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Faire warning did I giue, take heed,
Nym. Syr the humor of it is, he loues your wife,
Pa. The humor of it, quoth you:
Mis Pa. How now sweet hart, how dost thou ?”
We are almost induced to conjecture that this could scarcely have been written by the same hand that penned the corresponding scene in the amended play. The following extract will enable the reader to form a somewhat closer comparison :
“ Fen. Thê thus my host. Tis not vnknown to you,
Host. Now which means she to deceiue, father or mother?
Fen. Both my good Host, to go along with me.
Host. But how will you come to steale her from among thē?
Fen. That hath sweet Nan and I agreed vpon,
Host. Well, husband your deuice, Ile to the Vicar,
Fen. So shall I euer more be bound ynto thee. Besides Ile alwaies be thy faithfull friend.
Enter Sir lohn, with a Bucks head троп
Enter Mistris Page, and Mistris FORD,
Mis. For. I I sir Iohn, I see you will not faile,
Fal. This makes amends for all.
[There is a noise of hornes, the two women run away. Enter Sir Hugh like a Satyre, and boyes drest like Fayries, Mistresse Quickly, like the Queene of Fayries : they sing a song about him, and after. ward speake.
Quic. You Fayries that do haunt these shady groues,
Sir Hu. Come hither Peane, go to the countrie houses,
Fai. I warrant you I will performe your will.
Hu. Where is Pead ? go you and see where Brokers sleep,
Quic. Away begon, his mind fulfill,
Sir Hu. I smell a man of middle-earth.
Quic. Looke euery one about this round,
Sir Hu. See I haue spied one by good luck,
Fal. God send me good fortune now, and I care not.
Quic. Go strait, and do as I commaund,
About it then, and know the truth,
Sir Hu. Giue me the Tapers, I will try
[They put the Tapers to his fingers, and he starts. Sir Hu. It is right indeed, he is full of lecheries and iniquitie.
Quic. A little distant from him stand, And
euery one take hand in hand, And compasse him within a ring, First pinch him well, and after sing.”
In the Introduction, after some conjectures on the date of the comedy and the original sketch, which would only interest the antiquarian critic, Mr. Halliwell enters into the arena of criticism with Mr. Knight on the question of the connexion between“ The Merry Wives of Windsor” and the Historical Plays. This is a subject of very considerable difficulty; and though we do not agree with Mr. Halliwell in the conclusiveness which he attaches to his arguments, neither do we consider with Mr. Knight, that the Falstaff of “The Merry Wives" and the Falstaff of the Historical Plays were originally two distinct creations of character. The following remarks of Mr. Halliwell seem deserving of attention :
“First, let us consider Mistress Quickly, a character common to the two* parts of Henry IV., Henry V., and the 'Merry Wives of Windsor. In the first part of Henry IV. we find her married to the Host of the Boar’s Head; in the second part, she is a poor Widow of Eastcheap,' according to her own account, and Falstaff swore 'to me then, as I was washing thy wound, to marry me, land make me my lady thy wife ;' and in Henry V., we find her the wife of Pistol, although Nym had been “troth-plight' to her. But, in the Merry Wives, she denies being a wife, yet still she is termed Mistress Quickly, and has, apparently, had no previous knowledge of Falstaff; for, if Mrs. Quickly had been Dr. Caius's servant during her widowhood, Falstaff could not have failed to recognize instead of treating her as a stranger. In Henry V. she says to Pistol, Pr’ythee honey-sweet husband, let me bring thee to Staines,' a town certainly not far from Windsor: but this cannot be considered as involving any necessary connexion between the plays. It is quite impossible, under any supposition of date, to reconcile the Quickly of the Merry Wives with the Quickly of the Historical Plays. If we suppose, as Mr. Knight supposes, that the Merry Wives is the first of all in order, how is it possible that Mistress Quickly, who is not a wife, could meet Falstaff at Windsor, and not recognize the hero of the Boar's Head? Equal difficulties attend any other similar supposition-I mean as to whether she was introduced on the stage as Dr. Caius's nurse, or his dry nurse, or his cook, or his laundry, after the first or second parts of Henry IV., or after Henry V. The latter supposition, indeed, does not involve the difficulty of her widowhood, but it does involve others of equal weight, and so obvious that they do not require special notice.
“The character of Pistol is common to the second part of Henry IV., Henry V., and the 'Merry Wives of Windsor. There can, in this case, at
“* Mr. Knight (Library Shakespeare, vol. iii. p. 19,) says that Quickly is inva. riably called the Hostess in the first part of Henry IV., but she is addressed by her proper name by the Prince in act iii. sc. 3. He also mentions her as 'a Hostess without a name.'"
least, whatever Mr. Knight may say to the contrary, be no question of the identity of character. The Pistol, who says,
"Shall dunghill curs confront the helicons ?
Then Pistol, lay thy head in Furie's lap,' is the same classical braggadocio who exclaims, in indignation, at the insult offered to him when commanded, by his captain, to bear a letter to the merry wives,—
• Shall I sir Pandarus of Troy become,
And by my side wear steel? then, Lucifer take all !' But if similarity of language be not a sufficient proof, I have a stronger one to offer to the reader's notice. In the second part of Henry IV., act v. sc. 3, he uses the expression, ‘When Pistol lies, do this. This exact passage also occurs in the original sketch of The Merry Wives of Windsor.* Mr. Knight says that Pistol, Bardolph, and Nym, are Falstaff's servants in the Merry Wives, and his soldiers in the Historical Plays. I apprehend they were both servants and soldiers in all four plays. In the Merry Wives we find Falstaff swearing that they were good soldiers and tall fellows.' Pistol says, “ Away, Sir Corporal Nym. We have the swaggering vein of Ancient Pistol and Corporal Nym” on the title of the first edition of the original sketch; and I scarcely think, under any circumstances, these characters can even be considered in the Historical Plays as soldiers in the strict sense of the word, more than Falstaff was a captain. At the Boar's Head they were his servants; and they were, perhaps, not less so when they accompanied their master to the wars. The independence of Pistol's character is sustained in the Merry Wives, with one single exception; and his conversation, both in the sketch and the amended play, is similar to that used by him in the other plays in which he is introduced.
“But, although the character of Pistol is essentially the same in all three plays, yet the circumstances are most unaccountably altered; for, in this case, likewise, only one theory will reconcile his position in the Merry Wives with that in which he is placed in the Historical Plays. In the former, he is discharged by Falstaff: he goes forth to open his metaphorical oyster with his sword, to try his fortunes in the world: but the “swaggering 'rascal' is introduced in the second part of Henry IV. as Falstaff's ancient, and challenging him in a cup of sack. Mistress Quickly calls him 'Captain Pistol;' and, when he quarrels with Doll Tearsheet, the ‘No more, Pistol ; I would not have you go off here; discharge yourself of your company, Pistol,' is certainly characteristic of the same master who says, “No quips now, Pistol.' Falstaff makes him ' vanish like hailstones' in the Merry Wives: he thrusts him down stairs in Henry IV., saying, 'a rascal to brave me!' Falstaff also tells him that he will double-charge' him with dignities, when he brought the news of the king's death. Mrs. Quickly was not even acquainted with her future husband, in the Merry Wives. How, then, can the character of Pistol, being introduced into that play, be reconcileable on any other supposition than that the composition of the Merry Wives altogether preceded that of the Historical Plays ?–a supposition involving, as I have before said, difficulties of no ordinary kind.
“ Bardolph is mentioned by Falstaff, in the first part of Henry IV., having been in his service thirty-two years ;— I have maintained that salamander of yours with fire, any time this two and thirty years. The 'salamander of the Historical Plays is the tinder-box' of the Merry Wives. Bardolph does not converse with Falstaff, in Henry IV., in a manner that would imply it was after he had been installed as 'drawer' to the host of the
* See the present volume, p. 13.
Garter. If Falstaff had been at Windsor in the early period of his career, he would not have said, “Bardolph, follow him; a tapster is a good trade : an old cloak makes a new jerkin; a withered serving-man, a fresh tapster.' Bardolph could scarcely have been a 'withered serving-man,' if the Merry Wives had preceded the Historical Plays. In the second part of Henry IV., we find Mistress Quickly saying she had known Falstaff these twenty-nine years come peascod time: yet, if it was the same Quickly who was first introduced to Falstaff at Windsor, she must have known him at least thirtytwo years ; for Bardolph was in his service at that time. This, perhaps, can scarcely be esteemed a fair argument: but in act iii., sc. 2, we find Bardolph not knowing Justice Shallow; although, if the Merry Wives had preceded Henry IV., he must have recognized the poor esquire of this county, and one of the king's justices of the peace.' Would Robert Shallow,' esquire in the county of Gloster, justice of peace, and coram,' have said, 'Give me your hand, master Bardolph,' to a 'withered serving-man,' who had fallen to the office of tapster? It seems that the “fuel that maintained that fire,' being all the riches’ Bardolph ‘got in his service,' refer partly to Bardolph's residence at Windsor; and if so, the introduction of Bardolph in the Merry Wives affords a strong evidence that the comedy must be read after the two parts of Henry IV.
“Bardolph is introduced in all four plays, but Corporal Nym is found only in the Merry Wives and Henry V. Nym's conversation in both these plays is distinguished by the frequent repetition of the word humour. In some instances, the very same phrases occur. He says, “The king hath run bad humours on the knight;' alluding to Hal's treatment of him after his succession to the throne. The same phrase is used by him in the Merry Wives, act i. sc. 1. I think the introduction of that character in the Merry Wives and Henry V. wholly unaccountable, if we believe Mr. Knight's conjecture that the Merry Wives preceded all the Historical Plays. It is not at all likely that, if this had be the case, no allusion whatever to Bardolph's ‘sworn brother in filching' should occur in the two parts of Henry IV. I am now taking it for granted, as a conjecture wholly unsupported by the slightest direct evidence, that the opinion of the fat knight of the Merry Wives and the Historical Plays having originally been two different and distinct creations of character, is wholly untenable.
“And then, with respect to Justice Shallow, I do not see that the uncertainty of what he could be doing at Windsor involves an argument on any side of the question. In the second part of Henry IV., it was fifty-five years since he had entered at Clement’s İnn; and in the Merry Wives he says, 'I am fourscore.' Falstaff, in act iv. sc. 4, says, “I'll through Glostershire, and there will I visit master Robert Shallow, esquire; I have him already tempering between my finger and my thumb, and shortly will I seal with him. At this visit, perhaps, Falstaff' borrowed the thousand pounds; but when could he, to use Shallow's words, ‘have beaten my men, killed my deer, and broke open my lodge ?' This outrage must have been after the large loan and his hospitable reception in Gloucestershire. I do not see any thing unreasonable in the supposition that it happened after Falstaff's banishment from the person of Henry V.; and this also affords an argument in favour of the later period of the production of the Merry Wives.*
“And, 'last, not least, let us consider the fat knight himself, the only remaining “irregular humorist'introduced into the Merry Wives and the Historical Plays. Inferior he may be in the former to the wit of the Boar's Head; but is there sufficient dissimilarity of character to justify us in be
* Another difficulty may also be mentioned. The page that Prince Henry gave Falstaff is given by him to Mrs. Page, in the Merry Wives, and yet is introduced in the second part of Henry IV. and Henry V.