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Page. Son! how now ? how now, son ? have you despatched ?
Slen. Despatched !-I'll make the best in Gloucestershire know on't; would I were hanged, la, else.
Page. Of what, son ? :
Slen. I came yonder at Eton to marry mistress Anne Page, and she's a great lubberly boy. If it had not been i' the church, I would have swinged him, or he should have swinged me. If I did not think it had been Anne Page, would I might never stir, and 'tis a post-master's boy.
Page. Upon my life then you took the wrong.
Slen. What need you tell me that? I think so, when I took a boy for a girl: If I had been married to him, for all he was in woman's apparel, I would not have had him.
Page. Why this is your own folly. Did not I tell you, how you should know my daughter by her garments ?
Slen. I went to her in white, and cry'd mum, and she cry'd budget, as Anne and I had appointed; and yet it was not Anne, but a post-master's boy.
Eva. Jeshu! Master Slender, cannot you see but marry boys ?
Page. 0, I am vexed at heart: What shall I do?
Mrs. Page. Good George, be not angry: I knew of your purpose; turned my daughter into green; and, indeed, she is now with the doctor at the deanery, and there married.
Enter Caius. Caius. Vere is mistress Page? By gar, I am cozened: I ha' married un garçon, a boy; un paisan, by a gar, a boy; it is not Anne Page: by gar, I am cozened.
Mrs. Page. Why, did you take her in green?
Caius. Ay, bé gar, and 'tis a boy; be gar, I'll raise all Windsor.
[Exit Caius. Ford. This is strange! Who hath got the right Anne?
Page. My heart misgives me: Here comes master Fenton.
Enter FENTON and ANNE PAGE. How now, master Fenton ? Anne. Pardon, good father! good my mother,
pardon! Page. Now, mistress ? how chance you went not with master Slender?
Mrs. Page. Why went you not with master doctor, maid?
Fent. You do amaze 18 her: Hear the truth of it. You would have married her most shamefully, Where there was no proportion held in love. The truth is, she and I, long since contracted, Are now so sure that nothing can dissolve us. The offence is holy that she hath committed : And this deceit loses the name of craft, Of disobedience, or unduteous title; . Since therein she doth evitate 19 and shun A thousand irreligious cursed hours, Which forced marriage would have brought upon her.
Ford. Stand not amaz’d: here is no remedy:In love, the heavens themselves do guide the state; Money buys lands, and wives are sold by fate.
Fal. I am glad, though you have ta’en a special stand to strike at me, that your arrow hath glanced.
18 Confound her by your questions. VOL. I.
Page. Well, what remedy? Fenton, heaven give
thee joy! What cannot be eschew'd, must be embrac’d. Fal. When night-dogs run, all sorts of deer are
chas'd 20. Eva. I will dance and eat plums at your wedding. Mrs. Page. Well, I will muse no further :-mas
Let it be so :—Sir John,
20 Young and old, does as well as bucks. He alludes to Fenton's having run down Anne Page.
Of this play there is a tradition preserved by Mr. Rowe, that it was written at the command of Queen Elizabeth, who was so delighted with the character of Falstaff, that she wished it to be diffused through more plays; but suspecting that it might pall by continued uniformity, directed the poet to diversify his manner, by showing him in love. No task is harder than that of writing to the ideas of another. Shakspeare knew what the queen, if the story be true, seems not to have known, that by any real passion of tenderness, the selfish craft, the careless jollity, and the lazy luxury of Falstaff must have suffered so much abatement, that little of his former cast would have remained. Falstaff could not love, but by ceasing to be Falstaff. He could only counterfeit love, and his professions could be prompted, not by the hope of pleasure, but of money. Thus the poet approached as near as he could to the work enjoined him; yet, having perhaps in the for291 mer plays completed his own idea, seems not to have been able to give Falstaff all his former power of entertainment.
This comedy is remarkable for the variety and number of the personages, who exhibit more characters, appropriated and discriminated, than perhaps can be found in any other play.
Whether Shakspeare was the first that produced upon the English stage the effect of language distorted and depraved by provincial or foreign pronunciation, I cannot certainly decide. This mode of forming ridiculous characters can confer praise only on him who originally discovered it, for it requires not much of either wit or judgment; its success must be derived almost wholly from the player, but its power in as kilful mouth even he that despises it is unable to resist.
The conduct of this drama is deficient; the action begins and ends often, before the conclusion, and the different parts might change places without inconvenience; but its general power, that power by which all works of genius shall finally be tried, is such, that perhaps it never yet had reader or spectator who did not think it too soon at the end.
1 In The Three Ladies of London, 1584, is the character of an Italian Merchant very strongly marked by foreign pronunciation. Dr. Dodypoll, in the comedy of that name, is, like Caius, a French physician. This piece appeared at least a year before The Merry Wives of Windsor. The hero of it speaks such another jargon as the antagonist of Sir Hugh, and like him is cheated of his mistress. In several other pieces, more ancient than the earliest of Shakspeare's, provincial characters are introduced. In the old play of Henry V. French soldiers are introduced speaking broken English.
THE PASTORAL BY CH. MARLOWE, Referred to Act iii. Sc. 1, of the foregoing Play.
Come, live with me, and be my love,