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FEW of the incidents in this comedy might have been taken
tino. I have lately met with the same story in a very contemptible performance, intitled, The feríunate, the deceived, and the unfertunate Lover. Of this book, as I am told, there are several impresions; but that in which I read it, was published in 1632, quarto. A somewhat fimilar story occurs in Piacevoli Notti di Straparola, Nott. 42. Fav. 4*.
This comedy was first entered at Stationers' Hall, Jan. 18, 1601, by John Busby. STEEVENS.
A passage in the first sketch of The Merry Wives of Windsor shews, I think, that it ought to be read between the Firsi and the Second Part of King Henry IV. in the latter of which young Henry becomes king. In the last act, Falstaff says:
" Herne the hunter, quoth you? am I a ghost ?
« Is stealing his father's deare.” And in this play, as it now appears, Mr. Page discountenances the addresses of Fenton to his daughter, because she keeps company with the wild prince, and with Poins
The Fifhwife's Tale of Brainford in WESTWARD FOR SMELTS, a book which Shakspeare appears to have read, (having borrowed from it part of the fable of Cymbeline,) probably led him to lay the scene of Falstaff's love-adventures at Windjur. It begins thus: “ In Windjor not long agoe dwelt a sumpterman, who had to wife a very faire but wanton creature, over wbom, not without cause, he was something jealous; yet had he never any proof of her inconstancy.” MALONE,
The adventures of Falstaff in this play seem to have been taken from the story of The Lovers of Pisa, in an old piece called “ Tarleton's Newes cut of Purgatorie.”
Mr. Warian observes, in a note to the last Oxford edition, that the play was probably not written, as we now have it, be ore 1607, at the earliest. agree with my very ingenious friend in this Tupposition, but yet the argument here produced for it may not be conclusive. Slender observes to master Page, that his greyhound was cut-run on Cot sale; (Coffrvold-Hills in Gloucefierfrire;) and Mr. Warton thinks, that the games established there by Captain Dover, in the beginning of K. James's reign, are alluded to. -But
perhaps, though the Captain be celebraced in the Annalia Dubrenfia as the founder of them, he might be the reviver only, or some way contribute to make them more famous; for in The Second Part of Henry IV. 1600, Justice Shallow reckons among the Swinge-bucke iers 56 Will Squcele, a Cotjole man,"
In the first edition of the imperfect play, fir Hugh Evans is called on the title page, the Welsh Knight; and yet there are some persons who still affect to believe, that all our author's plays were originally published by himself. FARMER.
Dr. Farmer's opinion is well supported by " An eclogue on the noble assemblies revived on Cotswold Hills, by Mr. Robert Dover.” See Randolph's Poems, printed at Oxford, 4to. 1638, p. 114. The hills of Cotswold, in Gloucestershire, are mentioned in K. Richard II. Act II, fc. ini, and by Drayton, in his Polyolbion, fong 14. STEEVENS.
Queen Elizabeth was so well pleased with the admirable character of Falstaff in The Two Parts of licnry IV. that, as Mr. Row informs us, she commanded Shakspeare to continue it for one play more, and to thew him in love. To this command we owe The Merry Wives of Windsor; which, Mr. Gilson says, (Remarks on Shakpeare's plays, 8vo. 1710,) he was very well ailured our author finished in a fortnight. But this must be meant only of the first imperfect sketch of this comedy. An old quarto edition which I have seen, printed in 1602, says, in the title page, ---As it bath been divers times acted before her majesty, and elsewhere. This, which we have here, was altered and improved by the author almost in every speech. POPE. THEOBALD.
Mr. Gildon has likewise told us, “ that our author's house at Stratford bordered on the Church-Yard, and that he wrote the scene of the Ghost in Hamlet there,” But neither for this, or the afiertion that the play before us was written in a fortnight, does he quote any authority. The latter circumstance was firit mentioned by Mr. Dennis. "This comedy,” says he, in his Epistle Dedicatory to The Comical Gallant, (an alteration of the present play,)1702,
was written at her (Queen Elizabeth's) command, and by her direction, and she was so eager to see it acted, that she commanded it to be finished in fourteen days; and was afterwards, as tradition telis us, very well pleased at the representation.” The information, it is probable, came originally from Dryden, who, from his intimacy with Sir William Davennant, had an opportunity of learne ing many particulars concerning our author,
At what period Shakípeare new-modelled The Merry Wives of Windsor is unknown. I believe it was enlarged in 1603. See some conjectures on the subject, in the Attempt to ascertain the order of bis plays. MALONE,
It is not generally known, that 'the first edition of The Merry. Wives of Windsor, in its present itate, is in the valuable folio, printed 1623, from whence the quarto of the same play, dated 1930, was evidently copied. The two earlier quartos, 1602, and 1619, only exhibit this comedy as it was originally written, and are so far curious, as they contain Shakspeare's first conceptions in forming a drama, which is the most complete specimen of his comick powers. T. WARTON.
SIR JOHN FALSTAFF.
two gentlemen dwelling at WINDSOR,
Servants to PAGE, FORD, &c.
MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR.
ACT I. SCENE ).
WINDSOR. Before Page's House.
Enter Justice SHALLOW, SLENDER, and Sir Hugh
Shallow. S'R Hugh, persuade me not; I will make a Star-cham
ber matter of it: if he were twenty sir John Falstaffs, he shall not abuse Robert Shallow, esquire.
Slen. In the county of Gloster, justiceof peace, and
Shal. Ay, cousin Slender, and Cust-alorum.
Slen. Ay, and ratolorum too; and a gentleman born, master parson; who writes himself armigero; in any bill, warrant, quittance, or obligation, armigero.
Shal. Ay, that we do; and have done any time these three hundred years.
Slen. All his successors, gone before him, have done't; and all his ancestors, that come after him, may : they may give the dozen white luces in their coat.
Shal. It is an old coat.
Eva. The dozen white louses do become an old coat well; it agrees well, passant: it is a familiar beast to man, and signifies-love. B
Shal. The luce is the fresh fish; the falt fish is an old coat.
Slen. I may quarter, coz?
Eva. Yes, py’r-lady; if he has a quarter of your coat, there is but three skirts for yourself, in my simple conjectures; but that is all'one: If 'sir John Falstaff have committed disparagements unto you, I am of the church, and will be glad to do my benevolence, to make atonements and compromises between you.
Shal. The Council shall hear it; it is a riot.
Eva. It is not meet the Council hear a riot; there is no fear of Got in a riot; the Council, look you, shall desire to hear the fear of Got, and not to hear a riot; take your vizaments in that.
Shal. Ha! o my life, if I were young again, the sword should end it.
Eva. It is petter that friends is the sword, and end it: and there is also another device in my prain, which, per. adventure, prings goot discretions with it: There is Anne Page, which is daughter to master George Page, which is pretty virginity. Slen. Mistress Anne Page? She has brown hair, and
small like a woman. Eva. It is that fery verson for all the 'orld, as just as you will desire; and seven hundred pounds of monies, and gold, and silver, is her grandfire, upon his death'sbed (Got deliver to a joyful resurrections !) give, when she is able to overtake seventeen years old : it were a goot motion, if we leave our pribbles and prabbles, and desire a marriage between master Abraham, and mistress Anne Page,