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S CE NE IV.
Changes to Ford's house. Enter Page, Ford, Mrs. Page, Mrs. Ford, and Evans.
Eva. 'Tis one of the best discretions of a 'omans, as ever I did look upon.
Page. And did he send you both these letters at an inftant?.
Mrs. Page. Within a quarter of an hour.
wilt; 6 I rather will suspect the sun with cold, Than thee with wantonness: now doth thy honour stand, In him that was of late an heretick; As firm as faith.
To come off, signifies in our author, sometimes to be uttered with spirit and volubility. In this place it seems to mean what is in our time expressed by to come down, to pay liberally and teadily. These accidental and colloquial senses are the disgrace of language, and the plague of commentators. JOHNSON.
To come off, is to pay. In this sense it is used by Maffinger, in The Unnatural Combat, act 4. sc. 2. where a wench, demanding money of the father to keep his baftard, says-Will you come off, Sir? STEEVENS. The phrase is used by Chaucer, Friar's Tale, 338. edit. Urry.
“ Come off, and let me riden hastily,
" Give me twelve pence; I may no longer tarie.” T.T. o I rather will fufpect the fun with cold,] Thus the modern editions.---The old ones read with gold, which may mean, I rather will suspect the sun can be corrupted by a bribe, than thy honour bc betrayed to wantonness. Mr. Rowe filently made the change, which succeeding editors have as Gilently adopted. Surely Shakespeare would rather have said fufpect the fun of cold - if he had defigned what is implied by the alteration. A thought of a similar kind occurs in Hon. IV. Part I.
“ Shall the blessed sun of heaven
“ Prove a micher?" I have not, however, displaced Mr. Roure's emendation, as a zeal to preserve old readings without distinction may sometimes prove as injurious to the author's reputation, as a desire to introduce new ones, without attention to the quaintness of phraseology then in use. STBEVENS.
Page. 'Tis well, 'tis well ; no more.
Ford. There is no better way than that they spoke of.
Page. How! to send him word they'll meet him in the park at midnight! fie, fie, he'll never come.
Eva. You say, he hath been thrown into the rivers ; and has been grievously peaten, as an old 'oman : methinks, there should be terrors in him, that he should not come; methinks, his felh is punish'd, he shall have no desires,
Page. So think I too.
he comes, And let us two devise to bring him thither. Mrs. Page. There is an old tale goes, that Herne
the hunter, Sometime a keeper here in Windsor forest, Doth all the winter-time at still of midnight Walk round about an oak, with great ragg'd horns; And there he blasts the tree, 7 and takes the cattle ; And makes milch-kine yield blood, and shakes a chain In a moit hideous and dreadful manner : You've heard of such a spirit; and well you know, The superftitious idle-headed Eld Receiv'd, and did deliver to our age, This tale of Herne the hunter for a truth.
Page. Why, yet there want not many, that do fear In deep of night to walk by this Herne's oak: But what of this ?
7—and takes the cattle;] To take, in Shakespeare, fignifies to seize or strike with a disease, to blaft. So in Hamlet :
“ No planet takes." So in Lear:
" Strike her young bones,
8 Mrs. Ford. Marry, this is our device; That Falstaff at that oak shall meet with us. We'll send hiin word to meet us in the field, Disguis'd like Herne, with huge horns on his head.
Page. Well, let it not be doubted, but he'll come, And in this shape; when you have brought him thither, · What shall be done with him ? what is your plot ? Mrs. Page. That likewise we have thought upon,
and thus : Nan Page (my daughter) and my little son, And three or four more of their growth, we'll dress Like urchins, ouphes, and fairies, green and white, With rounds of waxen tapers on their heads, And rattles in their hands; upon a sudden, As Falstaff, she, and I, are newly met, Let them from forth a law-pit rush at once 9 With some diffused song: upon their light, We two, in great amazedness, will fly : Then let them all encircle him about, * And, fairy-like too, pinch the unclean knight;
: Mrs. Ford. Marry, this is our device ;
That Falstaff at that oak fall meet with us.
And in this fivape; when you have brought him thither,] Thus this passage has been transmitted down to us, from the time of the firit edition by the players : but what was this shape, in which Falstaff was to be appointed to meet ? For the women have not said one word to ascertain it. This makes it more than suspicious, the defect in this point must be owing to some wise retrenchment. The two intermediate lines, which I have restored from the old quarto, are absolutely necessary, and clear ap the matter. THEOBALD.
With fome diffufid jong :- ] A diffused song figniñes a song that Itrikes out into wild sentiments beyond the bounds of nature, such as those whose subject is fairy land. WARB.
By diffused jong Shakespeare may mean such songs as mad people fing: Edgar in K. Lear, when he has determined to assume the appearance of a travelling lunatic, declares his resolution to dituje his speech, i.e. to give it the turn peculiar to madness.
STEEVENS. And, fairy-like, to pinch the unclean knight;] The grammar requires us to read, And, fairy-like too, pinch the unclean knight. WARB.
And ask him, why, that hour of fairy revel,
Mrs. Ford. And, 'till he tell the truth,
Mrs. Page. The truth being known,
Ford. The children must
Evå. I will teach the children their behaviours; and I will be like a jack-an-apes also, to burn the knight with my taber.
Ford. This will be excellent. I'll go buy thein vizards.
Mrs. Page. My Nan shall be the queen of ail the fairies; finely attired in a robe of white.
Page. 9 That filk will I go buy ;-and in that time Shall master Slender steal my Nan away, [Afide. And marry her at Eaton.- Go, send to Falstaff
straight. Ford. Nay, I'll to him again in the name of Brook : he'll tell me all his purpose. Sure, he'll come.
Mrs. Page. Fear not you that : go get us properties And tricking for our fairies.
This should perhaps be written to-pinch, as one word. This use of 10 in composition with verbs, is very common in Gower and Chaucer, but must have been rather antiquated in the time of Shakespeare. See Gower Di Confeffione Amantis, B. 4. fol. 7.
“ All to-tore is myn araie.” And Chaucer, Reeve's Tale, 1169.
" mouth and nose to-broke." The construction will otherwise be very hard. T. T.
2 That filk will I go buy ;--and in that tiine] Mr. Theobald referring that time to the time of buying the filk, alters it to tire. But there is no need of any change : that time evidently relating to the time of the mask with which Falstaff was to be entertained, and which makes the whole subject of this dialogue. Therefore the common reading is right. WARB. VOL. I.
end Quickly to mitres to Page, Fordleafures, and
Eva. Let us about it, it is admirable pleasures, and fery honest knaveries. [Ex. Page, Ford, and Evans.
Mrs. Page. Go, mistress Ford,
[Exit Mrs. Ford.
[Exit. S CE NE V. Changes to the Gerter inń.
Enter Hoft and Simple. Hot. What would'st thou have, boor? what, thickskin ? speak, breathe, discuss; brief, short, quick, snap.
Simp. Mariy, Sir, I come to speak with Sir John Falstaff, from master Slender.
Hoft. There's his chamber, his house, his castle, his 3 standing-bed, and truckle-bed; 'tis painted about with the story of the prodigal, fresh and new : go, knock and call; he'll speak like an Anthropopbaginian unto thee: knock, I say.
Simp. There's an old woman, a fat woman gone up into his chamber; I'll be so bold as stay, Sir, 'till the come down : I come to speak with her, indeed.
3- standing-bed, and truckle-bed ;- ] The usual furniture of chambers in that time was a standing.bed, under which was a trochie, truckle, or running bed. In the standing-bed lay the malter, and in the truckle-bed the servant. Su in Hall's Account of a Servile I'urur:
“ He licth in the truckle-bed,