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The first edition of this play was published period of the comedy with the period of the in 1602. The comedy as it now stands first histories. But at the same time we must appeared in the folio of 1623; and the play suffer our minds to slide into the belief that in that edition contains very nearly twice the manners of the times of Henry IV. had the number of lines that the original edition sufficient points in common with those of 'contains. The succession of scenes is the the times of Elizabeth to justify the poet in same in both copies, except in one instance; taking no great pains to distinguish between but the speeches of the several characters them. The characters speak in the language are greatly elaborated in the amended copy, of truth and nature, which belongs to all and several of the characters not only time; and we must forget that they someheightened, but new distinctive features times use the expressions of a particular given to them.
time to which they do not in strict propriety Rightly to appreciate this comedy, it is, belong. we conceive, absolutely necessary to dissociate The critics have been singularly laudatory it from the historical plays of Henry IV.'and of this comedy. Warton calls it "the most
Henry V. Whether Shakspere produced complete specimen of Shakspere's comic the original sketch of The Merry Wives of powers." Johnson says, “This comedy is Windsor' before those plays, and remodelled remarkable for the variety and number of it after their appearance,-or whether he the personages, who exhibit more characters produced both the original sketch and the appropriated and discriminated than perfinished performance when his audiences haps can found in any other play.” We were perfectly familiar with the Falstaff, agree with much of this; but we certainly Shallow, Pistol, Nym, Bardolph, and Mistress cannot agree with Warton that it is "the Quickly of Henry IV. and 'Henry V.,-it most complete specimen of Shakspere's comic is perfectly certain that he did not intend powers.” We cannot forget 'As You Like "The Merry Wives' as a continuation. It is It,' and "Twelfth Night,' and 'Much Ado impossible, however, not to associate the | About Nothing.' Of those qualities which
put Shakspere above all other men that ever and Justice Shallow with a quiet satisfaction; existed, “The Merry Wives of Windsor' ex. for they talk as unartificial men ordinarily bibits few traces. Some of the touches, how-talk, without much wisdom, but with good ever, which no other hand could give, are to temper and sincerity. We find ourselves in be found in Slender, and we think in Quickly. the days of ancient hospitality, when men
The principal action of this comedy—the could make their fellows welcome without adventures of Falstaff with the Merry ostentatious display, and half a dozen neighWives—sweeps on with a rapidity of move bours “could drink down all unkindness” ment which hurries us forward to the dénoue over "a hot venison pasty.” The more busy ment. as irresistibly as if the actors were inhabitants of the town have time to tattle, under the influence of that destiny which and to laugh, and be laughed at. Mine Host of belongs to the empire of tragedy. No re- the Garter is the prince of hosts; he is the verses, no disgraces, can save Falstaff from very soul of fun and good temper. His conhis final humiliation. The net is around trivances to manage the fray between the him, but he does not see the meshes ;—he furious French doctor and the honest Welsh fancies himself the deceiver, but he is the parson are productive of the happiest situadeceived. The real jealousy of Ford most tions. Caius waiting for his adversary—“ De skilfully helps on the merry devices of his berring is no dead so as I vill kill him "wife; and with equal skill does the poet is capital. But Sir Hugh, with hismake him throw away his jealousy, and " There will we make our peds of roses, assist in the last plot against the “unclean
And a thousand fragrant posies,
Mercy on me! I have a great dispositions to The movement of the principal action is
cry,"—is inimitable. beautifully contrasted with the occasional
With regard to the under-plot of Fenton repose of the other scenes. The Windsor of
and Anne Page—the scheme of Page to the time of Elizabeth is presented to us, as
marry her to Slender—the counterplot of her the quiet country town, sleeping under the
mother, “firm for Dr. Caius"—and the shadow of its neighbour the castle. Amidst
management of the lovers to obtain a triumph its gabled houses, separated by pretty gar
out of the devices against them—it may be dens, from which the elm and the chestnut
sufficient to point out how skilfully it is inand the lime throw their branches across the
terwoven with the Herne's Oak adventure of unpaved road, we find a goodly company,
Falstaff. Over all the misadventures of that with little to do but gossip and laugh, and
night, when "all sorts of deer were chas'd," make sport out of each other's cholers and
Shakspere throws his own tolerant spirit of weaknesses. We see Master Page training.
forgiveness and content : his “ fallow greyhound ;” and we go with
“ Good husband, let us every one go home, Master Ford “a-birding.” We listen to the
And laugh this sport o'er by a country fire; “ pribbles and prabbles " of Sir Hugh Evans Sir John and all."
SIB JOHN FALSTAFF.
Act V. sc. I; sc. 5.
Act V. SC. 5.
Act V. sc. 2.
Appears, Act I. sc. 1. Act II. sc. 3.
Act IV. sc. 2; sc. 4. Act V. sc. 1; sc. 5. MR. PAGE, a gentleman dwelling at Windsor.
Appeare, Act I. sc. 1. Act II. sc. 1; sc. 3.
Act V. sc. 2; se. 5.
Appears, Act IV. sc. 1.
DR. Caius, a French physician.
Appears, Act I. sc. 4. Act II, SC. 3.
Act V. sc. 3; sc. 5.
Host of the Garter Inn.
BARDOLPH, a follower of Falstaff., Appears, Act I. sc. ); sc. 3. Act II. sc. 2. Act III. sc. 3.
Act IV. sc. 3; sc. 5.
PISTOL, a follower of Falstaff.
Act V. sc. 5.
ROBIN, page to Falstaff.
SIMPLE, servant to Slender.
Att IV. sc. 5.
Act III. sc. 1; sc. 2.
MRS. FORD. Appeara, Act I. sc. 1. Act II. sc. 1. Act III. sc. 3. Act IV. sc. 2; sc. 4. Act V. sc. 3; sc. 5.
MRS. PAGE. Appears, Act I. sc. I. Act II. sc. 1. Act III. sc. 2; sc. 3; sc. 4. Act IV. sc. 1; sc. 2; &c. 4.
Act V. sc. 3; sc. 5.
Appears, Act I. sc. 4. Act II. sc. 1; sc. 2.
Act V. sc. 1; sc. 5.
Servants to Page, Ford, &c.
SCENE I.-Windsor. Garden Front of Page's House.
SAAL. Sir Hugh', persuade me not; I will make a Star-chambera matter of it:
if he were twenty sir John Falstaffs, be shall not abuse Robert Shallow,
esquire. SLEN. In the county of Gloster, justice of peace, and coram. • So in Ben Jonson, (* Magnetic Lady,' Act III., Scene 4):
“ There is a Court above, of the Star-chamber.
To punish routs and riots.”
SAAL. Ay, cousin Slender, and Cust-alorum a.
writes himself armigero ; in any bill, warrant, quittance, or obligation,
armigero : SHAL. Ay, that I do; and have donec any time these three hundred years. SLEN. All his successors, gone before him, have done 't; and all his ancestors,
that come after him, may: they may give the dozen white luces in their
coat. SFAL. It is an old coat. Eva. The dozen white louses do become an old. coat well; it agrees well,
passant: it is a familiar beast. to man, and signifies love. Shal. The luce is the fresh fish; the salt fish is an old coat?. SLEN. I may quarter, coz ? SHAL. You may, by marrying. Eva. It is marring, indeed, if he quarter it.. SHAL. Not a whit. Eva. Yes, py'r lady; if he has a quarter of your coat there is but three skirts
for yourself, in my simple conjectures : but that is all one: If sir John Falstaff have committed disparagements unto you, I am of the church, and will be glad to do my benevolence, to make atonements and compromises
between you. SHAL. The council shall hear it; it is a riot. Eva. It is not meet the council hear a riot; there is no fear of Got in a riot:
the council, look you, shall desire to hear the fear of Got, and not to hear a
riot; take your vizaments d in that. SAAL. Ha! o' my life, if I were young again the sword should end it. Eva. It is petter that friends is the sword, and end it: and there is also another
device in my prain, which, peradventure, prings goot discretions with it: "There is Anne Page, which is daughter to master George Page, which is
pretty virginity. SLEN. Mistress Anne Page? She has brown hair, and speaks small like a
woman. Eva. It is that fery person for all the 'orld, as just as you will desire; and
seven hundred pounds of moneys, and gold, and silver, is her grandsire upon his death's-bed (Got deliver to a joyful resurrections !) give, when she is able to overtake seventeen years old: it were a goot motion if we leave our pribbles and prabbles, and desire a marriage between master Abraham and
mistress Anne Page. SHAL. Did her grandsire leave her seven hundred pound ?
Cust-alorum is meant for an abbreviation of Custos Rotulorum. Slender, not understanding the abbreviation, adds," and ratolorum too."
"The justice signed his attestations, " jurat coram me, Roberto Shallow, armigero."