Page images

from the annexed passage, our poet's computation will be found very accurate." “Claret wine, red, and white, is sold for five-pence the quart, and sack for six-pence : muscadel and malmsey for eight.” Florio's First Fruites. 1578. — Twenty years afterwards, sack had probably risen to eight-pence or eight-pence half-penny a quart, at which rate two gallons would cost 5s. 8d. What Sir John says of the excellent effect of sack on the intellect, was seriously believed. “ These wines are goode for men of cold and flegmaticke complexion : for suche wines redresse and amende the coldnesse of complexion.”—Regiment of Health, 1634.

All-hallown summer."-Act I. Sc. 2. All-hallows is All-hallown-lide, or All-saints-day, which is the first of November. All-hollown summer is that short period of fine, bright weather, which frequently occurs about the commencement of Noveniber.

A pouncet box."—Act I, Sc. 3. A small box for musk or other perfumes then in fashion ; the lid of which, being cut with open work, gave it its name, from poinsoner, to prick, pierce, or engrave.- WARBURTON.

Heir lo the crown."-Act I. Sc. 3. Roger Mortimer, earl of March, who was born in 1371, was declared heir-apparent to the crown in the ninth year of King Richard II. He was killed in Ireland, 1398. The person who was proclaimed by Richard heir-apparent, previous to his last voyage to Ireland, was Edmund Mortimer (the son of Roger), who was then but seven years old; but he was not Percy's wife's brother, but her nephew.-MALONE.

Sword-and-buckler.”—Act I. Sc. 3. The following extract from Stowe is worth notice: “This field, commonly called West Smithfield, was for many years called Ruffian’s-hall, by reason it was the usual place of frayes and common fighting, during the time that swords and bucklers were in use. When every servingman, from the base to the best, carried a buckler at his back, which hung by the hilt or pomel of his sword.”—Henly. “ We have the receipt of fern seed, we walk invisible.”—Act II. Sc. 1.

Fern is one of those plants which have their seed on the back of the leaf, so small as to escape the sight. Those who perceived that fern was propagated by semination, and yet could never see the seed, were much at a loss for a solution of the difficulty; and as wonder always endeavours to augment itself, they ascribed to fern seed many strange properties, some of which the rustic virgins have not yet forgotten or exploded.

JOHNSON. Out of all cess.”—Act II. Sc. 1. That is, out of all measure; the phrase being taken from a cess or tax; which being by regular and moderate rates, when any thing was exorbi. tant it was said to be out of all cess.—WARBURTON.

" Gadshill."-Act II. Sc. 2. Gadshill, the scene of the robbery in this play, is on the Kentish road. Steevens informs us, that as early as 1558, a ballad, entitled, The Robbery at Gadshill, was entered on the books of the stationers' company


The poet, however, on whom the more noted facts of his time were never lost, probably alluded to the conduct of a particular gang, who appear, in 1590, to have intested Gadshill and its neighbourhood with more than common boldness, and who, like our author's robbers, were ounted and wore vizors.- Bos WELL.

Look down into the Pomegranate.”—Act II. Sc. 4. To have windows or loop-holes looking into the rooms beneath them was, anciently, a general custom.--STEEVENS.

Crystal-button." — Act II. Sc. 4. Pawnbrokers formerly wore a peculiar dress, the buttons of which were of crystal. “A black taffata doublet, and a spruce leather jerkin, with crystal buttons. I inquired of what occupation : marry, sir, quoth he, a broker."--GREENE'S QUIP FOR AN UPSTART COURTIER.

Caddis garler."—Act II. Sc. 4. Caddis was a kind of coarse ferrelt. In Shakspeare's time, the garters were worn in sight, and were often very costly. He who wore a plainer sort was probably called “caddis garter" in contempt. " At this day (about 1625), says the continuator of Stow's Chronicle, men of meune runke weare garters and shoe roses of more than five pound price.” In a memorandum book kept by Henslowe, step-father to the wife of Alleyn the player, is the following item: "Lent unto Thomas Hewode (the dramatic writer), the 1 of September, 1602, to bye him a payre of silver garters, ij s. vi d.”—Malone and STEEVENS.

The strappado."- Act II. Sc. 4. “The strappado is when the person is drawn up to his height, and then suddenly to let him fall half way with a jerk, which not only breaketh his arms to pieces, but also shaketh all his joints out of joint, which punishment is better for a man to be hanged" than to undergo.”—RANDLE HOLME's ACADEMY OF ARMES AND BLAZON. I could have crept into any alderman's thumb ring.”—Act II. Sc. 4.

An alderman's thumb ring is mentioned by Brome, in The Antipodes, 1641. "Item, a distich graven in his thumb ring.” Again in The Northern Lass, 1632: “A good man in the city, &c., wears nothing rich about him, but the gout or a thumb ring;” and in The Wit's Constable, 1640, " Nr more wit than the rest of the bench; what lies in his thumb ring.”—STEEVENS.

“A Welsh hook."-Act II, Sc. 4. Ine Welsh hook was pointed like a spear, to push or thrust with; and, below, had a hook to seize the enemy, if he should attempt to escape by flight.—WHALLEY.

Manningtree ox."-Act II, Sc. 4. Manningtree, in Essex, and its neighbourhood, are famous for rich pastures. The farms are chiefly tenanted by graziers. Some ox of an unusual size was probably roasted there on some occasion of public festivity, or exposed for money to public show.–STEEVENS.

Hide thee behind the arras."-Act II. Sc. 4. When arras was first used in England, it was suspended on hooks driven into the bare walls; this practice was soon changed; for after the



[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

damp of the wall had been found to rot the tapestry, it was fixed on
wooden frames, at such a distance from the wall, as to prevent its being
injured. In old mansions, therefore, sufficient space could have been
easily found, to conceal even one of Falstaff''s bulk.—MALONE.
As if thou never walkeďst further than Finsbury.—Act III. Sc. 1.

Open walks and fields near Chiswell-street, London-wall, by Moorgate, the common resort of the citizens, as appears from many of our ancient comedies.-STEEVENS.

Holland of eight shillings an ell."-Act III. Sc. 3. Falstaff's shirls, according to this calculation, would conie to about 22s. each, and we learn from Stubbe's Anatomie of Abuses, that the shirt of the meanest man cost at least 5s. He thus concludes his invective on this subject : "Insomuch as I have heard of shirts that have cost some ten shillings, some twentie, some fortie, some five pound, some twentie nobles, and (whiche is horrible to heare) some ten pound a piece, yea, the meanest shirt that commonly is worn of any doest cost a crowne, or a noble at the least; and yet this is scarely thought fine enough for the simplest person that is.”—Malone.

" Maid Marian.— Act III. Sc. 3. It

appears from the old play of Robert, earl of Huntingdon, 1601, that Maid Marian was originally a name assumed by Matilda, the daughter of Robert, Lord Fitzwater, while Robin Hood remained in a state of outlawry:

“ Next 'tis agreed (if therto shee agree)

That faire Matilda henceforth change her name;
And while it is the chance of Robin Hoode
To live in Sherewodde a poore outlawes life,

She by maide Marian's name he only call'a.
Mat. I am contented; reade on, little John:

Henceforth let me be nam'd Maide Marian."
This lady was poisoned by King John, at Dunmow priory, after he had
made several fruitless attempts on her chastity.-STEEVENS.

I saw young Harry with his beaves on."—Act IV. Sc. 1. The beaver of a helmet is the lower part of it, adapted to the purpose of giving the wearer an opportunity of taking breath when oppressed with heat; or, without putting off the helmet, of taking his repast.-Douce.

They'll find linen enough on every hedge.. - Act IV. Sc. 2. This propensity of soldiers on a march to purloin is noticed by a writer contemporary with Shakspeare. Barnaby Riche says: "Fyrste by the way as they travayle through the countrey where they chance to lye all night, the good wyfe hath spedde well if she fynde hyr sheets in the morning, or if this happe to fayle, yet a coverlet or curtens from the bed, or a carpet from the table, some bed clothes, or table napkins, or some other thing, must needs packe away with them; there comes nothing amisse if it will serve to by drinke."-REED.

Turk Gregory never did such deeds in arms."—Act V. Sc. 3. Meaning Gregory VII., called Hildebrand. This furious friar surmounted almost invincible obstacles to deprive the emperor of his right

of investiture of bishops, which his predecessors had long attempted in vain.—WARBURTON.

If Percy be alive, I'll pierce him."-Act V. Sc. 3. The name of Percy, according to Boetius, was derived from piercing the king's eye: a most extraordinary etymology.-SKINNER.


(Part II.)

Yea, this man's brow, like to a tille-leaf,

Foretells the nature of a tragic volume."— Act I. Sc. l. It may not be amiss to observe, that in the time of our poet, the titlepage to an elegy, as well as every intermediate leaf, was totally black. I have several in my possession, written by Chapman, the translator of Homer, which are ornamented in this manner.-STEEVENS.

Fillip me with a three-man beelle."-Act I. Sc. 2. A diversion is common with boys in Warwickshire, on finding a toad, to lay a board, about two feet long, over a stick about three inches in diameter, at right angles; then placing the toad on the lower end of the board, the upper end is struck by a bat or large stick, which throws the reptile forty or fitty feet perpendicular from the earth, and the violence of the fall usually kills it: this is called filliping the road. A three-man beetle was an implement used for driving piles; it was made of a log of wood about twenty inches in diameter, and fifteen in thickness, with one short and two long handles. A man at each of the long handles manages the fall of the beetle, and a third man at the short handle assists in raising it to strike the blow. Such an implement was very suitable for fillip ing so corpulent a subject as Falstaff.STEEVENS.

"A parcel gilt goblet." -Act II. Sc. 1. A " parcel gilt gobletis a goblet, gilt only on such parts of it as are embossed. On the books of the Stationers' Company, among their plate, 1560, is the following entry: Item, nine spoynes of silver, whereof vii gylte and ii parcel-gylte."-STEEVENS.

1 must be fain to pawn my plate.":

Glasses, glasses, is the only drinking."-Act II. Sc. 2. Mrs. Quickly is here in the same state as the earl of Shrewsbury, who, not having been paid for the diet of Mary, queen of Scots, while she was in his custody in 1580, writes as follows to Thomas Bawdewyn: “I wold have you bye me glasses to drink in. Send me word what old plat yelds the ounce, for I will not leve me a cuppe of sylvare to drink in, but I wyll see the next terme my creditors payde."-STEEVENS.

Boar's Head tavern in Eastcheap.Act II. Sc. 4. The historical Sir John Fastolf was a considerable benefactor to Magdalen Collage, Oxford, for which he is celebrated in an annual speech; and though we cannot obtain the particulars at large, the Boar’s Head, in Southwark, which still retains that name, though divided into teneInents, yielding £150 per annum, and Culdecot Manor, in Suffolk, were


part of the lands he bestowed. The Boar's Head was very properly selected as the scene of Prince Henry's revellings, as it was close to his residence. Ryter says: “A mansion called Cold Harbour (near Allhallows Church, Upper Thames-street), was granted to the Prince of Wales, Ilth Henry IV. 1410." Shak-peare must have passed this tavern daily, in his way to the Globe Theatre.

Thou whorson little tidy Bartholomew boar pig.”—Act II. Sc. 4.

From Ben Jonson's play of Bartholomew Fair, we learn that it was the custom formerly to have booths in Bartholomew-tair, in which pigs were roasted, and to these, it is probable, an allusion is here made.-STEEVENS.

Do not speak like a death's head.—Act II. Sc. 4. It appears from a passage in Marston's Dutch Courtezan, 1605, that it was the custom for the ba wds of that age to wear a death's head in a ring, very probably with the common motto, Memento Mori. Cocledemoy, speaking of some of these, says :—"As for their death, how can it be bad, since their wickedness is always before their eyes, and a death's head most commonly on their middle finger?"-STEEVENS.


Skogan's head.”—Act III. Sc. 2. There has been much dispute about a John Scogan, who lived in the reign of Edward IV., and a Henry Scogan, who wrote some poetical trifles during the time of Henry IV. In a masque by Ben Jonson, 1626, we find the following :

methinks you should enquire now after Skelton,
And master Scogan.

Scogan? what was he?
Oh, a fine gentleman, and a master of arts
Of Henry the Fourth's times, that made disguises
For the king's sons, and writ in ballad royal

Daintily well." Scogan's Jests were published by Andrew Borde, a physician in the reign of Henry VIII. Shakspeare had probably met with this book; and as he was careless about anachronisms, this person might have been in his thoughts. Certainty, however, cannot be arrived at on such a subject.

Harry ten shillings.”—Act III. Sc. 2. This is an anachronism; there were no coins of ten shillings value in the reign of Henry IV. Shakspeare's Harry len shillings were those of Henry VII. or VIII.; but he thought those might do for any other Henry.


I was then Sir Dagonet in Arthur's show."-Act III. Sc. 2. The story of Sir Dagonet is to be found in La Morte d'Arthure, an old romance, much read in our author's time, or a little before it. “ When papistry (sa ys Ascham), as a standing pool, overflowed all England, few books were read in our tongue, saving certain books of chivalry, as they said, for pastime and pleasure; which books, as some say, were made in monasteries by idle nionks. As one for example, La Morte d'Arthure." In this romance Sir Dagonet is King Arthur's fool. Shakspeare would not have shown his Justice capable of taking any higher character.


« PreviousContinue »