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“ Lust is but a bloody fire."- Act V., Scene 5. That is, “but a fire in the blood."
“Let the sky rain potatoes."--Act V., Scene 5. A notion appears to have prevailed, on the first introduction of this innocent vegetable, that it was an amorous provocative.
"Divide me like a bribe-buck."-Act V., Scene 5. That is, like a buck sent as a bribe. Those who adopted the practice would be likely to make the bribe available as far as possible, by sending the haunches in different directions.
"My shoulders for the fellow of this walk.”—Act V., Scene 5.
Meaning the keeper. He was entitled by custom to the shoulders and humbles, or knees, of the deer. Hence, no doubt, the phrase, “eat humble pie”--to feed off an inferior dish; figuratively, to be reduced to submission. "Enter Sir Hugh Evans like a satyr," &c.-Act V., Scene V.
This long stage-direction was concocted by Malone from the early quartos. The folio has none whatever bable that the performers who played Pistol and Mrs. Quickly were, from lack of numbers in the company, compelled to appear also in the fairy group. This supposition explains the apparent anomaly (particularly as regards Pistol) of their appearing on this occasion, and having such unaccustomed language attributed to them.
It is pro
" Will none but Herne the hunter serve your turn?"
Act V., Scene 5. There is still a tree in Windsor Home or Little Park, dedicated to the memory of this unquiet old forester. Whether or not it is the identical oak alluded to by Shakspere, remains a disputed point. Mr. Jesse, in his second series of “Gleanings” (published in 1834), contends for the affirmative; and thus supports his opinion, in a letter addressed to the editor of "The Times" newspaper (Nov. 28, 1838.)
“To set the matter at rest, I will now repeat the substance of some information given to me relative to Herne's Oak, by Mr. Ingalt [Engall), the present respectable bailiff and manager of Windsor Home Park. He states, that he was appointed to that situation by George III., about forty years ago.
On receiving his appointment, he was directed to attend upon the King at the Castle; and on arriving there, he found his Majesty with the old Lord Winchilsea.' After a little delay, the King set off to walk in the park, attended by Lord Winchilsea ; and Mr. Ingalt was desired to follow them. Nothing was said to him, until the King stopped opposite an oak tree; he then turned to Mr. Ingalt, and said, 'I brought you here to point out this tree to you : I commit it to your especial charge; and take care that no damage is ever done to it. I had rather that every tree in the park should be cut down, than that this tree should be hurt. This is Herne's Oak.' Mr. Ingalt added, that this was the tree still standing near Queen Elizabeth's Walk, and is the same tree which I have mentioned, and given a sketch of, in my Gleanings in Natural History. Sapless and leafless it certainly is, and its rugged bark has all disappeared.
* Its boughs are mossed with age, And high top bald with grey antiquity ;' But there it stands--and long may it do so,-an object of interest to every admirer of our immortal bard."
“Orphan-heirs of fixed destiny."-Act V., Scene 5. No satisfactory explanation of this passage has been given. The text is probably corrupt. Warburton very plausibly proposes to read “ouphen-heirs ; i.e. you elves, who minister and succeed in some of the works of destiny." Farmer supposes the term to be applied to a “part of the troop, as mortals by birth, but adopted by the fairies ; orphans, in respect of their real parents, and now only dependent on destiny herself." Shakspere frequently uses the word heirs, in the sense of children. By "ouphen-heirs of fixed destiny," he might, therefore, by no very strained interpretation, be supposed to mean “ fairy children, who execute the decrees of destiny."
"See you these, husband ? do not these fair yokes
Act V., Scene 5. The speaker (Mrs. Page) probably refers to the horns that have decorated the head of Falstaff; and seems to express an opinion that such things are in place in a forest, where there are animals destined to wear them; but not so in a town, where they are the supposed appendage of a cornuto.
"Raise up the organs of her fantasy."— Act V., Scene 5.
That is, let her who has performed her religious duties be secure against the grosser illusions of fancy; have her sleep, like that of infancy, free from disordered dreams.
It was supposed that invisible beings had the power of disturbing with dreams, or otherwise annoying, those who had not prayed ere they slept. Shakspere makes Imogen exclaim
" To your protection I commend me, gods !
From fairies, and the terapters of the night,
"A man of middle earth."-Act V., Scene 5. As the ethereal regions were supposed to be possessed by spirits, and those under ground by fairies, to man was given the middle or intermediate space.
"Ignorance itself is a plummet o'er me."- Act V., Scene 5.
This obscure passage has given rise to many attempts at explanation. For "plummet,” Dr. Farmer proposes to read
planet.” It appears to us, however, that Falstaff alludes to the plumb-line used at sea, and means to say, "I feel my brain so dry, my wit so shallow, that even ignorance (or folly) itself is able to sound my depth, or gauge me to the bottom."
“ Vile worm,
Act V., Scene 5. Meaning, probably, “thou hast been an object of contempt from thy earliest hour to the present.”
"When night-dogs run, all sorts of deer are chased." That is, when secret or unlawful sport is going on, there is no knowing who will be the victim. Falstaff alludes to the unexpected capture of Anne Page by Fenton,
EVERAL of the conjectural chronologists of the plays of Shakspere
assign a very late date to the first appearance of the “TWELFTH Night;" considering it, indeed, to have been the last-written of all his wondrous dramas: and, certainly, of his many marvellous works, there is not one upon which the seal of that consummate perfection for which even the most exalted genius must stand indebted to all-maturing Time, is more lovelily and vividly set. But the truth is, little is positively known as to the actual order in which the plays of Shakspere were either written or acted: and of his numerous commentators, the figural labours have been equally futile and superfluous with the great bulk of their verbal ingenuities.
The story of the serious portions of this fine play, “the right happy and copious industry” (as his contemporary Webster somewhat sneeringly phrases it) of its great author may have derived from one of Belleforest's “Histoires TRAGIQUES," or from its Italian original, the thirty-sixth novel of the second part of the “ Tales of BANDELLO;" a novelist in whose rich mine all the dramatists of the age of Elizabeth wrought deeply for the materials of their incessant gorgeous poetic coinage; from one of the
“Eglogs” of Barnaby Googe, whose poems were published in 1563 ; or from the “ HistoRY OF APOLLONIUS AND SILLA,” which was printed in 1583, in a miscellany entitled, “Rich, uis FAREWELL TO MILITARY PROFEssion.” It was, however, the mere form of which Shakspere availed himself: the subtle spirit of the work is his, and his alone: and the exquisitely comic characters of the drama—that prince-royal of joyous topers, Sir Toby Belch, a joker worthy to have been the intimate of Sir John Falstaff: the foolish, prodigal, conceited, quarrelsome, cowardly, super-silly fortune-hunter, Sir Andrew Aguecheek (a distant cousin, we have always thought, of Master Abraham Slender), who " harms his wit” by his "great eating of beef;" who has “an excellent head of hair," that "hangs like flax on a distaff;" who, dancing, has “the back-trick simply as strong as any man in Illyria ;” and who "delights in masks and revels sometimes altogether:" the exuberantly witty Clown, Festo the Jester, “a fool that the lady Olivia's father took much delight in," and whose veriest freedoms are, therefore, rendered permissive, and even sacred, to the lady Olivia; he, the pathetic vocalist, who "takes pleasure in singing :" Malvolio, the fantastic, ill-natured, self-admiring, and sadly but deservedly betricked steward: and the vivacious little Maria, “ the youngest wren of nine," the “nettle of India :”these admirable creations are Shakspere's, soul, body, and all !
As we abandon ourselves to the poetry of this play, the sweetest spirit of love floats balmily over the heart and imagination,
_" Like the sweet south,
Stealing and giving odour." The sense is saturated with it. We are "canopied with bowers," under the fragrant beauty of which our love-thoughts "lie rich” beyond richness. By the “rich golden shaft” of the heavenliest of human passions, are killed “the flock of all affections else that live in us;" and in its sole and omnipotent power we are chained, entranced, spell-bound :
* It gives a very echo to the seat
Where Love is throned !" and one which, in the mysterious distance, we hear calling to us alluringly for ever.