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reason for his precisian, he admits him not for his counsellor: You are not young, no more am I; go to then, there's Sympathy : you are merry, so am I; Ha! ha! then there's more sympathy : you love Jack, and so do I; Would you desire better sympathy ? let it suffice thee, mistress Page, (at the least, if the love of a soldier can suffice) that I love thee. I will not say, pity me, 'tis not a soldier-like phrase; but I say, love me. By me,
Thine own true knight,
as his precisian, or director in nice cases, yet when he is only eager to attain his end, he takes not reason for his counsellor,
Johnson. Dr. Johnson wishes to read płysician; and this conjecture becomes almost a certainty from a line in our author's 147th sonnet,
“ My reason the physician to my love, &c." FARMER. The character of a precisan seems to have been very generally ridiculed in the time of Shakespeare. So in the Malcontent, 1604: “ You must take her in the right vein then; as, when the sign is in pisces, a fithmonger's wife is very fociable : in cancer, a precifan's wife is very flexible.” Again, Dr. Fauftus, 1604 :
" I will set my countenance like a precisan?" Again, in Arden of Feversham, 1633 :
“ How now, Will! become a precisan?” Again, in Ben Jonson's Case is alter'd, 1609 :
“ It is precisianism to alter that,
STEEVENS. If physician be the right reading, the meaning may be this: A lover uncertain as yet of success, never takes reason for his counsellor, but when desperate, applies to him as his physician,
MUSGRAVE. : Thine own true knight, By day or night.
What a Herod of Jewry is this ?- wicked, wicked world !--one that is well nigh worn to pieces with age, to thew himself a young gallant ! What an unweigh'd behaviour * has this Fleunifh drunkard pick'd (with the devil's name) out of my conversation, that he dares in this manner assay me? Why, he hath not been thrice in my company !-What should I say to him? – I was then frugal of my mirth :heaven forgive me !-Why, I'll exhibit' + a bill in
This expression, which is ludicrously employed by Falstaff, anciently meant, at all times. So, in the third book of Gower, De Confefione Amantis:
6. The sonne cleped was Machayre,
“ By daie bothe and eke by night.”.
STEEVENS. ? What an unweigh'd behaviour &c.] Thus the folio and 4to, 1630. It has been suggested to me, that we should read, one.
STEEVENS. I was then frugal of my mirth:) By breaking this speech into exclamations, the text may stand; but I once thought it must be read, If I was not then frugal of my mirth.
JOHNSON. + a bill in the parliament for the putting down of men. — What, Mrs. Page! put down the whole species, unius ob noxam, for a single offender's trespass ? Don't be lo unreasonable in your anger. But 'tis a false charge against you. I am persuaded, a short monofyllable is dropped out, which, once restored, would qualify the matter. We must neceffarily read for the putting down of fat men. Mrs. Ford says in the very ensuing scene, Isball think the worse of fat men, as long as I have an eye, &c. And in the old quartos, Mrs. Page, so soon as the had read the letter, says, Well, I mall trust fat men the worse, while I live, for his fake: and he is called the fat knight, the grealy knight, by the women, throughout the play. THEOBALD.
-l'll exhibit'a bill in parliament for putting down of MEN.) Mr. Theobald says, we must necessarily read-—- for putting down of fat men. But how is the matter mended ? or the thought made less ridiculous ? Shakespeare wrote for the putting down of MUM, i. e, the fattening liquor so called. So Fletcher in his Wild Goose Chace: “ What a cold I have over my itomach, would I had some
the parliament for the putting down of men. How fhall I be reveng'd on him ? for reveng'd I will be, as sure as his guts are made of puddings.
Enter Mistress Ford. Mrs. Ford. Mistress Page ! trust me, I was going to your house.
Mrs. Page. And, trust me, I was coming to you. You look very ill.
Mrs. Ford. Nay, I'll ne'er believe that ; I have to Thew to the contrary.
Mrs. Page. 'Faith, but you do, in my mind.
Mrs. Ford. Well, I do then ; yet, I say, I could shew you to the contrary : 0, mistress Page, give me some counsel !
Mrs. Page. What's the matter, woman?
Mrs. Ford. O woman, if it were not for one trifling respect, I could come to such honour !
MUM.” This is truly humorous, and agrees with the character she had just before given him of Flemish drunkard. But the greatest confirmation of this conjecture is the allusion the words, in question, bear to a matter then publicly transacting. The Merry Wives of Windsor appears to have been wrote in 1601, or very shortly after. And we are informed by Sir Simon D'Ewes' Journal, that no home affair made more noise in and out of parliament at that time, than the suppression and regulation of taverns, inns, ale-houses, strong liquors, and the drinkers of them. In the parliament held 1597, a bill was brought into both houses, “ For fupprefsing the multitude of malsters," &c. Another, “To restrain the excessive making of malt, and disorderly brewing of strong beer.” Another, “ For regulating of inns, taverns," &c. In the next parliament, held 1601, was a bill, “ For the fupprefling of the multitude of ale-houses and tipling-houses." Another, " Against excessive and cominon drunkenness;” and several others of the same nature. Some of which, after much canvassing, were thrown out, and others passed into acts. WARBURTON.
I do not see that any alteration is necessary; if it were, either of the foregoing conjectures might serve the turn. But surely Mrs. Ford may naturally enough, in the first heat of her anger, rail at the sex for the fault of one. Johnsox. Vol. I.
Mis. Page. Hang the trifle, woman; take the honour : What is it?--dispense with trifles;—what is it?
Mrs. Ford. If I would but go to hell for an eternal moment, or so, I could be knighted. Mis. Page. S What?—thou lieft!-Sir Alice Ford!
5 What?-thou lieft!-Sir Alice Ford!-T besc knights will HACK, and so thou shouldst not alter the article of thy gentry.] The unintelligible nonsense of this speech is hardly to be matched. The change of a single letter has occafioned it, which is thus ealily removed. Read and point — These knights will Lack, and lo thou shouldp not alter the article of thy gentry. The other had said, I could be knighted, meaning, I could have a knight for my lover; her companion took it in the other sense, of conferring the title, and fays, What?-thou liefi !-Sir Alice Ford!--These knights cuill lack a title [i. e. risk the punishment of degradation) rather than not make a whore of thee. For we are to obierve that—and so theu Jhonldft not, is a mode of speech, amongst the writers of that time, equivalent to— rather than thou shouldst not. WAR BURTON.
Upon this paffage the learned editor has tried his strength, in my opinion, with more spirit than success.
I read thus-These knights we'll back, and so thou should not alter the article of thy gentry. The punishment of a recreant or undeserving knight, was to hack off his spurs : the meaning therefore is ; it is not worth the while of a gentlewoman to be made a knight, for we'll degrade all these knights in a little time, by the usual form of backing off their spurs, and thou, if thou art knighted, shalt be hacked with the reit. JOHNSON.
Hanmer says, to hack, means to turn hackney, or prostitute. I suppose he means - These knights quill degrade themselves, so that she will acquire no honour by being connected with them. Perhaps the pafrage has been hitherto entirely misunderstood. To back, is an expression used in the ridiculous scene between Quickly, Evans, and the Boy; and signifies, to do mischief. The sense of this passage may therefore be, these knights are a riotous, diffolute fort of people, and on that account thou should'st not wish to be of the number.
It is not, however, impofsible that Shakespeare meant by-these knights will hack-thefe knights will soon become backney'd characters. So many knights were made about the time this play was amplified (for the paslage is neither in the copy 1602, nor 1619) that such a stroke of satire might not have been unjustly thrown in. In Hans Beer Pot's Invisible Comedy, 1618, is a long piece of ridicule on the same occurrence:
“ 'Twas strange to see what knighthood once would do : " Stir great men up to lead a martial life
These knights will hack; and so thou shouldst not alter the article of thy gentry.
Mrs. Ford. We burn day-light' :-here, read, read ;-perceive how I might be knighted. I shall think the worse of fat men, as long as I have an eye to make difference of men's liking: And yet he would not swear; prais'd women's modesty; and gave such orderly and well-behaved reproof to all uncomeliness, that I would have sworn his disposition would have gone to the truth of his words : but they do no more adhere, and keep place together, than the hundredth psalm to the tune of Green Sleeves 7.
I trow, “ To gain this honour and this dignity. “ But now, alas ! 'tis grown ridiculous ; “ Since bought with money, sold for bafest prize,
66 That some refuse it who are counted wise." STEEVENS. 6 We burn day-light:--) i.e. we have more proof than we
The same proverbial phrase occurs in the Spanish Tragedy:
Pedro. “* Then we burn day-light." So in Romeo and Juliet, Mercutio uses the same expression, and then explains it : * We waste our lights in vain like lamps by day."
STEEVENS. -Green Sleeves.] This song was entered on the books of the Stationers' Company, in September 1580 : “ Licenced unto Richard Jones, a newe northern dittye of the lady Greene Sleeves.” Again, “ Licensed unto Edward White, a ballad, beinye the Lady Greene Sleeves, answered to Jenkyn hir frend.” Again, in the same month and year: " Green Sleeves moralized to the Scrip. ture, &c.” Again, to Edward White :
" Green Sleeves and countenaunce,
In countenaunce is Green Sleeves." Again, “ A New Northern Song of Green Sleeves, beginning,
56 The bonniert lass in all the land." Again, in February 1580 : “ A Reprehension against Greene Sleeves, by W. Elderton.” From a paffage in the Loyal Subject, by B. and Fletcher, it should seem that the original was a wanton ditty :
66 And set our credits to the tune of Grecne Sleeves." But whatever the ballad was, it seems to have been very popular. August 158!, was entered at Stationers' Hall, “ A new Ballad entitled :