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Page. Let's obey his humour a little further: Come, gentlemen.

Mrs. Page. Trust me, he beat him most pitifully.

Mrs. Ford. Nay, by the mass, that he did not; he beat him most unpitisully, methought.

Mrs. Page. I'll have the cudgel hallow'd, and hung o'er the altar; it hath done meritorious service.

Mrs. Ford. What think you may we, with the warrant of woman-hood, and the witness of a good conscience, pursue him with any further revenge?

Mrs. Page. The spirit of wantonness is, sure, scar'd out of him; if the devil have him not in fee-simple, with fine and recovery, he will never, I think, in the way of waste, attempt us again.

Mrs. Ford. Shall we tell our husbands how we have served him?

Mrs. Page. Yea, by all means; if it be but to scrape the figures out of your husband's brains. If they can find in their hearts, the poor unvirtuous fat knight shall be any further afflicted, we two will be still the ministers.

Mrs. Ford. I'll warrant, they'll have him publickly sham’d: and, methinks, there would be no period' to the jest, should he not be publickly shan’d.

Mrs. Page. Come, to the forge with it then, shape it: I would not have things cool.


9 in the way of waste, attempt us again.] i. e. he will not make further attempts to ruin us, by corrupting our virtue, and destroying our reputation STEEVENS.

- no period ] Shakespeare seems, by no period, to mean, no proper catastrophe. Of this Hanmer was so well persuaded, that he thinks it necessary to read - no right period. STEEVENS.

Vol. I.

Vol. I.



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Enter Hoft and Bardolph. Bard. Sir, the Germans desire to have three of your horses: the duke himself will be to-morrow at court, and they are going to meet him.

Hoft. What duke Thould that be, comes so secretly? I hear not of him in the court : let me speak with the gentlemen; they speak English ?

Bard. Sir, I'll call them to you.

Hoft. They shall have my horses; but I'll make them pay, I'll sauce them : they have had my houses a week at command; I have turn'd away my other guests: 'they must come off; I'll sauce them; come.

Exeunt. SCENE

2 - they must come off;-] This never can be our poet's or his host's meaning. To come off being, in other terms, to go fcotfree. We must read, compt of, i.e. clear their reckoning.

WARBURTON. To come off, fignifies, in our author, sometimes, to be uttered with Spirit and volubility. In this place it seems to mean what is in our time expressed by to come do uż, to pay liberally and readily. There accidental and colloquial senses are the disgrace of language, and the plague of commentators. JOHNSON.

To come off, is, to pay. In this sense it is used by Maffinger, in The Unnatural Combat, act IV. sc. ii. where a wench, demanding money of the father to keep his bastard, says: “Will you come of, fir ?" Again, in Decker's If this be not a good Play the Devil is in it, 1612:

6. Do not your gallants come off roundly then?” Again, in Heywood's If you know not me you know Nobody, 1633, p. 2 : “ -----and then if he will not come off, carry him to the compter.” Again, in A Trick to catch the Old One, 1616:

" Hark in thine ear :-will he come off think’ít chou, and

pay my debts?" Again, in the Return from Parnassus, 1606: "" It is his meaning I should come off.".



Ford's house. Enter Page, Ford, Mrs. Page, Mrs. Ford, and Sir

Hugh Evans. Eva. 'Tis one of the best discretions of a 'omans as ever I did look upon.

Page. And did he send you both these letters at an instant ?

Mrs. Page. Within a quarter of an hour.
Ford. Pardon me, wife : Henceforth do what thou

3 I rather will suspect the sun with cold,

. Than Again, in The Widow, by B. Jónson, Fletcher, and Middleton, 1652 : “ I am forty dollars better for that: an 'twould come off quicker 'twere nere a whit the worse for me.” Again, in A merye Jest of a Man called Howleglas, bl. 1. no date : “ Therefore come off lightly, and geve me my mony." STEEVENS.

" They must come off, says mine hoft; I'll sauce them.” This passage has exercised the critics. It is altered by Dr. Warburton; but there is no corruption, and Mr. Steevens has rightly interpreted it. The quotation however from Massinger, which is referred to likewife by Mr. Edwards in his Canons of Criticism, scarcely satisfied Mr. Heath, and still less the last editor, who gives us, “ They must not come off.” It is strange that any one conversant in old language, should hesitate at this phrase. 'Take another quotation or two, that the difficulty may be effectually removed for the future. In John Heywood's play of the Four P's, the pedlar says:

- If you be willing to buy, 6. Lay down money, come of quickly." In The Widow, by Jonion, Fletcher, and Middleton, "if he will come off roundly, he'll set him free too.” And, again, in Fennor's Comptor's Commonīvealth: - "except I would come of roundly, I should be bar'd of that priviledge," &c. FARMER, The phrase is used by Chaucer, Fijar's Tale, 338. edit. Urry:

6c Come off, and let me riden hastily,
" Give me twelve pence; I may no longer tarie.”

TYRWHITT. 3 I rather will suspect the fun cvith cold,] Thus the modern edicions. The old ones read — with gold, which may mean, I ra

2 2


Than thee with wantonness : now doth thy honour

stand, In him that was of late an heretick, As firm is faith.

Page. 'Tis well, 'tis well; no more.
Be not as extreme in submission,
As in offence;
But let our plot go forward : let our wives
Yet once again, to make us publick sport,
Appoint a meeting with this old fat fellow,
Where we may take him, and disgrace him for it.

Ford. There is no better way than that they spoke of.
Page. How ! to send him word they'll meet him in

the park
At midnight! fie, fie; he will never come.

Eva. You say, he hath been thrown into the rivers ; and hath been grievously peaten, as an old’oman:methinks, there should be terrors in him, that he should not come; methinks, his fleíh is punish'd, he shall have no desires.

Page. So think I too.
Mrs. Ford. Devise but how you'll use him when

he comes, And let us two devise to bring him hither. Mrs. Page. There is an old tale goes, that Herne

the hunter, Sometimne a keeper here in Windsor forest, Doth all the winter time, at still midnight, Walk round about an oak, with great ragg'd horns ;

ther will suspect the sun can be a thief, or be corrupted by a bribe, than thy honour can be betrayed to wantonness. Mr. Rowe filentiy made the change, which succeeding editors have as filently adopted. A thought of a funilar kind occurs in Hen. IV. Part I:

" Shall the blessed fun of heaven prove a micher ?I have not, however, displaced Mr. Rowe's emendation; as a zeal 10 preferre old readings without distinction, may sometimes prove as injurious to the author's reputation, as a desire to introduce new ones, without attention to the quaintness of phraseology then in l.se, SILEVENS.


And there he blasts the tree, 4 and takes the cattle ;
And makes milch-kine yield blood, and shakes a chain
In a most hideous and dreadful manner :
You have heard of such a spirit; and well you know,
The superstitious idle-headed elds
Receiv’d, and did deliver to our age,
This tale of Herne the hunter for a truth.

Page. Why, yet there want not many, that do fear
In deep of night to walk by this Herne's oak :'
But what of this?

Mrs. Ford. Marry, this is our device; That Falstaff at that oak shall meet with us. We'll send him word to meet us in the field, Disguis'd like Herne, with huge horns on his head.

Page. Well, let it not be doubted but he'll come, And in this shape; When you have brought him thither,


4 and takes the catile;] To take, in Shakespeare, signifies to seize or strike with a disease, to blast. So, in Lear:

" -- Strike her young bones,

- Ye taking airs, with lameness.” JOHNSON. So, in Markham's Treatife of Horfes, 1595, chap. 7. “ Of a horse that is taken. A horse that is bereft of his feeling, nicoving, or ftyrring, is said to be taken, and in footh so hee is, in that he is arrested by fo villanous a disease ; yet some farriors, not well under. standing the ground of the disease, conster the word taken, to be striken by some planet or evil-Spirit, which is false, &c.” Thus our poet:

"No planets frike, no fairy takes.” Tollet. S i dle-headed eld] Eld seems to be used here, for what our poet calls in Macbeth the olden time. It is employed in Measure for Measure, to express age and decrepitude :

os - doth beg the alms

“ Of palsied eld." STEEVENS. 6 Mrs. Ford. Marry, this is our device;

That Falstaff at that oak fall meet with us. Page. Well, let it not be doubted, but he'll come,

And in this mape; when you have broug!: b'm ibibe:,] Thus this passage has been transmitted down to us, fior the time of the first edition by the players : but what was this ..sp:e, in which Falstaff was to be appointed to meet? F): the worden bare not

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