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Enter OBERON,6 at one door, with his train, and
TITANIA,? at another, with hers. Obe. Ill met by moon-light, proud Titania.
Tita. What, jealous Oberon? Fairy, skip hence; I have forsworn his bed and company.
Obe. Tarry, rash wanton. Am not I thy lord?
Tita. Then I must be thy lady: But I know
6 Enter Oberon,] Oberon had been introduced on the stage in 1594, by some other author. In the Stationers' books is entered “The Scottishe Story of James the fourthe, slain at Flodden, intermixed with a pleasant Comedie, presented by Oberon, King of Fairies." The judicious editor of The Cant. Tales of Chaucer, in his Introductory Discourse, (See Vol. IV, p. 161) observes that Pluto and Proserpina in The Merchant's Tale, appear to have been “ the true progenitors of Oberon and Titania.” Steevens,
7 Titania,] As to the Fairy Queen, (says Mr. Warton, in his Observations on Spenser) considered apart from the race of fairies, Chaucer, in his Rime of Sir Thopas, mentions her, together with a Fairy land. Again, in The Wif of Bathes Tale, v. 6439:
« In olde dayes of the king Artour,
" This was the old opinion as I rede.” Steevens. 8 Playing on pipes of corn,] Richard Brathwaite ( Strappado for the Devil, 1615,) has a poem addressed “To the queen of harvest, &c. much honoured by the reed, corn-pipe, and whistle :" and it must be remembered, that the shepherd boys of Chaucer's time, had
- many a foite and lilting horne,
- versing love --] Perhaps Prior was the last, who employed this verb:
" And Mat mote praise what Topaz verseth.” Steevens.
To give their bed joy and prosperity.
Obe. How canst thou thus, for shame, Titania, Glance at my credit with Hippolyta, Knowing I know thy love to Theseus? Didst thou not lead him through the glimmering night From Perigenia, whom he ravished? And make him with fair Æglé break his faith, With Ariadne, and Antiopa?
Tita. These are the forgeries of jealousy: And never, since the middle summer's spring,
1 Didst thou not lead him through the glimmering night -] The glimmering night is the night, faintly illuminated by stars. In Macbeth our author says:
“The west yet glimmers with some streaks of day.” Steevens. 2 From Perigenia, whom he ravished?] Thus all the editors; but our author who diligently perused Plutarch, and gleaned from him, where his subject would admit, knew, from the life of Theseus, that her name was Perygine, (or Perigune,) by whom Theseus had his son Melanippus. She was the daughter of Sinnis, a cruel robber, and tormenter of passengers in the Isthmus. Plutarch and Athenæus are both express in the circumstance of Theseus ravishing her. Theobald.
In North's translation of Plutarch (Life of Theseus) this lady is called Perigouna. The alteration was probably intentional, for the sake of harmony. Her real name was Perigune. Malone.
Æglé, Ariadne, and Antiopa, were all at different times mistresses to Theseus. See Plutarch.
Theobald cannot be blamed for his emendation ; and yet it is well known that our ancient authors, as well as the French and the Italians, were not scrupulously nice about proper names, but almost always corrupted them. Steevens,
3 And neder, since the middle summer's spring, &c.] By the middle summer's spring, our author seems to mean the beginning of midlle or mid summer. Spring, for beginning, he uses again in King Henry IV, P. II:
“ As flaws congealed in the spring of day:" which expression has authority from the scripture, St. Luke, i, 78:
whereby the day-spring from on high hath visited us." Again, in the romance of Kyng Appolyn of Thyre, 1510:
arose in a mornynge at the sprynge of the day,” &c. Again, in Spenser's Fairy Queen, B, III, c. x:
“ He wooed her till day-spring he espyde.”. Steevens. So Holinshed, p. 494: “_the morrowe after about the spring of the daie -" Malone.
The middle summer's spring, is, I apprehend, the season when trees put forth their second, or, as they are frequently called, their midsuminer shoots. Thus, Evelyn in his Silva : “ Cut off
Met we on hill, in dale, forest, or mead,
all the side boughs, and especially at midsummer, if you spy them breaking out.” And again, “Where the rows and brush lie longer than midsummer, unbound, or made up, you endanger the loss of the second spring.” Henley. 4 Paved fountain,] A fountain laid round the edge with stone.
Fohnson. Perhaps paved at the bottom. So, Lord Bacon in his Essay on Gardens : “As for the other kind of fountaine, which we may call a bathing-poole, it may admit much curiosity and beauty As that the bottom be finely paved .... the sides likewise,” &c.
Steevens. The epithet seems here intended to mean no more than that the beds of these fountains were covered with pebbles, in opposition to those of the rushy brooks, which are oozy. The same expression is used by Sylvester in a similar sense:
By some cleare river's lillie-paved side.” Henley.
the winds, piping --] So, Milton:
“ While rocking winds are piping loud." Johnson. And Gawin Douglas, in his translation of the Æneid, p. 69, 1710, fol. Edinb.
" The soft piping wynd calling to se.” The Glossographer observes, “ we say a piping wind, when an ordinary gule blows, and the wind is neither too loud, nor too calm.”
Holt White. - pelting river -] Thus the quartos: the folio readspetty. Shakspeare has in Lear the same word, low pelting farms. The meaning is plainly, despicable, mean, sorry, wretched; but as it is a word, without any reasonable etymology, I should be glad to dismiss it for petty: yet it is undoubtedly right. We have ' petty pelting officer” in Measure for Measure. Johnson. So, in Gascoigne’s Glass of Government, 1575:
“ Doway is a pelting town pack'd full of poor scholars.". This word is always used as a word of contempt. So, again, in Lyly's Midas, 1592: “ - attire never used but of old women and pelting priests.” Steevens.
7_overborne their continents:] Borne down the banks, that contain them. So, in Lear:
The ox hath therefore stretch'd his yoke in vain,
close pent up guilts,
and the green corn Hath rotted, ere his youth attain'd a beard:] So, in our author's 12th Sonnet:
“ And summer's green, all girded up in sheaves,
– murrain flock;] The murrain is the plague in cattle. It is here used by Shakspeare as an adjective; as a substantive by others :
sends him as a murrain
Heywood's Silver Age, 1613. Steevens. i The nine men's morris is fill'd up with mud;] In that part of Warwickshire where Shakspeare was educated, and the neighbouring parts of Northamptonshire, the shepherds and other boys. dig up the turf with their knives to represent a sort of imperfect chess-board. It consists of a square, sometimes only a foot diameter, sometimes three or four yards. Within this is another square, every side of which is parallel to the external square ; and these squares are joined by lines drawn from each corner of both squares, and the middle of each line. One party, or player, has wooden pegs, the other stones, which they move in such a manner as to take up each other's men, as they are called, and the area of the inner square is called the pound, in which the men taken up are impounded. These figures are, by the country people, called Nine Men's Morris, or Merrils: and are so called because each party has nine men. These figures are always cut upon the green turf or leys, as they are called, or upon the
grass at the end of ploughed lands, and in rainy seasons never fail to be choaked up with mud. James.
See Peck on Milton's Masque, 115, Vol. I, p. 135. Steevens.
Nine men's morris is a game still played by the shepherds, cowkeepers, &c. in the midland counties, as follows;
A figure is made on the ground (like this which I have drawn) by cutting out the turf; and two persons take each nine stones, which they place by turns in the angles, and afterwards move alternately, as at chess or draughts. He, who can place three in a straight line, may then take off any one of his adversary's, where he pleases, till one, having lost all his men, loses the game.
And the quaint mazes in the wanton green,
Alchorne. In Cotgrave's Dictionary, under the article Merelles, is the fol. lowing explanation: “ Le Jeu des Merelles. The boyish game called Merils, or fivepenny morris; played here most commonly with stones, but in France with pawns, or men made on purpose, and termed merelles.” The pawns or figures of men used in the game might originally be black, and hence called morris, or me relles, as we yet term a black cherry a morello, and a small black cherry a merry, perhaps from Maurus, or Moor, or rather from morum, a mulberry. Tollet.
The Fue de merelles was also a table-game. A representation of two monkies engaged at this amusement, may be seen in a German edition of Petrarch de remedio utriusque fortunæ, B. I, ch. 26. The cuts to this book were done in 1520. Douce.
the quaint mazes in the wanton green,] This alludes to a sport, still followed by boys; i. e. what is now called running the figure of eight. Steevens.
3 The human mortals -] Shakspeare might have employed this epithet, which, at first sight appears redundant, to mark the difference between men and fairies. Fairies were not human, but they were yet subject to mortality. It appears from the romance of Sir Huon of Bordeaux, that Oberon himself was mortal.
The same phrase, however, occurs in Chapman's translation of Homer's address to Earth, the mother of all:
referr'd to thee
« Of mortal humans.” Steevens. “ This, however, (says Mr. Ritson,) does not by any means appear to be the case. Oberon, Titania, and Puck, never dye, the inferior agents must necessarily be supposed to enjoy the same privilege; and the ingenious commentator may rely upon it, that the