbury cheese! ‡
Pist. How now, Mephostophilus ?$
Nym. Slice, I say! pauca, pauca; ¦ slice ! that's my humour.
Slen. Where's Simple, my man ?-can you tell, cousin?
Eva. Peace: I pray you! Now let us understand: There is three umpires in this matter as I understand that is-master Page, fidelicet, master Page; and there is myself, fidelicet, myself; and the three party is, lastly and finally, Imine host of the Garter.
Page. We three, to hear it, and end it between them."
Eva. Fery goot: I will make a prief of it in my note-book; and we will afterwards 'ork upon the cause, with as great discreetly as we
Pist. He hears with ears.
Eva. The tevil and his tam! what phrase is this, He hears with ears? Why, it is affectations.
Fal. Pistol, did you pick master Slender's purse?
Slen. Ay, by these gloves, did he, (or I would I might never come in mine own great chamber again else,) of seven groats in mill-sixpences, and two Edward shovel-boards, ¶ that cost me two shillings and twopence a-piece of Yead Miller, by these gloves.
Fal. Is this true, Pistol?
Eva. No; it is false, if it is a pick-purse.
I combat challenge of this latten bilbo : **
Nym. Be advised, Sir, and pass good hu mours I will say, marry trap, with you, if you run the nuthook's ‡‡ humours on me; that is the very note of it.
Slen. By this hat, then he in the red face had it for though I cannot remember what I did when you made me drunk, yet I am not aitogeher an ass.
Fal. What say you, Scarlet and John ?
Bard. Why, Sir, for my part, I say, the gentleman had drunk himself out of his five sentences.
Eva. It is his five senses: fie, what the ignorance is !
Bard. And being fap, Sir, was, as they say, cashier'd; and so conclusions pass'd the careires.
Slen. Ay, you spake in Latin then too; but 'tis no matter: I'll ne'er be drunk whilst I live again, but in honest, civil, godly company, for this trick if I be drunk, I'll be drunk with those that have the fear of God, and not with drunken knaves.
Eva. So Got 'udge me, that is a virtuous mind.
Worts was the ancient name of all the cabbage kind + Sharpers were called coney-catchers.
1 Nothing but paring.
The name of a familiar spirit in the old story of
King Edward's shillings, used in the game of shuffle-board. Blade as thin as a lath ++ Lips. it If you say I am a thief $ Drunk. The bounds of good bebaviour
Fal. You hear all these matters denied, gentlemen; you hear it.
Enter Mistress ANNE PAGE with wine; Mis-
Slen. Ay, or else I would I might be hanged, la,
Shal. Here comes fair mistress Anne:
Shal. I will wait on hini, fair mistress Anne. Eva. Od's plessed will; I will not be absence at the grace.
[Exeunt SHALLOW and Sir H. EVANS. Anne. Will't please your worship to come
[Kissing her. Page. Wife, bid these gentlemen welcome :-in, Sir. Come we have a hot venison pasty to dinner; come, gentlemen, I hope we shall drink down all unkindness.
[Exeunt all but SHALLOW, SLENDER, and EVANS.
Slen. I had rather than forty shillings, I had my book of Songs and Sonnets here :
How now, Simple! where have you been? I
Sten. No, I thank you, forsooth, heartily; I am very well.
Anne. The dinner attends you, Sir,
Slen. I am not a-hungry, I thank you, for sooth: Go, sirrah, for all you are my man, go, wait upon my cousin Shallow: [Erit SIMPLE. A justice of peace sometime may be beholden to his friend for a man:-1 keep but three men and a boy yet, till my mother be dead: But what though; yet I live like a poor gentleman born.
Anne. I may not go in without your worship: they will not sit till you come.
Šlen. 'faith, I'll eat nothing; I thank you as much as though I did.
Shal. Come, coz; come, coz; we stay for you. A word with you, coz: marry, this, coz ; There is, as 'twere, a tender, a kind of tender, made afar off by Sir Hugh here ;-Do you un-at derstand me?
Slen. Ay, Sir, you shall find me reasonable;
Eva. Give ear to his motions, master Slender : I will description the matter to you, if you be capacity of it.
Sten. Nay, I will do as my cousin Shallow says I pray you, pardon me; he's a justice of peace in his country, simple though I stand here. Eva. But that is not the question; the question is concerning your marriage.
Shal. Ay, there's the point, Sir.
Eva. Marry, is it; the very point of it; mistress Anne Page.
Slen. Why, if it be so, I will marry her, upon any reasonable demands.
Eva. But can you affection the 'oman? Let us command to know that of your mouth, or of your lips; for divers philosophers hold, that the lips is parcel of the mouth;-Therefore, precisely, can you carry your good will to the maid ?
Shal. Cousin Abraham Slender, can you love her ?
Slen. I hope, Sir,-I will do as it shall become one that would do reason.
Eva. Nay, Got's lords and his ladies, you must speak possitable, if you can carry her your desires towards ber.
Shal. That you must: Will you, upon good dowry, marry her?
Sten. I will do a greater thing than that, upon your request, cousin, in any reason.
Shal. Nay, conceive me, conceive me, sweet coz; what I do, is to pleasure you, coz: Can you love the maid?
Slen. I will marry her, Sir, at your request; but if there be no great love in the beginning,
Anne. I pray you, Sir, walk in.
Slen. I had rather walk here, I thank you ; bruised my shin the other day with playing sword and dagger with a master of fence, three veneys for a dish of stewed prunes; and by my troth, I cannot abide the smell of hot meat since. Why do your dogs bark so I be there bears i' the town?
Anne. I think there are, Sir; I heard them talked of.
Slen. I love the sport well; but I shall as soon quarrel at it, as any man in England.You are afraid, if you see the bear loose, are you not?
Anne, Aye indeed, Sir.
Slen. That's meat and drink to me now: I have seen Sackerson loose twenty times; and have taken him by the chain: but, I warrant you, the women have so cried and shriek'd at it, that it pass'd: -but women, indeed, cannot abide 'em; they are very ill favoured rough things.
Enter Sir HUGH EVANS and SIMPLE. Eva. Go your ways, and ask of Doctor Caius's yet heaven may decrease it upon better ac-house, which is the way: and there dwells one quaintance, when we are married, and have more occasion to know one another: I hope, upon familiarity will grow more contempt: but if you say, marry her, I will marry her, that I am freely dissolv'd, and dissolutely."
mistress Quickly, which is in the manner of his
Eva. Nay, it is petter yet:-give her this Eva. It is a ferry discretion answer; save, letter; for it is a 'oman that altogether's acthe faul' is in the 'ort dissolutely: the 'ort is,quaintance with mistress Anne Page; and the according to our meaning, resolutely;-his
meaning is good.
Shal. Ay, I think my cousin meant well.
• An intended blunder.
Three set-to's, bouts, or hits.
The name of a bear exhibited at Paris-Garden in Southwark. 1 Surpassed all expression. A common adjuration; and a corruption of the se cred Name in the old Moralities.