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Mrs. Ford. We burn day-light:_here, read, rcad ;—perceive how I might be knighted.--I shall think the worse of fat men, as long as I have an
“ To gain this honour and this dignity.-
« That some refuse it who are counted wise." STEEVENS. These knights will hack (that is, become cheap or vulgar,) and therefore she advises her friend not to fully her gentry by becoming one. The whole of this discourse about knighthood is added fince the first edition of this play [in 1602]; and therefore I suspect this is an oblique reflection on the prodigality of James I. in beftowing these honours, and erecting in 1611 a new order of knighthood, called Baronets; which few of the ancient gentry would condescend to accept. See Sir Hugh Spelman's epigram on them, Glof. p. 76, which ends thus :
dum cauponare recufant
“ Et modo fit dominus, qui modo fervus erat.' See another stroke at them in Othello, Act III. fc. iv.
BLACKSTONE. Sir W. Blackstone supposes that the order of Baronets (created in 1611) was likewife alluded to. But it appears to me highly probable that our author amplified the play before us at an earlier period. See An Attempt to ascertain the order of Shakspeare's plays, Vol. I. Article, Merry Wives of Windfor.
Between the time of King James's arrival at Berwick in April 1603, and the ad of May, he made two hundred and thirty-feven knights ; and in the July following between three and four hundred. It is probable that the play before us was enlarged in that or the fubsequent year, when this stroke of satire must have been highly relished by the audience. MALONE.
9 We burn day-light:) i. e. we have more proof than we wanto The same proverbial phrase occurs in The Spanish Tragedy :
“ Hier. Light me your torches."
“ Pedro. Then we burn day-light." Again, in Romeo and Juliet, Mercutio uses the same epicífion, and then explains it: “ We waste our lights in vain like lamps by day."
STEEVENS. I think, the meaning rather is, we are wasting time in idle talk, when we ought to read the letter; resembling those who waste candles by burning them in the day-time. MALONE.
eye to make difference of men’s liking :. And yet he would not swear; prais'd women's modesty : and
gaye such orderly and well-behaved reproof to all uncomeliness, that I would have sworn his disposition would have gone to the truth of his words: but they do no more adhere, and keep place together, than the hundredth psalm to the tune of Green Neeves. What tempest, I trow, threw this whale, with so many tuns of oil in his belly, ashore at Windsor? How shall I be revenged on him? I think, the best way were to entertain him with hope, till the wicked fire of luft have melted him
-men's liking :) i. e. men's condition of body. Thus in the Book of Job. « Their young ones are in good liking." FalItaff also, in King Henry IV, says I'll repent while I am in some liking." STEEVENS.
Green Neeves.] This song was entered on the books of the Stationers' Company in September 1580: “ Licensed unto Richard Jones, a newe northerne dittye of the lady, Green Sleeves." Again, “ Licensed unto Edward White, a ballad, beinge the Lady Greene Sleeves, answered to Jenkyn hir friend." Again, in the fame month and year: “ Green Sleeves moralized to the Scripture,” &c. Again, to Edward White:
" Green Sleeves and countenaunce.
“ In countenaunce is Green Sleeves."
“ The bonnieft lass in all the land.”
" And fet our credits to the tune of Greene Sleeves,"
« Greene Sleeves is worn away,
« But white sleeves is my delight.”.
in his own grease.:-Did you ever hear the like?
Mrs. Page. Letter for letter ; but that the name of Page and Ford differs !—To thy great comfort in this mystery of ill opinions, here's the twinbrother of thy letter: but let thine inherit first; for, I protest, mine never shall. I warrant, he hath a thousand of these letters, writ with blank space for different names, (sure more,) and these are of the second edition : He will print them out of doubt; for he cares not what he puts into the press," when he would put us two.
I had rather be a giantess, and lie under mount Pelion. Well, I will find you twenty lascivious turtles, ere onc chaste man.
Mrs. Ford. Why, this is the very fame; the very hand, the very words: What doth he think of us?
Mrs. Page. Nay, I know not: It makes me almost ready to wrangle with mine own honesty. I'll entertain myself like one that I am not acquainted withal; for, sure, unless he knew some strain in me, that I know not myself, he would never have boarded me in this fury.
- melted him in his own grease.] So Chaucer, in his Wif of Bathes Prologue, 6069:
That in his owen grese I made him frie.” SteeveNS. 4 — press,] Press is used ambiguously, for a press to print, and a press to squeeze. Johnson.
3 I had rather be a giantess, and lie under mount Pelion.] Mr. Warton judiciously observes, that in consequence of English versions from Greek and Roman authors, an inundation of classical pedantry very soon infected our poetry, and that perpetual allusions to ancient fable were introduced, as in the present instance, without the least regard to propriety; for Mrs. Page was not intended, in any degree, to be a learned or an affected lady. STEEVENS.
- fome strain in me,] Thus the old copies. The modern editors read—“ fome stain in me,” but, I think, unnecessarily. A similar expression occurs in The Winter's Tale:
Mrs. FORD. Boarding, call you it? I'll be sure to keep him above deck.
Mrs. Page. So will I; if he come under my hatches, I'll never to sea again. Let's be revenged on him: let's appoint him a meeting ; give him a show of comfort in his suit; and lead him on with a fine-baited delay, till he hath pawn'd his horses to mine Host of the Garter.
Mrs. Ford. Nay, I will consent to act any villainy against him, that may not fully the chariness of our honesty. O, that my husband saw this letter!it would give eternal food to his jealousy.
Mrs. Page. Why, look, where he comes; and my good man too: he's as far from jealousy, as I am from giving him cause; and that, I hope, is an unmeasurable distance.
Mrs. Ford. You are the happier woman.
Mrs. Page. Let's consult together against this greasy knight: Come hither.
[they retire. Enter FORD, Pistol, Pace, and Nym. Ford. Well, I hope, it be not so. Pist. Hope is a curtail dog' in some affairs :
“ With what encounter so uncurrent have I
“ Strain'd to appear thus ?” And again, in Timor :
a noble nature
the chariness of our honesty.] i. e. the caution which ought to attend on it. SteeVeNS.
8 O, that my husband saw this letter!] Surely Mrs. Ford does not wish to excite the jealousy of which the complains. I think we should read-O, if my husband, &c, and thus the copy, 1619; “O lord, if my husband should see the letter! i' faith, this would even give edge to his jealoufie." STEEVENS.
9-curtail dog -] That is, a dog that misses his game. The tail is counted necessary to the agility of a greyhound. JOHNSON,
Sir John affects thy wife.
Ford. Why, sir, my wife is not young.
young and old, one with another, Ford; He loves thy gally-mawfry;: Ford, perpend. FORD. Love
wife? Pist. With liver burning hot:' Prevent, or go
curtail-dog -] That is, a dog of small value ;-what we now call a cur. MALONE.
gally-mawfry;] i. e. A medley. So, in The Winter's Tale : « They have a dance, which the wenches fay is a gallimaufry of gambols.” Pistol ludicrously uses it for a woman. Thus, in A Woman never vex'd, 1632 : “ Let us show ourselves gallants or galli-maufries."
STEEVENS. The first folio has--the gallymaufry. Thy was introduced by the editor of the second. The gallymawfry may be right: He loves a medley; all forts of women, high and low, &c. Ford's reply, • Love my wife!" may refer to what Pistol had said before: “Sir John affects thy wife.” Thy gallymawfry sounds however more like Piftol's language than the other; and therefore I have followed the modern editors in preferring it. MALONE.
4 Ford, perpend.] This is perhaps a ridicule on a pompous word too often used in the old play of Cambyses :
“ My fapient words I lay perpend.' Again :
“ My queen perpend what I pronounce." Shakspeare has put the same word into the mouth of Polonius.
STEEVENS. Piftol again uses it in K. Henry V.; so does the Clown in Twelfth Night: I do not believe therefore that any ridicule was here aimed at Preston, the author of Cambyses. MALONE. 3 With liver burning hot :] So, in Much ado about Nothing:
« If ever love had interest in his liver." The liver was anciently supposed to be the infpirer of amorous passions. Thus in an old Latin diftich:
Cor ardet, pulmo lognitur, fel commovet iras;
Splen ridere facit, cogit amare jecur, STEVENS,