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After all, we have endeavoured, while we have expressed our own belief, fairly to present both sides of the question. The point, we think, is of interest to the lovers of Shakespeare; for inferring that the comedy is a continuation of the history, the inferiority of the Falstaff of the MERRY WIVES to the Falstaff of HENRY IV., implies a considerable abatement of the Poet's skill. On the other hand, the conviction that the sketch of the comedy preceded the history-that it was an early play-and that it was subsequently re-modelled-is consistent with the belief in the progression of that extraordinary intellect which acquired greater vigour the more its powers were exercised.

There is a prodigal and glorious throng of incident and character in this very admirable comedy: for variety, and broad, unceasing effect, it stands perhaps unrivalled. Each individual member of the breathing group-the Wives, the Husbands, the Doctor, Parson, mine Host of the Garter, Shallow, Slender; every character, in short, from Falstaff and his satellites to Simple and Rugby-stands out in the clearest light, and assists in reflecting the sunshine of the author's intellect for the delight and instruction of the reader or spectator. It has been said, and truly, that Falstaff, in this play, is not so unctuous and irresistible as in the two parts of HENRY IV.; but, if the Falstaff of Windsor must succumb to him of Gadshill and Shrewsbury, it should in fairness be added,

"Nought but himself can be his conqueror."

Even the gullibility of the unfortunate old boy, (as drawn forth of him by the witcheries of the wicked wives,) places him in an amiable point of view, and raises a new sensation in his favour. Our choler would rise, despite of us, against Cleopatra herself, should she presume to make a dupe and tool of regal old Jack, the natural lord and master of all about him: and, although not so atrociously immoral as to wish he had succeeded with the Windsor gipsies, we yet plead guilty to the minor turpitude of sympathy, when he tells his persecutors, with brightening visage and exultant twinkle of eye,-"I am glad, though you have ta'en a special stand to strike at me, that your arrow hath glanced."

The serious part of this play bears but a small proportion to the facetious, but is equally good in its kind. The softer sentiment is confined to Fenton and Anne Page, both of whom give indications of possessing very loveable natures, although their persons seem thrust into a corner (an arrangement to which the lovers themselves would probably start no objection) by the crowd of comic roysterers.

There are various old stories and dramas from which Shakespeare may have gathered hints for the dilemmas in which Falstaff is involved in the present play: but the tale of "The Lovers of Pisa," in a collection called "Tarleton's Newes out of Purgatorie," appears to have been the immediate source of his inspiration in this particular. The coincidences, however, do not extend to the characters. The lover in the tale is a handsome youth, and really favoured by the young lady, who plots with him to deceive her husband, a jealous old physician. In the play, literally speaking, the lover is old, the wives not young, and their husbands of corresponding ages: but, poetically considered, they and the whole dramatis persone are all dainty juveniles together, and can never lose their freshness while the language lasts in which they are embodied.

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THE Costume of this comedy is, of course, the same with that of the two parts of HENRY IV. Chaucer, however, who wrote his Canterbury Tales towards the close of the previous reign, gives us a few hints for the habit of some of the principal characters in the MERRY WIVES. Dr. Caius, for instance, should be clothed, like the Doctor of Physic, "in sanguine and in perse," (i. e. in purple and light blue,) the gown being "lined with tafata and sendal." In the "Testament of Cresseyde" Chaucer speaks of a Physician in "a scarlet gown," and "furred well, as such a one ought to be;" but scarlet and purple were terms used indifferently one for the other, and the phrase "scarlet red" was generally used to designate that colour which we now call scarlet.

The Franklin or Country gentleman-the Master Page, or Master Ford of this play-is merely said to have worn an anelace or knife, and a white silk gipciere or purse hanging at his girdle.

The Young 'Squire may furnish us with the dress of Master Fenton. He is described as wearing a short gown, with sleeves long and wide, and embroidered "as it were a mead, all full of fresh flowers, white and red." Falstaff, when dressed as Herne the Hunter, should be attired like his Yeoman, in a coat and hood of green, with a horn slung in a green baldrick.

The Wife of Bath is said to have worn, on a Sunday, or holyday, kerchiefs on her head of the finest manufacture, but in such a quantity as to weigh nearly a pound. When abroad, she wore "a hat as broad as is a buckler or a targe." Her stockings were of fine scarlet red, and her shoes "full moist and new." The highcrowned hats and point-lace aprons, in which the Merry Wives of Windsor have been usually depicted, are of the seventeenth instead of the fifteenth century.

In relation to mine Host of the Garter, and of the local customs and business of the town of Windsor at the close of the sixteenth century, Knight has furnished us with some very interesting notices. He says"In the original Sketch we have the story of the 'cozenage' of mine Host of the Garter, by some Germans, who pretended to be of the retinue of a German Duke. Now, if we knew that a real German Duke had visited Windsor, (a rare occurrence in the days of Elizabeth,) we should have the date of the Comedy pretty exactly fixed. The circumstance would be one of those local and temporary allusions which Shakespeare seized upon to arrest the attention of his audience. In 1592, a German Duke did visit Windsor. We have before us, through the kindness of a friend, a narrative printed in the old German language, of the journey to England of the Duke of Wurtemberg, in 1592, which narrative, drawn up by his secretary, contains a daily journal of his proceedings. He was accompanied by a considerable retinue, and travelled under the name of the Count Mombeliard.' "The 'German Duke' visited Windsor; was shown the splendidly beautiful and royal castle;' hunted in the 'parks full of fallow-deer and other game;' heard the music of an organ, and of other instruments, with the voices of little boys, as well as a sermon an hour long, in a church covered with lead; and, after staying some days, departed for Hampton Court. His grace and his suit must have caused a sensation at Windsor. Probably mine Host of the Garter had really made grand preparation for a Duke de Jarmany;'-at any rate he would believe Bardolph's story,-the Germans desire to have three of your horses.' Was there any dispute about the ultimate payment for the Duke's horses for which he was 'to pay nothing?' Was mine Host out of his reckoning when he said they shall have my horses, but I'll make them pay? We have little doubt that the passages which relate to the German duke, (all of which, with slight alteration, are in the original sketch,) have reference to the Duke of Wurtemburg's visit to Windsor in 1592,-a matter to be forgotten in 1601, when Malone says the Sketch was written; and somewhat stale in 1596, which Chalmers assigns as its date."

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Slen. In the county of Gloster, justice of peace, and coram.

Shal. Ay, cousin Slender, and cust-alorum.

Slen. Ay, and ratolorum too; and a gentleman born, master parson; who writes himself armigero; any bill, warrant, quittance, or obligation, armigero.

in

Shal. Ay, that I do; and have done any time these three hundred years.

Slen. All his successors, gone before him, hath done't; and all his ancestors, that come after him, may: they may give the dozen white luces in their

coat.

Shal. 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, per-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 compremises 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 in that.

Shal. 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 monies, 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. Slen. Did her grandsire leave her seven hundred pound?

Eva. Ay, and her father is make her a petter

penny.

Slen. I know the young gentlewoman: she has good gifts.

Eva. Seven hundred pounds and possibilities, is good gifts.

Shal. Well, let us see honest master Page. Is Falstaff there?

Eva. Shall I tell you a lie? I do despise a liar, as I do despise one that is false; or, as I despise one that is not true.. The knight, sir John, is there, and, I beseech you, be ruled by your wellwillers. I will peat the door for master Page. [Knocks.] What, hoa! Got pless your house here! Enter PAGE

Page. Who's there?

Eva. Here is Got's plessing, and your friend, and justice Shallow; and here young master Slender, that, peradventures, shall tell you another tale, if matters grow to your likings.

Page. I am glad to see your worships well. I thank you for my venison, master Shallow.

Shal. Master Page, I am glad to see you: much good do it your good heart. I wished your venison better; it was ill kill'd.-How doth good mistress Page?-and I thank you always with my heart, la; with my heart.

Page. Sir, I thank you.

Shal. Sir, I thank you; by yea and no, I do. Page. I am glad to see you, good master Slender. Slen. How does your fallow greyhound, sir? I heard say he was outrun on Cotsall.

Page. It could not be judg'd, sir.

Slen. You'll not confess, you'll not confess. Shal. That he will not :-'tis your fault, 'tis your fault.-Tis a good dog.

Page. A cur, sir.

Shal. Sir, he's a good dog, and a fair dog; can

there be more said? he is good and fair. Is sir John Falstaff here?

Page. Sir, he is within; and I would I could do a good office between you.

Eva. It is spoke as a Christians ought to speak. Shal. He hath wrong'd me, master Page. Page. Sir, he doth in some sort confess it. Shal. If it be confess'd, it is not redress'd: is not that so, master Page? He hath wrong'd me; indeed, he hath;-at a word, he hath;-believe me:-Robert Shallow, esquire, saith, he is wrong'd. Page. Here comes sir John.

Enter Sir JOHN FALSTAFF, Bardolph, NYм, and PISTOL.

Fal. Now, master Shallow; you'll complain of me to the king?

Shal. Knight, you have beaten my men, killed my deer, and broke open my lodge.

Fal. But not kiss'd your keeper's daughter! Shal. Tut, a pin! this shall be answered. Fal. I will answer it straight :-I have done all this. That is now answer'd.

Shal. The council shall know this.

Fal. "Twere better for you, if it were known in counsel: you'll be laughed at.

Eva. Pauca verba, sir John; good worts. Fal. Good worts? good cabbage.-Slender, 1 broke your head; what matter have you against me?

Slen. Marry, sir, I have matter in my head against you; and against your coney-catching rascals, Bardolph, Nym, and Pistol. They carried me to the tavern, and made me drunk, and afterwards picked my pocket.

Bard. You Banbury cheese!
Slen. Ay, it is no matter.

Pist. How now, Mephostophilus?
Slen. Ay, it is no matter.

Nym. Slice, I say! pauca, pauca; slice! that's my humour.

Slen. Where's Simple, my man?—can you tell, cousin?

Eva. Peace! I pray you. Now let us understand: there is three umpires in this matter, as I understand; that is-master Page, fidelicet, master Page; and there is myself, fidelicet, myself; and the three party is, lastly and finally, mine host of the Garter.

Page. We three, to hear it, and end it between them.

Eva. Fery goot: I will make a prief of it in my note-book; and we will afterwards 'ork upon the cause, with as great discreetly as we can. Fal. Pistol!

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Pist. He hears with ears.

Eva. The tevil and his tam! what phrase is this? He hears with ear?" Why, it is affectations. Fal. Pistol, did you pick master Slender's purse? Slen. Ay, by these gloves, did he, (or I would I might never come in mine own great chamber again else,) of seven groats in mill-sixpences, and two Edward shovel-boards, that cost me two shilling and two pence a-piece of Yed Miller, by these gloves. Fal. Is this true, Pistol?

Eva. No; it is false, if it is a pick-purse.
Pist. Ha, thou mountain-foreigner!-Sir John
and master mine,

I combat challenge of this lattin bilbo :
Word of denial in thy labras here;
Word of denial: froth and scum, thou liest.

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