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lay at Windsor," II. ii. 64, as if a recent event, her remarks serve to recall and blend together those stirring times. They were sufficiently synchronous to harmonise in people's memories as of one period. But no doubt the court often "lay at Windsor." Even during the progress of the play, Dr. Caius is preparing to go to court-" la grand affaire," I. IV. 54. It would not be in the least degree an improper or unlikely "hit" for Caius to refer there and then to the court at Windsor, supposing it to be so, while this very play is acting. That is the kind of topical allusion that tells on every stage. See above at the end of (3).

(5) The date of the appearance of the play has been shown to be 1598, following Henry IV., "both parts of which were written before the entry of the first in the Stationers' Register, Feb. 25, 1597-98. For the entry shows that the name of the fat knight, who originally appeared in both parts under the name of Oldcastle, had been already altered to Falstaff" (Dowden).


Merry Wives was probably produced early in 1598. It was written, we are told, in a record time to meet an express command, and we may assume that the season of its scenes and story are also the season of its appearance. season would be late winter or early spring-a time of year which is less vague in the play than it is in our climate. One, or two, or even a few references would not be sufficient to establish a fact like this, since of course the author may use his imagination quite independently of the period at which he is at work. But the season here is part of the plot, and inseparably fused into it, representing as it does life in the country. "Take heed, ere summer comes, or cuckoo birds do sing" (II. i. 124). This implies February or March.

"raw rheumatic day" (III. i. 47), "o'er a country fire" (v. v. 254), and "sea-coal fire" (I. iv. 9). These passages made me strongly inclined to suggest that "uncape” (III. iii. 176) meant nothing more than a word to the ladies and gentlemen at the door of Ford's house, standing gathered in the street, waiting for entrance, "take off your capes, and come in and search." A dreadfully prosy explanation. See note at the passage.

"Jack - a - Lent" (III. iii. 27 and V. v. 134). A village pastime in Lent, appropriately mentioned in early spring. Shakespeare does not elsewhere refer to it. See


"we'll a birding together: I have a fine hawk for the bush" (III. iii. 246); "her husband goes this morning abirding" (III. v. 45); and IV. ii. 8, 59. See note at the first of these passages. This sport was carried on with hawks (and sometimes dogs assisted) and fowling-pieces, after legitimate hawking was over, any time in winter up to the spring. Blackbirds and thrushes were the chief quarry, and the sparrow-hawk was the hawk in use. In France it was followed by ladies with cross-bows, and rabbits were sometimes the game at an earlier period. French falconers flew at anything. This pastime can only be appropriately introduced in winter-here in late winter or about February to March. There are no suggestions of real spring in the play, except the metaphorical ones applied to Fenton of April, May, and hawthorn buds. They are anticipatory of the looked-for season.

(6) "My maid's aunt, the fat woman of Brainford" (IV. ii. 76); “her thrummed hat and her muffler" (IV. ii. 79); "the witch of Brainford" (IV. ii. 100); "A witch . . . under

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the profession of fortune-telling. She works by charms, by spells, by the figure Mother Prat" (IV. ii. 180-191); "wise woman of Brainford" (IV. v. 27). In the 1602 Quarto "my maid's Aunt Gillian of Brainford" (twice); "a gowne and a muffler" (Quarto).

Jyll of Brentford is known best by her "Testament,” a copy of which is in the Bodleian (n.d.) by Copeland. It has been reprinted by Furnivall for the Ballad Society. It was in Captain Cox's Library, according to Laneham's Letter, 1575. Its date is about 1562. Its date is about 1562. A description of it will be found in Furnivall's edition of Captain Cox (Ballad Society). It was a coarse production, and the nature of Gillian's legacies will be found mentioned in Nashe's Summer's Last Will (Haz. Dods. viii. 19), 1592–93. Nashe abuses "Gillian of Braynforde's Will" in a letter printed in Grosart's edition (I. lxiii.). He calls it “Joan a Brainford's Will" in his Epistle to the Gentlemen Students prefixed to Greene's Menaphon, 1589. Harington refers to its contents in Ulysses upon Ajax (Chiswick, p. 13), 1596. Dame Gillian (we are told by the tract) was a respectable hostess at Brentford, and was therefore, says Halliwell, suitable company for Mistress Ford: "She kept an inne of right good lodgyng For all estates that thyder was comyng." How far the whole character was an invention of Robert Copeland, the writer of the tract printed by his brother William, is unknown. But she became a sort of common property amongst writers at the time of the Merry Wives. There was a play, not known now, named Friar Fox and Gillian of Brentford, by Thomas Dowton and Samuel Rowley, acted (according to Hazlitt) in 1592–93, and mentioned by Henslowe again in 1598–99. The loss of

these precious plays, "hid in death's dateless night," is one of the ills that flesh is heir to.

So far she has not appeared, unless perhaps in this play, as a witch. But in Webster's Westward Ho (v. iii.), 1607, a character says: "O Master Linstock, 'tis no walking will serve my turn.-Have me to bed, good sweet Mistress Honeysuckle.—I doubt that old hag, Gillian of Brentford, has bewitched me." Halliwell quotes to the same effect from "a manuscript of the time of Charles I.": "The Conjuringe of the Witch. Come away, come away, Thou Lady gay! Hark how shee stumbles! Hark how shee mumbles! Dame Gillian, Dame Gillian, why when? why when?" etc. (But Brentford does not seem to be mentioned, and this may be only a general term for an old woman, a gillian.)

Possibly two distinct people are mixed up, and the witch may have come into existence in the play above mentioned. Shakespeare is not likely to have meant Copeland's heroine, who was only known for her coarseness, or at any rate always spoken of for that characteristic, and whose date won't fit into any view of the time of the play.

Massinger has a passage in The Renegado, 1. iii. (1624), that reads like a reference to Shakespeare's witch, combining all her attributes: "Cold doings, sir; a mart do you call this? 'slight! A pudding wife, or a witch with a thrum cap That sells ale underground to such as come To know their fortunes in a dead vacation, Have ten to one more stirring."

Gillian was a name for innholders elsewhere, and Berry" comes very near "Brainford." In Beaumont and Fletcher, Knight of the Burning Pestle, there is a snatch:


"For Jilian of Berry dwells on a hill And she hath good ale and wine to sell, And thither will we go now, now, now" (IV. v.).

Why she is "Prat" instead of Gillian, in the Folio, also needs explanation. Halliwell found the name Prat in the Brentford Registers under date 1624. Perhaps this accounts for it; if there were Prats at Brentford, they may have asked to have the name changed; a parallel supposition with that of the explanation suggested by the Cambridge editors for the reading "Broom" instead of "Brook" at II. i. 220-223. Prat was, however, a familiar stage name. Neighbour Prat" is the Constable in The Pardoner and the Friar, 1533.

Heywood's enumeration of the famous "Witches" (circa 1610) in The Wise Woman of Hogsdon is as follows: "You have heard of Mother Nottingham, who for her time was pretty well skilled in casting of waters: and after her, Mother Bombye [Lyly]; and there is one Hatfield in PepperAlley, hee doth prettie well for a thing that's lost. There's another in Coleharbour, that's skilled in the Planets. Mother Sturton in Goulden-lane, is Fore-speaking: Mother Phillips of the Banke-side is for the weaknesse of the backe: and then there's a very reverent Matron on ClarkenwellGreen, good at many things: Mistris Mary on the Bankeside is for recting a Figure: and one (what doe you call her) in Westminster, that practiseth the Booke and the Key, and the Sive and the Shears and all doe well, according to their talent. For myselfe, let the world speake."

(7) A great deal of investigation has been made, and interesting matter has been written upon the topography

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