Page images
PDF
EPUB

Red lattice phrases.”—Act II. Sc. 2. Red lattice at the doors and windows were formerly the external de. notements of an ale-house. Hence the present chequers. In one of Shackerley Marmion's plays we read, “ a waterman's widow at the signe of the Red Lattice in Southwark." It is a curious circumstance, that the sign of the Chequers was common among the Romans. It was found in several of the streets excavated at Pompeii.-STEEVENS.

Amaimon Barbason."-Act II. Sc. 2. Reginald Scott informs us, that "the demon Amaimon, was king of the East, and Barbalos a great countie or earle.” Randle Holme, however, in his Academy of Armory and Blazon, tells us that, “ Amaymon is the chief whose dominion is on the north side of the infernal gulph; and that Barbatos is like a Sagittarius, and hath thirty legions under him.”

STEEVENS. “ That becomes the ship-lire, the tire-valiant, or any tire of Venetian admillance."--Act III. Sc. 3.

The extravagance of female dress is here satirized. We shall give an extract or two on this subject from contemporary authors :

“ Their heads, with their top and top-gallant curlings, they make a plain puppet-stage of lawne baby caps, and snow-resembled silver. Their breasts they embushe up on hie, and their round roseate buds they immodestly lay forth, to show at their hands there is fruit to be hoped." Nashe's Christ's Teares, 1594. — “Oh, what a wonder it is to see a ship under saile with her tacklings and her masts, and her tops and her top-gallants, with her upper decks and nether decks, and so bedeckt, with her streamers, flags, and ensignes, and I know not what; yea, but a world of wonders it is to see a woman created in God's image, so miscreate oft times and deformed with her French, her Spanish, and her foolish fashions, that he who made her, when he looks upon her, shall hardly know her with her plumes, her fans, and her silken vizard, with a ruffe like a saile ; yea, a ruffe like a rainbow, with a feather in her cap, like a flag in her top, to tell (I thinke) which way the wind will blow. It is proverbially said, that far-fetcht and dear-bought is fittest for ladies; as now-adaies what groweth at home is base and homely; and what everie one eates is meate for dogs; and wee must have breade from one countrie, and drinke from another; and wee must have meate from Spaine, and sauce out of Italy; and if wee weare anything, it must be pure Venetian, Roman, or barbarian; but the fashion of all must be French.” The Merchant Royall, a sermon preached at White-hall, before the king's majestie, at the nuptialls of Lord Hay and his lady, Twelfth-day, 1607.

REED. “And smell like Bucklersbury, in simple time."— Act III. Sc. 3. Bucklersbury, in the time of Shakspeare, was chiefly inhabited by druggists, who sold all kinds of herbs, green as well as dry.-STEEVENS.

Let the sky rain potatoes ; hail kissing comfits, and snow eringoes ; let there come a tempest of provocation." — Act V. Sc. 5.

Potatoes, when they were first introduced in England, were supposed to be strong provocatives; kissing-comforts were sugar-plums, perfumed to make the breath sweet. Eringoes, like potatoes, were esteemed to be stimulatives. But Shakspeare, probably, had the following artificial tempest in his thoughts, when he wrote the above passage. Holinshed informs us, that in the year 1583, for the entertainment of Prince Alasco, was performed “a verie statelie tragedie, named Dido, wherein the

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

queen's banket (with Æneas's description of the destruction of Troie) was lively described in a marchpane patterne; the tempest wherein it hailed small consects, rained rose-water, and snew an artificial kind of snow, all strange, marvellous, and abundant."-STEEVENS.

TWELFTH NIGHT. Thou shalt present me as an eunuch to him."-Act I. Sc. 2. When the practice of castration was adopted first, solely to improve the voice, is uncertain. The first regular opera was performed at Flor. ence, in 1600. Till about 1653, musical dramas were only occasionally performed in the palaces of princes, and consequently before that period eunuchs could not abound. The first eunuch that was suffered to sing in the Pope's chapel was in 1600. So early, however, as 1604, eunuchs are mentioned by Marston, in the Malcontent, as excelling in singing. "Yes, I can sing, fool, if you'll bear the burden; and I can play upon instruments scurvily, as gentlemen do. O that I had been gelded! I should then have been a fat fool for a chamber, a squeaking fool for a tavern, and a private fool for all the ladies.”—MALONE.

Like a parish lop."-Act I. Sc. 3. A large top was formerly kept in every village, to be whipped in frosty weather, that the peasants might be kept warm by exercise, and out of mischief when they could not work.-STEEVENS.

Mistress Mall's picture.”—Act I. Sc. 3. The real name of the woman here alluded to was Mary Frith. The title she was commonly known by was Mall Cutpurse. She was at once an hermaphrodite, a prostitute, a bawd, a bully, a thief, a receiver of stolen goods, &c. On the books of the Stationers' Company, August, 1610, is entered, “ A Booke called the Madde Prancks of Merry Mall of the Bankside, with her walkes in Men's Apparel, and to what purpose. Written by John Day." Middleton and Decker wrote a play called the Roaring Girl, of which she is the heroine, and the frontispiece of this drama, published in 1611, contains a full-length portrait of her in man's clothes, smoking tobacco. There is a MS. in the British Museum, in which an account is given of Mall's doing penance at St. Paul's Cross. Her extravagant conduct and shameless vices seem to have rendered her infamously public.

“A most weak pia-mater."—Act I, Sc. 5. The pia-mater is the membrane which immediately covers the substance of the brain.-STEEVENS.

Stand at your door like a sheriff's post."-Act I. Sc. 5. It was the custom for that officer to have large posts set up at his door as an indication of his office, the original of which was, that the king's proclamations and other public acts might be affixed thereto.

WARBURTON. Did you never see the picture of we three ?”—Act II. Sc. 3. An allusion to an old print frequently pasted on country ale-house walls, representing two, but under which the spectator reads, “ We three are asses.”—MALONE.

Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?"-Act II. Sc. 3.

It was the custom on saint's days and holidays, to make cakes in honour of the day. The Puritans thought this a superstition, and Maria says, that “ Malvolio is sometimes a kind of Puritan."-LETHERLAND.

-Rub your chain wilh orums."--Act II. Sc. 3. Stewards in great families were formerly distinguished by wearing a gold chain. The usual mode of cleaning this ornament was by rubbing it with bread crumbs. See Webster's Duchess of Malfy, 1623. Yea, and the chippings of the buttery fly after him, to scouer his gold chain.”

STEEVENS. Having come from a day-bed.”—Act II. Sc. 5. It was usual in Shakspeare's time, for the rich to have day-beds or couches. Spenser, in his Fairy Queen, has dropped a stroke of satire on this lazy fashion :

“So was that chamber clad in goodly wize,

And round about it many beds were dight,
As whilome was the antique worldes guize,
Some for untimely ease, some for delight.”

STEEVENS. “ Wind up my watch.”-Act II. Sc. 5. Pocket watches were first brought from Germany about the year 1580, so that in Shakspeare's time they were very uncommon. When Guy Faux was taken, it was urged as a circumstance of suspicion, that a watch was found upon him.-JOHNSON.

Yellow stockings.”—Act II. Sc. 5. Before the civil wars, yellow slockings were much worn.

We quote two passages to prove this :

-since she cannot
Wear her own linen yellow, yet she shows
Her love to 't, and makes him weare yellow hose.”

THE WORLD Togs'd AT TENNIS. And in the Honest Whore, by Decker: "What stockings have you put on this morning, madam? if they be not yellow, change them.”

STEEVENS. * Clovon with a tabor."-Act III. Sc. 1. Tarleton, the celebrated fool or clown of the stage before Shakspeare's time, is exhibited in a print prefixed to his jests, 1611, with a tabor. Perhaps, in imitation of him, the subsequent dramatic clowns usually appeared with one.—MALONE. If thou thou'st him some thrice, it shall not be amiss."

Act III. Sc. 2. Alluding to a passage in the speech of the attorney-general Coke, at the trial of Sir Walter Raleigh. “All that he did was by thy instigation, thou viper; for I thou thee, thou traytor.”—THEOBALD.

He does smile his face into more lines, than are in the new map, with the augmentation of the Indies." -Act III. Sc. 3.

A clear allusion to a map engraved for Linschoten's Voyages, an English translation of which was published in 1598. This map is multilineal in the extreme, and is the first in which the Eastern Islands are included. -STEEVENS.

Why dost thou smile so, and kiss thy hand so oft?"

Act III. Sc. 4. This fantastical custom is taken notice of by Barnaby Rice, in Faults, and Nothing but Faults, 1606. — “And these Flowers of Courtesie, as they are full of affectation, so are they no less formal in their speeches, full of fustian phrases, many times delivering such sentences as do betray and lay open their masters' ignorance; and they are so frequent with the kisse on the hand, that word shall not passe their mouthes, till they have clapt their fingers over their lippes."—REED.

He is a knight, dubb'd with unhatch'd rapier, and on carpet consideration."--Act III. Sc. 4.

That is, he is no soldier by profession, not a knight-banneret, dubbed on the field of battle, but on carpet consideration, at a festivity, or on some peaceable occasion, when knights receive their dignity kneeling; not in war, but on a carpet. This is, I believe, the original of the contemptuous term, a carpet knight, who was naturally held in scorn by the men of war.-JOHNSON.

"Are emply trunks, o'erflourished by the devil.”—Act III. Sc. 4. In the time of Shakspeare, trunks, which are now deposited in lumber-rooms, were part of the furniture in apartments where company was received. They were richly ornamented on the top and sides with scroll work and emblematical devices, and were elevated on feet.-STEEVENS.

· Why should I not, had I the heart to do it,
Like to the Egyptian thief at point of death,

Kill what I love ?"Act V. Sc. 1. This Egyptian thief was Thyamis, who was a native of Memphis, and at the head of a band of robbers. Theagenes and Chariclea falling into their bands, Thyamis fell desperately in love with the lady, and would have married her. Soon after, a stronger body of robbers coming down upon Thyamis's party, he was in such fears for his mistress, that he had her shut into a cave with his treasure. It was customary with those barbarians, " when they despaired of their own safety, first to make a way with those whom they held dear,” and desired for companions in the next life: Thyamis, therefore, benetted round with his enemies, raging with love, jealousy, and anger, went to the cave, and calling aloud in the Egyptian tongue, as soon as he heard himself answered towards the cave's mouth by a Grecian, making to the person by the direction of the voice, he caught her by the hair with his left hand, and (supposing her to be Chariclea) with the right hand plunged his sword into her breast. This story is taken from Heliodorus's Æthiopics, of which a translation by Thomas Underdowne appeared in 1587.—THEOBALD.

After a passy measure, or a pavin."—Act V. Sc. 1. The pavan, from pavo, a peacock, is a grave and majestic dance. The method of dancing it was by gentlemen dressed with cap and sword, by those of the long robe in their gowns, by princes in their mantles, and by ladies in gowns with long trains, the motion whereof, in the dance, resembled that of a peacock's tail.-Sir J. HAWKINS.

MEASURE FOR MEASURE.

Some run from brakes of vice."—Act II. Sc. 1. The brake was an engine of torture; we find the following passage in Holinshed :—“ The said Hawkins was cast into the Tower, and at length brought to the brake, called in derision the duke of Exeter's daughter;" that nobleman

having invented it. A part of this horrid engine still remains in the Tower. It consists of a strong iron frame about six feet long, with three rollers of wood within it; the middle one of these, which has iron teeth at each end, is governed by two stops of iron, and was, probably, that part of the machine which suspended the powers of the rest, when the unhappy sufferer was sufficiently strained by the rds, &c., to begin confession.-STEEVENS.

Greatest thing about you."— Act II. Sc. 1. Harrison, in his description of Britain, condemns the excess of apparel among his countrymen, and thus proceeds: — “Neither can we be more justly burdened with any reproche than inordinate behaviour in apparell, for which most nations deride us; as also for that we men doe seem to bestowe most cost upon our arses, and much more than upon all the rest of our bodies, as women do likewise upon their heades and shoulders.” Wide breeches were extremely fashionable in Shakspeare's days, as we may learn from this stanza in an old ballad :

As now, of late, in lesser thinges,

To furnyshe forthe theare pryde;
With woole, with flaxe, with hare also,
To make theare bryches wide."

DOUCE.
- merely, thou art death's fool;
For him thou labourest by thy flight to shun,

And yet run'st toward him still."— Act III. Sc. 1. In the old Moralities, the fool of the piece, in order to show the inevitable approaches of death, is made to employ all his stratagems to avoid him; which, as the matter is ordered, bring the fool at every turn into his very jaws.—WARBURTON.

And his use was, to put a ducat in her clack-dish.”—Act III. Sc. 2.

The beggars, two or three centuries ago, used to proclaim their wants by a wooden dish with a moveable cover, which they clacked, to show that their vessels were empty.-STEEVENS.

And lie the beard." -Act IV. Sc. 2. The Revisal recommends Simpson's emendation, die the beard, but the present reading may stand. Perhaps it was usual to tie up the beard before decollation. It should, however, be remembered, that it was usual to die beards. So in the old comedy of Ram Alley, 1611:

“ What colour'd beard comes next by the window?

A black man's, I think.

I think, a red; for that is most in fashion.” And in the Silent Woman: “I have fitted my divine and canonist, dyed their beards and all."-STEEVENS.

« PreviousContinue »