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THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR

ACT I

SCENE I-Windsor. Before Page's House.

Enter JUSTICE Shallow, SlendER, and SIR HUGH EVANS.

Shal. Sir Hugh, persuade me not; I will make a
Star-chamber matter of it: if he were twenty
Sir John Falstaffs, he shall not abuse Robert
Shallow, esquire.

1. Sir Hugh] called "the Welch
knight" by an error on the title-page of
Q, 1602. "Sir" was the usual trans-
lation of dominus, the academical title
of one who had taken his degree as
bachelor in the University. Hence it
was commonly applied to clergymen, as
in As You Like It, Twelfth Night, etc.
In Ben Jonson's Tale of a Tub "Canon
Hugh, Vicar of Pancras," is indiscrim-
inately addressed as "Sir" or "Canon "
in the play. "Sir John" was a com-
mon nickname for a priest in Queen
Elizabeth's time. The title
applied to a Bachelor of Arts was in
use in Trinity College, Dublin, and
printed over the doors of the rooms
(prefixed, however, only to the sur-
name) as recently as 1870-1880.

Sir'

I, 2. a Star-chamber matter] Compare Shirley: "I'll have you all Star-chambered" (A Constant Maid, v. 3). And Harington, Met. of Ajax

3

(Chiswick rept. 56, 57), 1596: "a bill
should have been framed against you in
the Star-chamber upon the statute of
unlawful assemblies. The name Star
Chamber was given to a high court of
justice in the 15th, 16th, and 17th
centuries. It was abolished by the
Long Parliament in 1641, and is
first heard of in the reign of Edward
III., the
"chambre des estoiles" in
Westminster. At the date of this play
it exercised almost unlimited jurisdic-
tion. "The place is called the Star
Chamber, because the roof thereof is
decked with the likeness of stars gilt:
there be plaints heard of riots, routs,
and other misdemeanours" (Stow's
Survey of London, 1603). The term

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star chamber" is twice used in Beaumont and Fletcher's plays in a literal signification: "lightsome, cool starchamber Open to every wind" (Sea Voyage, i. 4); and "that bright star

Slen. In the county of Gloucester, justice of peace and "Coram."

Shal. Ay, cousin Slender, and "Custalorum."
Slen. Ay, and "Rato-lorum" too; and a gentleman

born, master parson; who writes himself " Armi

gero," in any bill, warrant, quittance, or obligation, Armigero."

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Shal. Ay, that I do; and have done any time these

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5, 6. justice of peace and "Coram"] "Coram" here has nothing to do with the Latin preposition coram, as stated by Schmidt and various other commentators. The word is a well-established corruption for quorum, the first word of the clause in the Commission which named the justices-" quorum vos . . unum esse volumus." The expression in the text is common: "and of the collections of the scatterings, a Justice, Tam Marti quam Mercurio, of Peace and of Coram," Nashe, Pierce Pennilesse (Gros. ed., ii. 27), 1592; "we'll have 'em over to some country justice of coram, for we scorn to be of the peace," Webster, Westward Ho, v. 3, 1607; "pretty maintenance to keep a justice of peace and coram, ," Randolph, Muses' Lookingglass, and Massinger, New Way to Pay Old Debts, iii. 2, 1633, where it is quorum in Gifford's edition.

7. Custalorum] A contraction (or corruption) of custos rotulorum, keeper of the rolls the chief civil officer of a

5

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12. I] We Steevens (Farmer conj.). county, who is necessarily a Justice of the Peace and of the Quorum for the county. See Stanford Dictionary, Custos. Slender's Rato-lorum in the following line is a purposed blunder to show his ignorance.

10, II. Armigero] "Armigero. Valiant in arms, warlike, martial" (Baretti's Italian Dictionary). Slender, Steevens says, "had seen the Justice's attestations, signed-jurat coram me, Roberto Shallow, Armigero'; and therefore takes the ablative for the nominative case of Armiger." Steevens was a man of fertile explanation. The first example of Armiger in New Eng. Dict. is from Horace Walpole, 1762. It occurs, however, in Ben Jonson. Hilts calls out to Squire Tub: "Armiger Tub, Squire Tripoly!" Tale of a Tub, i. 1 (440a, in Cunningham's Gifford's Jonson, vol. ii.), 1633. In J. Rider's Bibliotheca Scholastica, 1589, the word is defined: “Esquire, Armiger.” 12. I do... have done] Steevens adopted Farmer's suggestion, reading "I" for we. But "I" refers to "who writes himself." We must suppose "we Shallows" understood before 'have done." Malone remarks here: Shakespeare has many expressions equally licentious."

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13. three hundred years] Justice Shallow in this play has been identified with Sir Thomas Lucy of Charlecote in Warwickshire. Halliwell-Phillips states

Slen. All his successors gone before him hath done't: and all his ancestors that come after him may: 15 they may give the dozen white luces in their

coat.

Shal. It is an old coat

Evans. The dozen white louses do become an old coat well; it agrees well, passant; it is a familiar beast to man, and signifies love.

14. hath] have F 3, 4.

that the Lucy family took that name [they were previously Charlecotes] in the year 1250, which gives somewhere about three hundred years to the date of the writing of the play. This family assumed the arms of the Barons Lucy (of the northern marches); "three Luces Argent in a shield gules, Camden's Britain, Holland's trans. p. 564 (1610). "Avon now runneth downe from Warwicke with a fuller streame by Charle-cot, the habitation of the renowned ancient family of the Lucies knights, which place long agoe descended hereditarily to them from the Charlcots," ibid. pp. 534, 535, In Peacham's Compleat Gentleman, p. 447 (1661), it is given more explicitly: "Lucie, tres lucios pisces, or three pikes, quartered by the Earls of Northumberland, and the coat of that noble gentleman, Sir Thomas Lucy of Warwickshire, Knight.

16. give] Heraldic: to display as an armorial bearing. The term occurs again in 1 Henry VI. 1. v. 29. So in The Pinner of Wakefield, attributed to R. Greene, 1599: "We are gentlemen. George. Why, sir, So may I, sir, although I give no arms. And Soliman and Perseda (Haz. Dods. v. 264), 1592: "In France I took the standard from the King, And gave the flower of Gallia in my crest.'

16, 17. dozen white luces in their coat] Luce is the old name for the pike, as in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales,

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20

Prologue : many a luce in stewe." Old French, luce; Low Latin, lucius. "The pike, as he ageth, receiveth diverse names, as from a frie to a gilthed . . . to a pod to a jacke

to a pickerell to a pike, and last of all to a luce," Harrison, Description of England, Bk. III. ch. iii., 1577. The reference is to the coat of arms of the Lucy family. See last note. Wheatley refers to Dugdale's Warwickshire, 1656, p. 348, for "a representation of an early monument in Warwick church, to the memory of Thomas, son of Sir William Lucy," which has “a quartering of the Lucy arms exhibiting the dozen white luces.' However this may be, there is no doubt that the proper number was three.

old coat

and

19-21. louses love] Compare N. Breton, Crossing oj Proverbs, ante 1616, "A louse is a beggar's companion." With regard to a beggar's "love" for these nasty vermin, compare Beaumont Fletcher, The Widow, i. I: "As long taking leave as a beggar of a fat louse”; and Loyal Subject, i. 3 (Dyce's ed., v. 21). Steevens quotes an apt illustration here from The Pennilesse Parliament, 1608. His passage is not to be found in Hindley's reprint of the tract.

20. passant] The luce in the coat is blazoned "haurient" (placed perpendicularly), which would not suit the context. The term includes, perhaps, the phrase en passant. Compare Court

Shal. The luce is the fresh fish; the salt fish is an old

coat.

Slen. I may quarter, coz.

Shal. You may, by marrying.

Evans. It is marring indeed, if he quarter it.

Shal. Not a whit.

25

Evans, 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 30 John Falstaff have committed disparagements

26. marring] F 1, Q3; marrying F 2, 3, 4.

and Times of James I., p. 145: "neither was he willing to talk single, but, as en passant, told stories of a certain Theatine, of Verona," Letter of Chamberlain, 1611. In Holland's Plinie (1601) these words in "ant" often occur, non-heraldically.

22. fresh fish... salt fish] Shallow seems to mean that an "" "old coat should have a salted fish, not a freshwater fish like the luce. The term "salt fish" cannot, I think, mean a sea fish. Nevertheless, the sea-pike is spoken of very highly by Pliny (ix. 17), but "the Pikes that are caught in the river be better" (see also xxx. 2). Many notes have been written on this passage, endeavouring to extract various senses out of the word "salt," but to no purpose. Shallow's quibble lies in the word "fresh," meaning either fresh water, or not salted. He endeavours to extend this to" salt." It should be noted that "fresh fish" had also the signification of novice," as in Henry VIII. 11. ii. 86. Sir Thomas Lucy was at this time an elderly man. He died in 1600, at the age of sixty-eight. A similar pun or quibble (fleure de lice and "lice") has been discovered in Holinshed (Stanihurst's Ireland), by Rushton. It is quoted by Schmidt and Wheatley.

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29. skirts] shirts Q 3.

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unto you, I am of the church, and will be glad
to do my benevolence to make atonements and
compremises between you.

Shal. The council shall hear it; it is a riot.
Evans. 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.

35

Shal. Ha! o' my life, if I were young again, the 40 sword should end it.

Evans. It is petter that friends is the sword, and end it: and there is also another device in my prain, which peradventure prings goot discretions with it-there is Anne Page, which is daughter to Master Thomas Page, which is pretty virginity.

34. compremises] compromises Pope. 39. your] F 1, Q 3; you F 2, 3, 4.

be

33, 34. make atonements tween you] reconciliation. Compare Richard III. I. iii. 36: "make atonement Betwixt the Duke of Gloster and your brothers."

35.] The Quarto may properly be said to begin here. It opens "Ne'er talk to me, Ile make a star-chamber matter of it. The Councell shall know it." All the coram business, and the Lucy references are excluded from the Quarto, where Slender is less in evidence.

36. council... riot] "By the council is only meant the courts of the starchamber, composed chiefly of the King's Council sitting in camera stellata, which took cognisance of atrocious riots" (Blackstone).

39. take your vizaments] make your minds up. "To take advisements, to

45

35. hear] F 1, Q3; hear of F 2, 3, 4. 46. Thomas] George Theobald.

take thought, to consider or deliberate,

.. hence, to decide, resolve." This obsolete expression is illustrated in New Eng. Dict., from 1375 to 1597. The last is from Daniel's Civil Warres, 1. xcii.: "And mus'd awhile, waking advisement takes of what had past in sleepe." The word does not occur again in Shakespeare. The form "avisement" is used by Ben Jonson as an intentional corruption (Tale of a Tub, i. 1).

40.] See II. i. 232, and II. iii. 47.

44, 45. goot discretions] good sense. See IV. iv. I for this word again from Evans.

46. Thomas] Master Page is called George in three places, but the mistake may have been Shakespeare's, since it is the text of the Folios. Possibly it is a transcriber's error.

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