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ACT IV. SCENE I. 159. “ He is a good sprag memory.”
I have often heard in Wiltshire, “ He has a good sprack wit.” Sprag is Sir Hugh's corrupt Welch pronunciation of this word.
165. “We cannot misuse him enough.”
Misuse has here an unusual signification; it is not to treat improperly, but with severity. “ Pray Heaven, it be not full of the knight
I am inclined to adopt the reading of the first folio-" full of knight:"_there seems to me to be a degree of humour in the suppression of the article, which perhaps can be more easily con. ceived than explained; had the basket been made heavy with an inanimate substance, as lead, the article would of course have been omitted in this wish; and by the omission of the article, the knight appears to be considered merely as a ponderous body. There is an instance of the contemptuous suppression of the article in Otway, where Pierre, who was displeased at Aqualina's admission of Antonio's visits, says to her,
There's fool, “There's fool about thee.”
173. “ They must come off.”
This phrase, which seems to be well explained by Mr. Steevens, is exactly equivalent to the modern one-they must come down; i. e. must lay down their money.
176.“ Idle-headed eld.”
Weak-minded old people. 178. “Then let them all encircle him about, “ And, fairy-like, to-pinch the unclean
knight.” Mr. Tyrwhit and Mr. Steevens consider “ to pinch” as one word ; a compound verb, to-pinch: but I believe, in all their curious and laborious researches, they will be unable to find any verb so constructed: in the instances produced, all to tore is myn araie; (i. e. altogether tor'n ;) mouth and nose all to broke; (i. e. altogether broke ;) all to rent and scratched; (i. e, altogether rent and scratched ;) all to worne and ragged; (i. e. altogether worn and ragged :) besides the other words following alto, (the abridgment still of altogether) are participles, and not in point. The difficulty, I believe, lies merely in an ellipsis not strictly warranted, and may thus be removed.
“We two in great amazedness will fly; · "Then let them all encircle him about."
(i. e. let it be their parts to encircle him,) and fairy-like to pinch him, &c.
" And fairy-like to pinch.” Let them all encircle him, &c. and for the purpose of fairy-like pinching him, &c.
184. “ I may not conceal them, Sir.” Falst. “ Conceal them, or thou diest.”
Mr. Steevens tells us, that, in both these instances, it is Doctor Farmer's opinion that we should read reveal : but is there not more humour in Falstaff's accepting the mistaken word, and repeating it in its perverted sense ?
ACT V. SCENE I.
193. Enter Falstaff and Mrs. Quickly.
I would conclude the fourth act with the scene between Falstaff and Ford, as Theobald does, and begin the fifth act with Page, Shallow, and Slender, in the park. In representation, it is, indeed, convenient to begin the fifth act with Falstaff and Mrs. Quickly, because, as the scene between Fenton and the host is omitted, no time would
otherwise be allowed for the conversation which is supposed to pass between Falstaff and Mrs. Quickly, in Falstaff's chamber.
LORD CHEDWORTH. 194.“ Since I pluck'd geese.”
To pluck living geese, says Mr. Steevens, was, formerly, an act of puerile barbarity. The humane critic might have added a more reproachful extant instance of mature cruelty, deliberately and periodically practiced by the breeders of geese in some counties, of wrenching, twice a year, the feathers from the lacerated and bleeding bodies of those poor animals.
“ Pluck'd geese." I have been informed, that, in the moors of Somersetshire, and in the fens of Lincolnshire, it is customary to pluck geese five times a year. Three times for down, and twice for quills.
LORD CHEDWORTH. 212. " Do not these fair yokes
“ Become the forest better than the town?"
It is not easy to assign any satisfactory meaning to this passage. The second folio gives oaks instead of yokes; and possibly Mrs. Page is only alluding to the rural beauty of the scene, and asking if this forest, with its oaks, does not look better, exhibit a more goodly prospect than the town.
“ These fair yokes." I do not well understand why horns should be called yokes: if they are called yokes in the sense