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Line 105. fellow of this walk,] Who the fellow is, or why he keeps his shoulders for him, I do not understand. JOHNS. To the keeper the shoulders and humbles belong as a perquisite.
GREY. Line 119. You ORPHAN-heirs of fixed destiny,] But why orphan-heirs? Destiny, whom they succeeded, was yet in being. Doubtless the poet wrote,
You OUPHEN heirs of fixed destiny,
i. e. you elves, who minister, and succeed in some of the works of destiny. They are called, in this play, both before and afterterwards, ouphes; here ouphen; en being the plural termination of Saxon nouns. WARBURTON.
Dr. Warburton corrects orphan and ouphen; and not without plausibility, as the word ouphes occurs both before and afterward. But, I fancy, in acquiescence to the vulgar doctrine, the address in this line is 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. FARMER.
-Go you, and where you find a maid,Raise up the organs of her fantasy;] The sense of this speech is that she, who had performed her religious duties, should be secure against the illusion of fancy; and have her sleep, like that of infancy, undisturbed by disordered dreams. This was then the popular opinion, that evil spirits had a power over the fancy; and, by that means, could inspire wicked dreams into those who, on their going to sleep, had not recommended themselves to the protection of heaven. So Shakspeare makes one, on his lying down, say,
From fairies, and the tempters of the night,
Line 143. In state as wholsome,] Wholsome here signifies integer. He wishes the castle may stand in its present state of perfection, which the following words plainly shew.
as in state 'tis fit.
Line 144. Worthy the owner, AND the owner it.] And cannot
be the true
reading. The context will not allow it; and his court
to queen Elizabeth directs us to another,
AS the owner it.
For, sure he had more address than to content himself with wishing a thing to be, which his complaisance must suppose actually was, namely, the worth of the owner. WARBURTON,
Line 154. In emerald-tufts, flowers, PURPLE, blue, and white; Like saphire, pearl, AND rich embroidery,]
The lines were wrote thus by the poet:
In emrald-tuffs, flowers PURPLED, blue, and white;
i. e. Let there be blue and white flowers worked on the greensword, like saphire and pearl in rich embroidery. To purfle, is to over-lay with tinsel, gold thread, &c.; so our ancestors called a certain lace of this kind of work a purfling-lace, WARBURTON.. -charactery,] For the matter with which they
Line 157. make letters.
of middle earth.] Spirits are supposed to inhabit the ethereal regions, and fairies to dwell under ground; men
therefore are in a middle station.
With trial-fire, &c.] So Beaumont and Fletcher, in
The Faithful Shepherdess:
"In this flame his finger thrust,
"Which will burn him if he lust;
"But if not, away will turn,
"As loth unspotted flesh to burn.
Line 180. Evans. It is right, indeed, &c.] This short speech, which is very much in character for Sir Hugh, I have inserted from the old quartos. THEOBALD.
Line 183. and luxury!] Luxury here means, enslaved to pleasure.
Line 184. Lust is but a bloody fire,] A bloody fire, means a fire in the blood. In The Second Part of Henry IV. Act 4. the same expression occurs :
"Led on by bloody youth," &c.
i. e. sanguine youth,
Line 199. See you these, husband? do not these fair yokes Become the forest better than the town?] Mrs. Page's meaning is this. She speaks to her own, and Mrs. Ford's husband, and asks them, if they see the horns in Falstaff's hand; and then, alluding to them as the types of cuckoldom, puts the
question, whether those yokes are not more proper in the forest than in the town, i. e. than in their families, as a reproach to them? THEOBALD.
-how wit may be made a Jack-a-Lent,] A Jack a'Lent appears to have been some puppet which was thrown at in Lent, like Shrove-tide cocks.
So in Ben Jonson's Tale of a Tub:
"Where thou didst stand six weeks the Jack o' Lent,
STEEVENS. Line 256. ―ignorance itself is a plummet o'er me :—— Though this be perhaps not unintelligible, yet it is an odd way of confessing his dejection. I should wish to read: -ignorance itself has a plume o' me ;
That is, I am so depressed, that ignorance itself plucks me, and decks itself with the spoils of my weakness. Of the present reading, which is probably right, the meaning may be, I am so enfeebled, that ignorance itself weighs me down and oppresses me. JOHNSON.
Line 263. Mrs. Ford. Nay, husband, -] This and the following little speech I have inserted from the old quartos. The retrenchment, I presume, was by the players. Sir John Falstaff is sufficiently punished, in being disappointed and exposed. The expectation of his being prosecuted for the twenty pounds, gives the conclusion too tragical a turn. Besides, it is poetical justice that Ford should sustain this loss, as a fine for his unreasonable jealousy. THEOBALD.
Line 269. —laugh at my wife,] The two plots are excellently connected, and the transition very artfully made in this speech.
-amaze- -] i. e. Confuse with terror.
337. Page. Well, what remedy ?- -] In the first sketch of this play, which, as Mr. Pope observes, is much inferior to the latter performance, the only sentiment of which I regret the omission occurs at this critical time, when Fenton brings in his wife, there is this dialogue.
Mrs. Ford. Come, mistress Page, I must be bold with you,
'Tis pity to part love that is so true.
Mrs. Page. [Aside.] Although that I have miss'd in my intent,
Yet I am glad my husband's match is cross'd.
-Here Fenton, take her.
Eva. Come, master Page, you must needs agree.
Ford. I faith, Sir, come, you see your wife is pleas'd.
Page. I cannot tell, and yet my heart is eas'd;
And yet it doth me good the Doctor miss'd.
Come hither, Fenton, and come hither, daughter.
END OF THE ANNOTATIONS ON THE MERRY WIVES OF
WHAT YOU WILL.
ACT I. SCENE I.
LINE 2. Give me excess of it; that, surfeiting, &c.] So in The Two Gentlemen of Verona. " And now excess of it will make me "surfeit."
Line 4. That strain again; it had a dying fall;
O! it came o'er my ear, like the sweet south,
Stealing, and giving odour
Amongst the beauties of this charming similitude, its exact propriety is not the least. For, as a south wind, while blowing over a violet-bank, wafts away the odour of the flowers, it, at the same time, communicates its own sweetness to it; so the soft affecting music, here described, though it takes away the natural, and sweet tranquillity of the mind, yet, at the same time, it communicates a new pleasure to it. WARBURTON.