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he stabd every featherbed through, and made havocke, like a mad man then was Lionello conveighed away." A third meeting is arranged, Mutio, as before, having been made privy to everything. It takes place. Alas, alas, mistresse, cried the maid, heer is my maister, & 100 men with him with bils and staves: we are betraid, quoth Lionel, and I am but a dead man" (IV. ii. 44). This time he is hidden in a chest of valuable papers, and Margaret sets fire to the house. In order to save "his obligations and statutes in the chest, Mutio bade two of his men see it safe, and watched his house burning. Subsequently Lionel discovers who Mutio is, and tells his friends all those stories were inventions, for he (Mutio) "was generally known to bee a jealous fool: therefore with these tales I brought him into this [fool's] paradice." This jest so plagued Mutio that he shortly after died, and . . . "for that they two were the death of the old man, now are they plagued in purgatory, and he whips them with Nettles."

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It can easily be seen that Falstaff's adventures are founded upon this tale. The resemblance between the incidents, and the situation which gives rise to them, is too close to be merely accidental. Tarlton, the famous actor and comedian, died in 1588. His popularity was unbounded, and hardly a name of the time lived longer in people's memories, or was oftener mentioned. Shakespeare met him in his earliest time in London.


(11) There are not many works, dramatic or otherwise, preceding the Merry Wives of Windsor which can lay claim to having been made use of therein by Shakespeare, or which even seem to be referred to, so far as we can find out, in the most accidental way. I have noticed these

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allusions, or coincidences, as they occur, in the play.

But it may be interesting to call attention to them here in a group. Tarlton's Newes out of Purgatorie (1590) has just been mentioned. So also has Reginald Scot's Discoverie of Witchcraft (1584). For the last work, see "Amaimon" and "Barbason," II. ii. 312, and "divinity in odd numbers," v. i. 4 (note); "Fairies, black, grey, green, and white," v. v. 41. And less prominently at I. iii. 61;

V. v. 144.

The old anti-Spaniard and pre-Armada play, Three Lords and Three Ladies of London, may have supplied the terms "cavaliero," II. i. 197, and "Castalion," II. iii. 34. They were hardly in use earlier than the date of writing that play (1587-88).

The character of the "Cataians," II. i. 145, was probably derived from W. Watreman's Fardle of Facions, 1555, which is the earliest account of them (by that name) I have met with.

For the general idea of satirising the use of the word "humour," or rather the abuse of it, Ben Jonson's Every Man in his Humour must be referred to. See note at I. i. 134. There are many parallel passages, but none very striking, cited in my notes from Jonson's play. They are rather to be regarded as the language of the time than allusions. Parallelism may be traced between Ford and Kitely, and between Slender and "Master Stephen, the country gull." But I am not inclined to lay much stress upon it. The duelling terms, " stoccado," etc., are also common to both plays, but are found earlier.

Wheatley says: "There seems to be no reason for

doubting that the play was written to Elizabeth's order, and under these circumstances Shakespeare must have set to work to fulfil the command by emulating the Every Man in his Humour, in which he had played a part." That seems to me to go too far, but the last words give us the clue to the cause of several trifling similarities. We are not positive which play preceded the other. I imagine they were almost simultaneous. The passages, summer is coming on" in Every Man, I. ii. (86), and "tomorrow being St. Mark's day," give April 25 for its There is hardly anything in Merry Wives one could call indebtedness to Every Man.


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Plays of about the date of Merry Wives, or immediately succeeding it, often have echoes of it. I must refer to my notes for the examples. Perhaps the most unmistakable examples are in Porter's Two Angry Women of Abingdon (at I. iv. 144; II. i. 231, etc.); Merry Devil of Edmonton (at I. iii. 23; III. i. 57, etc.); Wilkins' Miseries of Enforced Marriage (at I. iii. 2, etc.); and Look About You, a capital play in Haz. Dods. (vol. vii.). Furnivall's Centurie of Prayse refers to Heywood's Fair Maid of the Exchange, 1607, where "the plot of Flower and his wife each promising their daughter to a different man while a third gets her, is more or less from Merry Wives." See note at V. v. 3. And Beaumont and Fletcher's Mons. Thomas (at II. ii. 6), as well as Massinger's Renegado (at IV. ii. 79), must be mentioned. These united references are very interesting as showing the immediate popularity attained by the play. The Merry Devil of Edmonton, "your dear delight, the Devil of Edmonton," as Jonson calls it, owes much to the Merry Wives. I intended to have drawn a

rigorous comparison, but any reader can do it for himself, and I was somewhat deterred by a fact I have not seen anywhere noticed. It is capable of proof, from Jonson's Staple of News, that the text we have is not in all respects that of the play in Jonson's time. The old play followed the prose tract (or agreed with the prose tract, which may have followed it) more closely than the text we have does. The date of its appearance was about 1600.

(12) I will now quote briefly the opinions of a few eminent critics upon this play. And first is Dryden. When comparing the French and English drama, he says: "I could produce even in Shakespeare's and Fletcher's works, some plays which are almost exactly formed [i.e. with regard to the 'unities' and classical models] as the Merry Wives of Windsor and the Scornful Lady; but because (generally speaking) Shakespeare, who writ first, did not perfectly observe the Laws of Comedy, and Fletcher, who came nearer to perfection, yet through carelessness made many faults; I will take the pattern of a perfect play from Ben Jonson. . . . The Silent Woman," Dryden, Essay on Dramatick Poesie, 1668.

Pepys' disparaging opinions refer rather to the actors than the play. They need only be referred to. A much more weighty critic is Dr. Jonson. After dealing with the tradition preserved by Rowe, that it was written at the command of Queen Elizabeth, he says: "No task is harder than that of writing to the ideas of another. Shakespeare knew what the queen, if the story be true, seems not to have known, that by any real passion of tenderness, the selfish craft, the careless jollity, and the lazy luxury of

Falstaff must have suffered so much abatement, that little of his former cast would have remained. Falstaff could not love, but by ceasing to be Falstaff. He could only counterfeit love, and his professions could be prompted, not by the hope of pleasure, but of money. . . . This comedy is remarkable for the variety and number of the personages, who exhibit more characters appropriated and discriminated, than perhaps can be found in any other play. . . . The conduct of this drama is deficient; the action begins and ends often, before the conclusion, and the different parts might change places without inconvenience; but its general power, that power by which all works of genius shall finally be tried, is such, that perhaps it never yet had reader or spectator who did not think it too soon at the end," Jonson in Steevens' Shakespeare, iii. 501, 502, 1793. The passages omitted refer to Falstaff's deterioration and the use of provincial language, and are unimportant. With regard to the " variety and number of personages," Ben Jonson's Bartholomew Fair forges easily ahead.

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Gervinus has a very good analysis of the play, no doubt finding motives rather too abundantly, as is his wont. He says at the end: "Great emphasis is laid throughout on honest knavery in contrast to Falstaff's knavery. A wife, say the two women, may be merry and yet honest too. That the tricks played upon Falstaff were not only 'admirable pleasures' but 'honest knaveries,' can alone move the plain, true, timid, pious pastor to take pleasure in them. This simple but honest knavery celebrates its victory throughout over cunning and presumption. The crafty self-loving dig the pit and fall into it themselves. . . These words may be regarded as the soul of the play. . .

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