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MERRY

OF

WIVES

WINDSOR.

ACT I. SCENE I.

Windfor. Before Page's Houfe.

Enter Juftice SHALLOW, SLENDER, and Sir HUGH EVANS.

SHAL. Sir Hugh,1 perfuade me not; I will make a Star-chamber matter of it :2 if he were twenty fir

I

Sir Hugh,] This is the firft, of fundry inftances in our poet, where a parfon is called Sir. Upon which it may be obferved, that anciently it was the common defignation both of one in holy orders and a knight. Fuller, fomewhere in his Church Hiftory fays, that anciently there were in England more firs than knights; and fo lately as temp. W. & Mar. in a depofition in the Exchequer in a cafe of tythes, the witness speaking of the curate, whom he remembered, ftyles him, Sir Giles. Vide Gibson's View of the State of the Churches of Door, HomeLacy, &c. p. 36. SIR J. HAWKINS.

Sir is the defignation of a Bachelor of Arts in the Universities of Cambridge and Dublin; but is there always annexed to the furname ;-Sir Evans, &c. In confequence, however, of this, all the inferior Clergy in England were diftinguished by this title affixed to their chriftian names for many centuries. Hence our author's Sir Hugh in the present play,-Sir Topas in Twelfth Night, Sir Oliver in As you like it, &c. MALONE.

'BA

John Falstaff's, he shall not abuse Robert Shallow, efquire,

SLEN. In the county of Glofter, juftice of peace, and coram.

SHAL. Ay, coufin Slender, and Cuft-alorum.3

Sir feems to have been a title formerly appropriated to fuch of the inferior clergy as were only Readers of the service, and not admitted to be preachers, and therefore were held. in the lowest eftimation; as appears from a remarkable paffage in Machell's MS. Collections for the History of Westmoreland and Cumberland, in fix volumes, folio, preferved in the Dean and Chapter's library at Carlisle. The reverend Thomas Machell, author of the Collections, lived temp. Car. II. Speaking of the little chapel of Martindale in the mountains of Weftmoreland and Cumberland, the writer fays, "There is little remarkable in or about it, but a neat chapel-yard, which by the peculiar Richard Berket, care of the old Reader, Sir Richard,* is kept Reader, Æt, 74. clean, and as neat as a bowling-green."

*

MS. note.

"Within the limits of myne own memory all Readers in chapels were called Sirs,† and of old have been writ fo; whence, I fuppofe, fuch of the laity as received the noble order of knighthood being called Sirs too, for distinction fake had Knight writ after them; which had been fuperfluous, if the title Sir had been peculiar to them. But now this Sir Richard is the only Knight Templar (if I may so call him) that retains the old style, which in other places is much laid aside, and grown out of ufe." PERCY.

See Mr. Douce's obfervations on the title "Sir," (as given to Ecclefiafticks,) at the end of Act V. The length of this curious memoir obliges me to disjoin it from the page to which it naturally belongs. STEEVENS.

2

a Star-chamber matter of it:] Ben Jonfon intimates, that the Star-chamber had a right to take cognizance of fuch matters. See the Magnetic Lady, A&t III. fc. iv:

"There is a court above, of the Star-chamber,
"To punish routs and riots," STEEVENS.

3

Cuft-alorum.] This is, I fuppofe, intended for a corruption of Cuftos Rotulorum. The mistake was hardly defigned by

In the margin is a MS. note feemingly in the hand-writing of Bp. Nicholson, who gave these volumes to the library :

"Since I can remember there was not a reader in any chapel but was called Sir."

SLEN. Ay, and ratolorum too; and a gentleman born, mafter parfon; who writes himself armigero ;4 in any bill, warrant, quittance, or obligation, armigero.

any time

SLEN. All his fucceffors, 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.

SHAL. Ay, that we do ;5 and have done" these three hundred years.

SHAL. It is an old coat.

the author, who, though he gives Shallow folly enough, makes him rather pedantic than illiterate. If we read:

"Shal. Ay, coufin Slender, and Cuftos Rotulorum.” It follows naturally:

"Slen. Ay, and Ratolorum too." JOHNSON.

I think with Dr. Johnson, that this blunder could scarcely be intended. Shallow, we know, had been bred to the law at Clement's Inn. But I would rather read cuftos only; then Slender adds naturally, Ay, and rotulorum too." He had heard the words cuftos rotulorum, and fuppofes them to mean different offices. FARMER.

66

Perhaps Shakspeare might have intended to ridicule the abbreviations fometimes used in writs and other legal inftruments, with which his Justice might have been acquainted. In the old copy the word is printed Cuft-alorum, as it is now exhibited in the text. If, however, this was intended, it should be Cuft-ulorum; and, it must be owned, abbreviation by cutting off the beginning of a word is not authorized by any precedent, except what we may suppose to have existed in Shallow's imagination. MALONE.

4 who writes himself armigero;] Slender had seen the Juftice's atteftations, figned -jurat' coram me, Roberto Shallow, Armigero;" and therefore takes the ablative for the nominative cafe of Armiger. STEEVENS.

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5 Ay, that we do;] The old copy reads" that I do." The present emendation was suggested to me by Dr. Farmer.

STEEVENS.

6

and have done ] i. e. all the Shallows have done. Shakspeare has many expreffions equally licentious. MALONE.

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EVA. The dozen white loufes do become an old coat well; it agrees well, paffant: it is a familiar beaft to man, and fignifies-love.

SHAL. The luce is the fresh fish; the falt fish is an old coat.8

7 The dozen white loufes do become an old coat well; &c.] So, in The Penniless Parliament of thread-bare Poets, 1608: "But amongst all other decrees and statutes by us here fet downe, wee ordaine and commaund, that three thinges (if they be not parted) ever to continue in perpetuall amitie, that is, a Loufe in an olde doublet, a painted cloth in a painter's fhop, and a foole and his bable." STEEVENS.

8 The luce is the fresh fish; the falt fish is an old coat.] That is, the fresh fish is the coat of an ancient family, and the salt fish is the coat of a merchant grown rich by trading over the sea.

JOHNSON.

I am not fatisfied with any thing that has been offered on this difficult paffage. All that Mr. Smith told us was a mere gratis dictum. [His note, being worthless, is here omitted.] I cannot find that falt fish were ever really borne in heraldry. I fancy the latter part of the speech should be given to Sir Hugh, who is at cross purposes with the Juftice. Shallow had faid juft before, the coat is an old one; and now, that it is the luce, the fresh fish. No, replies the parfon, it cannot be old and fresh too— "the falt fish is an old coat." I give this with rather the more confidence, as a fimilar mistake has happened a little lower in the scene," Slice, I fay!" cries out Corporal Nym, "Pauca, pauca: Slice! that's my humour." There can be no doubt, but pauca, pauca, fhould be fpoken by Evans.

Again, a little before this, the copies give us :
"Slender. You'll not confefs, you'll not confefs.
"Shallow. That he will not-'tis

your fault, 'tis

'tis a good dog."

Surely it fhould be thus :

your fault: •

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Shallow. You'll not confefs, you'll not confess. "Slender. That he will not.

"Shallow. "Tis your fault, 'tis your fault," &c. FARMER.

This fugitive fcrap of Latin, pauca, &c. is used in several old pieces, by characters who have no more of literature about them than Nym. So, Skinke, in Look about you, 1600:

"But pauca verba, Skinke."

Again, in Every Man in his Humour, where it is called the teachers' phrafe. STEEVENS.

SLEN. I may quarter, coz?
SHAL. You may, by marrying.

Shakspeare feems to frolick here in his heraldry, with a defign not to be eafily understood. In Leland's Collectanea, Vol. I. P. II. p. 615, the arms of Geffrey de Lucy are " de goules poudre a croifil dor a treis luz dor." Can the poet mean to quibble upon the word poudré, that is, poudred, which fignifies falted; or ftrewed and sprinkled with any thing? In Meafure for Meafure, Lucio fays" Ever your fresh whore and your powder'd bawd." TOLLET.

The luce is a pike or jack: So, in Chaucer's Prol. of the Cant. Tales, Mr. Tyrwhitt's edit. pp. 351, 352:

"Full many a fair partrich hadde he in mewe,

"And many a breme, and many a luce in stewe." In Ferne's Blazon of Gentry, 1586, quarto, the arms of the Lucy family are reprefented as an instance, that " signs of the coat thould fomething agree with the name. It is the coat of Geffray Lord Lucy. He did bear gules, three lucies hariant, argent."

Mr. William Oldys, (Norroy King at Arms, and well known from the fhare he had in compiling the Biographia Britannica, among the collections which he left for a Life of Shakspeare,) obferves that—" there was a very aged gentleman living in the neighbourhood of Stratford, (where he died fifty years fince,) who had not only heard, from several old people in that town, of Shakspeare's tranfgreflion, but could remember the first ftanza of the bitter ballad, which, repeating to one of his acquaintance, he preferved it in writing; and here it is, neither better nor worse, but faithfully transcribed from the which his relation very courteously communicated to me." "A parliement member, a juftice of peace, "At home a poor scare-crowe, at London an affe, "If lowfie is Lucy, as fome volke miscalle it, "Then Lucy is lowfie whatever befall it :

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"He thinks himself greate,
"Yet an affe in his ftate,

"We allow by his ears but with affes to mate.
"If Lucy is lowfie, as fome volke mifcalle it,
"Sing lowfie Lucy, whatever befall it."

"Contemptible as this performance muft now appear, at the time when it was written it might have had fufficient power to irritate a vain, weak, and vindictive magistrate; efpecially as it was affixed to feveral of his park-gates, and confequently pub

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