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her," I will marry her; that I am freely dissolved,
and dissolutely.


Evans. It is a fery discretion answer; save the fall
is in the ort "dissolutely": the ort is, according
to our meaning, "resolutely": his meaning is

Shal. Ay, I think my cousin meant well.
Slen. Ay, or else I would I might be hanged, la!
Shal. Here comes fair Mistress Anne.

Re-enter ANNE PAGE.

Would I were young for your sake, Mistress


Anne. The dinner is on the table; my father desires 270

your worships' company.

Shal. I will wait on him, fair Mistress Anne.

Evans. Od's plessed will! I will not be absence at the


[Exeunt Shallow and Evans. Anne. Will't please your worship to come in, 275


258. contempt] Theobald's reading is accepted by all subsequent editors. Steevens says it is supported by the same intentional blunder in Love's Labour's Lost: "Sir, the contempts thereof are as touching me" (1. i. 191).

259, 260. dissolved, and dissolutely] We don't see so much of Slender later in the play, as here; and he never lapses into this form of corrupt English again. No doubt he is affected by the contagious example of Evans' grandiloquent blunders, and the strange language he has been pelted with on all sides.

266. la] "An exclamation formerly

used to introduce or accompany a conventional phrase or an address, or to call attention to an emphatic statement," New Eng. Dict. (O.E. lá). The earliest example in New Eng. Dict. is from this scene (lines 86, 323). Shakespeare has used it already in Love's Labour's Lost, v. ii. 414, where it rhymes with "flaw." See also Dekker's Satiromastix (Pearson, 196), 1602; and Ben Jonson, Bart. Fair, iv. 3 (1926).

268. Would I were] So says Bellamont to Doll in Webster's Northward Ho, iv. I (1607): "Why, Medea, what spirit? Would I were a young man for thy sake!"

Slen. No, I thank you, forsooth, heartily; I am very


Anne. The dinner attends you, sir.


Slen. I am not a-hungry, I thank you, forsooth. 280 Go, sirrah, for all you are my man, go wait upon my cousin Shallow. [Exit Simple.] justice of peace sometime may be beholding to his friend for a man. I keep but three men and a boy yet, till my mother be dead: but 285 what though? yet I live like a poor gentleman born.

Anne. I may not go in without your worship: they

will not sit till you come.

Slen. I' faith, I'll eat nothing; I thank you as much 290

as though I did.

Anne. I pray you, sir, walk in.

Slen. I had rather walk here, I thank you. I bruised

283. sometime] sometimes Cambridge. 281,282. go wait upon my cousin Shallow] At important banquets and functions it was customary for those taking part in them to be attended by their servants as a mark of distinction at all times. But Slender's remark points to a fashion that I have not found it easy to produce a parallel for-that a country gentleman should bring his servant to wait at table when dining at a neighbour's house in a quiet friendly way. In Dekker's Batchelor's Banquet (Gros. i. 216, 217), 1603, the following passage occurs: "Towards the end of the dinner, he calls for cheese and fruit, but there is none in the house, so that he is faine to send to the neighbours for the same, or else he would be utterly destitute: meane while his boy being at the table with the guestes' (seruants), at last tells them how his mistresse faines herselfe sicke, because


286. like] omitted F 2, 3, 4.

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she is not pleased with their masters coming. they get them gone betimes. By the way their lackies tell them what the gentleman's boy reported."

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284, 285. three men and a boy] This seems to have been an ordinary grouping of servants on a small scale. "Your hoy carries but three men in her, and a boy,” Jonson, The Fox, iv. I.

286. what though?] what of it? what though I do? A frequent expression in Shakespeare. See Henry V. II. i. 9. Slender here again reminds one of Ben Jonson's Stephen: "A fine jest, i' faith! 'Slid, a gentleman mun show himself like a gentleman," Every Man in his Humour, i. 1.

293, 294. bruised my shin] The bruising of the shin reads more naturally in the Quarto, "A Fencer and I

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my shin th' other day with playing at sword and dagger with a master of fence; three veneys for 295

plaid three venies For a dish of stewd prunes, and I with my ward Defending my head, he brok my shin." There is no sword and dagger" in Quarto. It would belong rather to cudgel play than sword and dagger, and the Fencer does it for him. There is a parallel passage in Nashe's First Part of Pasquil's Apologie, 1590, "The second venue the Welch-man hath bestowed upon vs, is a wipe ouer the shinnes of the Non-residents.' Slender is parading his awkward ignorance.

294, 295. sword and dagger] E. Howes in Stow's Annals (1615) says that sword and buckler fights were constantly to be seen in the streets, especially from April to October in the afternoon in London up to 20th Elizabeth, 1577-78, and then Rapier and Dagger came into use. These fights were usually amongst the followers and retainers of the nobility, and hence the rapier and dagger fight is, at the time of this play, usually held to be the fashion amongst serving - men. The good old boisterous manly game of sword and buckler is constantly sighed after. "Sword and buckler was called a good conscience, but that was left long ago, that was too manly a fight, too sound a weapon for these days. our lawyers are good sword and dagger men, they'll quickly despatch you,' Middleton, The Phanix, ii. 3, 1607. In Two Angry Women of Abingdon (Haz. Dods. vii. 318), 1599, Coomes, a serving-man, says: "I see by this dearth of good swords that sword and buckler fight begins to grow out; I am sorry for it; I shall never see good manhood again... this poking fight of rapier and dagger will come up then: then a man, a tall man and a good sw. and b. man will he spitted like a cat or a coney." And in Day's Blind Beggar (1600): "Sir Robert, chuse your weapon first. Sir Rob. Thanks to my liege: the common fight of these same serving-men is sword and dagger, there

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fore I'll chose the sword and target, they are unskilful in't." However, in spite of these prejudices, the foreign innovation was adopted. In Worke for Cutlers, or a Merrie Dialogue between Sword, Rapier, and Dagger, acted in a show in the famous University of Cambridge, and printed in 1615, it is decided that Sword is for the camp and field, Rapier for the court, and Dagger to back either as required. At the period of the play the method was held somewhat in contempt, and appears to be put into Slender's accomplishments, like most of his efforts, to make him lower himself. Harington says in 1596: "Out ass! What dost thou tell me of these stale fashions of the sword and buckler time? I tell thee they are out of request now,' "An Apology or rather Retractation (Met. of Ajax), rept. p. 48. See II. i. 227 and note. Compare Wilkins' Miseries of Enforced Marriage (Haz. Dods. ix. 556):


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you cowards, three to one! worse than fencers that wear long swords."

295. master of fence] "The manner of the proceeding of our fencers in their schools is this; first they which desire to be taught at their admission are called scholars, and as they profit, they take degrees and proceed to be provosts of defence; and that must be wonne by public trial of their skill at certain weapons, which they call prizes and in the presence and view of many hundreds of people; and at their next and last prize, well and sufficiently performed, they do proceed to come maisters of the science of defence, or maisters of fence as we commonly call them" (quoted by Strutt from The Third University of London, Black Letter, 1615). Henry VIII. made the professors of this art a company, by letters patent, wherein the act intituled The Noble Science of Defence" (Strutt). The master of defence is often referred to by Ben Jonson and, with his prizes, as above, forms a part


a dish of stewed prunes; and, by my troth,
I cannot abide the smell of hot meat since.
Why do your dogs bark so? be there bears i'
the town?

Anne. I think there are, sir; I heard them talked 300


Slen. I love the sport well; but I shall as soon


quarrel at it as any man in England.
are afraid, if you see the bear loose, are you


Anne. Ay, indeed, sir.

Slen. That's meat and drink to me, now. I have seen Sackerson loose twenty times, and have

of the interminable Cynthia's Revels, 1600.

295. veneys] Fr. venue, an assault. "Venue, A comming, arrival, etc.; also, a venny in fencing" (Cotgrave). Here, again, Slender gives himself away. He has not, as Jumper (Case is Altered) says, "the phrases, and the anagrams, and the epitaphs fitting the mystery of the noble science." Compare Ben Jonson, Every Man in his Humour, i. 4 (1598): "But one venue, sir. Bobadil. Venue! fie: most gross denomination, as ever I heard: O, the stoccata, while you live, note that." The term was frequent. "Thou wouldst be loth to play half a dozen of venies at wasters with a good fellow for a broken head," Beaumont and Fletcher, Philaster, iv. 3, 1613.

296. a dish of stewed prunes] A dish hardly fit to be mentioned in the ears of a young gentlewoman. See, for its associations, 1 Henry IV. 111. iii. 128, Measure for Measure, II. i. 9, and 2 Henry IV. II. iv. 159. It was the recognised dish of dissolute women, so much so, that in Every Woman in her Humour (Bullen's Old Plays, iv. 364), "stewed prunes" is a synonym


for prostitutes. Halliwell says, "it appears from Marroccus Extaticus (1595) and other works that stewed prunes were commonly placed in the windows of a house of disreputable character." References may be found in Webster's Northward Ho, iv. 3, and Beaumont and Fletcher's Mad Lover, iv. 5 (Dyce, vi. 191), and in various editorial notes. "Hot meat," on the Quarto's showing, refers to Slender's bruised shin! See note at 293. "Meat" here means food, i.e. prunes.

307. meat and drink to me] This expression occurs in Gabriel Harvey's Letters (Camden Society Reprint), circa 1575 (Oliphant, New English). And in Nashe, Pasquil's Returne (Grosart ed., i. 93), 1589: “It is meat and drink to me to see a clown." See As You Like It, v. i. 10.

308. Sackerson] A famous bear at the Bear Garden on the Bankside. He is mentioned again in Sir Giles Goosecap (Bullen's Old Plays, iii. 45), 1606: "Never stir if he fought not with great Sakerson foure hours to one, foremost take up hindmost, and tooke so many loaves from him that he sterved presently." And in Epigrams by J. D.

taken him by the chain; but, I warrant you,
the women have so cried and shrieked at it, 310
that it passed: but women, indeed, cannot

abide 'em; they are very ill-favoured rough

Re-enter Page.

Page. Come, gentle Master Slender, come; we stay

for you.

Slen. I'll eat nothing, I thank you, sir.

Page. By cock and pie, you shall not choose, sir!

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Other famous bears of the time were George Stone (died 1606) and Ned Whiting. Malone thought it probable that they took their names from the keepers. In Breton's Pasquil's Foolescap (1600), there is a "swaggering huff cap" who "face to face will meet the old blind bear." If this was Sackerson, Slender's feat becomes more characteristic. This bear is mentioned again by Nashe: "all the colliers of Romford, who hold their corporation by yarking the blind beare at Paris Garden," Unfortunate Traveller (Gros. v. 159), 1594. Slender was in good company it seems. At a later date (1609) Harry Hunks was blind also. Probably a result of their employment. "Whipping the blind bear is made a sneer in Dekker's Satiromastix (p. 260), 1602.

311. it passed] it was extraordinary,


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317. By cock and pie] Supposed to be originally for "God," and "pie" the ordinal of the Roman Catholic Church. New Eng. Dict. refers to Crowley's Epigrams (1550), "" By cock and by

pie. A common vulgar oath, occurring again in 2 Henry IV. v. i. See Nares for further examples, and see Arber's reprint of Tottel's Miscellany (p. 251), 1557 (quoted in New Eng. Dict.).


317. you shall not choose] An established phrase of courtesy. Compare Taming of the Shrew, v. i. 12: "You shall not choose but drink before you go." Compare N. Breton ("Gleanings," Grosart, p. 8), 1577: parting at the door, Believe me now it was a sport to see, What stir there was who should go out before; Such curtsies low; and Pray you pardon me ""You shall not choose "-"In faith you are to blame-Good sooth, thought I, a man would think the same.' The passage illustrates the lines following.

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