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of those may be. This may be due to the nature of the play, one of action, not of thought, and intelligible to the most elementary capacity. Probably it is the earliest to be appreciated by most people, omitting those of a sentimental turn of mind. At the first reading few plays would

be harder to lay down unfinished.

The incidents, though absurdly impossible when calmly considered, are so skilfully contrived and fitted into one another that the mind assimilates them at once. No doubt there is some overstepping the bounds of propriety and decorum, but it is done so plainly in the light of day and with so convincingly a healthy moral tone that every one must feel the better for the contemplation of it. We have indeed, in review, all the good things a townsman longs for coursing, hawking, and shooting, venison and sack, and a posset soon at night. Dinner and supper, morning and afternoon, to-day and to-morrow are all mixed up, and junketings, feastings, and hospitality thrown in; pretty country lasses-Alice Shortcake (how well she made it !) and Anne Page-and hospitable homes, all in a gallimaufry, everything else set aside, to piece together these stirring events amongst the chief people of a consequential county town.

The main plot is the punishment and exposure of Falstaff. Side by side with that, but of secondary interest, is the wooing and winning of Anne Page. The two are interwoven in the ordinary way by the personages interested in the one being closely associated with or related to the main parties in the other. Mrs. Ford and Mrs. Page, for the purposes of the plot, may be regarded as one character. They form the connecting bond between the two tales, by

means of the husband of the one and the daughter of the other.

But besides these main plots there are subsidiary ones, most deftly interwoven, so deftly indeed that they are easily lost sight of, and unfortunately nearly lost sight of, whether through purposed carelessness or accidental omission, by the text as we have it. The motive power of the Falstaff plot is of course the revenge of Pistol and Nym. That is made clear at once. But there is also the revenge of Evans and Caius upon the Host. Nothing can be clearer than that they come in, one after the other, to rejoice and triumph over the Host in his trouble when his horses are stolen, trouble which they glory in as their own work. Evans tells him so in his "vlouting-stogs." For this animosity the cause is to be found at III. i., where the two duellists are fooled by the Host. They make friends there, and resolve to have vengeance on this same scurvy Host. They go out together. There is an interval for Mistress Page and Robin. They reappear then with Page and Shallow and Slender and the Host, and they are captured by Ford "to see this monster." From that time they cannot be alone. But in the interval their plot has been formed, for they seize a chance on leaving the stage, after they have been through the basket scene with Ford, to have a few words. "Dat is good," says Caius. lousy knave to have his gibes," says the other (end of III. iii.). Who else is absent from this scene? Only Nym and Pistol. Bardolph is at the Garter we know, because he attends to Falstaff, with sack, immediately after his sousing in the Thames. So that the plot was certainly laid with Pistol and Nym. Those two had their reason.


At the beginning of I. iii. it is the Host who decides Falstaff upon the discharge of Pistol and Nym. And then we see how Bardolph is out of it, the Host wishes to keep him, and Falstaff asks him to do so. Bardolph has no complaint against either Host or Sir John, and is free from both plots. Pistol and Nym are united from this forward. They are coach-fellows. They both proceed at once to abuse Bardolph. Their wrath with Falstaff is confirmed as soon as their dismissal is confirmed. Their punctilios about the letters would likely have been easily gilded over. But Falstaff gives them no chance. Note here that "Exit Bardolph" should certainly come after Pistol's "O base Hungarian wight" speech, as it does in some but not in all (Wheatley, Steevens) editions. Bardolph is meant to hear that. The league between those three is dissolved. "Exit Bardolph" might even be placed after Nym's speech. But Pistol and Nym are as one man in this connection. Pistol's disappearance has already been noticed in the Quickly connection. There is another person mixed up with this plot. We are told there were three German cheats. Who is the third? Caius' servant, Jack Rugby. He is with his master, and sees the whole scene where his master is made a fool of by the Host. Caius calls Rugby's attention to it. When Evans and Caius leave, Rugby is with them. They arrange with Nym and Pistol, and when they all reappear Rugby is there too. Presently Caius says, "Go home, John Rugby." That is Rugby's cue and opportunity arranged for him to enact the robbery-joke. Of Rugby, Pistol, and Nym we hear no more in the play. Those three and Bardolph are exempt from further acting, and thus four free actors are left to personate the fairies in

the last scene. This may have been a welcome practical consideration. Now for the issue. But let it first be premised that it is Evans who forms the plot-Evans the Welshman. It is he who says, "let us knog our brains together," and who reminds Caius, "remembrance tomorrow on the lousy knave." Caius assists him with his knowledge of the Court events and with the loan of Jack Rugby. It is Evans who discloses most of our information about the robbery, though it is Caius who knows there is no Duke at Court. This is consistent, for Caius has told the Host at the end of the Second Act, "I shall procure-a you de good guest, de earl, de knight, de lords," etc. I have not seen any analysis of this horse-stealing plot anywhere, worked out with any degree of care; neither in the preliminary matter already dealt with, nor in the more interesting part to come. The early commentators leave it untouched, and I am not sure if the later ones understand what the text tells us.

The Host has received orders from the Court at Windsor to reserve his inn for a German Duke and his retinue, who are daily expected. This accounts for his alacrity in agreeing with the Host turning away his followers: "Discard, bully Hercules; cashier, let them wag." He wants more room. Emperors, Kaisers, and Pheezars are suggested to him. He is in glory; and when Page says, "there is either liquor in his pate, or money in his purse," he is full of this good news. He has turned away from his doors, and perhaps from the inn, other guests, because his rooms are engaged. Then as now, distinguished visitors, although invited to Court, are allotted rooms at the best hotel. The Host has expected these

But he

foreigners for a week, by command from the Court. hasn't seen them yet. He is beginning to be worried about it. Then Bardolph comes with word that the Duke has arrived, and that three of his horses are needed. See how full he is of business when he meets Simple! "brief, short, quick, snap." Bardolph goes with the three supposed Germans to look after his master's horses. One of them takes him up behind, probably Rugby, whom he may not have ever seen. He gets no further than Slough (if we accept the pun) from Windsor, when they manage to throw him off and gallop away. Mere cozenage! Bardolph is

as much deceived as his master.

Then the two arch conspirators come in and triumph. From the Folio (our text) we learn that the whole town knew the Duke was coming, and that the Host has been making great preparations. But no Duke has come. Three cheating Germans have, however, traded on the circumstance, and cozened all the hosts of Reading, Maidenhead, and Colebrooke of horses and money.

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From the Quarto we have another story, the German Duke has come to Court, a sort of "cosen garmombles (the three " cosen garmombles" is adapted to suit the three gentlemen), who has cozened all the hosts of Brentford, Reading, and Maidenhead.

I imagine the Folio was softened down later, because the Quarto was too plain-spoken. The Folio disowns the Duke's complicity, but leaves it to be supposed the cheat was done by those who assumed to be his servants, for there can hardly be a question the allusion is to the visit of Count Mumpellgart.

When James I. came to the throne the German Duke

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