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“A waxen image 'gainst a fire.”—Act II. Sc. 4. Alluding to the figures made by witches, as representatives of those whom they designed to torment or destroy. King James ascribes these images to the devil
, in his Treatise of Dæmonologie: “To some others at these times he teacheth how to make pictures of waxe or claye, that by the roasting thereof, the persons that they bear the name of may be continually melted, and dried away by continual sicknesse."-WESTON.
“ With a cod-piece.”-Act II. Sc. 7. Whoever wishes to be informed respecting this particular relative to dress, may consult Buliver's Artificial Changeling. It is mentioned, too, in Tyro's Roaring Megge, 1598:
“ Tyro's round breeches have a cliffe behind,
And that same perking longitude before;
Which, for a pin-case, antique plowmen wore." Ocular instruction may be had from the armour shown as John of Gaunt's, in the Tower of London. The custom of sticking pins in this ostentatious piece of indecency was continued by the Tower-wardens, till forbidden by authority.-STEEVENS.
“ Saint Nicholas be thy speed !"-Act III. Sc. 1. That this saint presided over young scholars, may be gathered from Knight's Life of Dean Collett; for, by the statutes of Paul's School there inserted, the children are required to attend divine service at the cathedral on his anniversary. The reason, probably, was, that the legend of this saint makes him to have been a bishop, while he was a boy.
HAWKINS “ The cover of the salt hides salt.”-Act III. Sc. 1. The ancient English salt-cellar was very different from the modern, being a larre piece of plate, generally much ornamented, with a cover to keep the salt clean.
“ Upon whose grave thou vow'dst pure chastity.”—Act IV. Sc. 3. It was common in former ages for widowers and widows to make vows of chastity, in honour of their deceased wives or husbands. In Dugdale's Antiquities of Warwickshire, there is the form of a commission by the bishop of the diocese for taking a vow of chastity by a widow. It seems Inat, besides observing the vow, the widow was for life to wear a veil, and a mourning habit. The same distinction we may suppose to have been made in respect of male votarists.-STEEVENS.
“ But since she did neglect her looking-glass,
And threw her sun-expelling mask away' Act IV. Sc. 4. “When they use to ride abroad, they have masks or vizors, made of velvet, wherewith they cover all their faces, having holes made in then against their eyes, whereout they look; so that if a man that knew not their guise before, should chance to meet one of them, he would think he rnet a monster or a devil, for face he can shew (see) none, but two broad holes against their eyes, with glasses in them.”—ANATOMIE OF ABUSE 1595.
MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR
“ How does your fallow greyhound, sır ? I heard
he was out-run on Cotsale."- Act I. Sc. 1.
He means Cotswold, in Gloucestershire. In the beginning of James the First's reign, by permission of the king, one Dover, a public-spirited attorney of Barton-on-the-Heath, in Warwickshire, instituted on the hills of Cotswold an annual celebration of games, consisting of rural sports and exercises. These he constantly conducted in person, well mounted, and accoutred in a suit of his majesty's old clothes ; and they were frequented above forty years by the nobility and gentry for sixty miles round, till the grand rebellion abolished every liberal establishment.—T. WARTON.
“ Mill-sixpences.”—Act I. Sc. 1. It appears from a passage in Sir William D'Avenant's News from Plimouth, that these mill-sixpences were used by way of counters to cast up money :
a few mill'd sixpences, with which My purser casts accompt.”—STEEVENS.
“ Edward shovel-boards."-Act I. Sc. 1. “ Edward shovel-boards" were the broad shillings of Edward VI. Taylor, the water-poet, in his Travel of Twelve-pence, makes him complain,
the unthrift every day
They had worne it off, as they have done my nose. ."— FARMER. " Go, sirrah, for all you are my man, go wait upon my cousin Shallow." -Act I. Sc. 1.
This passage shows that it was formerly the custom in England, as it is now in France, for persons to be attended at dinner by their own servants, wherever they dined.—MASON.
“A master of fence.”—Act I. Sc. 1. Fencing was taught as a regular science. Three degrees were usually taken in this art, a master's, a provost's, and a scholar's. For each of these a prize was played, as exercises are kept in universities for similar purposes. The weapons they used were the axe, the pipe, rapier and target, rapier and cloak, two-swords, the two-hand sword, the bastardsword, the dagger and staff, the sword and buckler, the rapier and dagger, &c. The places where they exercised were, commonly, theatres, halls, or other enclosures sufficient to contain a number of spectators; as Elyplace, in Holborn; the Belle Sauvage, on Ludgate-hill; Hampton-court, the Artillery-garden, &c.-STEEVENS.
“ Sackerson,”-Act I. Sc. 2. Sackerson or Sacarson was the name of a bear, exhibited in our author's time, at Paris Garden. See an old book of Epigrams, by Sir John Davies :
“Publius, a student of the common law,
She discourses, she carves, she gives the leer of invitation.".
Act I. Sc. 3. Anciently, the young of both sexes were instructed in carving, as a necessary accomplishment. It seems to have been considered a mark of kindness when a lady carved to a gentleman. So in Vittoria Corombona : “ Your husband is wondrous discontented. I did nothing to displease him; I carved to him at supper-time.”—STEEVENS and BOSWELL.
for gourd and fullam holds, And high and low beguile the rich and poor.”—Act I. Sc. 3. Gourds were, probably, dice in which a secret cavity had been made; Fullams (so called because chiefly made at Fulham) those which had been loaded with a small bit of lead. High men and low men, which are also cant terms, explain themselves. High numbers on the dice, at hazard, are from five to twelve inclusive; low, from aces to four.
MALONE. “ Flemish drunkard.”—Act II. Sc. 1. It is not without cause that this reproachful phrase is used. Sir John Smythe, in Certain Discourses, 4to., 1590, says, that the habit of drinking to excess was introduced into England from the Low Countries. “ by some of our such men of warre within these verie few years: whereof it is come to passe that now-a-dayes there are very few feastes where our said men of warre are present, but they do invite and procure all the companie, of what calling soever they be, to carowsing and quaffing ; and because they will not be denied their challenges, they, with manie new conges, ceremonies, and reverences, drinke to the healthe and prosperitie of princes; to the healthe of counsellors, and unto the healthe of their greatest friends, both at home and abroad: in which exercise they never cease till they be deade drunke, or, as the Flemings say, doot dronken." He adds, “and this aforesaid detestable vice hath, within these six or seven years, taken wonderful roote amongst our English nation, that in times past was wont to be of all other nations in Christendome one of the soberest."-REED.
My long sword.”—Act II. Sc. 1. Before the introduction of rapiers, the swords in use were of an enormous length, and sometimes raised with both hands. Shallow, with an old man's vanity, censures the innovation by which lighter weapons were introduced, tells what he could once have done with his long sword, and ridicules the terms and rules of the rapier. Shakspeare commits a great anachronism in making Shallow talk of the rapier in Henry IV.'s reign, a hundred and seventy years before it was used in England. -JOHNSON. “ When Mistress Bridget lost the handle of her fan.”—Act II. Sc. 2.
It should be remembered that fans, in our author's time, were more costly than they are at present, as well as of a different construction. They consisted of ostrich feathers (or others of equal length and flexibility), which were stuck into handles. The richer sort of these were composed of gold, silver, or ivory, of curious workmanship, and frequently ornamented with precious stones. Mention is made in the Sydney Papers, of a fan presented to Queen Elizabeth, for a new year's gift, the handle of which was studded with diamonds. It was no: uncommon among the foppish young noblemen of that age, to carry fans of this splendid description; a singular piece of effe minacy for that early period.
“ Red lattice phrases."-. Ict II. Sc. 2. Red lattice at the doors and windows were formerly the external de. notements of an ale-house. Hence the present chequers. In one of Shackerley Marmion's plays we read, “a waterman's widow at the signe of the Red Lattice in Southwark.” It is a curious circumstance, that the sign of the Chequers was common among the Romans. It was found in several of the streets excavated at Pompeii.-STEEVENS.
“ Amaimon-Barbason." --Act II. Sc. 2. Reginald Scott informs us, that “the demon Amaimon, was king of 1.ne East, and Barbatos a great countie or earle.” Randle Holme, however, in his Academy of Armory and Blazon, tells us that, “ Amaymon is the chief whose dominion is on the north side of the infernal gulph; and that Barbatos is like a Sagittarius, and hath thirty legions under him.”
STEEVENS. “ That becomes the ship-tire, the tire-valiant, or any tire of Venetian admittance."-Act III. Sc. 3.
The extravagance of female dress is here satirized. We shall give an extract or two on this subject from contemporary authors :
“ Their heads, with their top and top-gallant curlings, they make a plain puppet-stage of lawne baby caps, and snow-resembled silver. Their breasts they embushe up on hie, and their round roseate buds they immodestly lay forth, to show at their hands there is fruit to be hoped." Nashe's Christ's Teares, 1594. - “Oh, what a wonder it is to see a ship under saile with her tacklings and her masts, and her tops and her top-gallants, with her upper decks and nether decks, and so bedeckt, with her streamers, flags, and ensignes, and I know not what; yea, but a world of wonders it is to see a woman created in God's image, so miscreate oft times and deformed with her French, her Spanish, and her foolish fashions, that he who made her, when he looks upon her, shall hardly know her with her plumes, her fans, and her silken vizard, with a ruffe like a saile ; yea, a ruffe like a rainbow, with a feather in her cap,
like a flag in her top, to tell (I thinke) which way the wind will blow. It is proverbially said, that far-fetcht and dear-bought is fittest for ladies; as now-adaies what groweth at home is base and homely; and what everie one eates is meate for dogs; and wee must have breade from one countrie, and drinke from another; and wee must have meate from Spaine, and sauce out of Italy; and if wee weare anything, it must be pure Venetian, Roman, or barbarian; but the fashion of all must be French.” The Merchant Royall, a sermon preached at White-hall, before the king's majestie, at the nuptialls of Lord Hay and his lady, Twelfth-day, 1607.
REED. “And smell like Bucklersbury, in simple time.”—Act III. Sc. 3. Bucklersbury, in the time of Shakspeare, was chiefly inhabited by druggists, who sold all kinds of herbs, green as well as dry.-STEEVENS.
“ Let the sky rain potatoes; hail kissing comfits, and snow eringoes ; let there come a tempest of provocation.” —Act V. Sc. 5.
Potatoes, when they were first introduced in England, were supposed to be strong provocatives; kissing-comforts were sugar-plums, perfumed wo make the breath sweet. Eringoes, like potatoes, were esteemed to be slimulatives. But Shakspeare, probably, had the following artificial tempest in his thoughts, when he wrote the above passage. Holinshed informs us, that in the year 1583, for the entertainment of Prince Alasco, was performed 'a verie statelie tragedie, named Dido, wherein the
queer's banket (with Æneas's description of the destruction of Troie, was lively described in a marchpane patterne; the tempest wherein il hailed small confects, rained rose-water, and snew an artificial kind of snow, all stranye, marvellous, and abundant."-STEEVENS.
“ Thou shalt present me as an eunuch to him.”—Act I. Sc. 2. When the practice of castration was adopted first, solely to improve the voice, is uncertain. The first regular opera was performed at Florence, in 1600. Till about 1653, musical dramas were only occasionally performed in the palaces of princes, and consequently before that period eunuchs could not abound. The first eunuch that was suffered to sing in the Pope's chapel was in 1600. So early, however, as 1604, eunuchs are mentioned by Marston, in the Malcontent, as excelling in singing. · Yes, I can sing, tool, if you'll bear the burden; and I can play upon instruments scurvily, as gentlemen do. O that I had been gelded! I should then have been a fat fool for a chamber, a squeaking fool for a tavern, and a private fool for all the ladies.”—MALONE.
“ Like a parish top.”—Act I. Sc. 3. A large lop was formerly kept in every village, to be whipped in frosty weather, that the peasants might be kept warm by exercise, and out of mischief when they could not work.— STEEVENS.
“ Mistress Mall's picture.”—Act I. Sc. 3. The real name of the woman here alluded to was Mary Frith. The title she was commonly known by was Mall Cutpurse. She was at once an hermaphrodile, a prostitute, a bawd, a bully, a thief, a receiver of stolen goods, &c. On the books of the Stationers' Company, August, 1610, is entered, “ A Booke called the Madde Prancks of Merry Mall of the Bankside, with her walkes in Men's Apparel, and to what purpose. Written by John Day.” Middleton and Decker wrote a play called the Roaring Girl, of which she is the heroine, and the frontispiece of this drama, published in 1611, contains a full-length portrait of her in man's clothes, sinoking tobacco. There is a MS. in the British Museum, in which an account is given of Mall's doing penance at St. Paul's Cross. Her extravagant conduct and shameless vices seem to have rendered her infamously public.
“ A most weak pia-mater.”—Act I. Sc. 5. The pia-mater is the membrane which immediately covers the substance of the brain.-STEEVENS.
“ Stand at your door like a sheriff's post."— Act I. Sc. 5. It was the custom for that officer to have large posts set up at his door as an indication of his office, the original of which was, that the king's proclamations and other public acts might be affixed thereto.
WARBURTON. “ Did you never see the picture of we three?"— Act II. Sc. 3. An allusion to an old print frequently pasted on country ale-house walls, representing two, but under which the spectator reads, “ We three are asses.”—MALONE.