« PreviousContinue »
question, whether those yokes are not more proper in the forest than in the town, i. e. than in their families, as a reproach to them? THEOBALD.
Line 219. how wit may be made a Jack-a-Lent,] A Jack a'Lent appears to have been some puppet which was thrown at in Lent, like Shrove-tide cocks.
So in Ben Jonson's Tale of a Tub:
-on an Ash-wednesday,
"Where thou didst stand six weeks the Jack o' Lent,
Line 256. ignorance itself is a plummet o'er me:--] Though this be perhaps not unintelligible, yet it is an odd way of confessing his dejection. I should wish to read:
-ignorance itself has a plume o' me;
That is, I am so depressed, that ignorance itself plucks me, and decks itself with the spoils of my weakness. Of the present reading, which is probably right, the meaning may be, I am so enfeebled, that ignorance itself weighs me down and oppresses me.
Line 263. Mrs. Ford. Nay, husband, -] This and the following little speech I have inserted from the old quartos. The retrenchment, I presume, was by the players. Sir John Falstaff is sufficiently punished, in being disappointed and exposed. The expectation of his being prosecuted for the twenty pounds, gives the conclusion too tragical a turn. Besides, it is poetical justice that Ford should sustain this loss, as a fine for his unreasonable jealousy. THEOBALD.
Line 269. laugh at my wife,-] The two plots are excellently connected, and the transition very artfully made in this speech. JOHNSON.
amaze -] i. e. Confuse with terror.
337. Page. Well, what remedy ?] In the first sketch of this play, which, as Mr. Pope observes, is much inferior to the latter performance, the only sentiment of which I regret the omission occurs at this critical time, when Fenton brings in his wife, there is this dialogue.
Mrs. Ford. Come, mistress Page, I must be bold with you,
'Tis pity to part love that is so true.
Mrs. Page. [Aside.] Although that I have miss'd in my intent, Yet I am glad my husband's match is cross'd.
-Here Fenton, take her.
Eva. Come, master Page, you must needs agree.
Ford. I' faith, Sir, come, you see your wife is pleas'd.
Page. I cannot tell, and yet my heart is eas'd;
END OF THE ANNOTATIONS ON THE MERRY WIVES OF
WHAT YOU WILL.
ACT I. SCENE I.
LINE 2. Give me excess of it; that, surfeiting, &c.] So in The Two Gentlemen of Verona. "And now excess of it will make me "surfeit."
Line 4. That strain again; it had a dying fall;
O! it came o'er my ear, like the sweet south,
Amongst the beauties of this charming similitude, its exact propriety is not the least. For, as a south wind, while blowing over a violet-bank, wafts away the odour of the flowers, it, at the same time, communicates its own sweetness to it; so the soft affecting music, here described, though it takes away the natural, and sweet tranquillity of the mind, yet, at the same time, it communicates a new pleasure to it. WARBURTON.
Line 7. Stealing and giving odour.-]
So Milton, P. L. B. 4.
15. That it alone is high fantastical.] High fantastical STEEVENS.
means, fantastical to the height.
Line 22. That instant I was turn'd into a hart, &c.] This image evidently alludes to the story of Acteon, by which Shakspeare seems to think men cautioned against too great familiarity with forbidden beauty. Acteon, who saw Diana naked, and was torn in pieces by his hounds, represents a man, who indulging his eyes, or his imagination, with the view of a woman that he cannot gain, has his heart torn with incessant longing. An interpretation far more elegant and natural than that of Sir Francis Bacon, who, in his Wisdom of the Antients, supposes this story to warn us against enquiring into the secrets of princes, by shewing, that those who knew that which for reasons of state is to be concealed, will be detected and destroyed by their own servants.
Line 40. THESE Sovereign thrones,] We should read, THREE sov'reign thrones. This is exactly in the manner of Shakspeare. So afterwards, in this play, Thy tongue, thy face, thy limbs, actions, and spirit, do give thee fivefold blazon.
Line 42. (HER sweet perfections,-] Liver, brain, and heart, are admitted in poetry as the residence of passions, judgment, and sentiments. These are what Shakspeare calls, her sweet perfections, though he has not very clearly expressed what he might design to have said. STEEVENS.
ACT I. SCENE II.
Line 73. A noble Duke in nature, as in his name.] I know not whether the nobility of the name is comprised in Duke, or in Orsino, which is, I think, the name of a great Italian family.
JOHNSON. Line 92. And might not be delivered to the world,] I wish I
might not be made public to the world, with regard to the state of my birth and fortune, till I have gained a ripe opportunity for my design..
Viola seems to have formed a very deep design with very little premeditation: she is thrown by shipwreck on an unknown coast, hears that the prince is a bachelor, and resolves to supplant the lady whom he courts. JOHNSON. -I'll serve this Duke;] Viola is an excellent schemer, never at a loss; if she cannot serve the lady, she will serve the Duke. JOHNSON,
ACT I. SCENE III.
-as tall a man- -] Tall means, sturdy and
viol-de-gambo,] The viol-de-gambo seems, in
our author's time, to have been a very fashionable instrument. In The Return from Parnassus, 1606, it is mentioned with its proper derivation.
"Her viol-de-gambo is her best content,
"For 'twixt her legs she holds her instrument."
In the old dramatic writers frequent mention is made of a case of viols, consisting of the viol-de-gambo, the tenor, and the treble. STEEVENS.
Line 158. like a parish-top.] This is an old proverb, arising from a custom known in country villages, of a top being kept for public use in cold weather, to promote exercise, when
some mechanics could not be employed at their trades.
Line 159. -Castiliano vulgo;] Put on your Castilian countenance; that is, your grave, solemn looks. WARBURTON. Castiliano was a common cant expression; it arose from the contempt of the Spaniards, on the defeat of the Invincible Armada.
Castiliano volgo. I meet with the word Castilian and Castilians in several of the old comedies: the Host, in The Merry Wives of Windsor, calls Caius a Castilian king Urinal; and in The Merry Devil of Edmonton, one of the characters says, Ha! my Castilian dialogues.