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A few of the incidents in this comedy might have been taken from some old translation of Il Pecorone by Giovanni Fiorentino. I have lately met with the same story in a very contemptible performance, intitled, Tbe fortunate, the deceived, and be unfortunate Lovers. Of this book, as I am told, there are several impressions ; but that in which I read it, was published in 1632, quarto. A somewhat fimilar story occurs in Piacevoli Notti di Straparola, Nott. 4a. Fav. 4a.
This comedy was first entered at Stationers' Hall, Jan. 18, 1601, by John Busby. STELVENS. This play should be read between K. Henry IV. and K. Henry V.
JOHNSON. A passage in the first sketch of Tbe Merry Wives of Windsor shews, I think, that it ought rather to be read between the First and tbe Second Part of King Henry IV, in the latter of which young Henry becomes king. In the last act, Falstaff says :
" Herne the hunter, quoth you ? am I a ghost ?
Is stealing his father's deare.” and in this play, as it now appears, Mr. Page discountenances the addresses of Fenton to his daughter, because “ he keeps company with the wild prince, and with Poins.”
The Fishwife's Ta e of Brainford in WESTWARD POR SMILTS, a book which Shakspeare appears to have read, (having borrowed from it part
of the fable of Cymbeline,) probably led him to lay the scene of Falitaff's love-adventures at Windsor. It begins thus : “ In Windsor not long agoe dwelt a sumpterman, who had to wife a very faire but wanton creature, over whom, not without cause, he was something jealous ; yet had he never any proof of her inconstancy."
The reader who is curious in such matters, may find a reference to the story of The Lovers of Pisa, mentioned by Dr. Farmer in the following note, at the end of this play. MALONE.
The adventures of Falstaff in this play seem to have been taken from the story of Ibe Lovers of Pisa, in an old piece, called “ Tarleton's Newes out of Purgatorie.” Mr. Capell pretended to much knowledge of this fort; and I am sorry that it proved only to be pretension.
Mr. Warton observes, in a note to the last Oxford edition, that the play was probably not written, as we now have it, before 1607, at the earliest. I agree with my very ingenious friend in this supposition, but yet the argument here produced for it may not be conclusive. Slender observes to master Page, that his greybound was cut-run on Cotsale (Cotswould-Hils in Gloucestershire); and Mr. Warton thinks, that the games, established there by Captain Dover in the beginning of K. James's reign, arealluded to. But perhaps, though the Captain be celebrated in the Annalis Dubrensa as the founder of them, he might be the reviver only, or fome way contribute to make them more famous; for in Tbe fecond Part of
Henry IV. 1500, Judice Sballow reckons among the Swinge-bucklers, " Will Squeele, a Corfsle man."
In the first edition of the imperfect play, fir Hugh Evans is called on the title page, the We'cb Krigbt; and yet there are some persons who still affect to believe, that all our author's plays were originally published by himself. FARMER.
Dr. Farmer's opinion is well supported by “ An eclogue on the noble assemblies revived on Cotswold Hills, by Mr. Robert Dover." See Randolph's Poems, printed at Oxford, 4to. 1638, p. 114. The hills of Cotswold, in Gloucestershire, are mentioned in K. Ricbard II. A& II. sc. iü. and by Drayton, in his Polyolbion, long 14. STEVENS.
Queen Elizabeth was so well pleased with the admirable character of Falstaff in The Two Parts of Henry IV. that, as Mr. Rowe informs us, he commanded Shakspeare to continue it for one play more, and to ihew him in love. To this command we owe The Merry Wives of Windsor; which, Mr. Gildun says, (Remarks on Shakspeare's plays, 8vo. 1710, he was very well assured our author finished in a fortnight. But this, must be meant only of the first imperfect sketch of this comedy. An old quarto edition which I have seen, printed in 1692, says, in the title-page, - As it bath been divers times afted before ber majesty, and elsewbere. This, which we have here, was altered and improved by the author almost in every speech. Pork. THLOBALD.
Mr. Gildon has likewise told us, “ that our author's house at Stratford bordered on the Church-yard, and that he wrote the scene of the Ghoft in Hamlet there.” But neither for this, or the aftertion that the play before us was written in a fortnight, does he quote any authority. The latter circumstance was first mentioned by Mr. Dennis. “This comedy," says he, in his Epistle Dedicatory to The Comical Gailant, (an alteration of the present play,) 1702,.“ was written at her (Queen Elizabeth's] command, and by her direction, and the was so eager to see it acted, that the commanded it to be finished in fourteen days; and was afterwards, as tradition tells us, very well pleased at the representation.” The information, it is probable, came originally from Dryden, who from his intimacy with Sir William Davenant had an opportunity of learning many particulars concerning our author.
At what period Shakspeare new-modelle] The Merry Wives of Windsor is unknown. I believe it was enlarged in 1603. See some conjectures on the subject in the Attempt to ascertain the order of bis plays. MALOXI.
It is not generally known, that the first edition of The Merry Wives of Windsor, in its present state, is in the valuable folio, printed 3623, whence the quarto of the same play, dated 1630, was evidently copied. The two carlier quartos, 1602, and 1619, only exbibit this comedy as it was originally written, and are so far curious, as they contain Shakspeare's first conceptions in forming a drama, which is the most complete specime, of his comick powers. T. WARTON. VOL. I.
Sir John Falstaff.
two gentlemen dwelling at Windsor.
Servants to Page, Ford, &c. SCENE, Windsor; and the parts adjacent,